Thursday, 17 June 2010

Her Father's Daughter

Last week, the postman brought me these:

My cousin posted them to me. I got them all developed. Wow.

My real dad's name was William. Bill to his friends. Bill Barrie. A tall, proud Scot, straight from Glasgow. He met my mother when they both worked at the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme - he was one of many overseas workers recruited from Europe, she a local Cooma girl.

And so, they fell in love. I think. I'm not sure, I never got told anything. Apparently my mother got back from the honeymoon and whispered to her sister who had come to pick her up from the airport: "I've just made the biggest mistake of my life."

So obviously, something was up. My guess was the booze - he drank like a fish. Complete alcoholic. They had twin girls in 1969, and then me in 1972. I am the boy he always wanted, he just didn't see it. LOOK DAD, MANHANDS!

I have a handful of memories of him, all scary and bad and angry. He ruled the whole house with his anger, went on violent rampages and would hit my mother regularly. (I think, I never got told anything ... it's why I'm such a big snoopy snoopster now.)

She put us three girls in the car one day and drove off. Left him alone. It was my fourth birthday. We went to live with my grandparents. My sisters were scared of men for a long time after that. I was the opposite, clambering on any man's lap with relish. (Which continued WAY into my twenties.)

Linda, Leigh and I still have relatives in Scotland - Bill's sister Netta, our aunt. I wrote her once, asking her about him. What was he like? What were his interests? She said he was a dashing man, who often got compared to Roger Moore.

He liked tennis. He was in the army. He was the youngest in a family full of girls. He was a genius - as in, a brilliant man. He worked for IBM computers in Sydney during the seventies and eighties, developing software. Mum has said that if I was a boy I could have saved their marriage. Something tells me nothing could have saved their marriage.


I didn't cry when I saw these photos. But I felt the familiar deep pull again. I can't miss someone I didn't even know, but to have come from him, to be told my entire life that I look like him; same hair, same build, same stance, same bone structure. Same thirst. Same propensity for self-destruction.

I understand and relate to this guy more than maybe anyone. I wonder if he thought of me much. I wish I had been enough to make him stay alive. I wish he had the same huge awakening that I had when I had my children. But he didn't.

Does this mean I love my children more than he loved me and my sisters? Of course it does. Booze came first, always. In this next photo, he obviously has the worst hangover. I can smell it in his pores. I know that sick, anxious, nervous guts feeling. The pasty skin and wired eyes. I do NOT miss this feeling. Someone give this man a drink, STAT!


He was found dead in his bed in his shitty flat in Batemans Bay. Wray Street. Number 7. I don't know what he liked for breakfast, or what his favourite colour or TV show was. But I know he liked vodka. Empty bottles were found littered everywhere. We went to his flat and walked into his room, I looked at his rumpled sheets and the head indentation in his pillow. He was pretty hopeless - my nan told me that he used to go visit her, ask her if she had any vanilla essence in her pantry. (To drink.)

It will always sting. He missed out on so much. And the daughter he wished so badly to be a boy ended up having no girls herself - just boys. Male energy runs all through my house these days, probably to make up for the lack of it in my early years.

My entire life I have said "I look exactly like my father!"

But searching these photos, I finally realised ... that my father looks exactly like me.

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