Monday, 23 May 2011

Drive.

My husband Dave remembers sitting in class one day when he was about ten years old. Everybody had to make a father's day card. He made one for his mums boyfriend, but it felt stupid so he scrunched it up. Dumb card.

Dave spent a lot of time in boys homes as a kid. The local coppers deemed him "uncontrollable." He tells us funny stories of SOAP ON! SOAP OFF! Underneath the funny stories is a wealth of pain. He never knew his father, who left Dave and his two older brothers with their mother, when Dave was just a baby. Dave's mother raised the boys herself, working nights sorting mail at the huge postal exchange in Redfern.

By the time I met him in 1999 ... Dave had lived the life of ten men. He was 33, I was 27. (I had lived the life of ten women. Snap!)

We hooked up. We had a baby. Dave was in the middle of building his dream home for us back in 2003 ... one morning, out of the blue, I asked him if I could find his father. He laughed, and said sure. We thought he would have passed away years before. My own father had died in 1984 from chronic alcoholism, and my stepfather of eleven years killed himself in 1988. There was carnage everywhere ... I needed to know if our son Max had at least one grandfather out there somewhere.

                                            Dave and Max, 2002

I pushed Max in the pram up to our local library, and searched for all of the F. Riley's in Australia. There were dozens. I printed off 166 phone numbers, walked back home, and told Dave I was going to start calling them. He was out in the sunshine, washing his car with his daughter - laughing at me and my crazy idea. I pointed to my printed pages.

"Mate, check it out. There's even an F.G.E. Riley in Punchbowl. I'll call him first."

Dave's fathers name was Frederick George Ernest Riley. I dialled the number, and as soon as that guy said hello, I knew I had found Dave's dad. I shit my pants, and did what I always do in high pressure situations - lied.

"Oh yes good morning, I'm calling to see if you're interested in getting cable television installed?"

F.G.E. Riley laughed. A laugh that was the exact replica of Dave's older brother. "Oh no love - I live in a housing commission flat. I can't afford cable TV!"

I thanked him anyway and hung up. Dave could see me from outside, he had this strange look on his face and I mouthed to him through the window. "I found your dad."

Dave was livid. "What the hell did you do that for! Bloody hell - what did he say? Aww, don't even tell me. I don't wanna know."

We were both so shocked. Nobody had known where Fred had gone. We thought he had moved up to Queensland. But he didn't. He was in PUNCHBOWL, Sydney. Just over an hour's drive from us.

(Many years have passed, since I printed out those pages. It always struck me as odd, that Fred had put all of his initials on his telephone account. I think he wanted to be found.)

Dave calmed down a bit, and I told him that I had to go back inside and call back, to tell Fred exactly who I was and why I was ringing.

"Fine - but I don't want to talk to him."

I rang back and told Fred that I was sorry to disturb him again, but I wasn't really selling cable television.That I was trying to find my husbands father, and my husbands name was Dave Riley. There was this hugest silence. In that silence, I thought - if he hangs up, I will just pretend to keep talking and go back out and tell Dave it was a false alarm and it wasn't him at all.

(And I would have travelled down to Punchbowl to punch Fred in the nose.)

Finally he spoke, audibly shocked. "MY boy Dave?"

I said yes, his boy Dave. I then spent the next fifteen minutes telling a complete stranger who his three sons had grown up to be, what they did for a living, and the names and ages of all of his grandchildren. How sad is that? People live the saddest lives, sometimes.

Eventually I got off the phone. I couldn't promise him that Dave would call. The whole thing was so random and sudden. I looked at all the other Riley's in Australia - first phone call, man. POW.

Dave was feeling a huge amount of emotions. He was giddy. He got on the phone and rang his friends, and his brothers, and his brothers friends.

I went into our bedroom, and sobbed into my pillow. Like, really huge sobs that heaved me. I didn't know why I was crying, until I realised that all the excitement and adrenaline I got caught up in ... was Dave's. He got to decide whether he wanted to see his father or not. I didn't have that luxury of choice. I would love to see my dead dads again. Would I hug them or slap them, or would I just walk away? Leave them pining for ME for a change. I don't know. I'll never know.

That day was a big day.

::

Dave ended up calling his dad, and chatting on the phone. They arranged to meet - I was still living vicariously through him. I kissed him, wished him well, sent him on his way.

Hours later, he came back home. I flew out to the driveway to greet him. "How was it hon? How'd you go? What did he look like?"

Dave was careful with his choice of words. His dad was living in a dark flat in a seedy part of town. His only company was his pet budgie, Bluey.

"I think .... I think I got my drive from my mum."

Why did Fred not try to find his sons? I don't know. To my eternal frustration, Dave never asked him. I so would have. I would have asked him a ton of really inappropriate things. He would have answered - people often do.

To this day, Dave still talks with awe about how I found his dad for him. I love it. It's like, I'm the hero. When I turn sixty, I plan on opening a private detective agency.

Fred Riley died less than two years after meeting Dave. On the way to the funeral a bird flew into our windscreen. During the funeral we were ushered to sit at the front of the room. People gasped when they saw Dave - the likeness is uncanny. They looked like they had seen a ghost. Max was just 2, the only grandchild there to see him off.

At one point, Max looked at the coffin, looked at me, and said, "MUM - IS FRED IN THAT BOX?"

It was a Shakespearean moment, giving everybody the laugh they needed after the sombre sad.

::

I watch Dave soap Rocco up in the shower, laughing at washing Mr. Stinky down the drain. I watch Dave build a cubby house with Max, for Max .. and I watch him play soccer with Tim, punching and ankle-tapping each other out of the way.

He is a beautiful man with a huge heart. None of Dave's boys would ever scrunch up their father's day cards.

::

Click HERE to vote

The Top 5 will be announced next week. All of them receive a Ford Territory for a month, to undergo certain challenges. Well done Kidspot and Ford Australia for raising the profile of blogging in Australia. I'm getting quite sick of the "So, what IS a blog?"

The winner receives $5000 and the car for a year. Somebody needs to tell them there is no WAY they would want  the car back after a mummyblogger has it for a year. Unless they *like* kids vomit on seatbelt buckles.

51 comments:

  1. What a story. Thank God for you. x

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  2. Eden, how do you do it? Your posts take me away and up and down and then plonk back down again in front of my computer. I'm tearing up and I'm not even sure why I am.

    Is it for Fred and his flat and his bird and his life without the love of his family? It is for Dave who missed out on what he now gives his kids? I don't know, but that's one heck of a story. You're one heck of a storyteller. x

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  3. Wow just wow! Thank you Dave for letting us in.X

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  4. Love your work, as always. I love how you get right into the guts of your stories. Thanks Dave, too. Just voted. x

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  5. Oh my God... just amazing. Voted. xxxxx

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  6. Eden, was just at swimming lessons reading this post on my phone. Luckily it started raining so hard that I got wet and no-one could tell that there were tears streaming down my face. You are gifted. Not just in writing but seriously, picking that number off the list, first up. Whoa! xx
    PS. Thanks Dave for letting Eden share.

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  7. no one can ever accuse you of not living life because you do, every single last drop of it that you've squeezed out - you soak it up, the good and the bad.

    i believe you and dave are the other half of each of your souls, you were always meant to find each other and be intertwined as one.

    ~x~

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  8. omg this must be the most beautiful post i've ever read... thank you for posting it! definitely voting for you... i hope you win :)

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  9. Awesome. It's amazing how things fall into place and it's amazing that Dave can do what it takes to be a great dad in spite of never having experienced that kind of fathering.

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  10. I voted for you long ago Eden because you make my heart sing (wild thing)! We spoke fleetingly at AusBlogCon and I wish we had talked more. Next time ey! Love to you and yours xxx

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  11. You are living the life you are meant to live with all of the gusto there is -- well done! You have a very special partner who clearly knows how special you are -- well done! I can't wait to say well done when you win the Ford for the year, the $5K and the number one spot on the top 50 bloggers board! (voted for you again!)

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  12. You! Just wow! Thanks to Dave for letting you share, and thanks to you for having the "drive" to be the woman, wife and mother you are!

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  13. Thankyou Dave for letting Eden share that. What a remarkable story, I was transported right out of this waiting room to be sitting beside you as you made that call. You are so incredibly talented Eden! :)

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  14. What an incredible story. Of all those numbers, his was the first you dialled. Wow.
    Thanks Dave for letting the world know your story.

    Voted :)
    x

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  15. If you open up a private detective agency could you please find my ex boyfriend? I havent seen him since 2000 when he thought I was pregnant and fled.
    Thank You.

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  16. Thanks for sharing, Eden and Dave. I love that your boys get a happy ending - a loving dad.

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  17. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing with us :-)

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  18. wow thats all i can say eyes are filled with tears thanks Dave and thanks Eden :-)

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  19. You are a wonderful story teller!
    I could imagine how cathartic the whole experience would have been.
    For the both of you.
    Sometimes life isn't perfect.
    Neither are families.
    The only thing we can do is play on the string we have and make certain we don't make the same mistakes our parents did.
    Our children will benefit as a result.
    So will our souls.

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  20. If it was anyone else I wouldn't believe that the first person they called was the right one - but it's you and I expect nothing less.

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  21. I fell in love with you a while ago Eden, and now I fall in love with Dave too.

    This post crackles of the page.

    I too would've been desparate to know a whole heap of shit from Dave's dad. That Dave didn't feel the need to know is a mark of the man he is, I guess?

    xxx

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  22. Powerful story Eden . Thanks for sharing Dave's (and your) story.
    I do think Fred wanted to be found too , you are such an amazing lady.

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  23. oh my! this is truly beautiful.
    sorry for your pain and sorry for your missed opportunities.

    so happy for the heart it has given you Eden.
    so glad Dave was brave enough to go and to connect.

    love that you now have some memories to pass onto your cherubs.
    you rock. the end.

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  24. WOW, just WOW! Sisterman.

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  25. beautiful post. Yes tears too. Voted! and thankyou to Dave for sharing too

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  26. Wow! It was meant to happen, wasn't it? I believe in following our intuition, our hunches to lead to exactly where we are meant to be. Great story, Eden. You have a gift...

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  27. Thank you so much. I read it out to Dave tonight ... worried about exactly how much creative licence I had used up. He loved it. Didn't flinch once ... and it totally helped that I had such beautiful and sincere comments to read afterwards.

    So we've decided .... you are all invited over for a lamb spit roast.

    xo

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  28. Wow my first time here and can i just say what an introduction, very moving..

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  29. Wow, wow, wow...voted, facebooked it, and tweeted it.

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  30. It only lets you vote the once, but you have my vote million times over. What a story, humbling, truly humbling.

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  31. Oh god, you just tear me up inside with your posts. In a good way. But god. Right to the heart. xx

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  32. This is a beautiful post, written by a clearly beautiful wife. I'm glad Dave has you, and that your boys have you both. I spent hours (I totally blamed you when my husband got home and found me where he left me....) exploring your blog and learning more about you.

    You are amazing and wonderful and funny and just my kind of crazy. Freaking awesome post, Eden.

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  33. Damn story made me teary, almost choked on my spaghetti. Lesson learned, don't read Edenland when eating.

    Love this story still, even if I nearly died.

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  34. Thank you, Dave. Thank you, Eden.

    beautiful.

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  35. beautiful post.
    i dont know who my dad is, but i grew up with a totally awesome stepdad, who for my whole life has never treated me any different to my half brothers. we dont even use the step dad/ half brother words in our house.
    But i dont think i could have ever asked for a better father and role model.
    its sad when kids dont know who their dad's are. i sometimes feel like there is that little something missing, but then i think about the upbringing that i had, and it makes me happy with the way things did turn out.

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  36. Voted. Worth it.
    Now - could you find my partners's mum? That would be grand. She wants me to do it - but I don't know where to start. Not in phone books. That's my dead end :( - Let us know when you open that detective agency :)

    But love YOUR story.

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  37. Holy crap in a crayon box, that is the most amazing story! Certainly fate that you found him, and to think he was the first you called? That just blows my mind. I think you have some super special powers there Ms Edenland and consider you worthy of MANY votes!

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  38. What a beautiful post. Thank you for writing it and to Dave for allowing his story to be told. Isn't life just amazing, the first phone call you made. Destiny.
    I love how Dave has been able to break the cycle of his past. his children are blessed. And you as well. Just getting to know your blog. Love it

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  39. Oh Eden, that was one of the most beautiful pieces you have written. Thank Dave from all of us to have you write it. And may I say that is an AWESOME photo of Dave and little Max... By the way, you will need one hell of a spit for that lamb roast!!! xxxx Lots of Love, Eden's Mum

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  40. Goosebumps.
    Dads are so important. Just ask someone who's lost their Dad.

    ...and even better are those Dad's who've put on their big boy pants and become great, loving fathers even when they never had a great, loving father to look up to and learn from.
    Thanks for letting us read this story Dave.

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  41. I just popped by via Digital Parents and feel like a bit of an intruder...I was going to sneak away but had to acknowledge what is an incredibly moving and powerful story.

    *speechless*

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  42. Long time reader, first time writer, thank you for that story. Parents play such a huge role in who we become but in the end it is the choices we make that define who we are.

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  43. What a brilliant story! And good on you - finding him, first number? It was meant to be. It's not easy contacting unknown/estranged relatives. I tried contacting my dad's father when I was 18, only to learn he'd died six months earlier (I was the one who had to tell my parents). Makes me cheer for all the successful attempts that people might have at reconnecting.

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  44. that IS a doozy.

    funny thing, I almost skimmed right past it because of the title. heh.

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  45. I'm nor sure how or where I found your blog but I have been reading for about a year now. You are a very talanted writer, thanks for sharing your family with us, great story!! I voted too!! Check my blog out I need to get better
    about posting.

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  46. When you open your detective agency, can I be your United States employee? I have experience and everything :-)

    (I voted...hope they are still counting..actually I tried to vote twice.)

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  47. Wow. I want to tell stories the way you do.

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  48. What an amazing story of forgiveness! Dave could have refused to make contact with his Dad, but instead was brave enough to instigate closure...good for him! And what wonderful role models you both are for your children :)

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  49. What I love most about this post is that between the lines of the story is the love story that is you and Dave. It was lovely to meet you on Sat. and put a face to this very cool story, have voted...for you of course!

    Nicole
    x

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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