Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Childhood Affair

When I was a young lad my father had an affair. In fact he may have had two affairs, perhaps with the same person. I say may have because my memories aren't anything other than sketchy and in those days kids were more often than not told to be seen and not heard. So my knowledge of what was going on came from overheard conversations and hearing yells from behind the closed doors that lead from the living are of our house to my bedroom.

One wall separated the head of my bed from the dining room and anytime voices were raised there I could hear them quite clearly.

Dad was an alcoholic, not something I ever heard him admit, but true nonetheless, and in those days it seemed to be an acceptable thing to drink yourself stupid. If you opened a bottle of beer, inevitably there would be another and another until you fell into a stupor on the couch. I also had three uncles who drank to excess so for me it was the norm to see people in a state of drunkeness.

Dad also had a mate whose father owned a hotel, and on Thursday and Friday nights and all day Saturdays Dad worked at that pub as a barman. I don't know how he drove home some nights being as blind drunk as he was at times and I remember often lying awake at night waiting for him to come home so I'd know he was safe, even as I knew that Mum would verbally attack him as he staggered in through the door.

It was whilst he worked at the Stockade Hotel that he had the affair. And that is all I know about the woman he was involved with. I must have been around 8 or 9 when Mum kicked him out of the home. I was trying to think today about how long he and Mum were separated, but the truth is I can't remember. I do remember that he would turn up some nights, usually drunk, and bash on the locked doors asking to be let in. I also clearly remember a neighbour pulling me aside and telling me I was now the man of the house, something that affected me in many ways that I am only now coming to understand.

Dad was not a violent man, not that I can recall anyway, and certainly not that I believe, but as I sit here writing this now I have a vague recollection of Mum having a black eye on at least one occasion which she said happened when she walked into a door. Something a young boy accepted at the time because parents don't lie, do they?

Mum took Dad back in and that was supposedly in our best interests and their marriage lasted more than 50 years until Dad passed away in August 2004. But were they happy? Sometimes certainly. Other times I have no doubt that they weren't. But I cannot say with any degree of certainty that they would have been happier apart. I'm not even sure that they could say one way or the other.

I do know that their behaviour and the decisions they made had an impact upon mine and I have carried many things relating to those days of my childhood as baggage through my journey. That in turn has affected my relationship with my own children and again is something I must deal with in order to move forward to this next phase of life. Writing here is helping me to place some of those things into context.

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