Sunday, April 17, 2005

If my father had lived

today would have been his 82nd birthday. He's been dead nearly 45 years. I've already written about why I don't much regret his passing.

Nonetheless, I often think of that man who I only dimly remember. He was hairy as I recall, back and front. When he was sober he was fun as even my mother will attest. When he was drunk...

Yet I still have fond memories of him scaring the shit out of me when he hoisted me onto his shoulders. And of the day in 1959 when we walked home from the Footscray Football ground and stopped for steamed dim sims along the way. I still remember him telling me they'd 'stick to my ribs' and believing it literally! I was six years and a couple of months old when he died so it's only natural that I'm ambiguous about his passing.

Yet there was the day in 1960 at the same football ground where I saw him pee into an empty beer bottle to save himself the trouble of going to the toilet...

I remember he was a jazz drummer. By the time I was aware of what was happening it was way in the past. But it seems he was so in the 1940's and he even made some records. Alas, to this day I've been unable to trace the bands let alone the records. I do remember seeing his drum kit before he sold it, piece by piece, for drink. I can remember playing with his xylophone and being enchanted by the sound. I also remember the night, sometime in 1958 when he presented me with one of his records. It was a 78 - possibly 15 years old at the time. He was probably drunk at the time but let me be charitable. I believe he gave it to me as a token of fatherly love. I was 4 years old. I can still remember in vivid detail the blue walls of the bedroom, the alternating blue, black and white stripes on the mattress. And I can remember how I held that record close; and how I, not knowing how fragile a 78 was, sat on it and broke it.

My father will always be an enigma to me; my memories of him conflict so... but I cannot be in Footscray and not go to his grave (shared with my grandmother and my grandfather) and not talk to him, even if the talk be only internal.

Rest in Peace, Robert George Gwillim Manderson, my father!

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