You see, I remembered things in a certain way and, recently, something has happened that has made me realise that what I remember are the simply the memories of a child and, as such, are all jumbled up. When you are five years old, you still have nightmares about the wolf outside the window, the monster under the bed, or the evil monkey in the closet. These things are not real, yet to a five year old, they dominate your little life. What is more, as I grew older, I never questioned my memories; I just accepted that they were genuine. Until last week, that is. I know that some of my memories are fairly accurate; the good ones. I also realise that the bad ones are little more than convenient composites that I, subconsciously, used to justify my abysmal teenage strops.
How did this epiphany come about? Quite unexpectedly, as a matter of fact. Two things happened. Firstly, you see, just before I went to Munich, I scanned all the old family photos I could find stashed in my Dad’s cupboards. Albums filled with Polaroids, Instamatic snaps, Kodachrome moments, and Box Brownie memories going back almost a hundred years. Many of the people on these pictures were long gone before I was even born. A couple of weeks ago, I found all these pictures in a folder on one of my external hard drives. I hadn’t forgotten about them, they were just not high-enough priority when I was in Germany. Then, this year, there was getting my new website up and running, looking for a job and, yes, a whole lot of sulking, feeling angry, and frustrated at how things went sour in Munich, and the fact that I had no control over the outcome. (That is a blog for another day, though.)
The second thing that happened was that I mentioned these photos to my Dad. I wanted him to identify some of the people in the older photographs (well, he isn’t getting any younger, let’s be realistic). We started talking and I told him that I’d found some snaps of him when he was in his twenties, years before I was born. They stood out because he looked so young and happy, if not a little crazy. We had been chatting for a while when he started talking about how he would go out to Jazz clubs. This was something I had never heard before. I couldn’t remember having seen my Dad listening to music, of any sort, when I was young; we didn’t have a stereo until I saved up the money I made from my milk round job and bought a Phillips Music Centre when I was 13. The idea of my Dad going to see live music was a revelation and I suddenly realised that we were more alike than I had ever imagined.
For example, my Mum never spent money that wasn’t essential and, often, not even then. I wish I was more like her in that respect, if I am honest. I earn very good money when I work, but I spend it on things that I want, on things my daughters need, and I am flamboyantly generous with others. Of course, that means I am poor too, at times, but it pleases me to spend money and I make no apologies for that. Although I like money, covet it, and envy those who have it, I also treat it with great disdain. It comes; it goes. It is there to be enjoyed. When I can’t find a contract that pays enough, is somewhere I want to go, or is a project that I want to work on, I do jobs for free, simply because it is something I want to do. I’d much rather work on a project for no money, on something I want to do, than work on something I don’t want to do. I work to live. I do not live to work.
I see some of this in my father. He buys gadgets he has no idea how to operate, not because he needs them, but because he likes having them. He spends his money on doing things he wants to do, something he would never have done when my Mum was alive. The better I get to know him, the more I realise that we are more alike than I ever considered. I spent so much of my youth at odds with my father that it has been a revelation to get to know the real man, rather than my mother’s husband that I knew growing up. I can imagine what he must have been like before I was born and it is a very different person than the man I have known all of my life.
My birth came at a very difficult time for my family. Six weeks before I was born, my father’s sister died, very suddenly, of a cerebral haemorrhage. Six weeks after I was born, my mother’s father died of a thrombosis. It must have been a very trying time, filled with mixed emotions. I do know that my father didn’t deal with it very well at the time; he bottled-up his grief, kept it inside, and the consideration of his own mortality affected him for many years afterwards. All of my life, my father has thought he was dying of something. Strangely, now at 77 years of age, he says that he isn’t ready to die just yet. I told him that I will probably have to shoot him anyway.