Yeah, I complain a lot. And then something happens that reminds me how much I've learned.
There's this thing called the Aussie Bloke, a most damned creature indeed. Feelings? For the weak. Talking? Un-Australian. Emotions? The stuff of poofters. Tears? Beat them out of the male when he's three years old so they never return.
Heaven knows how much damage was done to how many people, but I suppose the depression statistics would help tell the story.
I won't reiterate the personal journey this time. Those who already know, know. Those who don't can read the back story on this blog. If it were written in the corner of an eye with a needle, as the Thousand Nights and a Night puts it, it would yet provide instruction.
Here on father's day, I'm remembering that my father had emotion beaten out of him by World War II. He was difficult to please: I took up drumming in early high school, and the first opinion he ever expressed about it was in a music shop in Penrith in 1975, when I needed a new kick drum pedal.
So there I was, trying not to buy the really expensive one I really wanted, talking to The Dude at the counter while dad mooched about the shop, apparently uninterested. And when I finally decided that he could at least stand $40 instead of $20 or $100, I waved him over.
“This one?” he asked me. I guess I tried to excuse the expense, but he had other things on his mind. Because he turned to The Dude and asked whether drum kits came with kick drum pedals.
“No, you choose the pedal when you buy the kit” was the answer, more or less.
And dad waved at one of the drum kits on offer and said we'd take that as well. At about $400 – this was in the 1970s, remember – it was the second-largest amount of money spent on me in one hit (the largest was the re-attachment of the last joint of the little finger of my left hand, in 1963, and he'd only finished paying that off in 1970).
That had me stammering. Something about “I don't need new drums, just a new kick pedal.”
“Well, you've put up with that second-hand junk for two years. You practise morning and night. So I know you're serious. You deserve this.”
No, that is not verbatim. Even if I was good at verbatim – I am now, after 25 years at a journalist, but I was in the first half of my teens with a father I didn't know how to talk to, then – too much time has passed. But: he bought the drums, and I worked extra hard, because.
I wouldn't have minded him being just a little more emotional, in the brief time between his departure from the toxic overwork of his 1960s job, and his descent into dementia in the early 80s.
And here I am, bruised and battered and still bloody here, getting all misty-eyed over a picture of a UN security guard playing “you got my finger” with a Syrian baby. This one: pic.twitter.com/JQwkMmOY8J
Misty? You bet.
You know what? I like this version of me, a whole lot more than the one that tried to learn not to cry. It's having the leg-chain unlocked. The weight lifted. It's bloody liberating, not having to pretend that I'm the tough guy.
And suddenly, decades too late, the curtain is drawn back. There's a whole world out there that you can understand better if you let it hurt. Let it touch. Let it rattle the damned-to-hell Aussie Bloke, leave him dead in a gutter because it's so much better to feel than not.
"Soften the fuck up" is probably the best advice I ever gave myself. I certainly like me more this way. Will I cry when my throat chokes and the eyes leak? Yep.
And if anyone thinks I've turned soft, let them try to convince me. The hard bit still lives inside, and can be called at need.
Dad: here's my Father's Day wish to your long-cold ashes. I wish you'd had the chance to learn this. You'd have been nicer with a tear in your eye. Now and then.