The Father I Never Knew …
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The series is a journey of reflection and a final honour to laying the ghosts and demons that have been with me since l was five.
My Father and l shared obviously many memories, and as readers have commented many a time during this series – it’s interesting to see a story from two different perspectives, and of course that would be a truthful observation. Each reflection will ‘reflect differently’ to a person’s mind at the time of the moment they remember it in.
My Father informed me at the start of this year in January that he was starting another ‘more honest and thruthful’ autobiography that would hold the answers to many questions we as his children had. He asked if l could help him with some of the memories as his own ability to remember things exactly was becoming slimmer almost by the day and as l had a very good long range memory, would l mind?
No, l answered if it would help him, l would be happy to oblige. He asked me how l was able to remember many a times with such clarity? I answered jokingly that it was the Asperger’s in me, however this was not a word he liked to hear, because it might mean that his Son would then further suggest – AGAIN! – that he too was somewhere on the spectrum and in his eyes he most assuredly was not. So he moved the subject slightly but from a different angle ..”But how DO you remember these things? You astound me in that you can remember dates and times with so much precision?”
“Well it’s not as hard as you may think, you train your mind to store things and as your mind fills up, you sort through the clutter every now and again and just keep facts, and then seperate the emotions and store them elsewhere. You catalogue everything in various levels of your memory banks, a lot like an old index system as an example.”
“Well Rory not everyone does that and has that ability? What else do you use?”
“Mind bound resources Dad. It is after all factual memory being used.”
“You keep a lot of photographs Dad, they must be extraordinary as a resource to pull on, yes?”
“Yes of course, l would be lost without them.” he answered.
“Well my mind stores millions of images, and the same for thoughts of the time and moments. Every part of my life, every day of my life is merely another moment. I don’t tend to look at my life as just one life, but several lives and so l can compartmentalise them that way. Think long term storage Dad, pretty much like your photographs.”
“But how, how do you pull those mental images forwards to the front of your thoughts?”
“I guess that is where the difference might be with other folks Dad. I do believe that people who train their minds to have superb recollection will have a number of additional facilities at their fingertips, and l am no different. I said l had my emotions detached from the central body of memory, this is true, but my mind is not as complex as some believe, it is simply tidy, orderly and kept as a series of patterns.”
“What?” He sounded even more confused.
“I will sit back and think of a year in my life, l am 55 this year, so this means that l have 55 lives to remember all are joined, but for storage purposes all are kept as single years. I will then quickly mentally scan that single year, and recall many of the events and pull what l need and then use it.”
“People don’t that Rory, not normal people anyway! What do you do for memories that are vague?”
“Well are we discussing memory Dad or are we now about to break into yet again another definition of normal discussion?” I asked already knowing the answer.
“No, not that, not again, okay everyone is different, got it. Continue please.”
“Well when l have a vague memory that might be sketchy or quite far back in the vaults, l have to have several questions already formed in my mind. Topic – what is it l seek? Date – when was it and how old was l at the time – so as to use that as a landmark. Scent or smell – was there anything attached to the memory that l could use to dig even deeper? Colours – were there any colours present or what was the day like, the season, the colour of the sky? Sounds – was there any music in the background to the day playing on the radio, were there any unusual sounds that l thought strange and lastly location – where were we as a family or where was l as a person?”
“Well again normal people don’t have that recollection Rory!”
“Actually Dad everyone has that ability to train their mind, they just have to have the desire to do so. It isn’t abnormal, it’s just different. Big difference Dad.”
“Right, anyway do you remember ……?”
Below is one of the tales that Dad never asked me to recall for him, he chiefly remembered most of it, but he was slightly out on some of it, which isn’t that bad. You may recall the story l wrote in July this year called Splat!! 1969
My Father remembered the ending differently to how it did happen, not really his fault though Choy’s Uncle was Dr. Fat and she had sent a Nephew to Penang Island to collect it. Doesn’t really matter does it? It worked, l was blister free!
The Deepest Cut
Reflection 1969/Penned 2014
“This will hurt.” He spoke lightly, but clearly meant what he said.
“I mean it will hurt, and hurt a lot.”
“Tony, I know.”
“Are you prepared for all that pain?”
I grunted. “As prepared as I will ever be.”
I have never been shy and retiring, never had any doubts about my own ability. Some folks would describe this as arrogance, and I probably would not disagree. For ten years as a Police Officer and six as a commissioned officer in the Air Force, I cannot remember a situation where I had been afraid. While in the Met in the 1950’s and 60’s, I had been involved in many violent incidents. I had been stabbed with a knife, weilded by one giving his name as Napoleon Bonaparte, a man totally away with the fairies. Mad or not, you still bleed. I have had two broken fingers, blackened eyes and severely traumatised testicles.
I was involved in many of the CND inspired marches, which often tripped over into violence. On one such occasion while awaiting transport back home at 2.00am, having been on duty for twenty-two hours, my colleagues and I were verbally assailed by a young lady of about eighteen. “Fascist bastards,” she screamed.
Our sergeant looked at her. “Fuck off, love.”
“OK,” she replied mildly and duly did so. A very British tale and one only possible in the Swinging Sixties. Today in our ugly, warped PC world, both she and the sergeant would have been nicked. On no occasion did I ever feel that I was unable to deal with matters, I never felt afraid.
But this was different. This was a situation I wasn’t sure that I could handle.
Tony spoke gently. “Better get him in, then.”
I nodded dumbly. “OK.”
Once, after the bloody clashes outside South Africa House in the wake of Sharpeville, I had composed a small, not very good poem. I cannot remember it all now, but part of it went like this: “Here I stood, upon these steps, my comrade’s blood still wet on my shirt, too stupid to be afraid.”
Now I was a father, and my stupidity did not protect me. My son Rory was six and we were stationed in Penang in Malaysia. He had always had a sensitive skin and had developed ‘monsoon blisters.’ At this stage, as I spoke to Flt Lt Tony Helmans, RAAF doctor, my six year old had thirty-three of these vile swellings on his small body. Western medicine’s accepted wisdom was to lance them and squeeze out the clear fluid they contained. My job was to restrain my son and comfort him to the best of my ability while he was sliced open in thirty-three places. I was rigid with fear, but it had to be done.
We got to seven or eight and I broke, my son screaming and writhing, tears rolling down his face. “That’s enough, Tony. Stop there.”
The doctor started to protest but saw my face. I think he was grateful to put down the knife, doctors have feelings too. I took the still sobbing, bandaged little boy home. I was, and am still, vulnerable where my kids are involved, as I was to discover a year later when my two-year-old daughter was kidnapped. My wife blamed me for the situation. Her logic was unanswerable. “You brought us to this God forsaken place, it’s your fault.”
Our Amah, Choy was more practical. “Bloody Australian doctors know nothing. I give you name of good Chinese doctor, master.”
What was there to lose? The same day we went over to the island and saw Dr Fat. “No problem,” he said. “Take this ointment.”
“We rub it on the blisters?”
“No!” He was emphatic. “You put a little up his nose every night.”
My wife and I looked at each other. But we did what Dr Fat said. Within three weeks the blisters had gone, never to return. Thank God. I didn’t have the courage to face the knife again.
Written by my Father B.M