I’m Father F@#%**ing Christmas!

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……..cont from previous post 

The rest of the children joined us on our mini adventure. Owen, (my previous reconnoitre partner) ran eagerly ahead to in order to present our “find” to the rest of the crew. He was pretty much ignored as the” treasure” drew them all in. Dutifully, he fell in behind the older children, but I could see that he was glowing with the knowledge that he was there first.

Our 12 feet clomped across the boards and around the twists and bends of the boardwalk’s conduit. There were no echoes in this forest; the damp wood beneath our feet sucked in the noise of our gallomping feet and fed it into the murky mud and rotting wood beneath, and the still, mossy trees absorbed our happy voices and playful laughter as if to say it was perhaps out of place. We didn’t mind and we raced on to the end.

The end was nowhere near as exciting as the journey itself, so we cast our disinterested eyes over the gravel path and sparse trees and retreated back to our path to return the way we had come. My older two boys hung back to explore a bit more but the younger three wanted to continue exploring the creek. It was then that I remembered I had left our picnic drinks, chips and chocolate, along with my camera back at the playground. I went ahead to retrieve it knowing the children were safe within earshot.

As I neared the playground, I heard a raw and thunderous man’s voice bellowing blue murder. I hesitated to see where it was coming from and saw a staggering figure a way past the pond. I collected my belongings and hurried back to the children like a mother hen, to draw them in close under my wings.

The children hadn’t heard the yells until I pointed them out and although they were ready to go home, I sat them down so I could see where this strange apparition was heading and to find out his intent.

The man was obviously very drunk, with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a bottle of “Sprite” in the other. He sat down at a picnic table and poured yet another drink and gazed belligerently around. He captured us in his sights and saw us all staring. He roared out, “Fuck Off”. Then, gazing through his bleary tequila goggles he bawled, “You’re beautiful”, and started to serenade me. It made me smile. I hadn’t been serenaded in a long while and it was quite sweet to hear the words, “You’re beautiful, so fucking beautiful and I fucking love you”.

By this time the children were equally disconcerted as well as highly amused. As they were a safe distance away, I decided to go to the car and retrieve my ventolin which I was in need of. I rummaged through my bag, took my puff and locked the door ready to return to the kids. I hesitated for a moment and thought, “I wonder if he’s hungry?” Going to the back of the car I took out the bag of chips I had just placed there and walked back  to present the man my peace pipe. He groggily looked up from his contemplation of the ground and smiled. His hair was a shock of white frizz, sitting like a halo of dandelion seeds around his head and shoulders; and his beard tickled his chest, content to be more of the same. He introduced himself as Peter and smiled. His eyes were kind and his smile was genuine.

He told me I was beautiful again and invited me to have a drink. I politely declined mumbling something about the kids, but he said, “What if we pretend I’m your long lost brother that you haven’t seen for years and years and years?” I smiled at him and said “OK” and held out my glass.

I said, “Peter, where have you been all this time? We’ve all missed you so much!” We laughed and chatted a bit for a while. Peter told me that he had no family or friends that he had seen for 20 years and no home to call his own. It made me wonder what had happened in this man’s life that took him down this lonely and clearly painful boardwalk of life.

Curiosity got the better of my children and they gradually ventured over to us in ones and twos. I made their introductions and very soon we were all laughing. I went back to the car and got the rest of the picnic – Lindor chocolate and juice. We had just devoured the chocolate when my youngest stepped out from behind me and said, “Who are you?” to which Peter stood up and flung his arms out wide, then answered “I’M FATHER FUCKING CHRISTMAS!”  I glanced up at him with Mummy discern to which he hastily apologised. Then he said, “What would you like for Christmas? I can get you anything you want.” Felix grinned and said he would like a car and Owen put an order in for a pirate ship. My older two watched in amusement while my little sleepover guest hid behind my back just peeping out from around my shoulder.

Owen then said, “Are you a hobo?” Again I glanced up at Peter gauging his reaction. I saw a current of pain flicker across his face and I gently said, “Out of the mouths of babes”. Peter smiled sadly and looked at the ground. Then he invited me to spend the night with him under the stars. I smiled and declined the offer. “What about a hug?” he asked. Josh, my ever diplomatic son jumped up and said, “I’ll give you a hug Peter”. And there it was in front of me, a gift of kindness from my son for a lonely stranger with an empty heart.

Suddenly, Peter stood up and threw away his empty lemonade bottle. He then upended the tequila, pouring his last few drinks to the ground. I couldn’t help but think he was going to regret that later. The bottle went flying through the air after it’s mixer mate and then he walked off without a goodbye or an explanation and I was left to finish my drink without my funny friend.

Josh looked down at the bench seat and said, “Hey Mum, he forgot the chips”. I told him he could take them to Peter if he wanted to; so he did. When he came back, Josh said that Peter had advised him to never leave home and had also allowed him to take a photo.

We left the park , and drove home talking about our interesting encounter, to light a fire outside and cook some sausages. I felt sad and reflective and couldn’t stop thinking about homeless Pete. Did he leave us because he saw his own shame reflected in the eyes of my family?  I truly hope not, but I felt that our little tryst had perhaps only highlighted the life that he yearned for, but believed to be far beyond his reach.

http://www.drinkwise.org.au/you-alcohol/alcohol-and-your-health/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001940/

http://www.homeless.org.au/people/

http://alcohol.addictionblog.org/drug-and-alcohol-abuse-and-the-homeless/

http://au.reachout.com/Tough-Times/Somethings-not-right/Addiction?gclid=CL-g0dirlrICFbBUpgod1DQAWA

Letter of Reason

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Dad solemnly handed me a three page, hand written letter outlining his rationale for me not moving out of home. They were valid grounds, but I read them with an air of annoyance and tossed the note away (I wish I had kept it). I do remember some of the list, which included:

  • Needing the financial support of my parents to complete my degree.
  • Living in an environment conducive to study
  • Looking after my health with my recent diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
  • That my Irish boyfriend (yet another Peter) was not the best choice of people to support me in the above…..and the list went on.

They were all genuine concerns, coming from a place of love, and Dad could not have been more right; but as I mentioned¸ the letter ended up in the bin and I moved out.

I think that part of the reason for my belligerence was that I had reached an age where I didn’t want to be accountable for every night out or every sleep over a friend’s house. What my parents didn’t realise was that compared to many of my friends, I was a late bloomer and hadn’t experimented nearly as much, or as early with some of the things that went on at school. Also, coming from a household of three brothers, I felt there was a definite imbalance when it came to the freedom given to my brothers and the freedom given to me.

Dad was right though and perhaps he saw through the happy-go-lucky character that Peter made himself out to be. Having been in the merchant navy in Ireland before he came to Australia, he was a big drinker and it wasn’t long before I discovered the many down sides of this. We enjoyed parties and pubs like most of our friends, however, it was about 3 months into our shared living arrangement that I was subjected to his alcohol induced schizophrenia.

One evening on our walk home from a night at a pub called “The Geebung Polo Club”, our happy banter suddenly turned to jealous accusations. I have always been the type of person to talk with someone if they speak to me. Isn’t that manners? But due to my generally friendly and vivacious nature, several boyfriends have chosen to misconstrue this as flirting. I say “chosen” because it has always been a choice.

In an unexpected onslaught, I found myself slammed up against a parked car with allegations and fists flying. His posture was that of pure rage and his face red from the strain of his vehement and cutting bullets of abuse. He left me in the dark street and walked home on his own. With nowhere else to go at that time of night, my only choice was to dust myself off and drag my bruised body and bewildered mind back home. What the hell had just happened? Early that morning, he woke in a drunken daze, opened my closet door and pissed on all my clothes.

Now most emotionally intelligent women would have packed their bags and left the next day…surely. Conversely, after his profuse apologies and assurances that it would never happen again, I tucked the incident away and went on with life.

Everything was fine for a while. I had believed him when he had told me it was a “one off incident”, “totally out of character”. When it happened again, I was just as surprised as the first time. This time we were at home and some neighbourhood friends had popped in for pizza and a few drinks. As the night progressed, he became more obnoxious by the minute. I can’t even remember what set him off but I can clearly recall him shoving me up against the wall and holding the carving knife to my throat. My dog Pepe, although small, was as loyal and ferocious as any trained attack canine could be. He flew at Peter (well his ankles) in an attempt to save me from his wrath. The distraction worked, but Peter kicked my dog so hard in the ribs that he bounced off the opposite wall, but Pepe just shook his head and went in for the second round.

It was about 3am and I knew I couldn’t stay a moment longer. Peter went to have a cigarette and I took this opportunity to make a call to my friends, Lynda and Shane. This couple had been my friends since high school and they had always been generous of heart. Without a second thought, Shane jumped on his motorbike and made the half hour trip to come and rescue me. With my helmet on and my dog bundled up between myself and Shane’s back, we sped home to the familiarity of their safe and happy home.

Dad’s dim predictions had become a reality.  My studies had suffered along with my health. My University results were pathetic and my life in a shambles.

http://lovegoodbadugly.com/what-is-abuse/

http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/signs-that-you-may-have-an-abusive-boyfriend/

http://ziggysblogs.blogspot.com.au/2009/11/teen-trends-10-signs-of-abusive.html

http://dingdongitsmrwrong.wordpress.com/

http://anxiouselephant.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/domestic-abuse/comment-page-1/#comment-1434

One of my reader, a father of daughters, asked me how he could help to protect his daughters from such a horrible and dangerous situation. I think the first step is being aware, as a parent, that this can happen. Just like child sexual abuse needs to be discussed openly with your children at a young age https://jiltaroo.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/galloping-feet-on-a-lonely-road-2/, boyfriend abuse needs to also be on your list of awkward topics when it becomes relevant. Knowledge is power, and your daughters are more likely to recognize it for what it is should it rear it’s ugly head. 

The only qualifications I have for giving this advice is that I have obviously been in this situation; so these are solely my own opinions. However, there is a lot of great information on the internet and I have added a couple of links including a really informative blog for both parents and daughters, should you wish to know more. Good on you Sean for asking the question, your daughters are already streets ahead.

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