Ah. Father’s Day huh? Hmm.
Father’s Day means nothing to me. I mean, I have quite a few friends who are young fathers or soon-to-be fathers, and I am genuinely happy for them because they are good people. Proper good, decent people, loving fathers and good friends. I’ve even held some of their babies recently and marvelled at the way they look at the world and how they struggle to communicate and understand what is going on. Amazing little creatures and it must be fascinating to be their father and watch them develop. It’s not for me, fatherhood, but I appreciate what an amazing thing it must be to be a parent.
But father’s Day means nothing to me.
The story of my father… There was a father figure in my story The Funniest Man In The World Tells A Funny Story but I’m not sure if that was an accurate portrayal. I remember my grandmother being troubled by that story when it was published because she thought it was an honest account, so maybe it was. There was also a father in Remembering Argos and I also discussed family in a story called Finding Davey, and there was the ghost of a father in Blue Angeline, who was actually the ghost of my grandfather. You can read those stories in 17 Stories Of Love & Crime. Other than those occasions, fatherhood just doesn’t feature. I don’t miss my father. I don’t feel like anything is missing.
So. My father. Pretty funny story actually. I remember him as being a fun kind of guy, even if, looking back, he was probably a bit immature. Loved his music and I thank him for introducing me to glam rock at an early age. I’m probably a bit like him in my hedonist attitude towards life. I remember him being drunk quite a lot, the kind of drunk I avoid, even if I am drunk quite a lot. Unlike him, I don’t cause scenes, don’t punch holes in walls, don’t smash gifts on Christmas day because I can’t do what I want to do. These are my hazy memories of him when something causes me to remember, which is rare.
I last saw my father when I was about 15 years old. For a couple of years before that he was a bit of a character. The parents had split when I was about 10 and I do remember being a bit traumatised by that and having to make a choice. I find that funny now, given how little I care about the idea of family.
Somehow he seemed to suddenly have a bit of cash, and he was flash about it. I remember cowboy hats and flash clothes. Real suburban dandy stuff. He had a Leyland P76 that he had spray painted to look like the car in the TV series Starsky & Hutch. It takes balls to do something as publicly ridiculous as that. Sometimes when he visited he would show us (younger brother and me) the gun he had started carrying around, even fired a couple of rounds into the air. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. This was what fathers were like, as far as I knew.
Then at about 15 years old at a new high school in my old suburb (we had moved around then moved back), some of the tough, older guys befriended me. It was the weirdest thing. I had my group of friends who were big into getting into trouble if that’s what it took to get a laugh, then some of the coolest guys in school, a couple of years ahead of me, started being friendly. It started when the main guy came up to me one day and said “Someone tells me you’ve been saying you know the guy who drives the Starsky & Hutch car. I don’t think you do because he’s a mate of mine.”
I was shitting myself because I wasn’t a fighter and I was absolutely sure this guy was about to fight me to death. My friends were watching from a distance but were not going to do anything because Tough Guy’s friends were also watching from a distance.
“I do,” I said, getting all Mandrake The Magician and pulling some attitude out of my arse. “He’s my father.”
Tough Guy thought about this for a bit and slowly decided not to fight me to death just yet.
Shortly after this, Tough Guy started saying hello to me in passing. Friendly nod. Friendly wink. Yeah, I thought, head held high, who’s the dude? I’m the dude.
Still not really knowing what was going on.
The last time I saw my father is a moment I regret. He was visiting when I arrived home from school. I snubbed him. I have no idea why. I was confused about a lot of things. He was there in his shiny shirt talking to my mother and I just had some kind of attitude and ignored him. Didn’t say hello. Sat down to listen to what he had to say but I basically totally fucking snubbed him. I regret that because in spite of everything I don’t think he was an overly bad person, just a bit of a fuck up out for a good time, and in many ways I had made the wrong decision about who to stay with. With so much about what was going on, I had no idea what was going on.
Actually, that was the second last time I saw my father. The last time? The last time was when I was sitting with the rest of my family, the mother, the younger brother and the grandparents, eating our typically early dinner around the dining table, watching the evening news. I don’t remember conversation ever being a thing. We just ate in silence while the sun was still shining and watched the 6 0’clock news.
And suddenly there he was. My father in handcuffs being lead to the police car while a voice talked about the biggest drug bust in Sydney Airport’s history. It felt like a massive, still moment that was over all too quickly. What the hell just happened? What the hell was going on?
I had a lot to deal with (pardon the pun) in the following days at school because everyone else had been watching the news as well. A lot of the kids thought it was funny and had fun with it. I laughed along but not being the kind of kid who liked any kind of attention, I fucking hated it. I especially didn’t want this kind of attention. We had our name changed which was probably not necessary, and even that drew more attention and was the source of more amusement.
I have no idea what became of my father after that. I know he went to jail but he would have been out after a few years, I guess, and everyone just kind of got on with their lives. I got used to the name change and actually prefer it to the old one.
So there it is, a story I’ve told a handful of times. I don’t feel in any way bitter or resentful or think that celebrating fatherhood is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. When I see the happiness family brings to the lives of my friends, I feel genuinely happy for them, and I feel grateful to have my friends as my family because they are a pretty cool bunch of people who probably don’t want to fight me to death.
Written by Lee Bemrose.
Read his GHB overdose recount here.