Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Candle for my Dad

Tonight I lit a candle for my Dad.  He was cremated today. This afternoon I wrote him a letter, explaining exactly why I couldn't be close to him, but also thanking him for the good memories and my love of music.  I told him I did / do love him, and that I have always remembered him as my Dad, even though we weren't close.
After lighting the candle I played "Abide With Me" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Dad had told me when I was a child that he wanted it played at his funeral.  I read the letter, and I looked at photos of Dad.  Then I took the candle outside onto the verandah and used it to light the letter.  So, I had my own private little ceremony to mark the passing of my Dad.  RIP Dad.

"Abide With Me" by the Choir ofKing's College, Cambridge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The tears came today

I did say I wasn't upset to learn that Dad had died.  Well, I was proved wrong today.
I decided this morning that I did want to put a notice in the paper - with no funeral, and not even a notice from Olive in today's paper I didn't want Dad to just 'disappear' - I felt there had to be some acknowledgement that he had passed.  So I rang the Herald-Sun to place a bereavement notice.  But as there hadn't been a notice from "the main family" my notice would be kept on hold until the funeral director notified of a 'family' notice.  I suddenly found myself in tears - he was denying me the right to mark my father's death unless Olive did, and I was pretty sure she wasn't going to. I tried to explain the circumstances, and that I was not on speaking terms with my step-mother.  He did go to speak to a supervisor to see if there was anything they could do, but no, rules were rules.  I had to at least be able to let them know who the undertaker was, so they could ring to confirm.
I rang John, who by this time was in Cowra on his way to Queensland, to find out which hospital Dad died in - turned out he died at the nursing home where he lived, not on the way to hospital as I'd thought.
So then I rang Willowood Retirement Village to ask the name of the doctor who certified the death - but they wouldn't tell me as they didn't have my name as next of kin!  Did I want to speak to Olive? - no I didn't!  So I spoke to the manager - same story.  However, she did eventually tell me the name of the funeral director.
Rang Whitelady Funerals in Mornington as that seemed the most likely, and they were indeed making the arrangements.  I spoke to a lady called Anna who was wonderful - as Bill said, she was a bit of a pscychologist, because she talked me through a lot of my feelings and said it was clear to see I had 'unresolved issues' and suggested some things I could consider doing - such as lighting a candle for Dad, and perhaps writing him a letter explaining how I feel and using the candle to burn the letter.  I asked if it was at all possible for them to play "Abide With Me" at some time during the cremation, but of course they can't.  Dad had told me when I was a child that he wanted "Abide With Me" at his funeral.  Anna is going to ring me to let me know exactly when the cremation will be, and I will have my own quiet devotions at home on that day.  And at least I was able to give Anna some correct details for the death certificate.
I was then able to ring the Herald-Sun and inform them of the undertaker, and my notice will be in the paper tomorrow.  And if there is anyone else who wants to put a notice in the paper they won't have to go through the same nonsense I had to go through.
I am sad that I didn't have a better relationsip with Dad, and sad that unlike John who apparently reconciled with Dad a little while ago, I hadn't been in touch with him in recent months.  I can't do anything about that now, and I am not going to beat myself around the head about it, but I will remember him in my own way, and I have ensured that his passing doesn't go unrecorded.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Dad died this morning!  My brother rang at 8:00 to let me know.  Sadly, I am not upset.  I haven't had a close relationship with Dad for many years.  I don't think I've spoken to him since my birthday last year when he rang to wish me happy birthday - on the Sunday in case I was at work on my birthday.  Dad was slipping into dementia and had obviously forgotten I hadn't worked for over three years at that stage.
Even as a child I didn't feel close to Dad, although I did love him I guess.  When he and Mum split up John and I stayed with Dad at first.  There was the opportunity to get close to Dad.  However, he soon decided he was going to bring Olive into our home - and there the trouble started.  It still hurts after all these years.  Mum had left for another man - and initially I told her I didn't want to meet him, he'd broken up our home.  But once I got to know him I began to love him, and now have a wonderful relationship with him.  Olive was another matter.  I knew about her, because she'd been to visit once or twice.  Then Dad told me one day that Olive was coming that day.  I presumed for dinner.  Wrong!  Without any discussion or anything she was moving in.  I asked Dad for a little more time to get used to the idea before she came into our home and took my mother's place.  But no, that didn't suit madam - she had to leave her current husband there and then, but proceeded to go to work with him every day for the next twelve months or so!  And there was no easing into the role of step-mother - she took over from the moment she walked in.  With one of her previous husbands she had lived in Malaya for a time, and had an Ahmah.  Well, she thought I was going to become her Ahmah.  Then she convinced Dad to move to Melbourne, uprooting the whole family.  I didn't go with them, instead moving to live with Mum and Jim.
Dad and Olive's Wedding

Strange, I can't remember if I managed to keep in touch with Dad after the move to Melbourne.  I know there was a period of about two years when I didn't have any contact.  Of course, I was away at college too, and I can't remember what contact I had with Dad during that time.  I know I went to Dad and Olive's wedding.
Joan, Bob and John SULLIVAN
Then I got engaged.  I remember making contact with Dad at that time because his sister, my aunt Joan, had come out from England and I was going to my Uncle Bob's place for the day.  Dad was going to be there.  From that point on I had a fairly normal relationship.  My first husband and I would go for Sunday lunch once a fortnight, and the alternate fortnight they would come to us.
When I got married it was a bit awkward.  Dad wanted to give me away, but I wanted Jim to do it, because he was paying for the wedding (Dad wouldn't contribute because it might be spent on alcohol!)  I thought I had solved the problem by not actually having anyone give me away, although Jim did drive to the Church with me.  Reg met me at the back of the Church and we walked down the aisle together.  But Mum didn't want Dad at the reception because it was to be held at her house in the garden - I thought that was a bit unreasonable, but abided by her wishes.  Sadly, Dad convinced Bob and his wife not to go to the reception either.
When Susan was born Dad and Olive gave us a pair of cot blankets - which I later learned had been a double bed blanket which they'd claimed insurnace for as they had been ruined in the wash - Olive had cut them up and bound them with some wide ribbon!  Great present for your first natural grandchild (she had grandchildren of her own, Susan was Dad's first.)
When my first husband, Reg, died in 1990 I naturally rang Dad to tell him.  His response - we can't come to the funeral. He was waiting for me to say I'd pay for them to get there, but I wasn't going to.
Another time I was talking to Dad on the phone and I could hear Olive in the background - "Ask her how the girl is, you know, the girl, what's her name?"  Her name was Susan, and she was their granddaughter!  Dad hasn't remembered Susan at birthday or Christmas for so long I can't remember when was the last time.  Same thing happened when I told him I was getting married to Bill - "We won't be able to come" even before he knew the date.
My brother John used to see Dad quite regularly, but in recent times they've also had a parting of the ways.  I believe John reconciled just a short while ago.
The SULLIVANs 1984
About two years ago Bill and I were holidaying in Queensland when I got a phone call from my brother to say Dad was in hospital and wasn't expected to last long.  I remember crying in the Atherton street.  We called to see him in Berwick Hospital on our way home - and I cried again.  Ironically Dad seemed to spark up once I arrived - even John commented on it.  Whatever the reason, Dad survived.
Today I haven't cried.  When I told Susan she expected I would be upset.  I'm not.  I'm sad to think that even if Dad has kept ANYTHING from the past (family mementoes, photos etc.) Olive is unlikely to consider John or I might like them.  Susan said some wise words - "It is OK to mourn for what you didn't have."  I guess that's what I'm really doing, because I do regret that I didn't have a better relationship with my Dad - but he made his choice, Olive was more important than his family.
Dad as a baby
I wrote Dad a letter some time ago, in which I thanked him for things he had done for me.  I thanked him for my love of music, for taking me to the massed Pipe Bands in South Melbourne when I was a child – what a wonderful experience.  I love bagpipe music, and this experience was just magical.  I don’t know how many bands / pipers there were, but it is an event I will never forget.  I have a lot to thank Dad for with regards to my love of music.  There was always a variety of music in the house, ranging from classical to musicals with some ‘modern’ (for the time).  We began with 78s, and graduated to stereo 33rpm LPs and 45s.  I loved Spike Jones and the City Slickers, especially their version of the Nutcracker Suite, and All I Want For Christmas.  I adored Strauss Waltzes, and the Musicals of Oscar and Hammerstein and Gilbert and Sullivan.  I also love hymns and Gospel Music.  John and I used to have to take it in turns to dry the dishes, which Dad washed.  The thing that made it fun rather than a chore was that we always sang songs while were doing them.  Lots of songs from the war years, and the musicals.  I loved it.  Funny, I just searched my computer for a copy of the letter I wrote to Dad, and it isn't there.  Maybe I hand wrote it.
Rest In Peace Dad.