Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Life’s not fair but then it is gloriously so.
a bit of a thought train
Life’s not fair. Get used to it. Once you do and stop uselessly flailing about feeling aggrieved about the things that can’t be changed you can begin to change the things that can be changed maybe help to enable life to be a little fairer for those around you. Some are born bright, beautiful, cashed up; most are not. Some are dumb as mutton, ugly as toads, poor, hungry, sick, and die young - horribly; but there it is. Life’s not fair. Screw this small phrase up and throw it in the garbage can of reality. It doesn’t need to be said again.

My Dad had worked at the Meatworks, five days a week lifting a couple of hundred of sheep a day onto the conveyer belt aged forty-nine. On the weekend he worked his small wood cutting business and in between this, in his spare time he had a large vegetable garden, kept neat another acre of ground, had a chook run and then would surprise Mum sometimes when she came home from Mass on Sundays by using the time she was away to do a bit of a Spring Clean in the house and cook Lamb’s Fry with onion gravy.

(Dad in his vege garden)

He did this uncomplainingly having started work at age twelve at the Meatworks; going rabbit trapping, kangaroo shooting for skins and meat all through the Depression and taking care of his Mother’s needs for the many years after the Father died.

And I never heard him complain about the work or his lot in life. All I heard sometimes was his saying he was tired… fair enough.

Mostly he was a happy father, especially before we reached our teen years – teenage daughters “confused” him (a common happening). If he wasn’t away working he would make our birthday cakes, covering them with smarties and chocolate drops, because this very strong stocky man liked doing this… there was no division… he was never separate from us as some Dads are, he was a part of the whole. On Mother’s day Mum would get a small box of Cadbury’s chocolates and a “ Mother” teacup and saucer.

Killed at forty-nine walking on his way home one wintry evening, only a hundred yards from home by a drunk driver with the same Masonic handshake as the Judge and lawyer bastards.

When I was eight he fell out of the upper branches of a willow tree while working for the Water Conservation and Irrigation Department. They planted thousands of these trees all up and down the Hunter River to stop soil erosion, never considering that the willows themselves would become feral plants. His back was broken but not his spine luckily and he spent about two months in Maitland hospital lying very still so as not to damage the spine (unbelievable considering what later happened to my husband). What on earth we all lived on in those days I have no idea. There were four of us kids and Mum. Grandfather helped a lot, but worker’s Compensation was inadequate and it was a lean time all round. Months of recovery.

(Dad with June and I - she got the curls)

I never heard him complain nor whinge. My main memories are of his open face, his lovely smile and a thick, (once blue black but almost white by forty nine) head of hair which he tried so hard to control in those short hair days.

Another time when I was even younger his head went through an old fashioned windscreen, which splintered like daggers unlike the modern ones, which shatter – badly cut.

Again being scalded by an industrial steam hose front and back – badly burnt, hospitalised and in a lot of pain, some time in bandages at home… lean times again although hurt at work.

I recall his rare shots of temper mainly when we became teenagers and back lipped him… not too often, and mum used to laugh when she told the story of his trying to fix up the old wooden cot for the next baby and it all fell apart a bit…he lost his cool and kicked it right round the verandah where it really fell apart. Then he had to put it back together again… needs must.

Life may have appeared unfair for him but he didn’t act that way. That’s important. Life was even less fair for others… he would have known that… we are all somewhere on the sliding scale…

There was an old couple I think that their last name was Jones but am unsure. They lived in an unlined corrugated iron hut. They had nothing, but each other, and I recall the pair of them both tall and thin and somehow with a dignity. It must have been alternatively stinking hot and freezing cold in their hut. People were poorer then and that’s a fact.
(Dad with Joanie)
Mum told me that Dad and another man – I think he was Mr White used to deliver wood to them each winter free or at a hugely reduced price…depending. She laughed once when she told me that late one cold evening they were delivering the wood and left the hand brake off on the car (Dad used the boot of our car for his wood). The hut was damaged when the car slipped into it, so they worked off their tipsiness in the hours that followed and the next day repairing the damage. I know how Dad would have treated them and I know that he would have made sure everything was fixed and then more. He was like that.

Just a thought, a strange coincidence was that the exact spot on the road where Dad was killed, the old man in this story was also hit by a car and so badly injured he never really recovered.
Life maybe is not fair. But in saying this it is easy to find others that it is even less fair to.

It is less fair to those whose lives are lived surrounded by violence, raised in hate and ignorance, narrowness, hunger and catastrophes of other sorts.

{Dad with Annie Jackie) not too long before he was killed.}

Some appear to sail through life with just the expected loss of aged parents, healthy children, many healthy grandchildren and enough of the things which make life pleasant. Many of these people are also true and good people; many are also evil and greedy bastards…

For others the road is rough and life lurches from crisis to crisis. Some cause their own crises. For some crises finds them. For most of us it’s a mixture. Same as with those who seem to have it easy, there are good and bad people. Not all poor deprived people are good people, and it s a fool who thinks and generalises this way.

When we accept that life’s not fair and when we know that that balance will be struck for us all after death (my belief – won’t know about it if it isn’t), for me it gains a meaning and makes sense. This may be my own foolishness or not, but the wonderful thing is it is still a free world this way and no matter what we humans believe, think dream, study about life and death no matter what… nothing we think really will change the reality that has existed in the Universes before this one and on till infinity. I find a glory in the thought of this vast amount of time and in the size of things…it frightens others…again it’s a free world - sometimes.

Somehow for me, I found myself born amongst some of the finest people – boat people all. The Irish Famine years and the starvation drove out my Catholic ancestors; my Protestant ancestors driven out by hunger, which dogged the working people in England and Ireland during the Industrial revolution and land enclosures. God bless the aristocracy.

I’ve studied the history of my people who read their books at night, in the quiet bush houses they lived in. Mum told me of the long poems and stories by rote that were recited when she was a child. She told me of the music and the singing, performed for each other and because they could… in the daytime they broke horses, herded sheep and cattle, dug deep into the soil of the new land.

When I was a kid these wonderful people’s children and grand children all seemed to be in the last decades of their lives. I saw them out and I remember them, the quality of them had nothing to do with either money nor profession. Poverty was one step from disaster always but to me they were so rich and again I remember only one of them who complained and she did so often…for the rest they went about life and dying with what seemed to me as a kid to be the gentle passing of time… I try to recall this for myself to emulate.

What stays with me was that unlike too many of us today they did not lay the guilt of the world upon childish shoulders something I consider one of the worst of crimes.

One of my brothers in law is all gloom and doom.I hate bloody gloom and doom and hard done-by men and women. Selfish, doling out what should be freely plonked on the family table at payday and all and sundry divided as to needs of the whole first before the individual. Mum and Dad had a great system. She raised us five, no washing machines etc…Dad worked hard as did she. It was a cooperative effort. On payday…it wasn’t dad’s pay it was his and mums to divvy up as needed. He would put it on the table and they would sit there and divide up what had to be done. Any small bit left over was a beer or a packet of smokes, petrol a magazine for mum or some chocolate. Often things were so tight this didn’t happen but Dad would do the extra work to make things better…not in a mean sniping way… but in the way a husband and wife should do…with generosity and respect, not seeing it as giving but seeing it as sharing…

The selfishness and childish behaviour I see from some adults has got me beat I remember my Father, my husband Don, my two grandfathers and Uncles Pat and Frank and in my mind’s eye I see them smiling, open, good with just enough wickedness to make them interesting…

(Don and melissa 1975)

I think of them as Kings in the true sense of the word.

Some things to consider – The Celtic Kings of Scotland and Ireland were the Kings of the people (way back) wheras the Kings of England were called just that… of England denoting ownership. The term King of the Scots – denoting responsibility, accountability, compassion for the people whom you are responsible to. In this they were Strong, really strong – as time drew closer to the junction of the Kingships under the Stuarts the Scot’s tradition became more English…which was of ownership of the people as opposed to responsibility. There were exceptions on both sides but the idea of the Celtic Kingship was stewardship whereas the idea of the Anglo Saxon and Norman was ownership.

There are still some real kings about but the qualities of responsibility, accountability, compassion for the people and true strength are very unfashionable these days.

The so called “Kings” are of bullies in Industry, Government and unhappy homes and are the antithesis of what men should be and women should accept.

Life is not fair, never fair and why should it be? Life just is and the things that we struggle against uselessly, sap us… exhaust us.

Each child born should hope to be born to a true King and Queen. For the small reflects the large. We can never have a decent world by expecting our leaders to act and change things. It will only be when we have real Kings and Queens as mothers and fathers who enable nobility into each family individually without interference from Government force. A mother and father like this enables the children to be what they can be, and also enables each other to live with dignity.

I feel so lucky in that under this I was born into a family with a tradition of many Kings and Queens who allowed, enabled, laughed and taught by example. Being born a middle child into the chaos and noise of our lovely old house gave me something I needed to do the best I could to be what I needed to be … myself.

In this way life was very fair to me. To outside eyes my life might seem to be one of many tragedies all piled up one upon the others with a few sweet years in between, but even with all these tragedies… I can be myself and was always allowed to be, and encouraged.

We are not here for any other reason than to do our best to “do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do”… not because we’re afraid of hell or what others will think of us, not because we seek favour with God or other people, not for posterity nor any other personal profit… just because the maxim serves itself and the whole universe. To live this way is to live the way of real Kings and Queens and the only way to live on the messy, dirty slippery slope of being that we call life and to emerge untouched at our core.

As I write this “thought train” for myself mainly and for our daughters I see before me the eyes of the people who came before me, from whom I have drawn so much. I see the man who shared all my adult years and lived beside me so bravely - (he was brave to take me on for a start). I was like and am rough cut glass to his rough cut Diamond and we suited…

I see the eyes of our daughters, open wide, clear, knowing ready to laugh at the drop of a hat.

I know life has its fairness for me in all of this –
It all depends on whether you go through life thinking your glass is half empty when really it is always half full.

(Don and Ali teaching her how to cook!!! about 1989)



Ann O'Dyne said...

Everybody else who had read this post of yours has been rendered speechless by it you know.

we have all heard hat "God is love" phrase, and I have always taken it to mean that 'god' isn't any deity, but that LOVE is The Thing.
Love of fellow man, empathy with strangers in trouble, condolences, sympathy, feelings for people in all the various possible ways.
That kind of 'god is love' is probably what kept your father's head up.

Ann O'Dyne said...

... and then I had email from my friend Dave Dawson. He sent me this link to his obit for Smokey Dawson. It's an incredible story.

Smokey deserves a State Funeral more that wifebasher Brocky did.

Middle Child said...

Ann o dyne when I get home will check out this on Smokey Dawson... on my sister's computer and don't want to hog it.

and thanks for the abobe... it just all came out in a tumble...guess thats whats called free writing...no rules

JahTeh said...

Lovely Therese. There were thousands like your Dad who just worked and worked. I don't know if it's better these days but men can stand up for themselves to make a working life a bit fairer without worrying about a starving family. (work choices notwithstanding) I don't think I'm talking about certain in-laws here. The only good thing about the ex, in his early days, was that he was a staunch union man and looked after everybody, union or not.

more cowbell said...

This was a lovely tribute to your dad and a wonderful post all around. Your dad sounds like he was cut from the same cloth as mine. (I posted about him last June or so, I think.) One of his big sayings (he had many) was "Life ain't fair kid. You'd better get used to that." He also said, "What d'ya think this is, a democracy?" Anyway, reading about your dad brought a smile and a tear. He sounds like a good man. Nice post.