Continued from Part 1 – Beginnings
First thing, Wow! Barely a day and the response to my last blog post has been rather overwhelming, and very positive. Thank you all. I have been told I am brave, and this is a nice thing to hear. I don’t personally see this as brave. More like having allowed it to ferment a little, it is time to let go. Onwards we go.
My father worked for the then Transport Department, who were also responsible for the laying of communications cable connecting northern town sites. His job was the reason we were in the country when I was born in the first place. I guess they decided to settle down once they knew a second child was on the way, my brother. I have memories of time spent with dad, out bush, shooting his rifle, playing in the above-ground pool. Good memories, but sadly vague and faded memories.
One day, things changed. He was involved in a rather curious working accident which effectively meant that a disc in his spin had been dislodged, or had slipped. I think the modern term is herniated. While this was rather nasty, it was fixable. In an operation, they could file down the exposed disc, fill in the empty space with a resin, and have him back on his feet quick smart. Except it didn’t go like that. As far as I know, they filed down too deep, damaging healthy nerve endings in the spine, which were then locked in resin. With no way for them to heal, they remained “damaged nerves” and behaved accordingly. He was constantly in pain, and has been ever since.
If that wasn’t enough, he was almost killed by an injection, administered on my parent’s bed, by the same surgical doctor. An injection we later learnt needs to be injected precisely into the spinal column, under clinical conditions, and the exact placement of the needle was critical, else secondary infections would occur. Secondary infections did occur. Life threatening ones.
After some incredible displays of medical incompetence, my father eventually demanded a second opinion, which was a decision that saved his life, and changed his outlook on doctors in general. It wasn’t the only thing that changed.
In writing this blog post, I can recall that he was a different man afterwards. Medical issues were never really resolved, and the damage done was largely irreversible, but maintainable, but the man I knew was no longer. He was swallowed by pain and anger. He became something frightening.
One event sticks out more in my mind than any other. He once thought that I was lying about something he felt damn sure he had caught me red-handed doing. I wasn’t. My father had always taught me to be honest and never lie. That night, I was taught a lesson in what sticking to the truth could cost when faced with irrational rage. While I stuck to my guns, and did not admit to the lie he insisted I was telling, I learnt that the truth was just as frightening, and dangerous as any lie. At least when it came to my father.
That probably would have been as far as it went, if not for another lesson in the danger about the truth. For that, I need to return to where I left off in Beginnings.
Back to School
So my early years of Primary School were often very lonely, after a fashion. I got along well with the girls, more so than the boys. Hardly surprising when you consider that pecking orders appeared to be gender specific for kids that age… Yet my associating with the girls usually attracted more unwanted attention from the boys, so it was like being between a rock and a hard place.
I think in either year two or three, I was startled by two students (one I can still name) while in the toilets. They both jumped and screamed over the edge of the stall I was in, and smiled gleefully down at me. I jumped so much, that I wet myself. Highly embarrassing, and a source for enthusiastic teasing for years to come, a specific pathway that wound down from the year 1-3 block to a netball court was renamed the “Wee-wee River” in my shame. The name stuck, even though the reason was long forgotten by the time I was in my last year there. No-one ever wanted to use it and walked on the grass instead.
The teasing continued after school hours as well. I lived in the same street as some of my biggest antagonists, and those that didn’t live nearby, soon learnt where I lived. Our house was attacked, had plants pulled up, windows smashed, or they would lie in wait for me. Mind you, when my father was around, they were very polite, apart from a small few who thought they could intimidate him… They learnt otherwise.
I had one really cool friend called Jane, who’s birthday was the same day as mine, who was new to the school but left before the end of the year. She didn’t care what others thought, and once I realised this, she become a subtle influence on me, but our time together was so short, and I never heard from her again.
Gradually, the girls grew an interest in boys, and I wasn’t one of the boys. I was an honorary girl I guess. I was truly in the Friend-zone, not that I actually wanted much more than just some good friends. However, they couldn’t be seen associating with me because… well, I don’t really know why, but I have a few assumptions. So I began to find places to hide away and watch. I did a lot of watching, and learning.
I fell in with a group that eventually became known as the “No-mates.” An odd name for a group of friends I always thought, and not one we chose either. We were the odd balls and outcasts, brought together by a common persecution. Even this was short-lived, as one of my antagonists somehow became a part of the group, and I rapidly lost interest.
I was fortunate in that I got a long with many of my teachers. I was the student that could often bend the rules a little and get away with it. Many of my teachers I held a high regard for their support and encouragement. Some I can see their faces, and others I can recall their names.
Then something changed. Apparently, I had lied again.
I can’t recall the circumstances that lead to the meeting with a teacher, one of whom I respected above most others. He had become a friend of the family, and had taken a special interest in me, or so it seemed. Yet, on this day, he had the unshakable belief that I had done, or been a part of something, and that I was to admit to him as such. While I don’t remember what it was, I can tell you now, I hadn’t done it. I hadn’t been anywhere near it, nor had any desire to. What transpired what a virtual carbon copy of the event between me and my father only a year before.
It was physical. It was painful. It was violent. Yet again, I did not give in. I was adamant that I had not been involved. I don’t think he ever believed me, but my respect for him was destroyed. He also withdrew from me, and I think he even left some time later. I learnt to distrust any adult, and that sometimes, you simply could not rely on the truth at all.
My lessons from primary school;
- people, young and old, will let you down.
- the truth will not save you.
- violence was destructive.
- standing up for yourself was dangerous.
- anger was wrong.
- no-one liked a nice-guy.
- people lie, and believe what they will.
- I couldn’t control anything.
- hay-fever sucked.
I feel like I am chipping away at a rather large rock. The more I write, the more I seem to remember and feel inclined to talk about. This is very different to my usual struggle of what to write about. This is an interesting experience.
My next blog, I think I may actually get to the big event, but feel certain that this will not be the end. The effects carry forward, and there just seems so much to tell about this story. It’s bigger than I first imagined.
Wow, Jeff. All I can say is ‘keep going’. This experience is clearly cleansing for you and believe me, very helpful for others. You are being brave indeed and it is awesome! Well done!