Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.

skeletons in the closet

It has been a Christmas that will linger in our memories for many years to come. Petite Fille was showered with gifts for her first Christmas, we met Daughter2’s Beau who is as wonderful as she described, but perhaps the most memorable thing will be that Mr FD gained a brother. How you may wonder, considering both his parents are deceased?

It is an older brother, actually. An older half-sibling. Mr FD’s father never mentioned it to him, but we knew very late in life that there had been  an early first marriage in England during the war due to the arrival of a child. The story goes that The Old Man suspected the child was not his, but it took eight years before being egged on by an evil sister for him to he declare the child was not his and so departed to the colonies as a ten pound pom. He never made contact with the child again…

As I wrote, we only found out in the last decade, but knew no details – no names certainly. Through LinkedIn the daughter of the half brother made contact as she thought some facts added up and lo and behold, a big brother made contact this Christmas.

He is 75 years of age, and suffered a dreadful childhood, though went on to an academic career in an area not all that different to Mr FD’s field. He has one daughter, who in turn has one child. He always wondered what happened to his father…

How can people turn their backs so easily on children? I don’t know if he has taken any comfort in being told that he didn’t miss out on much of a father anyway!

“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.”
―     André Malraux

Obviously snobbery, face saving, rigid cultural mores and shame led him to abandon a child, but it has always been beyond my understanding. I know people do it everyday of the week, but to hide the facts, the very existence of a child who was your son, knew you as his father and bears your name, is just indescribably heartless. Not that I was ever surprised to hear he did – and in fact did the same to the family here in Australia for several years before a reconciliation.

It just goes to show that the truth will always out in the end. The Old Man hid his early “mistakes”, and yet now, now that he can no longer control facts or versions of the story, it has all come tumbling out. As we all agreed, the man is dead and we are still handling his messes.

On the positive side, while we have only communicated via email with attached photos to date, all seems to be progressing well, and Mr FD is quite intrigued by the existence of an older brother (and we feel sure he is a real brother).

I bet your Christmas surprises have dulled in comparison now!

“Lies and secrets, Tessa, they are like a cancer in the soul.  They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.”
―     Cassandra Clare,     Clockwork Prince

families at Christmas…now is the time to talk of matricide and wind vanes

wind vane

What is it with men when they marry and become fathers, that they become repetitive and predictable in so many irritating ways?

Our children to this day know that any trip to a certain area of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast will result in a Mr FD nature lecture on the sundews that grow in the area. Every beach holiday he would go on and on about looking for sundews with the children, and each holiday he would be shouted down. No child wants to wander the damp boggy sites when the beach beckons!

Finally, in their teenage years a child, or two agreed to go search. They couldn’t find any sundews, though Mr FD was confident they were in the right area. Touché, Mother Nature, touché!

He doesn’t mention the plant species anymore, and all anyone has to do now is mention the word “sundews” for the entire family, minus Mr FD strangely, to share a Big Jolly Moment.

Many of Mr FD most irritating moments are connected to cars. Any sighting of a motor bike rider while trapped in a car with Mr FD with result in an anthropological explanation of the cultural differences between “bikee” and “biker”. It also results in piercing headaches for those forced to participate for yet the millionth time!

Not all predictable irritations are vehicular however. Another one that Mr FD has honed over the years is exhibited when I ask Mr FD not to mention something to a relative or friend, for he has no stop or pause button. For example if I  said “There is no need to mention  XYZ to your sister” and he thinks it is HILARIOUS (no, it isn’t and never will be) to announce as soon as we arrive “FD said not to mention XYZ” and of course sister then asks “What about XYZ?” and it goes down from there.

Today’s particular transgression did however relate to a car. Mr FD’s car in fact. Mr FD drives a Subaru Forester (4WD). I drive a Honda Civic Hybrid. Daughter2 borrowed my car to visit her Beau and meet his parents over the weekend. So, I drove Mr FD’s car to the supermarket today. I don’t drive it often, but I do when I need too. I needed to today.

Not long after my return, after we had unpacked the groceries and Mr FD had parked the car back in the garage (I refuse to back it out, or park in the garage due to the obstacle course of boxes and tools in the garage); Mr FD launched into his routine.

“Did you drive a very nice car today?” he asks as though he is speaking to a small child or simpleton. (Be careful which description you choose to visualise)

“Yes, I did.” In my head I hear this subservient voice answering, “Yes I did, Daddy Sir.

“It drives very well doesn’t it? It drives better than other cars doesn’t it?”

Now, Mr FD has had his car about 3 years now, and I am pleased that he appreciates it. Heavens knows we are still making repayments on the damn thing! But this was the time that broke the camels back.

I looked out of the window and imagined impaling Mr FD on the neighbour’s rooster wind vane and letting him bake and spin. I might even pray to the Big Whatever for an unseasonal westerly gale to spin him all the faster, I thought.

“No I didn’t” I snapped. “It was horrible! In fact it was the worst car I ever drove.” I walked from the room and stood on the patio for a moment.

angry sod calm

Returning I tried to calm down. “Let’s just say that we own three very nice cars (including Sons in the tally) and we appreciate then all. Let’s leave it at that!” Deep breath. Three deep breaths. Five deep breaths and a sigh…

And the voice in my head continued,  “but if you ever say that again I am going to rip your arms and legs off, toss them onto the driveway and drive back and forth until they are mush. In your car!”

I took a nap.

woman black

two days after Christmas with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas two days after Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a computer mouse;
The stockings were lying by the chimney abandoned,
For St. Nicholas was long gone;
And the children were nestled all snug in their own homes,
While visions of gift card purchases swirled in their heads,

And Mr FD in his loose waisted shorts, and I in my pearls,
Had just settled our brains for a long afternoon nap —
When out in the laundry there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the hall I flew like a flash,
Tore open the door, and threw up my gasp.
The sun on the breast of another 36C day,
Gave the heat of summer to everything inside;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a full basket of wet laundry,
Vibrated off the machine top, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Mr FD’s quandary.
More rapid than eagles his excuses they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and blamed them by name:
“Now! Daughter1, now! Daughter2, now! Mr Boy and Son,
“On! Augie, on! Petite Fille, on! Visitors and Relatives;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild cyclone fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the excuses they flew,
With the rooms full of  apologies — and accusations too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard the voice in my head
The prancing and pawing of each little truth.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the neurons inside words came with a bound.
My clothing may be all glamour, from my underthings  to my scarves,
But the laundry were now tarnish’d with dog hair and fluff ;
For a bundle of  wet clothing had been flung on the floor,
And I would look like a peddler who took no fuss:
Mr FD’s eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll bearded mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was white with the coconut flakes lingering there;
The stump of a sausage he held tight in his teeth,
And the aroma of garlic  it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a smug little face, and a giant round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right sodden old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had everything to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And text’d all the children; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up his laughter it rose.
He sprung to his ipad, to record such a moment,
And away flew my calm resolve, like the down of a thistle:
For I heard him exclaim, ere he dove out of sight —
This message to all, and to all – FD admits a fault!

washing sign

christmas table setting

The past two days are a gluttonous blur of serving meals and clearing away meals, and serving more meals and clearing away more meals, and tossing leftovers that can no longer be faced into the bin. My poor tummy feels so bloated, and I just want to find my loosest clothes and lie somewhere quiet for a long, long time.

I think we may have made it out okay if everyone had just adhered to the menu and their designated dishes, but everyone added a dish, a platter, a  half beast to the table so in the end we had enough to food to feed four families and a small lost tribe from deepest, darkest Peru.

We were equal to the task at first. We ate the antipasto platter, the Christmas lunch followed by a rich, creamy, custardy dessert course. Then were snacks, and fruit, and Christmas dinner… and breakfast and a second return of Christmas lunch and afternoon tea… and dinner.

I feel bloated and stuffed like a Christmas turducken. I swear even Augie Dog no longer hangs out around his dinner bowl waiting for  treats, and starts to howl in pain whenever anyone attempts to share a sliver of ham with him.

It was a great Christmas… hope yours was too!

Christmas is coming on a late night flight

Christmas Hi

A text from Daughter2 boarding the plane at Perth airport heralded the start of Christmas season for me this evening. It is a five hour flight, and so she will  stay the night with her sister and reacquaint herself with Petite Fille tomorrow before I drive to the city to collect her on Monday. Then she is mine for the next few days.

At night we shall lie on my bed and watch smaltzy Christmas movies and gossip. Yes we will! After Christmas she will be away for a day or so as she will be meeting boyfriend’s parents for the first time (how impressed they will be!) and then she will return along with said boyfriend and it is our turn for meet and greet.

He is only staying one night, so I think I can meet the behaviour requirements laid down by Daughter2. I made no promises, I just said I would try to “be normal” but I am sure an extended need for rest will ensure after he has left.

I finally cleared the last of the moving boxes from a corner of our bedroom. I know it has been 14 months since we moved, but those pesky boxes refused to be tamed. I took five more bags of clothing to the charity box at the local church this afternoon, making a total 10 bags of clothing in the last ten days. Superior me!

There were three television sets and a refrigerator sitting on the footpath as well. Charitable donations – I am not sure. TV has finally gone digital in all areas now and I suspect that the TVs “donated” were analogues. Too often the items that are left for charity are just an excuse to have someone else to pay to have the rubbish removed. Not charity in my mind!

I always have a rule that if I wouldn’t use, or wear the item I donate, then it goes in the bin. Those in need have just as much right to dignity as anyone else and in truth we are all probably just a couple of pays away from financial hardship.

I would like to think that what goes around comes around, even in the world of charitable donations. One can always hope!

The loveliest part of my day was getting to meet our new great-nephews. The sons of Mr FD’s niece they are a little over two months old, but they were experiencing some health issues and so, while we kept in constant touch we refrained from imposing the strain of a visit upon their parents until today.

On Thursday the baby boys were rushed independently to the emergency department by ambulance as they both had breathing issues, but were released late Friday to go home. They now have tummy monitors, and mattress monitors and it is going to be an anxious twelve months for everyone, but they are so gorgeous that it seems more of a gift than a hardship to all.

They are not identical, being the result of IVF and two separate eggs, and so have very different personalities already. They are handsome young men, and it will be a joy to watch then grow. There have been four babies, including Petite Fille, born into the extended FD clan this year and we already know of one expected next year too. We shall inherit the earth, one way or another!

Speaking of inheriting, this yuletide season just remember those words of Honore de Balzac:

To kill a relative of whom you are tired is something. But to inherit his property afterwards, that is genuine pleasure.