by Steven Herrick on 25 June 2010
He seemed to be always changing the oil. And yet, we never drove anywhere? The car never ventured further than one hundred kilometres from home. It was almost as if Dad thought the oil wouldn’t last for any longer journeys. We only ever went on one holiday. Mum booked a flat on the Gold Coast. Dad, Mum and the three boys still at home crowded into the old Austin and drove down late one Friday afternoon. We lasted one night. The flat was dirty and uncomfortable and not worth the money and we boys argued all night. The next day we drove home. On the way back to Brisbane, Mum cried.
The next holidays, Dad painted the house. I tried to climb the scaffolding to be close to him, fell and landed on my face, breaking my nose. Dad worked on Saturday mornings at a chicken farm. I have no idea what he did there, but he occasionally brought home an old chook to kill and pluck for dinner. Yes, we boys would glory in the axe severing the chook’s head, it’s body quivering and running around the yard for a few seconds of insane hilarity and ghoulishness. Eventually, all of my brothers and sisters left home, leaving me alone with two very unhappy parents. Forty years of marriage hadn’t brought them any closer and as soon as Dad retired, they split. I didn’t see much of him after that. Of all the children, I took my mother’s side in the split, an immature and rash thing to do. But Dad and I had never communicated much, so perhaps it was the easiest course for a morose teenage boy to choose?
The only good times I can remember with my dad are when we’d go to watch soccer games on a Sunday. I’d started playing by then and he couldn’t come to my games very often because they were on Saturday morning. So he compensated by taking me to the Brisbane First Division games where teams with wonderfully exotic names like Azzurri played Coalstars. Or Polonia against Hollandia. He’d buy me an ice-block and we’d sit in the grandstand together, not saying much, only occasionally commenting on the game. I never thanked him enough for this time he spent with me. My son Joe and I have season tickets with Sydney FC now. We go to the game, swear profusely at the wrong decisions the referee makes, celebrate indulgently when Sydney score, hug when they win. Afterwards we have dinner and Joe tells me about University or his share house in Sydney. I enjoy every moment, as any parent would. I hope Dad enjoyed our brief times together half as much.
Most of my novels have been about boys and men, fathers and sons. It’s natural, I guess. I wrote these books when my two sons were growing up. They are young men now. They are without doubt my proudest achievement, my biggest influence. Maybe I’ve been searching for the answers to my relationship with Dad in each of my male characters, trying to understand what a teenage boy forty years ago could not.
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Steven Herrick was born in Brisbane, the youngest of seven children. At school his favourite subject was soccer, and he dreamed of football glory while he worked at various jobs. For the past twenty years he's been a full-time writer and regularly performs his work in schools throughout the world. F He lives in the Blue Mountains with his partner Cathie, a belly dance teacher, and their two sons, Jack and Joe. For more information, visit Steven at www.stevenherrick.com.au