Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the tag “marriage”

Instant offspring

From the last blog:

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldnt see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didnt like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. Im not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon Id be highly nervous following that dream.

And so the dice is thrown again, and another reality is realised in blog form. This is how the blog could have gone.

stork

I was sure that there was more to having a child than this…

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to tell you that Finding Damo is, in part, about my finding out that I have a son. It is the first chapter of the book. The mental challenge has been: how would I react to having a son? How would he react to me being his dad? And what are you meant to do with a teenager when one is dropped on your doorstep?

The dream made me think through this in a lot more detail. How much luckier am I, who has perfectly happy son, who is a stranger to me, than the woman with the autistic child, who is an alien to her? She loves her son with all of her heart, but can’t get inside his head or in many cases understand his motivation.

But how would Damo react to the first fight? What would the major power struggles be? How has he been disciplined by his mother before Damo was on the scene?

I have to believe that being a teacher would give me a bit of an advantage over someone who has never dealt with students before. The “dealing” with teenagers is what I get paid to do. But apparently there’s more to it than that. All of a sudden you are not just responsible for his grades and schoolyard behaviour, but you have to take responsibility for his every action. Some of it I could blame on his mother – her genes and her rearing. But for the most part, all of a sudden, when a teacher complains about his behaviour in class, it’s my fault, at least in part. And I’ve felt it – even with students in my homeroom. I know what they’re made up of. They are so much better than how people see them. And I want to protect them. God knows, if that’s how I respond to students who aren’t genetically related to me, it’s going to be worse for my own son.

On the bright side, now I’d have someone to join in on the destruction of the evil forces of the Horde. Someone to train in the ways of Red Dwarf fandom. I’d have him do drills of Coupling quotes… That brings up another issue.

A student comes up to me and said “hey. I finished GTA IV last night. That last scene was an absolute killer. Blood everywhere!” And I responded: “Are you kidding me? You’re in Year 7!” I’m incredibly strict with anyone I have responsibility for. And totally lax with anybody else. My aim as a child-rearer is to create someone as self-aware and together as I am. Hey, don’t laugh. I wasn’t allowed to watch M-rated movies until I was 15 and it didn’t hurt me. I did, of course, go to my friends’ places for access to anything more adult – Predator and The Toxic Avenger come to mind, not to mention the videos I won’t mention (incredibly educational). More on this in a sec.

Sidebar for teachers: have you ever (and you know you have, don’t deny it) sat in Parent-teacher interviews and seen an attractive parent and thought “hmmm”? And then seen whose parent it is and put all those thoughts out of your mind. Luckily, I found the mother with the most gorgeous child imaginable. And not during parent/teacher interviews…

I try not to talk about my current family too much on Finding Damo. This blog is about a man that I used to be, that never was, but could have been. The person I am now shouldn’t enter into it. That’s spoilers! But in this situation, my current family is relevant.

My two stipulations for dating, two-and-a-half years ago, were:

  1. Must love cats.
  2. No children.

Now, I am married to my lovely wife, who doesn’t like cats and has a seven-year-old daughter. Which means I now have a seven-year-old step-daughter. Voila! Instant parent. And it’s all been very easy. Too easy, he says, eyeing the forest uneasily. I love my wife. I love my step-daughter. They both love me. Shereen’s favourite story is of the time Young Miss O said to her “I love you so much! I love you as much as Damian!”

O’s other major comment on me is “He’s strict. He’s teaching me manners!”

I’m really not. I’m teaching her my manners. The rules of conduct that I was raised with, and that served me well in polite society. I will admit here (and try and dissuade Shereen from reading it) that it might not be the only way of interacting with society. But it worked for me and, like a basic knowledge of Christianity (and Buddhism, and Islam, and SCIENCE!), at least knowing the rules is an invaluable part of getting on with the people she’ll be dealing with. Most of them, anyway.

How is this relevant? Young Miss O has been like research. How would I respond to this situation? Well, that was enlightening? What would she do if I did this? Oh. Well, there you go! Scribble it all down in the little note book and get back to the book.

As for the book, I’m going to start posting a word count at the start of each blog, from next blog onwards. It’s time I start progressing again and get this one finished. I have a clear understanding of everything I want to happen, I have an incredibly detailed plan. I have a multitude of interesting characters, with most of the names changed to protect the guilty, and all I have to do is get it all down on paper. So here we go.

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The gap in the picture

Before I start, I should warn you. This one’s heavy. Really heavy. If you’re looking for light-hearted comic relief, take a week off from Finding Damo and go and read Least I Could Do, which is a fantastic online comic strip. Next week will be lighter. I promise. I really want to start getting into the characters I deal with in Finding Damo. I want to look at their motivations and, as I mentioned in the first couple of posts, the meaning of success, which is an important theme in the novel.

But I keep getting sucked in by real life. In this case, I was thinking about my upcoming wedding. And my brother’s wedding. And my sister’s wedding. My graduating to become a teacher. The birth of my nieces and nephews. All wonderful, happy joyous times. All missing one vital participant.

My father.

Ian Perry was an incredible man and a wonderful father. He was as full of life as any man can be. He was involved in all aspects of the community and was surrounded by friends and colleagues who had nothing bad to say about him.

He died of cancer back in 2000. His funeral was inspiring in the number of people who came to pay their respects and the great things they told us about him. I looked around on that day and realised that if my funeral was anything like his, then I would have achieved as much as anyone could expect.

I look back at myself in my 20s and think “hmmm, mediocre.” Not bad, not a complete loser, but really, not having done anything particularly worthy either. My job was enjoyable but ultimately not going anywhere. My relationship at the time very similar. I was marking time.

Dad’s death pushed me to action. My first action was to run away. I ran to Japan – culturally and linguistically as different to Australia as possible – to teach English. Dad had always told me that if I was going to travel, that I should go to an Asian country. That had nothing to do with my decision to go to Japan – that decision was my partner’s – but it was utmost in my mind on a number of occasions while I lived there: “Dad should still be alive to see me living in Japan.

By the end of the year I knew that I loved teaching. I applied to Bendigo University to do my Graduate Diploma in Education. When I graduated, at the same time as my sister, I looked at my graduation photos and with one part of my mind I saw our triumph and success and with the rest I saw the gap in the picture where Dad would have slotted in.

I was ecstatic when my brother asked me to read something at his wedding, but teared up on the day as the first of us to get married did it, surrounded by friends and family, everyone we really loved, save one. Again, there is a gap in the wedding photo. My sister’s wedding, the birth of all four of his grandchildren. Gap gap gap gap gap.

And that gap isn’t a bad thing. I don’t always look at the gap and feel sad. The gap is my father, still there in his absence. I don’t want to get into the minefield of religion and the afterlife, but even on the most basic level, I look at those gaps on my good days and see that his non-presence in each of those photos, those life-events, is the reason why those events happened. Most certainly, the joy I hear in the voices of Dad’s ex-students as they reflect on his teaching was instrumental in my becoming a teacher myself, hoping that I could inspire a generation of students in the same way. I’m still working on that.

Spoiler alert for those who love How I Met Your Mother, but are a few seasons behind…

Everybody left with me is up to speed on HIMYM? Good.

When Marshall’s father died, my fiancé and I, who have both lost parents, were deeply affected. What was worst for me was Marshall railing against a world that would take his father from him before he could show him the man he had become, the man he would become. My own grief is expressed in the same way: why the hell should my father be taken from me before I could show him what I’ve become? I’ve been to Japan, I’ve become a teacher, I’ve finished my novel and now I’m getting married. And I did all of that after he died. I have no idea whether he’s up there watching over me. I might believe one way or the other, but I don’t know. So I really would have preferred that he was down here and I could see the pride in his eyes. I’ve accomplished so much in the time since he died.

Is melancholy the word I’m looking for here? A sweet sadness, looking back at the man he was and the gap in the picture that is. In my mind, in the man that I have become because of him, he will definitely be there at my wedding.

I just wish he could really be there as well…

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