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Ryan's Story

Chapter 2

It was just Mum, my brother and I then. My Nan and Pop (Dad’s parents) came around and Pop who was a carpenter built a room at the back of the house for me. I loved it after sharing bunk beds with David who used to bounce on the top bunk just to shit me. He fell off while he was doing it once which was solid Karma…..I laughed. Mum was putting in big hours as a full time working Mum. We were supposed to go my Granma’s

(Mum’s Mum) after School each afternoon until Mum had finished work. In all honesty I have very few memories of Granma before this which I’m pretty sure is as a result of her firmly hating my Dad and us not going there much. Granma and I never got on. I look very much like my Dad and her favourite thing to say to me was that I was just like my Father. She didn’t mean it as a compliment. My brother cottoned on to how to get on in our situation very early, he said what he should say, did what looked great and sucked up to Granma deluxe. I don’t feel any ill will to him about this, if I had been smarter and more savvy I would have done the same thing I guess. Just about every afternoon Granma and I would have a drama. Her favourite punishment was to hold my head under the bath tap so I couldn’t breathe. Sort of water boarding for kids. After a while it became apparent that this couldn’t continue so my brother would go to Granma’s after school and I would go home by myself. This suited me just fine and I thought the term latch key kid was kind of a badge of honour.

I’m not pretending I was an angelic child by any means but I don’t remember doing anything too bad up until this time. I do however distinctly remember my beautiful, caring, loving mother giving me a hiding to remember around this time…..I was neatly trapped in the corner of the laundry at Meredith Street with Mum swinging the cane lustily whilst screaming like a Banshee, blood oozing from the cuts on my legs as she did so. I have no idea what I had done but by Christ it sent her over the edge!!! This and having multiple wooden spoons broken on my arse leads me to believe that even as a young un I was a little bit difficult! One December day in 1982 Mum had to go to a conference in Launceston so she had a co-worker in the car as she dropped us off in the St Therese’s Car park. I got out and she said, “Come and give me a kiss”! I said Nah and ran off. After school that night I was waiting at home for Mum to get home after work as usual. The plastic soldiers were in full formation and I was enjoying the standard sandwiches and thick Milo mix. Mum normally got home a bit after five but by 6.30ish I was feeling a bit nervous. There was a knock at the door which I answered. Standing there was a Policeman who seemed huge. He asked if my Mum was home (weird question in hindsight) and I told him no but she would be soon. He then told me that Mum had been in a car accident and was there anyone else that he

could speak to. Now Mum had backed into the neighbours garbage bin a few weeks ago and I had witnessed the event. That to me was a car accident so I wasn’t too worried about the whole thing really. I said to the Policeman we could go see my Granma. He asked me the address which I didn’t know. He then gave me a bollocking about how I should know my Grandmothers address. I didn’t tell him that I didn’t even know my own address!! We then got in his car which I thought was very cool and I directed him to Granma’s place. When we got there he spoke to Granma. It was then that I realised that something very bad had happened. Granma immediately turned to David and hugged him whilst they both burst into tears. This suddenly didn’t seem like some bin related incident. We then went straight to my Uncle and Aunties place (my Uncle was Mum’s brother). I really didn’t know them that well and we only ever saw them on special occasions. They hated Dad too. Their house seemed huge and really nice and they had just had their first baby, Kate. I wasn’t sure what was happening but there was a feeling of shock and Granma was still crying. After a while we went back to our house and got some stuff before going back to Granma’s place to stay the night.

The next night we all sat down to watch the news. Then, on the screen was Mum’s orange Cortina…..or at least it looked like it. The car we had been in the previous day was now a smashed turned inside out mess of a thing with fluid all over the place and Cop cars all around it. I remember the words Critical and Clearys Gates being said by the News presenter. I turned around to see my Auntie and Granma in tears with their hands to their faces and my Uncle staring ashen faced at the screen. They then went and spoke amongst themselves. My Uncle came and spoke to me saying that Mum was in the hospital and everything was going to be ok. I asked when we could go and see her but he said it wasn’t a good idea right now. Then I went back to School. I was in year three at the time and Mrs. McCarthy was my teacher and I thought she was brilliant. When I arrived she gave me a hug (unusual) and had tears in her eyes. I then got down to work.

The days rolled on and I guess things started to feel a little less dramatic. So what Mum was inhospital! Granma was being nice to me, everyone else seemed to be extra nice to me and my Uncle had told me Mum was going to be fine. Things were pretty good! That week Mum’s Work Christmas party was on and for some reason my brother, Nanma and I were going. This had never happened before. When we got there we were the dead set stars of the show, the boss nurse got up and introduced us and then we got more presents from people we didn’t know than we usually got from the people we did on Christmas Day!!! I got a remote controlled robotic style arm/crane thing called

Armatron…..It absolutely blew my mind!!!!! Then we ate masses of food, had stacks of soft drink and everyone asked us how we were and patted my head. What a brilliant afternoon!! The next day I was in my room when Granma came in with my brother. She said she needed to talk to us and we all sat on the bed. She then started crying and my brother started crying. I didn’t cry because everything was going to be fine and I had an Armatron. Granma told us Mum wasn’t going to come home. Mum was never going to come home again. Mum was going to die.

One of my best mate’s Dad had died unexpectedly a few months earlier. Nick’s Dad was an awesome guy with a big beard and I used to often stay at their place. One day he went to work and was killed by a falling load on the wharf. That was it….. gone.

Mum was going to die. What did that really mean? Why had I been told that she was going to be fine? What was going on??! I then cried hard but I didn’t really get it.

That night we went to stay at my Auntie Audrey’s (Dad’s sister) place. This was pretty weird in itself as Granma didn’t like them either as they were related to Dad. My brother and I went to the spare room and slept in the bunks, my brother up top as usual.

During the night my brother rolled off the top bunk and crashed to the floor. I woke up to him screaming his tits off and apparently he had put his teeth through his lip, there was heaps of blood. I just wished I had seen him fall off as the last time was excellent.

In the morning Auntie Audrey came and got us up. She sat us down and told us that Mum had died overnight. She was crying, Nan was crying, my brother was crying…..I didn’t get it. The world felt like slow motion and I didn’t cry.

Then Auntie Audrey told me that Dad was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. I hadn’t spoken to Dad since he left two years ago. I said hello and it was him. He was crying. He told me that everything was going to be ok and he would be back when he sorted himself out. We didn’t go to school that day.

The next day we went to School. It was the last day and we didn’t wear a uniform, I was there to get my stuff and clean out my desk. When I got there Mrs McCarthy burst into tears and hugged me. She then got Nick and took us to the front of the class where she quietened everyone and told them that my Mum had died. She then said she had never had a class where one of her kids parents had died and now she had had two in the one year. She was still crying and kissed me on the head. Then I left for the holidays.

The funeral was a few days later. We were front and center and the Church was absolutely packed out. My Nan and Dad’s family didn’t sit with us. There was a coffin in front of the Altar and the St. Therese’s Priest, Father North spoke and referred to my brother and I a lot. Then we walked out in a procession behind the coffin. I couldn’t believe how packed the place was and how many people were crying. I didn’t cry. I don’t think I got it.

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