The Soapbox

This page written circa 10 February, 1999.

Expatriation or Emmigration?

To the left you see a picture of me with Amelia. She was about 6 or 7, (was it 1994?), and the photo was taken in a park in Brisbane, where she lived then. (I was born in Brisbane, but that is a pure co-incidence.) We had fun getting into that pose while the camera ran on its self-timer. One of those "games" you play with your dad, I guess.

Amelia moved back to Sydney the same year we moved to Santa Rosa. Crossing like that was a real bummer. I remarked in a recent diatribe that we anticipated some success in hosting visits from the people we love and who live back in Aus, assisted by our long-standing relationships, comfortable age, reasonable disposable income, etc. Those do not apply to Amelia.

My father left when I was about 4 or just 5. I recall a few events from that time vividly. I remember clearly being carried by mum, and dad was furiously angry one day. He broke a jar I was playing with (we were in the kitchen of the house where we lived then, 18 Fisher Avenue), and I said something to the effect of "at least I still have the lid", at which point he stomped on that, too. Mum shuffled me out of the room. Some time about then Dad left. I never saw him after that year. Years later I told mum the story. She said that I did not eat for days afterward. I recall my grandfather turning up with piles of toys from Hong Kong (he travelled a lot). That must have been some attempt to cheer me up.

Things are not so bad for Amelia, fortunately, but it is not so much fun when your dad is on the end of a PC instead of playing with you in the yard. Amelia asks me when I am likely to come back to Aus. It is a good question. I think of myself as having emmigrated, not as being an "ex-patriot" in the usual sense of someone working overseas temporarily. Kay might be less certain....

While it seems awful for Amelia, there is a lot to be gained. So few people these days know how to write letters, or have the ability to get to know someone at a distance. I hope Amelia will acquire these skills. I hope (and I sincerely believe) we will develop a decent relationship, and that my friends will maintain their relationships with me, through the intensity of the times when we do get together. (Take note, all of you!) As evidence, Andrew and I will actually and finally get to go to a Blue Oyster Cult concert this month! BOC, after all these years! Cliff Turner, where are you? Don't Fear The Reaper.

In the film "On Golden Pond", it took 40 years for a daughter to get through to her father. I was looking for a similar event with my mother, and I felt cheated when she died before my grandmother, who though I loved her dearly, got in the way of me and mum doing adult things together. I fancy Amelia's chances are much better. You will have to ask her if she believes me.

Maybe life DOES begin at forty?

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