I was told that during my birth, I was breach and my father’s wife, and I, had died for a few moments. I used to wonder if it was a form of post natal depression that was the reason for my father’s wife’s dislike for me. I no-longer give her that out, because I know things she would think I couldn’t know, and have an entirely new understanding about her hatred towards me. Her actions, although damaging and devastating, I am now able to use in my memoir without naming, or shaming, because I only speak about the things, in detail, that happened to me, and she will always be referred to as, ‘my father’s wife.’
It’s around age five where my memories are clearest, I even have this memory of taking my first breath. Of course that happened at birth, else I wouldn’t have been five, but I think the memory is so strong because it was the first time I stopped and examined my existence.
At five, I remember where we lived, because in the winter it was freezing and wet and I cried every Winter’s day on the long walk to school. There were two of us in grade one, me of course and a young boy. I can’t remember his name, but when I went on to grade two, he wasn’t there. I remember asking about him and was told he had to stay down to repeat year one. I felt angry, confused. It was some years later I found he’d died from a hole in his heart.
Grade two stunk and it was a small school so years two to seven were in the same room. I recall the older girls were, not to put too fine a point on it, bitches.
It wasn’t all misery though.
Dad worked away a lot, as did many men back in the 1960s, so fun time with dad while he was home, was helping him catch a chook, watching him cut off its head, and my siblings and I chasing the headless chook around the yard. Once it was caught, dad would hang it on the clothes line until the blood drained. This is not a thing I think is fun anymore, but treasure(d) the time(s) spent with my dad.
It was my fifth birthday and someone came to the backdoor with a box of puppies, my fathers wife answered and straight up said no. Dad came to see what was going on and I pleaded with him. I wanted a puppy for my birthday and he said yes. I named my new puppy, Darky, not because of some cultural, political, or social, ideology. I was five for fucks sake, and my puppy was black.
One day dad and I were out catching, slaughtering, dinner, when Darky walked out through the bushes. I ran to him and gave him cuddles, but his back end felt wet and when I looked at my hand I saw blood. I cried to dad, ‘Somethings wrong with Darky.’
Dad, after putting the last peg on the line around the feathers of a headless chook, came over. He checked Darky over and it was me that found his wound. Darky’s tail, his fur and flesh, had been stripped from the bone.
‘He must’ve got caught in a trap,’ dad said.
It wasn’t an era where running to a vet was common, if the animal was suffering, it was shot, and if there was hope, it was given a day or two before drastic decisions were made. Darky was lucky. We cared for him and he didn’t seem to suffer any ill from his injury. I can sill see it in my head today. It was pretty graphic stuff, and would make a millennial weep into their crushed Avocado today, but it was a different era.
Darky was a part Whippet mongrel, and I loved him. He lived a long life, and I, let’s say left home at seventeen. He was still running around, crossing a highway heavy with truck traffic, and go about his daily business. One day a year or so after I left he finally fell victim to one of those trucks.