Monday, 7 August 2017


Today marks the second week of National Family History Month... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme.



 I was surprised to see that the book, first published in 1963, had such a variety of covers... in no particular order.. and just a selection. Which would make you interested in reading this book?                                             

The book became a Miles Franklin Award winner... 

Or perhaps you would prefer the movie poster? The film was released in 1983... also to rave reviews...

The story, as told by Sumner Locke Elliot, tugs at your heartstrings, as a six year old boy, whose mother has died, and who is being raised by an aunt, is suddenly the centre of a battle between a second aunt, who has decided to claim her nephew, as she has joint custody. 

The title refers to the battle between adults as this child is uncertain as to what will happen, in what has been his loving and happy childhood to date. How much does he hear?

This led me to memories of  times when adults were whispering or stopping conversations in mid sentence, so that I might not hear. 
My earliest recollection was hearing that everyone else was going to my grandparents place, except for my brother and me... we were going to our neighbour's, whom we called Auntie Coral. 

 We loved going to Auntie Coral's where we were allowed to look through Uncle Kev's scrapbooks of cartoons or photo albums and laugh at the funny old cars or costumes, or play dress ups with Auntie Coral's costume jewellery and, maybe, if we were very good, she would show us her fox stole. That fascinated and terrified us at the same time. We might even get a treat of 'lob scoush' for dinner...which was Uncle Kev's name for mashed potato, chopped up corned beef, cabbage and tomato sauce... how we loved it.

 However, nothing was as much fun as going to our grandparents' home when all the family were there. My brother didn't mind as much as I did, as I would always help my Aunt and grandmother in the kitchen...there was lots of whispering, but the answer was still a firm 'no', which really puzzled me.

 I was playing at the front of Auntie Coral's house when I saw a whole lot of cars drive out Hungry Head Road.. and raced to call Auntie Coral, and to tell her I saw a big black car that had flowers in it. I asked her what the parade was for. Tears welled in her eyes and she asked if my mother had told me. "Told me what? How come we couldn't go to the parade?" It was then I learnt that my beloved Papauli had died. I was inconsolable.. no wonder the adults were whispering, but I never did understand why I never got to say goodbye. At five, I had lost one of the most loved members of my family.

Other times come to mind. I would be laying in bed, pretending I was asleep, when my parents would listen to the radio, perhaps it was the drama on the General Motors Hour, all I can recall is that the stories would have me listening intently. One night I was listening carefully and there was absolutely no other noise in the house or anywhere was as though the world was holding it's breath, as the tension built. Then I heard that a child had been found, murdered. I burst into tears... and my Mum rushed in to comfort me, yelling at Dad that she had told him I could hear it. I slept with Mum that night and Dad had my bed.

Years passed, I had a family of my own and many's the time, we whispered so as to conceal surprises, or protect the children from bad news items, but I always told them about family dramas, even if not always the whole story.

 Then the tables turned. My youngest brother and I became the carers for our father. It was our turn to be concerned that he didn't hear us when we were given the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. He'd had such a fear of it, as he'd seen his brother go through it, that with his doctors' blessings, we decided to not tell him.  The days, weeks, months, were filled with hospital visits, specialist visits, and dealing with assorted health problems, and strangers coming to the house, as well as his Alzheimer's. Dad's odd behaviour and confusion was increasing rapidly, though some days were worse than others. 

Each morning and each night, we had handover, so each of us would know what had happened on the other's watch and what we needed to be aware of. If Dad noticed us talking he would get very upset, even more so if he heard us, so it was definitely a case of 'careful, he might hear you..'  We hated having to keep things from him, especially when we could no longer keep him safe, nor care for him as intensely as he needed to be. 

As hard as it was, there were special moments also, when, for maybe a moment or two, or maybe longer, Dad would be with us for a while. He didn't hear us when we met with social workers and doctors, nor when we searched to find a place he would be comfortable with. Nor did he hear us when we agreed that he could be taken there from the hospital by ambulance 'to the other end of the hospital' while waiting for more tests. He didn't mind the company and actually recognised an old friend from so many years ago.. but that didn't stop him packing his bags regularly to go home. One of us would distract him, the other would go and put everything back. 

He was happy when the very kind pianist played for the residents in his unit every Friday morning. We would be with him and that made up for all else, as we watched his absolute joy at hearing his beloved music.

After so long of being careful that he didn't hear us, he did hear when I told him that it was ok, Mum was waiting for him. He quietly slipped away, the last words he heard were of love and gratitude.


  1. :) I am glad your father did hear that his wife was waiting for him
    The poster of the film doesn't remind me of it at all. I remember seeing it when it first came out and I saw it again very recently on the ABC as part of David Stratton's collection of memorable Australian movies. It was still a great movie the second time around. I hadn't realised how autobiographical it was though til I read the Wikipedia article.

  2. He did, Anne, he sighed and had a slight smile, then passed away. Most likely the movie had several posters as did the book, it happens often. I've yet to see the movie, though we do have it here. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Dear Chris - A beautiful response to the prompt. Oh your dear Father. What a difficult time for you and your brother. Big hugs xx

  4. Thank you, Alex. It wasn't easy, but it was also a privilege, as there were some beautiful moments that we would never have shared otherwise.

  5. What a lovely interpretation of the theme along with your fond memories of special family members. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Thank you, Carmel, I appreciate your comments.

  6. Very moving Chris. Well written, as usual.

  7. Late as always...sorry. Such an evocative story, or series of vignettes. Older generations thought they were protecting us from death but we know they were sad to learn of your Papouli's death like that...from excitement to misery in a flash. You were fantastic carers for your dad and your generosity shows in how you let him go to your mum.

  8. You're not late, I am, having just found two of your comments waiting.. they have only just appeared. Thank you for your kind words.
    As I'm sure you could tell, I still miss that beautiful man and wonder what it would have been like to have him longer. Dad was very much of the same nature, not only in my mind, but from so many others who knew father and son. I feel blessed to have had them both in my life. So very hard to let them go.