the longest day of the year

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Desmond Ray Sparke. centre with white mug. Borneo 1945

Every year this day arrives and for the most part I try and wait it out. The last two years I’ve been successful at avoiding television and dodging posts. Dodging sadness.

This is ANZAC day to me.

Its the day I remember the pain that my father brought home from Borneo. It’s the understanding that he left Newcastle, a boy and returned a shattered man.

My father spent many months of many years trying to heal in Concord hospital. He talked to me of drugs he was given to try and fix his head. He told me there were flowers growing out of his back and writhing sausage shapes on the floor of his room. He would wake one day and smash every window in our home. he would wake in the night, Mum said, screaming and crying and shaking. He would try and hurt her and I would hold him off her and he would throw me across the room and I would scream til I was blue and sometimes I couldn’t  save her. And he’d go back to Concord.

We would live on nothing while he was away and hand outs from St Vincent de Paul. It was always easier when he was away. Peaceful. He was a Carpenter, a Postman, an Ice-cream man and a cleaner at the BHP. Holding a job down was impossible. Us kids witnessed things we shouldn’t have and went through things we shouldn’t have that I can’t even mention anymore because I’ve given up caring. Theres only so much you can be bothered analysing . It just is and we just are.

He was affectionate and hilariously funny. He could sing better than Frank and dance so smoothly. He said you must have at least 4 hugs a day and he loved my mother with a passion. Infact I’ve pretty much worked out that I was conceived in Ward 23 of Concord Repatriation Hospital. They always called me their lovechild and because of this I wondered what the previous 4 children were and felt sorry for them.

There are skills I have and things I can’t stand now. I hate raised voices and yelling, I can sniff violence from 10k’s away. When someone jovially hits me or pushes me or yells at me I run a mile, I fall wounded and hide. Neglect, Ive realised is what I learnt to expect and I’ve only recently realised its not normal. I over parent my kids.

I was loved under the cloud of the Second World War, it didn’t cease. There was no peace. Dad died suddenly when he was 66 from a massive pain in his head and a broken heart. Those times when I’d wished him dead and then suddenly he was. Unbearable.

Beautiful, intelligent, innocent, funny boy didn’t deserve that war and either did we.

To the families of returned servicemen and women. We know.

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