A few weeks ago I wrote about writing a memoir when the memories are fresh.
That was before the physical books arrived for distribution. The eBooks are somehow not quite as real, I understand why some of our readers waited for the paperback, the physical book. Even our Mr O Jnr 2 fanned the pages in front of his nose and said, ” Oh, the smell!”
The Managing Director of my employer bought a book yesterday. Many co-workers have also bought copies. Even my local bottleshop bought a copy. As I said in my previous article (link above) it is scary. I am the same person these people knew yesterday. I haven’t changed, but there are things in the book they did not know about me. For 40 years I rarely mentioned my parents both committed suicide. Now it is “out there”. Will people think it is hereditary? For the record, my GP tells me I am past the age for that to be a risk! Just in case you were wondering!
You see, some days I feel strong. Proud that I’ve had the strength to put it out there, to tell it as it really is.
Other days I feel scared. Today was a “scared” day! What will people think? Will they think less of me because I was driven to the point of wanting to drive my car through the doors of the Melbourne DIAC building in sheer despair? Or will they understand? Will they feel it?
I was incredibly saddened today when I learned of the apparent suicide of the nurse who was tricked into believing she was speaking to The Queen and Prince Philip.
I was also saddened to see the social media hang, draw and quarter the two young radio personalities involved.
I kept out of the debate for two reasons. First, suicide is a little too close to home for me. Secondly, I didn’t want anyone to think I was jumping on the bandwagon, as they say.
Then I remembered something. I had told Catherine Deveny she must go to the police during the early days of the Jill Meagher case. She had expressed similar concerns about being seen to be doing the celebrity thing. I’m not a celebrity, but I recognise I do have a small public profile. By being silent, I was doing exactly what I had told Catherine not to do. Lead by example.
Most visitors to this site are well aware both my parents committed suicide when I was 15. I know what faces the children of Jacintha Saldanha in the years ahead. I hope they at least have their father to help them.
I remember the dress I wore. One of my Dad’s favourites, it was green with tiny daisies on it. Probably not the most appropriate funeral dress, but I wanted to wear something my father liked. I had made the dress and I had been very proud when my father praised my dressmaking skills. I do not remember the coffin. I don’t remember the service. I remember the Last Post being played. Whenever I hear it soft tears well in my eyes and I brush them away.
My younger brother and sister were not allowed to come to the funeral. I don’t know who made the decision. It was the wrong decision, for they never got to say goodbye. My mother was in hospital recovering from yet another overdose attempt the night before. I was the only member of my immediate family at the funeral. I was 15 years old.
The day is a blur to me now. I remember some of my father’s cousins meeting in a front room at the wake. Maybe with my father’s lawyer, I don’t know. I don’t remember how we got from the crematorium to the farm. I don’t remember who organised the wake. Certainly it wasn’t my mother: she was in hospital.
After the wake someone took me to the hospital to visit my mother. Perhaps I drove, I don’t know, but I don’t think so. No, I wouldn’t have driven. I didn’t own a car back then and I would not have driven the car my father took his own life in. I did hear they couldn’t sell the car locally, it had to be “sent away”. Just like my father’s mother had been “sent away” when it was discovered she was pregnant out-of-wedlock. In 1921 that had not been a good thing.
So much I do not remember. A childhood lost in a fog of death. My father had, I discovered some many months later, left us a note. Somewhere in all my travels over the years I have lost it. I don’t recall what it said now, but I do know it didn’t explain why he connected a hose to the exhaust and killed himself.
Somewhere during the next six months we sold the farm and bought a house in town. My mother got a part-time job. She had been mentally ill before my father took his life, now she was very unwell. I forget how many more times she was hospitalised, but I remember on one occasion the hospital rang me to tell me she had run away and asked me to look for her. At 15.
I promised to publish, despite how bad I look on camera (never wear pale lipstick on TV), so here we proudly present Natalie Yoannidis’ assignment interview. Many thanks to Natalie for allowing us to share her work. If you wonder if I am ever nervous about pushing the “Publish” button – this is the time!
- What a journalism student learnt by meeting Team Oyeniyi – Guest Article (teamoyeniyi.com)
- Team Oyeniyi interviewed (teamoyeniyi.com)
- Happy Wedding Anniversary to us!! (teamoyeniyi.com)
- Living with the aftermath of mandatory detention (teamoyeniyi.com)
Australia’s mandatory detention policy receives criticism from many quarters: Amnesty International, the United Nations and many human rights organisations and refugee advocacy groups.
I am in a somewhat unique position to be able to say the effects do not disappear over night. I am married to a man who was in detention for many months. While much of Mr O’s time from 2004 was traumatic, I can see of all the situations he found himself in, it is mandatory detention that left the deepest psychological wounds. I am not going to go into details at the symptom level, but I do want to say mandatory detention is psychologically damaging. Mr O is an individual with great mental strength and intelligence – he can see the wounds and is taking the appropriate steps to heal. Naturally the children and I are a part of that healing process, to be there and support him. Miss O 2 is really too young to understand, but the boys and Miss O 1 do understand as much as they are able given their respective ages. My psychologist warned me before Mr O came home that given the length and nature of his journey, he may have difficulty adjusting to normal life. Yet the children also had a difficult time while they had no father: I worry that they also need healing at some level.
Last night Mr O described how he feels, in part: “It was as if I was bound with chains around my chest, pinning my arms to my side. That is how it felt. Now it is as if those chains still hold me, even though they are gone.”
As I guess most detainees do, he developed survival mechanisms in detention that do not work well in normal life. These tend to lock him in a bubble and at times it is like there is Mr O in his bubble and then the rest of us living a “normal” life. Slowly but surely we are breaking that bubble down.
The content of this chapter of Love versus Goliath has been published earlier on this site in a different context. Here I have re-worked those two articles into a chapter of the book. Please let me know your thoughts. Is there sufficient detail? Does this paint a picture for you? As the reader, have I reached out to you to encourage you to want to read more?
Sadly, there is more to my story than I care to remember, then or now. I’d stored the memories away in the back of my mind somewhere, safely locked away where they stayed out of my daily life.
Melanie had commented just a few days before I should try to ensure I concentrated on the positives of progress to date, rather than the negatives. She was right, I should have been doing that. There had indeed been positives and I was most grateful for those. I continued to be haunted by the possibility a result will come too late as we juggled the waiting with the risks to my family’s safety.
Apart from the precarious situation my family was in, my own childhood made coping with the situation particularly difficult for me emotionally.
So neither Sir Ian nor Kim actually sat at my table, but I was at the luncheon and I did hear them speak! Now, readers from the USA, knowing nothing about the wonderful game of CRICKET, will have no idea who Sir Ian Botham is and even less idea about Kim Hughes. Funny thing – they look a lot older than I remember…..
I was at a fund raising lunch for Yooralla, a wonderful organisation providing support services to Victorians with disabilities.
It really was a lovely luncheon………. until a speaker started speaking about young people with brain damage. The focus of her speech was a young man who had attempted suicide by hanging. I don’t know if it was her tone of voice, the words she used or a combination thereof. All of a sudden I missed my parents very much. They never saw their grandchildren, they weren’t at my first wedding. I know Mr O often has similar feelings about his parents too, especially his father: he has little memory of his mother. Fortunately he is very close to his step-mother.