Spending “Quality” Time With My Father

When my father invited me recently to join him on a Railway Historical Society trip from Sydney to Broken Hill and back, my initial thought was “5 days stuck on a rusty old train with uncomfortable seats isn't exactly my thing”. But I'd been looking for an opportunity to travel somewhere and spend some quality time with my Dad, so I ended up jumping at the chance.

My father is 79, and although he's just as mentally alert as he's ever been, he's not getting any younger. His father lived to be 100 and there's no sign of mine dropping dead any time soon. But whenever I speak to men whose fathers have died, they often talk about feelings of regret over the questions they didn't ask, and the connection they never made with their father while he was still alive. He's not going to be here with all faculties intact forever.

Dad and I next to the train at Broken Hill station

On the other hand, connecting with my father isn't exactly easy. He's in his element in a group of mostly-retired mostly-male historical train buffs. They talk about the intricacies of the trains, the tracks, the sidings, government mismanagement of their cherished but slowly declining rail transport, and the resulting increasingly-deserted towns we pass through on the way.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago

Confidence, Cats In The Cradle and My Relationship with My Father

Harry Chapin's famous song Cats In The Cradle hits me emotionally every time I hear it. Whether it's his original, Cat Steven's even more well-known version, or more recent covers like the one by Ugly Kid Joe, it never fails to strike an emotional chord with me. I've spent the last 3 weeks learning to play it on my guitar, and when I play it myself it's even stronger.

Knowing what I know now, I'd say that my father lacks confidence and that's why he is so reluctant to share his feelings, and hard for other people to connect to. He was my natural role model and for a long time I emulated this too. As a result, I lacked confidence and we both had very little emotional connection.

The song connects me with the pain I still feel in my relationship with my emotionally distant father. Ironically, my father and I have a lot of time for each other and get together on a regular basis; we have even more time together now that he's retired and I'm working for myself. But there's a distance between us that I find painful.

My Dad was always there for me physically as I kid, and I don't ever recall brushing him off because I just wanted to borrow the car keys once he'd taught me how to drive.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago