It was amazing to find that 30 years had gone since the death of my Father. When the anniversary happened it felt as though the actual event had passed over me and the emotions were hitting me fresh, raw and upsetting all these years later. Was it the anniversary or was it that now I was 30 years older and facing my own death as being nearer in time. I had lived those 30 years holding onto one conversation with him and now could look back and see the impact of that on my life.
I was born when my Father, Bill, was an older Father, my friends’ parents were all so much younger and I remember him as an old man. Youth can be so cruel to those who are older! Bill had been a valiant soldier and my memories are focused on him as weakened through war time injuries, a strict man and often ill.
We lived in Thingwall having moved when I was 2 years old from a council estate called Woodchurch on the Wirral. I feel that my Fathers heart stayed with his old friends and Woodchurch was a main part of his life. It was built in the 40’s, lots of families, lots of children and lots of green spaces to play football or rounders on. Yet nothing for the new breed emerging in the 60’s, the restless teenagers. Liverpool’s music scene was alive and for strict parents, it was a dangerous place to let them travel to.
A compromise was needed, a youth centre for the teenagers to gather at, a space to chat, listen to music, learn skills, be mentored and have rules to stick to.Bill and friends took the challenge on, a youth centre for the youth, built by the youth but first fund raising was needed.
Bill was a money raiser, if not always in legal ways, or so the story goes! When working for a large insurance company, he had to stay in close contact with the Chinese community in Liverpool. It is one of the oldest Chinese Communities in Europe. He would be invited to a pre-Christmas game of cards. There would be many players, all invited and representing different business areas and the gambling saw many winners and losers with a large pot of money staying on the table. The game went on for hours then suddenly a pounding of fists, a door rattled and the grand entrance of the Police. It was after all an illegal gambling game. The Police would seize the money from the table. Exchange harsh words with the organisers, yet leave the gathering without arrests or cautions. All set up and organised so that the Police could redistribute the proceeds to children’s charities to help those in need at Christmas. So helping others was a part of the Father I never really knew.
Uncovering pictures has lead me to learn new things about Bill. Here was a man with a real backbone. All my friends commented on his walk, so straight and proud as he went for the bus to work in those early years. A trait many people say I have taken on.
He raised that money for the Woodchurch Community Youth Club.
The building was built by the teenagers. My sister is in the picture helping and I am at our Fathers side. I look so interested in the drawings, or could it be pleasure to be by this amazing mans side. Looking at it now, maybe I could have been an architect or surveyor, funnily enough that became my younger brothers’ role in life!
An early memory for me was running away from home at about age 6 or 7. It was early Sunday afternoon and I had an appointment later that day with ‘the butcher’. He was actually a hairdresser or to be more accurate a barber who would keep the families hair in the strict military style our Father approved of. Short back and sides. I had to have my hair cut and it was basic bowl style, yet I so wanted to be a little girl and grow my hair. Father said ‘No’ so that was the end of the argument. One day whilst waiting with my sister at the ice cream van, the seller said ‘Hi sonny, what can I get you’. My sister ponced, a lion waiting to be tamed…’she’s a girl not a boy!’ Even that would not persuade my Father, so bowl haircut it was. Not till about 10 years old after my brother threatened to leave home did our Father finally give in and let me grow a girls style.
Back to the conversation that I held onto for those 30 plus years. I was 17 and studying Advanced Education Exam levels, the final two years of High school before University. I enjoyed Sociology, phycology, history and English literature. I knew what I wanted, University to learn to live life by my rules and then a career. Probably social work and making a difference in people’s lives.
Father took me to one side and showed me a letter I had received. It was an invitation to a job interview for the Civil Service, I’d never applied for it. How did I have an interview?
‘Gill, you are just a woman. You will go on and get married and have babies. An education is a waste for you, get this job to tide you over till you marry. It pays £70 a week……..’
To a 17 year old in the late 70’s, it seemed to make sense, that amount of money was huge. Maybe I wasn’t as clever as I thought. Did I deserve to move away from the social place I was in? I was just a woman and I did have a boyfriend. Maybe he was right. I went for the interview. I got the job and it lasted 30 plus years.
Now on the 30th anniversary of his death, an event that was impacting my every waking moment with a loss so fresh it was happening today not in history, it was time for reflection. Struck home by an event in my daily life.
Though first the reality of how my Father, trying to do his best, left indelible marks on my life.
His choice of masculine haircut was done for at least two reasons, cheaper buying bulk as there were 4 haircuts to be done! Also keeping hair short would have been to limit head lice, a very common problem with children. Because of this it was my view as a child that I was unfeminine and I have never considered myself feminine, never beautiful, look like a drag queen in make-up. Pink is a girls colour, so not for me! My hair never seems styled and nice. It is all down to throw away action in my life of my hair being kept short. As an adult I still have those insecurities and after 30 years it was time to let them go.
Then the big one.
‘Gill, you are just a woman. You will go on and get married and have babies. An education is a waste for you, get this job to tide you over till you marry…..’
That one has definitely made my life’s course for those 30 plus years. In a secure job for life with a great pension. Two broken marriages later, seems I was not cut out to be a good wife, at least I had my secure job. I had to break that young girl, being influenced by a strong Father, who thought he knew best. After all it was his generations’ ideal for their girls to marry well and carry on the family line. Looking back I know I was a bit of a rebel, pushing boundaries against the out dated ideas yet in my heart my Father always had the answers. I needed to forgive myself for taking the line of least resistance and accept that the decision had been made by me with the best knowledge I had then. The late 70’s were a scary time with job losses and strikes so to be safe was acceptable.
Now was the time to move on from that child. To look back and realise that some of my automatic thoughts have come from my parents conditioning. Conditioning they didn’t know they were doing and in most people it happens to us all as we take on board all we see, hear, feel and fear without any boundaries or filters till we are 3 years old. My parents were a much older generation who had lived through WW2, their ideas were outdated and I had allowed myself to stick to those rules. Had I really stayed where I was as a child or had I actually moved on.
My job was gone, so was my security. I had got a Personal Development Qualification with Distinction, so I did have a brain I could use. I had come through an illness that many people struggle to recover from and was living a great life. I have a beautiful home in a wonderful town, many friends, yet had I really left those insecurities behind me.
Then I met a young girl of about 7 whilst working. From Woodchurch. She was excited to meet me and asked about my job. She laughed and listened as I told her about living abroad, how to always do her best at school, to dream big and make your dreams become reality. She followed me out to my car and I could see in her eyes ‘glamorous woman, great job, fantastic car, living her dream. Maybe a 7 year old would not say ‘living a dream’ yet I suddenly felt it!’ Yes, I had moved on and without realising it through my blog and meeting people I was out there achieving my ambition of helping others be the best they can be. Maybe I sparked something in that little girl and one day a memoir will mention a story of meeting someone on holiday who made her open her eyes.
Time to let go of all those childhood insecurities that well-meaning parents pass onto you. The rest of your life you filter everything through what you have been taught or till like me you can allow the adult within you to re-evaluate those stories from a grown up point of view. Balance both sides out, forgive what needs to be forgiven and make the choices now from a cleaner perspective.
Time for you to reflect on the significant moments, comments, little tricks, like my brother putting spiders in my bed to frighten me! – Didn’t work as my phobia was moths! Those things as a child which shape our lives and our decisions. Now is the time to clear them and make your life decisions from the adult you are in reality. For more information on tools I used, contact me.
Remembering the happiest of days and the smiles we had. Both gone though never forgotten and the life skills your parents teach are a lesson without price!