It’s not the Interview, but what happened after the recording stopped that brought me closer to my father. How do you go 46 years and not have a conversation about what affects you both on a daily basis?
For the last eighteen months I have been on two family history journeys: Using DNA to break down walls in my research and doing my University of Tasmania, Diploma of Family History. So it is no wonder that my father, who has been harassed by me constantly during that time, showed signs of complacency when asked to be my guineapig for an interview. Still, he never complains and is always there for me.
Knowing my father, a story teller with a knack for humour, this would be a fun interview, was my mindset. So you can imagine my discomfort when, using my new interview skills, I pushed the buttons that brought him to tears and revealed to me much more than first expected.
When asked about morning breakfast he recalled;
“Usually it was bread and milk because of the old man being an alcoholic. We had no money, so we used to go and get the day-old bread for the ducks and then put milk with it. Hot milk and sugar, and eat it, for breakfast. It was a hard life. When you go hungry…” 1
At this point the interview was stopped for a 5-minute break.
I know my father’s history, but had never seen it in this raw, open and honest way. He opened up about growing up with a father that was an alcoholic. I heard the forgiveness in his voice as he talked about witnessing his father dishing out the beatings that his mother endured. Then to go on and tell of his love for both parents, each in their own way. He described his hate of school and the challenges he faced every day, blaming a poor, dysfunctional home life and the fact that he truly felt his mother or a sibling would die from starvation on more than one occasion.
“School, I hated it. I hated school, because I couldn’t read properly or spell… I still can’t read and write properly” he said.2
Dealing with his lack of schooling through his working life had him in constant fear of needing to write something, or fill out a form. Telling me about how he would drive to clients for deliveries and that he would need to see the name on the side of the building, before he could fill out the docket.3
When the interview ended and the recording stopped, the real conversation started. It was then, that I told him how I had always done that same dance with forms. Learning the words needed to work in my chosen profession was an ongoing battle. Thinking what I wanted to say, then writing it like a pre-schooler because I had to substitute the words for easier ones.
You could see the look on his face as he realised we share a problem that was more about genetics rather than upbringing.
“I made sure you had a good upbringing so you wouldn’t have my issues.” he said.4
“Dad I’ve looked into this before. From what I understand it’s a form of Dyslexia and its very common” I said.
Dyslexia affects people in different ways and with different levels of severity. It is an impairment of the brain that hinders learning ability around reading, spelling and rapid recall of visual or verbal queues that is known to be inherited in some families. 5 People of all IQ levels can be affected by dyslexia as it is not determined by how smart an individual is. 6
I would never fill out a form in public, instead I would use a computer to write it out, then spell check everything before I transfer it to written words, if I could not just print it out.
After my confession, he seemed a little shocked. He believed that I was a lot smarter than he was, using all that “computer stuff” and working for “big companies in high positions”. I assured him that we are more alike than even I ever knew. Leaving his home that day, I wondered how his life could have been, if he had grown up with a better understanding of why he was the way he was. Then I remember how he answered my last question;
“So if you were to sum up your life, from your point of view… would you say you have been happy?”
“Definitely, Definitely. Even though the childhood was very rough, and I had an alcoholic father. I don’t think I’d change too much.” he answered.7
1 Garry Brady, interview by Darryl Brady, digital recording, High Wycombe, 29 November 2016, in author’s possession.
2 Garry Brady, interview by author.
3 Garry Brady, interview by author.
4 Garry Brady, interview by author.
5 “NINDS Dyslexia Information Page”. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dyslexia/dyslexia.htm, Retrieved 5 December 2016.
6 Siegel, LS. “Perspectives on dyslexia.”. Paediatrics & Child Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528651/, Retrieved 5 December 2016.
7 Garry Brady, interview by author.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Siegel, LS. Paediatrics & Child Health.
Garry Brady, interview by Darryl Brady, digital recording, High Wycombe, 29 November 2016, in author’s possession.
Student ID: 425182
University of Tasmania
Diploma of Family History
HAA106 Oral History