Dad was a congenial man. He always wanted to tell his story. As a family, we failed to listen. He was a Palestine Policeman in the 1930s. The police photographer. Lots of dead bodies to nightmare over. Two years before he died, dad hugged me. The only time I can remember. ‘Love you, son’. ‘You’ll crack a rib’ was my reply. Our stories are what make us. Many years ago, a phone call from a friend. ‘Could we meet on Friday for a chat?’ I said, ‘Would Monday do?’ ‘Sounds ok’. Saturday, she electrocuted herself. When I was a church caretaker, the Minister said, ‘Get to know this young man, he has a troubled mind’. ‘Will do’. Struck up a friendship. Had knocks on my door at midnight. Tried to listen as he verbally wandered. Maybe my impatience showed. Two months into this quirky friendship, his country parents flew him home. He never told me he was off his meds, or schizophrenic. Before they flew him home, We trekked to Waterfall Gully. He taught me: Say what you mean. Mean what you say. A gift I still use today. A month later, a message on the machine. His father. Their precious son had hanged himself in the lounge room from a rafter. Today I’m thinking of another friend. Anxiety is his challenge. We face to face often. My gift to him? I listen fully to his story. The trust between us grows at his pace, not mine. I have learnt to fully listen to his story, which I should have done with dad, and others, when they were still alive. Listening to people’s stories is a gift. If dad came knocking at my door today, I’d hug him, say, ‘Love you, dad’, and listen to his story at the local pub!
Martin Christmas is a poet, photographer, and theatre director. He has been published in Australian anthologies, and overseas on-line literary magazines including Red River Review (the USA), as a Featured Poet; StepAway Magazine (the UK); and Bindweed (Ireland). He runs one to one poetry presentation workshops. His poetry books are Immediate Reflections, The Deeper Inner, D&M Between 2 Men and Random Adventures. He has an M.A. in Cultural Studies. He is still learning how to listen to other people’s stories.