The longest phone call

I can remember long before the internet. The days of collect calls. If you received a collect call the operator would ask will you agree to pay the charges for this call.

Even the days of a the phone being shared on a party line. Picking up the phone you would sometimes hear a conversation already happening as the person you shared a line with was on a call.

These were the days of making a phone call to call home. Connections to loved ones. A lot of my calls home to Dad were not life changing topics covered in any way. Both of us covering off the local weather. Each other’s health. No real purpose. Just catching up. Dad might tell me about relatives doing this and that. I could even remember who was who.

Timing of calls seemed to have an impact on the subject. Early morning calls were often about some family passing , a crisis or an urgent situation.

Afternoon’s and evenings were strictly free form ..but required the pre requisite weather and health banter.

These gave me skills to predict to some degree before answering …who the caller would be and the reason for the call.

It’s interesting to note that later in life when my home and business phone were one in the same. I would get called at random times day and night from fax machines. Actually most of these were in the midnight to dawn time. It is very difficult to unsubscribe from these early spammers.

The other day a question was asked of me “What is the longest call you remember?” Immediately my conversations with my Dad when I was at Boarding school popped into my head.

There were other rants that I re called later on. I didn’t want to mention these ones as they were not very sober events and I’m not proud of those calls.

However one call I do remember that I now consider is the the call I didn’t take. It plays over and over in my head from time to time. Pops up in my thoughts at unexpected times, in dreams and nightmares even.

This phone call was in January 2008. It was 7 am and the phone wakes me and my soon to be wife Charlotte. Our wedding was set for March 15th 2008.

My phone prediction was on form. “That’s going to be brother Ian and he’s ringing to say he can’t make it to our wedding. You answer it Charlotte “

Sure enough I was right on the money.

Charlotte talked to Ian and yes this was indeed the call to say he could not make the wedding.

Three months later Ian took his own life in a Fiji motel bathroom.

For many years I have had this phone call play over. All the usual reasons of regret for not talking to Ian. Always easy in hindsight.

So this is part of my longest phone call really. It seems to bring into focus all the clues Ian left in the days / months leading up to the event.

Ian had planned this for while. He had even told me at my bother Paul’s 50th birthday party…I’m gonna do it …Ive had it.

I had heard this many times and many times.

It’s a very unique and emotional blackmail being played with such a serious thing. I had over the years become de sensitised to Ian’s attempts and announcements.

Back to the phone call I didn’t take. The replays the conversations before this date. Its one of those things really Ian had decided to hang up the phone.

I’m left on the other end unable to hear any more.

The anguish and dealing with Ian’s decision truly make the phone call I didn’t even answer to be the longest phone call.

Keeping language alive

At primary school I was a model student and top of the class in reading, writing and maths. But life changed dramatically when I lost my mum at age nine. I moved school twice, first to another primary school while being fostered for six months with three of my siblings. The second move was to boarding school. This had a massive impact on my academic career.

I lost interest in school work. The decline was steady: where things used to be easy, I now found my grades dropping. As I progressed through school, I started to struggled with comprehension. My language skills weren’t up to scratch anymore but one could say that I didn’t really care that much. I had become lazy and so my academic decline deepened. Anyhow, I got by as they say but I did not get University Entrance.

Later, as an adult student, I began to develop my own “conversational writing style” . I wasn’t concerned about grammar, all I wanted was getting my story across. And it seemed to work. I graduated from art school age twenty three .

Yet I do cringe when someone says: “me and John” rather than the polite “John an I”. Why?

When I started my interest in speech writing at Toastmasters, I would show my wife my writing and I would get a huge barrage of corrections and advice on how to say things better. The long and short of it was English is her 3rd language and she has way better command of English than I. She would respect the rules and be careful to use the language properly.

At my work I was given the opportunity to learn Te Reo. Progress was slow and I am inpatient. I needed to challenge myself and step out of the comfort of the class room. My goal now is to do a speech in Te Reo.

I am really lucky to have a colleague helping me with the translation of my speech into Te Reo. Another colleague will help me get that special oratory impact using gestures, facial expression, and authenticity.
These things are all familiar in the tool kit of a Public Speaker.

It was during a conversation with my colleague about Te Reo that I learned about the beauty of my own language. I was so focused on contributing to Te Reo, keeping the language alive that I lost sight of what the English language has to offer. I really enjoy hearing a good Te Reo speech and how authentic it is. I forgot that English has a lot to offer too. He recommends I carry a thesaurus and replace words when needed.

The penny dropped. My journey is to keep language alive, I have simply chosen to learn Te Reo as it is part of the culture of living here in Aotearoa. The language is alive and I can be part of that.

I have decided to work on the English version of my speech until I feel that it is ready before I embark on the translation.

I was mainly driven by keeping Te Reo alive, but along the way I got reminded to enjoy and learn more of my own language.
I feel that it is important to keep both these languages alive.

Therapy in sharing

I have been involved in group therapy and found it to be very distracting. I would find myself more involved in other peoples things and end up avoiding my own work.

I have found ways over the years to share my thoughts with anybody. Friends family and more recently blog and public speaking. I must say that I am finding these last two methods of sharing to be very therapeutic.

Today I gave a talk at Toastmasters entitled “Being more present with my whanau.” I did not write the speech I let thoughts on a couple of ideas just tumble and turn in the days leading up to the talk.

The basis was there I wanted to say something about family, the abhorrent past and the beauty of my family today.

Why then did I find myself wanting to be distant to be alone? I have been looking for family for many years.

Or had I ?

Even the meetings theme steered me towards my Dad and me being a Dad.

I was also investigating my communication style. I think the unprepared real ness of letting it out is exactly my style.

I think this moment is right to say it like this and off I go.

I am now noticing this is also liberated me from the fog of notes and nerves.

More bang for my buck, layers of messages that I think others can relate and can resonate. Plus I am getting the value add of my own therapy.

Today I thought moments before I got up. I used to be embarrassed about being likened to Dad. Now I am proud and am happy to take the compliment. He is part of what is me.

Sharing this with others is a great way of making something positive rather than dwelling on pain.

Life’s like that

What is my humour style ..I think I use humour to break the ice in all parts of my life.
Life’s like that was a filler in the Readers Digest Magazine. I use to read this and Laughter is the best medicine.

From a young age I honed my skills to try and deliver one liners that were real. Like from the magazine and being real more valid.
For example at a TM workshop the other day.

So this guy entered a competition and his feedback he was told he was too Agricultural
Don’t let that happen again. Next time you tell them you are multicultural.

I absolutely love puns that are sometimes referred to as Dad Jokes.

This is a gold mine ..Last night I dreamt that the ocean was all Orange. Only to wake the next day to realise it was only a Fanta Sea.

Or I think I made this one up …What’s a red dinosaur called ? A TomatoSaurus.
I’ve been training my sons Leon 10 and Louis 8. I want them appreciate puns.

Louis came to me the other day with a terrible mirror joke. I told him he needs to reflect on his puns,

A favourite of ours has been Naan Bread yes we have none, can I have one please …no there are None, Naan?
Yes None.
Sometimes my humour is about releasing tension
I remember meeting the new CEO . She came to visit me for a one on one and introduction and I stood and shook hands. When I sat down I let go an accidental rather loud fart.

We looked at each other for what seemed like a long pause. Nothing was ever said on the matter and we carried on.

It can be nerve racking meeting someone for the first time. I met a client years ago multi millionaire Mr Wu. I was going to convince him to spend 23 K for a re do job that he’d already spent 5k on. I arrived on time and had a suit and tie and a new design spec folder at the ready.

As we shook hands he did my undone fly up with his other hand. A real long pause filled with intuition and glanced nuances …once again nothing said on the matter . Just moved on. I did sell the job to him.

Sexual tension a huge area for humour and life is like ?
Or one time my eldest brother was trying to show off in Kings Cross in Sydney. “That’ll be 100 bucks mate….and you can bring your sister too.”

“Hey I’m a boy!”

Sometimes in life I say why me? Or did that really just happen. …. I was doing a public sales push in Queenstown with a display stand in the mall. During the lunch hour a young teenage boy approached me and asked me ..

“Do you know any one that wants to buy a boy?” —- What!!! Why does he pick me.

Later towards the end of the day …he approaches me again “Want to buy a boy” OMG

Why me what did I project to warrant this line of enquiry.

Sad really.. He’d come ton Qtown to party and needed money for the trip home.

I remember doing a gig at The Restart Mall in a lunch hour . Half way through the set I saw Winston Peters walking with a group of suits. “I’d like to dedicate this next song to Winston Peters” – I looked at the set list – Venus was the next song. He stopped and listened and we had great eye contact as I sung I’m your Venus, I’m your Venus – Joy desire.
At the end he gave a hearty applause.

I can safely say I have had the worst job ever.

Or a most interesting sales one. A friend of mine ran a funeral business . He was the first in NZ to bring in cardboard coffins..

Any way he got me all dolled up in a suit and tie and sent me to the heart of Mt Albert …door knocking . The product was pre paid funerals ….Pay now die later .. It was a predominantly older populous in this suburb . The Interest was really high.

But yes the worst job was measuring Deer Pizzles – Deer penises with the scrotal sack intact.
I had to clean them up and pack them in boxes.
The size range was from approximately 16 inches to 34 inches.
My nickname was “hands”

April Fools eve 1978 – Don’t get caught ..
Chopping down the flagpole at school on April Fools night. At 3 in the morning we took down the school flagpole and replaced it with just the base that looked like it had been chopped with an axe. But carrying the real pole down to the local Police Station . The place was locked . There was a phone that rung through to Central. “Hello – yeah we’ve got this flag pole we want to leave here at the station”

The answer came back “Yep – sure- Just slide in under the driveway to the left – She’ll be right mate”

So yes life’s like that ,life is full of humour and I think it is my style to actively promote humour.
One day

Aoraki Bound – Changed me

I remember when I hopped on the train on March the 1st and headed off to Picton. I would arrive and relax. One problem, though I was far from relaxed. I was full of nerves and apprehension.

Could I run 3km in under 25 minutes. Had I trained enough. Was all my Bootcamp sessions enough to get me across the line.

I was reading the handout from the Aoraki Bound team. There was a quote.

“When the butterflies stop, then stop talking”

I certainly had butterflies. So I talked with the two sisters that sat opposite me. One had travelled back to NZ from USA for their annual tramp. I told them what I was about to do.

Both of them said they would do what I was doing in a heart beat. The concept must be right.

8 days at Outward Bound in Anakiwa then 12 days doing various things as you traverse the South Island and ending up at Aoraki. All the while immersed fully into Ngai Tahu culture and history.

What have I done?

What’s a pakeha fellow like me doing in a course like this?

Let me say that I have been working for Ngai Tahu since July 2011. I am committed to the iwi, to my work.

Now I need to commit more to learning the culture.

I was in for a real surprise.

I truly got a sense of what Ngaitahutanga is and that it is a lifestyle a way of being. The spirit of which I was about to be brought directly into full contact.

Firstly there was the full on schedule of physical and mental endeavours pushing you in ways that you never realised you even had in you.

Top that off with some full immersion into the real essence of Whakapapa , Korero, Mahinga kai. Getting to understand this culture was a mind and body experience like no other.

I had some goals I wanted to achieve and set in place. These seem like real goals that are achievable and can be done. Not aspirations but things I can set in place and not just spin a whole bunch of plates and see what fate deals out.

Some Pounamu found me. An event that surely was straight from some drug induced hallucination. I saw a piece of broken glass shine at me with intense sunlit rays. It was overcast completely. I went to pick up this glass. Once in my hand it was pounamu. I was overcome with emotion. What’s happening.

The other thing that I was subject to was the sheer aroha and understanding from a group of 12 strangers . We were in this together. Whanau took on a whole new meaning. I was slowly beginning to understand the we. My whole life thus far had been self reliant from a very early age.

Affection and love in such a way I had not experienced.

Most of my life I have considered this to be underserved on my part. Trusting comes hard.

As I process the events over the 20 days, I have changed in some ways.

Can I commit to keeping this going. Did I do some growing.

Yes I did so thanks Aoraki Bound and Kupe 651

It is the fiction that binds us

I have begun to read Sapiens. Very early in the book he stated that Sapiens were able to get ahead because of ability to tell stories. To create belief systems.

This really was the best statement ever. The lights went on. Our success as humans has been based on our fictions.

The more I say it or write it the more it rings true.

All our religious, politics, companies, all based on fictions.

I can no longer read non fiction . I am more likely to find more bang for my buck in a fiction. Less disagreements perhaps. If I state a fact it can be challenged.

This has indeed stopped me in my tracks.

I may never need to read again.

I have been an active atheist for sometime now. I’m beginning to think I may get better heath If I have some kind of faith, some belief system.

I do believe that people are good .

I do believe that we all want to get along.

Really. Maybe I need to take up some religion and get some more faith !!

A Quiet Night

Some years ago I was single again and dating again This night I had been out on a date. it had been great night. I got home at about 11pm.

I am a light sleeper and about 1 to 1:30 am I heard some noise in the house and some lights flashing.

I was close to the road and thought it was some activity on the road. So I rolled over and tried to sleep.

But then I heard the noise and saw light again. I think I have a visitor.

My bedroom joins a small hallway and the lounge is opposite .

I’m going to have to get up and challenge this intruder, in my undies and singlet. No time for formalities. As I’m tip toeing on carpet towards the lounge door I am thinking when he comes through the door way , I’ll ankle tap him and then kick him when he’s down. The courtroom drama yes your honour my client was brutally assaulted in an unprovoked attack.

Hmmm. Now my skin is goose-bumped and ready for anything . I put head into the doorway and say
“Hey what are you doing?”

“I’ve just come to collect my mates stuff”. This dark figure emerges and from the dark. The street light s shines on this huge man with the classic , Balaclava and bag on the back and all black. I guess he didn’t want his mate to recognise him if he was even here!

There goes all thoughts of my beating this guy.

“Your mate doesn’t live here”

He strides right passed me real casually . Arguing still that “this is the place”

“Well lets talk about this place and what’s your name?”

It’s a small house we already through the back door now and I can’t make out his replies. I’m just glad he’s getting outta here.

I’m at the back door and he’s smashed the laundry light that I switched on behind so I still can’t get a look. He is white though, and he has a moustache.

By the time I get to the door. He’s mounting the neighbours fence to scarper.
Already I’m turning on my heels and back to the kitchen to ring the cops.

“your in luck there’s a dog handler in your neighbourhood right now”.

The burglar runs into him almost while I’m on the phone…Yeah yeah we got him”

In about 5 minutes . I have 6 cops arrive and the dog handler has the guy in his van.

The others come in and they bring the bag of stuff in and start emptying the stuff …

Yes it’s all mine ….we gotta take this in evidence…”Hang on. Can I get my car and house keys from my jacket pocket”

All good. I make them all a cup of tea . Extra sugar for me to calm the goosebumps.

We’re chatting and someone’s taking notes. “Quite night? ..This was a pleasing but unexpected response. “

Yes was the reply…then “ksssh” goes the radio phone – “there’s a massive (95) break in , in progress”. They all disappear into the night. With my jackets and my burglar who was just quietly looking for his mates stuff.

It took a while after this night to have a real quiet night again.

History never repeats

History never repeats , I tell myself before I go to sleep. – Split Enz

I don’t want to be like you. I had hated and despised my Dad for many years. This was the final insult and I was resolute in trying hard not to be like Dad. He had been such a terrible role model. My memories of Dad were coloured by all the violent times, the mental illness the drunken times.

At the age of 9 Mum was taken in a car accident. I went to Boarding School in AKL .. a tale for another day.

In the holidays I would go home to Rotorua to Dad. I would ring Dad every now and then to touch base or write letters. He never heard me as he never wore his hearing aids

My first job was in AKL . Loose plan was to save money to go to Art school when I was 21.

When I was about 18 or 19 my Dad gave me that talk …”You’re just like me” “History repeats”was one of the statements that stuck in my throat.

When I did go to Art School in 1983 I called Dad fairly regularly. At least once a term. Maybe it was the distance But something began to happen. The distance and the phone calls to Dad seem to change in our relationship. Dad was deaf and wore his hearing aids at will.

A Classic line he said to my sister was when asked about using his hearing aids was . Yes Sue but I don’t need to hear what you say.

But something happened maybe Dad started wearing his hearing aids or the phone ear piece got better.

The phone seemed to give me access to his ear. I was son number six , I was a long way down the line from the shining star of Number 1 son.

But during these phone calls , which were nothing profound or deep in any way . They were just calls to say hi. We finally got to know each other I could tell he listened. I also listened to him.

I started to accumulate fond memories. The old negative memories are still there but I was now getting to know Dad. I had his full attention . I had a Dad

And so I need not be angry or need to dwell on all those bad times. I’m so glad this happened really, because its an impossible task trying not to be someone. My Dad is a part of me and this was the ahah moment.

My life with Dad from then on was good. I enjoyed many many years of love and affection for my Dad. I was proud of him rather than ashamed as I had been.

There were some times though that tested me. Christmas and gifts were odd. John still was number one Son he got cool presents at Xmas. Dad would always talk about Johns achievements. But not mine or other bros …It was all John. Hard to change a habit of a life time.

I had the privilege of keeping vigil on Dad’s last night on earth he was 88. He kept waking and saying “Is that you John (Number 1 son)” . No Dad he will be here in the morning about 9:30 am . He was on his way from the US to come to Dads side.

It was truly humbling to hold his hand and just be there with him through the night.

The next afternoon he passed peacefully and John was holding his hand . He had waited for John to show up.

In the coming week I organised the funeral and was MC . That’s a whole other story . It was a beautiful send off.

After the service relatives and friends of the family came to give me hugs and a lot of them said

“You’re just like your Dad” or “I see so much of Eddie in you”. It was humbling and comforting.

So it seems History does repeat. But not all of it. There’s no violence in this iteration and also working on the temper. I’m hoping that the next generation is not just a repeat of history also.

So yes history never repeats …I still tell myself before I go to sleep.

PS: Some of the temper and sharp tongue comes from Mum. I only had Mum for nine years. She was the fave. But she could just as easily give you a good thrashing and a good telling off. Tear you to shreds. Must have been a match those 2.

PPS . When I met Charlotte she seemed to have the qualities that are aspirational the consummate Mum. I knew immediately she was the one.

PPPS . It emerged last year that I was indeed no 7 child. Dad had got my Aunt pregnant before she met her hubby . Dads brother Fred.

From me to you

 I want to talk about how I like to use words in many ways as I give myself to the world.

An early talk I gave was when I was about 7. I saw the Sound Of Music and came home reciting the entire movie and songs to my sister. Well that’s probably exaggerated a little.

Age 13 I entered a speech competition. I was a prog rocking goth in those days . I was totally taken with The Alan Parsons project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination. I made a large backdrop of art work, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. In front of this I placed my turntable and played a track from the album. I may have said maybe 40 words.
I had not figured out a way of articulating my love of art, music and words.

1972: my mum was tragically killed in a car accident. My brother Ian and myself ended up at a boarding school.

In  1979. I had my first job as an Accounts Clerk. On a training course we had to introduce ourselves. Time was meant to be 5 minutes. Thirty five minutes later the room, jaws on the floor, they let me continue to tell the tale of my adventures , horror, laughter and tears. They let me unburden myself.

Age 33. I married Lee. My groom speech was totally off the cuff! I told the story of how Lee and I met. I recruited Lee and 2 other female vocalists into our band “The Nuke Wellington Express”. The whole room hung on every word, all eyes were on me. I was sober, but I was really liking this attention. In my summing up, I said how I had found the perfect woman after all. The speech should have stopped right there. But I was drunk on my words and for some reason I thought this “song, this phrasing has not had it’s musical resolve” .
Out of my mouth blurted:“Problem is I keep seeing other nice women”. OMG, pin drop moment, nervous laughter began to trickle. “Just kidding!” A thunderous laughter filled the room . Resolved? I still need some work on my music, words and timing . 

Alas in 1999 after being together 8 years we parted ways. But we have our beautiful son, Tamesi.

Age 43: The busiest year of my life. I married Charlotte. She came with 2 kids, Victor and Claire. It was immediate .This time I sung my groom speech to Charlotte and guests.

The song is called: Song for Charlotte.

I think I’m walking but I’m only standing waiting for the bus
I Think I’m running but I’m only coming to the place I started.
I think I’m driving but really this car is driving me.

I think I better get myself on home to you
Back to the place where my heart beats for you each day
Each day I fall in love again
Each day I fall in love with you.

I still fall in love. We have added Leon and Louis to the mix. The house is full of music and wonder and I am blessed.

Age 51:  I had the privilege of being at my Dads bedside on his last night on earth. During the night he would stir. “Is that you John?” John was winging his way from the USA and was due 9:30 in the morning. “No Dad, its me, Donald”. “Oh”. Back to sleep he went . I held his hand.

When I was really young Dad would use me as a human jukebox . I was made to sing Simon and Garfunkel songs . Pitch perfect, a cappella. I was the MC at his funeral and had allocated 5 minutes to each sibling present. One sibling went 40 minutes over.

Dad was a sailor, a boxer and a ukulele player, on the HMNZS Kiwi in WW2. So I chose to sing the last verse of the Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel as part of my eulogy.

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out out
in his anger and his shame
I am leaving I am leaving
but the fighter still remains.
..lalalala la la lai la la lai

The hairs raised on my neck just like when you hear a perfect harmony as the verse was suddenly much more poignant than I had expected. The flood of memories, gifts he gave to the world, to me, he is part of me and I am part of him.

This is gift,   to get a sense of me and the many parts that are me.

From me to you.

One shot at this

Recently I applied to get on a committee. A frightening experience indeed. I’m motivated to get amongst this world of Governance. 

Anyhow, I think I let my confidence get in my way somewhat. 

I had to do a presentation and some collaboration workshops. My presentation I began working on weeks in advance. I had a good story to tell. But was it enough? No I thought . I added more to the story but it was other things…distractions. 

Then as there was so many applicants . Our presentations were cut from 5 to 3 minutes. I culled my presentation …well that’s a strong word. I kept on reading and deciding that deserves to stay…oh yeah that also. I forgot the rule 

Introduction to me an the idea

Middle – flesh out the idea

End supporting the idea 

All else I should have tossed. Then during the actual event I tried to cull it on the fly. I felt I hadn’t even begun.

Only get one chance at it really.

But I had all the time and more to get ready for that one chance.

Note to self.   Don’t let this happen again.