I don’t have a great memory and freely admit it. I sometimes worry that my memories of Mum and Dad are sketchy – especially of Dad, who died 30 years ago. Some memories are mine alone, some are shared with other people. Tony and I have a lot of shared memories of Mum because we lived with her as caregivers for 14 years. Other memories are ones I share with my sister Ailsa, or my best friend Sandra (of both sets of parents).
I’ve just come back from 10 days in Hokitika with my friend Alan. His Dad and mine were good mates so I spent a lot of time on their farm as a child then teen. When we were teens they spent a lot of time at our Waverley Beach bach. We have a lot of shared memories and many of those memories involve Dad.
It got me thinking about why I love this photo so much. The most obvious reason is it’s my beloved Dad. Summer was always a happy time in my life; Mum and I stayed at the beach – Dad came down every night after work and we went swimming together. Dad was teaching me to ride his motorbike, which I loved, even after I had a wee accident on it! Dad’s in his shorts and a hat, so the weather is good and he’s relaxed. Oh, and I loved that red blouse & my jeans so much!
One photo, but so many clues and memories. No wonder I treasure my photo albums and scrapbooks ❤
Sometimes my journal pages are obviously about a particular thing, other times I’m not sure where the words have come from – maybe a song, a conversation I overheard, part of a dream. I am not sure where this came from; possibly a conversation I had tonight with my best friend of forever (ok, 50 mumble years) in which my late Dad was mentioned.
Large Dylusions journal. Sprays: Squeezed orange, Crushed grape, Tangerine dream, Bubblegum pink. Paint: White linen, Funky fuchsia. Stencils: Diamonds in the rough (lg & small), Shutters. Stamps: Dy’s alphabet. Other. Stamps: Tim Holtz – Tall text, Visible Image – Dare to be different, Tim Holtz – Entomology. Pitt Big Brush pen, Archival ink, Distress collage medium, white gel pen.
Dad died when I was in my mid-20s, way nearer to 30 years ago than 20! I missed him terribly for a long time, then time eased the loss, as it does. I think him of often, but with love, not a sense of loss.
Right now though, I feel the loss again. There’s some hard stuff we’re dealing with and I want my Dad. He wouldn’t have said a lot; he’d have given me a bear hug, some sage advice and then just been here for us.
Yesterday I did this page using the lyrics of P!nk’s song, Circle Game, where she says “And I start looking for my Dad…”. Artists like P!nk provide me all the words I can’t find.
All supplies are Dylusions unless otherwise stated. Paints: Lemon zest, Funky fuchsia, Polished jade. Stencils: Teardrops, Diamonds in the rough (small), Star struck. Stamps: Dy’s alphabet. Other: Distress ink, Archival ink, Pitt Big Brush pen, white gel pen, Distress collage medium.
In 2010 Tony and I took four works I’d created to the Legato exhibition in Cassino, Italy. They honoured four men who had swerved in WWII; my dad, my best friend’s dad and uncle, and the father of a woman who had worked for dad.
I am sending work next year, when the commemorations will be all the more special as the world marks 100 years since WWI. I’m already doing a large landscape based on my recollections of the walk to one of the memorial services we went to, but have been hankering to do something honouring a solider as well. But didn’t know who, or why. I should have known to listen and wait, because the answer always comes.
My good friend Joanne D had asked me a while back about doing a piece to honor her grandfather but we didn’t pursue it. She and I have been emailing and I’m going to do a piece that she can show her Granny then it can travel to Italy, then return to her family. Fantastic!
Before I knew that was happening, I decided to search the internet for local people who had served that could have relatives I could trace and talk to. My mother was adopted, and didn’t find out until she was in her 60s – but we were able to find out both her mother and father’s full names and are in contact with some family members. I was scrolling through names and there was someone I thought had to be her uncle. I range her half-sister and she confirmed this but went on to say that her father had served in WWI as well. Would I like her to send me some copies of war records etc so I could do a work about him.
I had to end the conversation and think about what I had just heard – that I was being given the opportunity to honour the grandfather I never knew by creating a work about him and sending it to Italy to be honoured by hundreds of people. I felt utterly overwhelmed. I wrote back today to say “yes, please do send me some copies” as I’d love to do this.
When we connect with people, and tell others what we need, it’s incredible what happens. Here’s a photo of Mum, and the piece I did of Dad – I knew they’d both be excited to hear this.
This ANZAC day I spoke at the Waverley RSA service, which was a privilege. As always, I remember with love my Dad, Mansel Barker, and Dad 2 Jack Robinson (my best friend Sandra Robinson’s Dad). I also acknowledge the loss of so many ANZACs overseas, and am grateful our Dads came home.
It’s 22 years today since Dad died unexpectedly, a month before his 66th birthday. He retired at 60 and spent his days helping farm mates, pig and deer hunting, and going fishing. He and Mum made 3 trips to Asia once he retired. He was a busy, and seemingly fit, man.
He went fishing at Waverley Beach one Sunday morning and had a massive heart attack. The young man next to him did CPR but had to leave him to get help and, by the time he got back, Dad’s heart had stopped again. As bad as we all felt for the young man who had tried so hard, I’m pleased Dad did not survive. He’d have hated being a patient, being told what to do, being incapacitated. As Mum used to say “Mansel got it right, he just died ten years too early”.
So today, and every day, I remember him with love. He was a hard working, patient man who gave huge bear hugs. I miss him.
Dad teaching me to ride his motorbike.
Mum and Dad’s wedding.
Able Seaman D M Barker
Dad receiving a Lions Club award.
Taken after a swimming competition.
Dad and granddaughter Jenny.
Dad and I on holiday somewhere.
Mum always used to say I was whispering secrets to him. Corduray overalls, knitted cardigan and bare feet! This is one of my favorite photos and probably the most like how I remember him.
Feeding ducks with me at Virginia Lake in Wanganui.
Me, Mum & Dad, and Marion Scott, Palmerston North 1967
Ailsa and Jim’s wedding. Mum, Ailsa, Jim, Dad, me in the front.
Do you like my new tattoo of Dad? It looks a bit wrinkly because of the gladwrap over it to protect it as it heals.
No? Okay, you’re right. I’m too chicken to get a tattoo, and Tony has enough for both of us!
Yesterday I mentioned that I have a plan in mind for new Legato works. The plan involves image transfers. Yesterday I did some laser copies of photos from WWII of Dad in uniform then gave them two thin coats of Golden’s Clear Tar Gel and left them to dry well overnight. Today I soaked one really well then rubbed most of the paper off the back. I let it dry to see how much paper pulp was left then soaked it again, and draped it over my arm so I could use my other hand to gently rub more paper pulp off. I find having it on my arm means fewer creases in it, and I can feel how much pressure I am applying – rub too hard and the image gets damaged. I’m pleased with it so far – it’ll be interesting to see if it is totally clear once it’s dry.