Monday, November 24, 2014

The ABC: the partner-commentary of my life

About me and the ABC through the years:

1960s: The news programs I had to endure because of my parents.

1970s: I was getting a haircut when someone on the radio said firefighters were needed at Mount Bodington Hospital. I asked the hairdresser to finish quickly and went to one of the worst days of my life. The hospital was saved; someone at my high school died. The call had come over the ABC.

1980s: I tried for the last time to interest my father, raddled by Alzheimer's, in the cricket.

1990s: My wife listened to the “ball of the century” on the night our first son was born.

2001: The radio news woke me, but not Ms T, which meant I could warn her not to listen to the news or watch the television on 9/11.

2010: We listened to the ABC in the morning, as we always did, and were later sent to hospital to save Ms T's life.

2013: Bushfires again. This time, it wasn't a hospital in the line; I feared that my life and love, Bunjaree Cottages, would be in the cross-hairs. It wasn't, but I was the only person within 500 metres for most of a dreadful day, and the ABC told me what was happening, and a lot of things changed that day.

Forever: the voices on the radio in the car, from Sydney to Melbourne, to Broken Hill and Brisbane and beyond all of those.

So many of the biggest moments of my life – the things that change a person, not trivially but fundamentally – have been accompanied by the ABC.

I choose my father's death as example, not because of my admitted sentimentality, but because I can talk about poor, mad Stan without offending anybody or violating their trust in me.

In the late 80s, Dennis Lillee was still A Thing, but Stan was a wreck with Alzheimer's, a regular escapee from the hospital that bound him, and I? A reluctant visitor, it shames me to say. When he was at his best we maintained, at best, a hostile truce. We didn't like each other all that much, Dad and I.

That made hospital visits … awkward.

On the last visit, there was a one-day international, which Stan disapproved of. But it provided movement and colour on a TV, Lillee was still playing, and the radio in the ward was tuned to the ABC. So we managed a few words about the cricket.

I'd seen Lillee bowl at the SCG, so many years before, when Dad was fine and we caught the train to a test, and the transistor radio in his pocket provided a commentary to what I watched. The ABC again. Dad was sceptical about Lillee then, but he changed his mind.

And at the end of my father's life, here I was trying to talk about cricket, to drag him out of the Alzheimer's fog, to talk about anything because we didn't know how to talk to each other.

And the ABC talked in the background to my father's farewell. “I know what's happening to me. Don't think I don't. Don't come back.”

And 27 years later, the ABC commentated the worst day of my life, and its background speaks to the greatest loves of my life, and these bastards want to gut it.

Really I could have been more intimate. The words from the ABC have accompanied the very dearest moments – but that would involve too many people giving permission and sacrificing their privacy. This is the best example I could give.

There are no words for those that would rob the future of its timeline, its hashtags, its narrative.

No comments: