Having only approached my Father’s family in my early twenties, I have found myself lightly equipped with small amounts of information about his full tale. Not wanting to further disturb an uneasily resting memory, and finding myself having a considerable degree of difficultly assimilating the details I did have, the bandage has been slowly removed over the last (near-) twenty years.

In large part the long duration of this tale and it’s unfolding, layer by layer, has been a ploy to enable the exposure to air of each small part of the greater wound to heal, or at least dry, before the next small cut can be revealed. But such is the way with writing histories of many living persons. There are many tales I would recall but for my conscience of the ripples the telling would cause. As I say, such is the way.

As a consequence, the discovery of details pertaining to the last few months of my Father’s life have been difficult. My understanding is that he found himself in a slipping downward, and was seeking a way off the heights upon which he found himself, a problem to which anyone who has experienced the noose of addiction will relate.

It was a time when surveillance of youth, and drug users in particular, had become a concern to Auckland Police, and early efforts were being made to ‘combat’ what was understood as the seamier side of the counter-culture (although, truth be told, to comfortable middle-class New Zealand the entire culture was pretty seamy).  And with surveillance comes intervention, and to 70s New Zealand intervention meant institutionalisation.

My impression then is, that in an effort to escape Auckland and his life there, my Father followed his younger sister to the East Coast, a place these days far from everything, but then a complete world away. And so it was that when my Mother returned from Australia my paternal Grandfather was enlisted to drive her from the airport, to collect me, and we joined him in early 1972, Tokomaru Bay.

In a confession made many years ago my Grandfather admitted that he was dubious about the likelihood that I was his grandson, but being the man of his generation he is, he did the right thing and drove back to the Coast, itself something like a return journey for him – his family having farmed the country before the Depression. I imagine he must have driven from Auckland, to Te Aroha to collect me, and from there to Tokomaru Bay, a drive of perhaps 10 hours on some of the worst roads in New Zealand, with a complete stranger.

I’ve often wondered what they spoke about, my Mother and he, assuming they spoke at all. My own recollection of what it was to be a young adult leaves no doubt that the gulf between them would have been enormous, the generational difference likely insurmountable. And in turn, he would have arrived in Tokomaru Bay to find the same gulf between himself and two of his children, themselves living the idealised life of the flower-powered, turned on, and tuned in, long since dropped out.