Tag Archives: Nancy Thompson

Rumination of the Day (6th January 2017)

UNANSWERABLE QUESTIONS

It is no secret that my brother Kevin died a horrendous death at the hands of my father, in December 1965 (https://timalderman.com/2012/04/23/kevin-pickhills-the-unspoken-name/). It is a long time ago now, though the memories have never dimmed, and despite the sage advice that time heals all wounds, it may dull the starkness of the memory, but it never really disappears. The filing cabinet we call a brain shifts the files around, but always leaves the drawer slightly ajar. 

I am not obsessed by my hrothers death, but whenever it does a flit across my mind, the questions surrounding it flit along just behind. The frustration of severed relationships is the unanswered questions! With my father long dead, my mother out of the picture at the time, and my fathers sisters all now dead, I know the questions will never be answered – ever! But that knowledge doesn’t make them go away! So, here are my demons. My reasons for listing them is purely to dump them! To many, the questions will be unfathomable without the back story. For a few, the poignancy of them will hit a feeling of deja vu in their own lives. There are many sad stories out there, and they nearly all have their unanswered questions.

Some questions are simple and straight forward – almost ruminations in their own right. Others are complex. Because questions demand answers, the fact that answers will not be forthcoming almost negates them. But they live on, and I will go to my grave knowing that only at that point do they no longer exist.

  • Where in the hell did Nancy Thompson come from! How did my father find her, and what possessed him to think that bringing such a hard, unfeeling woman into the house would be a good thing! I mean…she smoked, and he hated smoking! What were the conditions of her employment? She certainly had more disposable income than my mother ever had! I went clothes shopping with her, so I know! Was he seeing her before bringing her home? Was she a fling? It certainly went from plutonic to sexual very quickly – even as a 12yo I knew that! Her, and her son Stephen were such hateful, spiteful people, and I can’t believe he wasn’t aware of that. When questioned in court at the hearings into Kevin’s death, she stated that I was an effeminate child! Was that opinion voiced to my father? And after he finally got her out of the home unit in Kogarah – whatever happened to her? I pray that no other family was subjected to her! For someone who blew into our lives for such a short period of time, chaos followed in her wake! She is as much responsible for Kevin’s death as my father, yet I have little doubt that she left with a clear conscience! I hope Kharma has delivered justice!
  • What were my fathers thought processes on the day of Kevin’s death? It had been such an ordinary evening up until the instant he pulled up in front of our house! Was it a spontaneous action, or was it pre-meditated? At any stage, had the same course been set out for me? Frightening…but the thought remains! What was going on in his head as he drove to The Gap? Surely you can’t take your own sons life blithely, with no thought to the implications, the trauma, the horror! It’s a long drive from Sylvania. At no time did he not want to turn back! It’s not a question – it’s a nightmare!
  • And the most harrowing thought of all – did Kevin suffer! How quickly did he die in the cold waters of Watson’s Bay. Was he knocked out or killed on impact – I truly hope so! He trusted my father – was he aware of the betrayal? What flashes of thought as he eent over that cliff! The sheer horror wrenches at the heart!
  • Was my father guilty about his own survival? The actual event – threw Kevin over, or jumped over with him – has never been ascertained! It is one of the great unanswered questions. Did he invent a story to cover-up the deed? Indeed, we’ll never know!
  • After being released from gaol – what a joke all that was, and no justice for Kevin – did he seriously think…in typical 60s fashion…that life would just go on like nothing had happened? Did not talking about it mean it never happened? Was the thinking that the events of that time had had no affect on me whatsoever? Kevin was swept under the rug like a pile of dust! It was like he never existed! On the day he arrived home, Nancy took me to the front gate and told me to run to mert and embrace him! I didn’t even want to know of his existence! The only thing crossing my mind was – why was he back here! And did I still have to call him dad! His touch was abhorrent! For all the years up until his suicide there was no love, or respect! And I think Kevin’s death was his demon up until the day he died!
  • And then the great questions about Kevin and myself as siblings. What would our relationship have been like as we got oldrr? Would he have been straight or gay? If he was straight, would he have married…surely, one would think! Would he have had children? Would I be a great uncle? Would we have shared confidences? Would we be close – as when we were children – or distant?
  • And what is perhaps the first and greatest question – how totally different would life have been if mum never left home, for this was the catalyst for all that was to come! I like my life, and I like that for much of it I have had the freedom to live it my own way, with no questions, and few fears. Would it have panned out the same if circumstances had been different! That is a very interesting question. That I would end up gay wss inevitable…but would the process be different? I actually don’t want an answer to that one!

It is said, probably with great wisdom, that one should never question what is, try to imagine the “what ifs” of life, as that is not how it has gone. It is what it is! We all know that, but as thinking, reasoning beings it is inevitable that what could be seen as sage advice is not going to be heeded. We are curious animals, and life’s great unknowns frustrate and intrigue us! Any relationship that is abruptly terminated is always going to leave questions in its wake. The worst of it is knowing that even if my father were still alive, the questions would, in large part, still be unanswered! 

Perhaps that is what destiny held in store. At least now, they have been voiced!

Tim Alderman (2017)

 

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Exorcising Demons!

I hate my parents! No…perhaps that is a bit strong, having now written it. I dislike my parents…closer to the point, but now a little too soft.. I’m indifferent towards my parents is perhaps closer to the truth. Yes, I choose to ignore them, and in many instances, regret having to admit that they ever existed at all.

Maybe they loved each other, maybe they didn’t. God knows, love wasn’t exactly a subject openly discussed or displayed as my brother, Kevin, and I grew up. It is sad that Kevin had to be the one to pay the price for whatever did not exist (https://timalderman.com/2012/04/23/kevin-pickhills-the-unspoken-name/) and for what was not discussed, in their relationship. Did we have a happy childhood? In truth, I would have to say yes, though I’m aware that having said that, it is only myself that I speak for. Kevin may have been of another opinion, though, of course, we will never know if that is so.. He has been in his grave for the last 49 years, but I can assume that he would agree with me on that one point – a happy childhood.

It wasn’t difficult to have a happy childhood in the 50’s, and early 60’s. In fact, it appeared that childhood was destined to be that way, almost as if preordained. The weather was perfect – though there are those who say that idyllic weather is part of a co-joined memory of everyone’s childhood – we had perfect neighbour’s, perfect house, perfect pets, and apart from the fact that this is Australia we are talking about, it could almost have been a real-life episode of ‘Father Knows Best’. I was given reasonably free rein to roam Sylvania with my mates, and my dog, Trixie. Kevin in those days was a bit of a millstone around an older brothers neck, but who did not see younger siblings in that light? A necessary evil, in fact.

My childhood, like most who lived through those times was, in many respects, an urban myth. Up until the end of the first decade of our lives, the Easter bunny still delivered Easter eggs, the tooth fairy still left money for dearly departed teeth, and Santa stll came on Christmas Eve to deliver pre-ordered gifts. The only swear word I knew was ‘bloody’ – and had my backside beaten for using it – girls were definitely yucky; and when a school pal whispered into my ear one day about what I actually had to do to a girl to get her pregnant, I screamed, threw my hands in the air and ran!. Nobody would ever do anything that disgusting! Perhaps an inkling of my future lifestyle there! Anyway, I had watched a movie on television by this time, and had it on full authority – in my own mind – that women got pregnant by being kissed, which is why I went out of my way to avoid those situations.

Was it obvious that my mother was unhappy, and planned to desert our happy home? I wouldn’t say it was obvious, but I certainly knew that something wasn’t right. When I got home from school the afternoon she left, and found her gone, I can’t say I was really surprised. In later years, when I was temporarily reunited with her after my fathers suicide, she confided to me that she knew my father was having an affair. She also confided to me, with a lack of detail thankfully, that he was a deviant. I never took this accusation too seriously. Considering her upbringing and conservatism, ‘deviancy’ could have been something as simple as oral sex. I was more concerned with the issue of her leaving us with a father who was to prove mentally unstable. She claimed that when she left, she had no idea where she was going, or what she was going to do. She couldn’t have managed dragging two young children along with her. I accepted that explanation though must admit to never being entirely happy with it.

That my father was unfaithful to her, I never doubted. Within a fortnight of her leaving, a housekeeper named Nancy was suddenly introduced into the home. It wasn’t that she was identified as ‘housekeeper’ so much as the fact that she knew a little bit too much about us, was a little too familiar with the house. Add to this the fact that she spent the first night on the divan on the back verandah, then suddenly moved into the master bedroom – on my mother’s side of the bed – and even a twelve-year-old doesn’t have problems doing the math. Kevin and I hated her from day one. She was trying to act like a mother, but she knew she wasn’t, so discipline was a problem from the beginning. I hated her because she wouldn’t take orders – well, not from me at any rate. As far as I was concerned, housekeepers took orders. That was something else I learnt from television, and it also proved to be a lie.

For my poor brother, life became an absolute misery. You have to remember that these were still days of witchcraft, and ignorance. If my brother had lived another ten years, he would inevitably have been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). However, in a time of witchcraft, his chronic disobedience, his problems with learning, and his hyperactivity were considered to by symptomatic of mental deficiency, and that was exactly how Nancy treated him – as someone who wasn’t ‘all there’. I had no problems with him, he was my brother, and pain in the neck or not, I had the patience of a saint with him, teaching him language, and reciting nursery rhymes to him until he knew them verbatim. He spoke what my parents referred to as ‘double Dutch’, and even though they had trouble understanding a single thing he said, I was always there to translate. I could never work out why they could never understand him! He spoke quite clearly, as far as I was concerned. But Nancy wasn’t even liberal enough to want him to have a translator. She just wanted him out. She was about to get her way.

Nag! Nag! Nag! God, if Nancy could do anything, she could nag. Some women are just born to it, and she was one of them. She treated Kevin and I like criminals and outcasts. We were watched 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and nothing crept by her – believe me, I tried. But worse than dobbing on me to my father for my occasional raids on the sacred biscuit tin, worse than alienating us from our friends and neighbours – you wouldn’t believe how many people she poisoned my father against, or in turn poisoned them against us – was that she picked on Kevin. I couldn’t protect or defend him from her. She was like an unrelenting demon from hell. If he looked at her the wrong way, if he spoke to loudly, played when she wanted him to sleep, spoke when she wanted him to be silent, she was on his case. And she made sure the old man knew all about it when he got home from work – and that was ever the threat. Finally he cracked, just caved in to what she wanted.

Fuck, he was a weak man! I think that shits me more than anything. He sprouted all the morality and principles on God’s earth, but when it came down to brass tacks, he just gave in to whatever was easiest. I could never believe that just getting rid of Nancy never seemed to be an option. Fuck knows, nobody else would have put up with her. Compared to my mother, she lived a life of royalty. I have tried to work out over the years how she
managed to stretch the money my old man gave her to do things that mum never seemed able to manage. The only conclusions I can come to are that he either gave her a hell of a lot more money than mum ever saw, or she had an income outside of what she earned housekeeping for us. It is a question that will never be answered now. Christ, she even moved her son into the house, who in turn became Demon from Hell #2. My old man even did up a car for him, and moved him into my brothers bed, which heaven knows he had no need for, being dead at this time. Which I guess brings us to Nancy’s revenge, and what was to be her downfall.

That Kevin would never have gone over The Gap at Watsons Bay, on that fateful 16 December 1965 night if Nancy had not come along is not even a debatable point.nit would not have happened. Full stop! Even my mother suffered unaccountable guilt over my fathers actions, beating herself up over leaving home, leaving us in such volatile predicaments. Did Nancy herself ever feel guilt over what happened? In my observations…no! To her, a oroblem had been removed and life went on. Her alienation of people we knew now carried over to visiting sympathisers, close family, the media! She closed ranks, and not because it protected anyone, but because it was a further extension of her power. My curiosity at trying to come to terms with what had happened, trying to comprehend the sheer personal agony of it, was met with icy emotion, steel resolve that nothing and nobody was going to offer me any enrapturing arms, and sympathetic tears.

While all this turmoil went on, several other events occurred – I was, at no time, informed about what was going on with my father! I was kept completely in the dark, and apart from what I have been able to glean from press reports at the time, I am still in the dark about. I wasn’t even jotified of his fourt cases! There was an attempt by my mother to take me back, which happened with such sudden and unexpected ferocity that it had the opposite effect on my to what it should have had…it scared the life out of me, and sent me bolting to a heighbours home for protection. And there was a custody battle between my mother and father, accompanied by threats – truly – from jy fathers sisters on what I was to say to the judge to ensure my father – certainly not my parent of choice – retained custody. Nobody gave a flying fuck about what I wanted…it was all about spite, vindictiveness and control! Being a 12 year-old in the 60s was not to have ant rights. You just did what you were told! 

As for my fathers brief incarceration, there was one visit, and ai was “encouraged” to write regularly, whether ai wanted to or not.  Upon his release, Nancy stage nanaged his coming home to be a scene out of “Leave It To Beaver”, complete with me running up the road and his loving arms! It was done reluctantly, I can assure you. My father and zi effectively had no relationship from that time on, and when he committed suicide via darbon monoxide poisoning in 1978, there were no tears shed on my part. After hus return, life’s disruptions continued, with the selling of our Melrose Ave home, moving to a shoebox flat in Kogarah – still with Nancy in tow – a name change from Pickhills to Phillips, and me having to change schools, leaving behind everything and everyone I knew. I ended up at a Marist Brothers boarding school in Campbelltown.

Still, there was one consolation – and again, it was unexpected, and came like a bolt from the blue. Dad arrived home at the flat one day, just in time to hear Nancy in one of her vitriolic tirades at me, for having helped jyself to a buscuit from the Sacred Biscuit Tin! Now, whether he suspected that this may have been going on, or whether he was surprised to find it going on I will never know. Suffice it to say that, for the only time in our relationship, he stuck up for me, and bundled me into the car and took me to an aunties. I never saw Nancy again! Like ai cared!

My father and I never reconciled over Kevin’s death. Like with most of the unpleasant things that occurred in his life, he just pretended it never happened. Not Nancy, not my father, nor any of his family ever mentioned Kevin’s name again. It would be 35 years later before ai felt comfortable, and able, to write about his death, to tell his story. A reconciliation with my mother just after his death likewise proved futile and fruitless. Too kuch water under the bridge by then. I believe she is still alive, and in yer 80s. If my stepfathers death is any gauge, I will hear of her death several years after the event. I am not expecting to shed tears over that event, either’!

Tim Alderman (C) 2015