Just after my HSC back in late 1986 I had gone up onto the balcony upstairs and climbed over to lie on the roof ledge in a moment of desperation and insanity. I’d just had another fight with my parents. Part of me felt like jumping off the ledge but it crossed my mind that I could break my hips so I decided to stay put where I was in the sweltering heat of another hot Sydney summer. A few days later I stormed out of the house making my way toward Artarmon by foot to enroll at the TAFE there to repeat my HSC for failing it. My father yelled at me before I left the house and asked me at the top of his lungs, “Where are you going? You don’t have any bus fare!”

“I’m walking to North Sydney TAFE,” I yelled back with fury. I didn’t care what was going to happen to me along the way.

“What!? Are you out of your mind?”

But I ignored my dad and continued walking. I was dressed in a white cotton blouse, teal green leaf-print cotton skirt, and my mum’s beige Homyped wedge shoes. I walked down from the Hunters Hill overpass going into Linley Point where I saw out of the corner of my eye the mustard yellow colour of my dad’s Volkswagen station wagon coming towards me. He stopped just ahead of me. My father shouted, “Get in!” I did and my father then took me to North Sydney TAFE where I enrolled to redo my HSC for 1987.

Some years later I had a dream of standing on the ledge of the staircase upstairs looking down surprised to find the stairs below were missing. In this dream, my dad stood below telling me to come down right now. What? Is he mad? I had thought to myself and what was I supposed to do – float down or fly down defying gravity? Out of the question! On waking up from this dream I realised my dad always had completely unrealistic expectations of me.

Fast forward forty-five years later, my partner Norman is someone who stood on the same roof ledge upstairs inspecting the gutter to help clear it. He hosed down the leaves and pushed the debris and gunk down the pipes with his gloved hand as he stood there with one hand on his hip confidently. He then surveyed the vista of the roof ledge barefooted.

“Do you want to wear thongs for your feet?” I asked.

“Yes, that would be good, thanks.”

So I went downstairs and got them and brought them up for him.

“Do you know how many stairs there are in this house?” My father once asked me.


“Count them and tell me how many there are as I’ve counted them.”

So I did but I thought to myself who in their right mind would do this?

“Well, how many are there?”


“See that’s how I notice these things and you don’t.”

“Who cares.”

Now forty-five years later my partner Norman is no different from my father in giving me instructions to transfer my file from the computer onto the USB. He keeps repeating his instructions over and over again. He’s very pedantic just like my father would be.

“No, do it again and we’ll go through it at least three times til you remember it. Now let’s do it once more.”

“I don’t want to do it anymore.”

“No, no keep going, try again.”

But even after a fifth attempt my recall of such matters is still dubious.

Back in 1998 I won third prize in a poetry competition. I paid eighty dollars to place an order for the book. My dad said:

“Why are you spending money to be published instead of making money? You can’t make any money from your writing.”

I became so enraged upon hearing this that I ripped out several pages from the poetry book. That book with its missing pages is a constant reminder to me of that day.

However recently finding that a mathematics dictionary was stolen by my former helper Mimi has triggered me very badly. This event turned my life upside down. I felt my life falling apart because of her four years of theft from me and my family. My HSC certificate is also missing. This is the extent of how warped, compulsive, and invasive her theft has been. These days I keep frantically ordering copies of different versions of Mathematics Dictionaries published by Oxford, Penguin, Harper Collins, etc desperately trying to find the exact copy that my father had bought. The other week a delivery arrived of the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Mathematics. I knew it wasn’t the exact copy that my dad had but at least it made me feel a step closer to reclaiming a memory of my late father.

*Artwork titled “Home of My Mother” by Hae-Lyun Kang. Hae-Lyun posts her artwork on Instagram.

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