Open Heart Surgery: Reunion and Reconciliation Interviews Part III and IV

David Eptston and Wally McKenzie, with David Bullen, Glen Simblett, and John Crockett



Reunion Interview

Participants: David Epston, Wally McKenzie, Maryann (13), Bill (father)

David: How do you remember what happened?

Maryann: And then Wally got me meeting with Dad. And I got to talk about him, all the questions and worries I had and it just kind of changed everything.

David: Do you two remember the document you signed?

Maryann: Yah.

David: Wally, why do you recall introducing the UNDERSTANDING?

Wally: My recollection was – tell me if I remember this rightly – but one of the things was that you were worried t hat your dad might be angry with you. That was a worry you had.

Maryann: Yah…yah.

Bill: That’s true.

Wally: So I think we talked about that if you could get some assurance that your dad would really listen and take you seriously, that would be okay? It think that’s how we got to write up the UNDERSTANDING. And that’s when I met with you and we talked this through and we both signed it and we talked about how it wasn’t a legal thing. It wasn’t a contract rather it was an UNDERSTANDING.

Bill: That’s right.

Wally: With this UNDERSTANDING that you and I had, we signed a copy and you kept one and I took the other copy back to Maryann so that she could see that we were taking this seriously.

Maryann: Yah, that’s right.

David: Maryann, why did you trust in the UNDERSTANDING?

Maryann: I had been to Wally before and he’s really good. So he had helped me out before.

David: Bill, how did you respond to the idea of entering into this UNDERSTANDING practice?

Bill: I actually liked the idea because it gave us both something to really work at and start looking at where our problems were.

David: Did you think it was over dramatic in a way?

Bill: No, I don’t think it is. It’s just making a new start from this date and saying ‘hey our relationship seems to be foundering somewhere between me and my daughter because of all sorts of influences and things. This gives us another start…. where to head for in the future. I think that’s what it did for me. It gave us something to work on and put the past behind us.


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David: Wally, how do you remember Maryann in those days?

Wally: I remember talking about the things we’re talking about now….being worried about whether her dad would be angry or whether he would just go away from her. You worried about being boring. And I recall you really wanting to have time to yourself and your Dad.

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David: How do you think your Dad lived up to his side of the UNDERSTANDING?

Maryann: He did very good. We’ve got on well; we really get on well now. I can tell Dad whatever I want.

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Bill: I was used to doing all the telling and she just did the following. And then they get to the stage where they want to open up and say ‘hey, I’m me now Dad, I’d like you to be like this’.

David: Do you remember your Dad being different in what he did on that particular day?

Maryann: I remember thinking how serious he was. I couldn’t believe he was taking me seriously. I was just thinking – ‘This is a side of Dad I have never seen before. I had seen the fun loving side of Dad and the angry side of Da.d

David: And did you come to appreciate your father differently?

Maryann: Yah, I did. It made me appreciate how I can open up Æ to someone and how I could have a relationship built back up.

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David: Wally, as you were witnessing this, what did you think was happening?

Wally: I thought there was some amazing reconnection again. And I thought Bill that was what you had really wanted all along, but for reasons unknown, that hadn’t been able to happen and you two were drifting further and further apart. But when we all came together, you two really put yourselves on the line. You took each other so seriously. And from thereon, everything happened so quickly and amazingly.

Bill: It was really. I think it would have been so hard to generate that ourselves when you are just meeting on weekends and you are so grateful to see her, you don’t actually want to go into a real deep discussion that might upset her.

David: Were you kind of holding back on the relationship?

Bill: I guess I had been concerned for the relationship for awhile and I was holding back. But I didn’t k now I was.

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David: It this hadn’t happened and you just matured naturally, how much ahead of yourself did you get by doing what you did?

Maryann: Probably about two years in a very short space of time.

David: Was that observable to you, Bill?

Bill: It was; it was. She came right out of her shell….She just changed. And she was bubbly – ‘Hi Dad, I’m here!’

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Bill: Because at the meeting we had with Wally, I saw that Maryann had those sort of feelings.

Maryann: I gained trust in Dad again. I could actually say something and he would take me so seriously.

David: How do you think a young boy or girl your age could lose trust in their father?

Maryann: Their dad would be always yelling at them and then they get to thinking – ‘If I say anything, h e’ll yell at me’. And you think he doesn’t want to know you and all that kind of thing.

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David: Bill, if another father was in your shoes and he came and said you ‘I heard about the state your father-daughter relationship was in and then you got it going again’. How would you describe it to him?

Bill: You’ve got to be prepared to listen …to be prepared to step back and listen to what your daughter or son is saying to you. Sure you’ve got your own ideas what you want but you’ve actually got to step back and listen to them because they are starting to become individuals.

Wally: Could you say a bit more because I meet a lot of fathers who believe they are listening when their children don’t.

Bill: He listens but he speaks what he wants. He sti Åll rules what he wants. For example, they might sit down and talk but it ….

Maryann: Goes in one ear and out the other.

Bill: So it’s not surprising he just goes back to what he said and not understand she has got feelings and may want to do things differently. You know they’ve got feelings. They can actually speak what they think. That’s what that meeting did for us. You know your kids aren’t still going to come to you if you don’t listen to them. You actually have to sit down and when they look at you, look at them in the eye and really listen to what they are saying. Just forget everything you are doing and listen.

Maryann: I don’t want gifts. All I want, Dad, is your trust in me and listening to me.


Reconciliation Interview

Participants: Wally McKenzie, Glen Simblett, Four Sisters aged…..

That’s his second wife, Jenny and she poisoned him against us a lot of the time. But he said from the very, very beginning that he was going to look after himself. That he was looking after his own happiness. So when he went and divorced Mum, he divorced us.

I suppose for me because I felt that he did kind of divorce us as well. I was second in his life and I made more of an effort as far as I possibly could as a nine year old. I did everything that I could to try and get that right with him. I failed tremendously and amazingly but I tried.

It was really, really hurtful because he knew it was wrong but he didn’t do anything about it. He was really stupid. I told him on his wedding day that it was the worst day of my life. Even three or four years ago, I tried so hard to get his attention. Even last year, I went to the lengths of trying to commit suicide just to get his attention. It worked for about three months.

When he got married again, he locked the door on us.


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I’m not sure why mothers stick with their kids more than men do. It’s maybe cause in marriages, the fathers rely on the mothers.

Yeah for emotion.

Yeah for everything. I don’t know, they just give the mother the responsibility when they leave. The just think – ‘Oh well, it’s the mother’s responsibility’.

Fathers give mothers the responsibility for everything. Looking after . . . picking up the pieces. . . . loving. They just can’t be bothered.

I wouldn’t say every man. I certainly reckon Dad did. He totally relied on mum for everything. . . picking up the pieces. . . wiping up the tears and cleaning up the mess.

I don’t know if he relied on her. He was just oblivious to it and it wasn’t his arena to look after. Or it wasn’t his responsibility so maybe if she does it, that’s fine.

Keep the kids quiet when I come home for my dinner. Keep them out of my hair when I go and weight train and do everything else. I might tuck them in bed sometimes and that’s it. That’s my l Ñittle bit done. Leave your mother to do the rest. That’s the sort of attitude he’s been taking.

Does that way of fathering kids convince fathers that once they separate form the mothers, they can just let the mothers get on with it and drift out of the picture?

I think its a relief for them. They don’t have to have the problem.

It’s real selfishness. It’s like – ‘Oh Mum’s looked after it anyway so I wouldn’t want to tear them away from their mother. I’ll just get on with my own life.

I think that that’s what Dad sort of thought. Who cares you know? They’re kids. Leave them alone. They’ll be all right. Little did he know we needed him so much. He’s just recently figured that out and goes on to say – ‘Oh, I never stopped loving you kids’ and all that sort of stuff. I just feel like saying ‘Where’s the evidence. Like when did you show that to us? I’ve forgotten. I can’t remember how Åyou showed your love for us’. 

I remember him giving me a card for my ninth birthday. The fact that he had made an effort, I kept that piece of paper for years, just because he had made an effort and it was just so precious. He had never ever been a father before he split up with Mum. 

He just changed his circumstances. Even if he had stayed with Mum, he wouldn’t have been the father that any of us girls needed. He was never there emotionally. He never talked to us.

What can a father do to show his son or daughter that he is there?

Maybe put his kids before weight lifting.

I think caring. Talking. Asking how our school day was. What did we do. Want to see the work that we did at school and stuff. Things like that. Talking about the little things that build up. Being proud of us. Knowing what we’ve done and how we’ve achieved and being proud of that.

I would usually end up when I œ talked to him wanting some answers to some pretty heavy questions like – ‘Why aren’t you the father you’re supposed to be?

‘Why have you failed us? ‘Why aren’t you interested in us?’And he never ever gives you a satisfactory answer and it just devastates you more.

Can I ask you, when do you think your love for your father died?

When – I don’t know the exact time but every time her hurt me, it was like something died. Like I tried and I tried to be the daughter that I thought he wanted me to be. I tried but time and time again, he hurt me so much.

It was the same with me though.

For example, the fact that he wanted to live anything I benefited from like my university allowance. But that was just building and building and building up of the many, many, many things he has done. Sometimes he treated me like a child, sometimes like an adult. But nothing was fair in any way, shape or form and I have come to the point that I will not be devastated any more.