Mem­o­ries of my dad

Tracy Bar­tram’s story of her fa­ther struck a chord with lis­ten­ers

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - GREG THOM

TELLING the story on video of the frac­tious re­la­tion­ship she shared with her al­co­holic fa­ther wasn’t the hard part for Tracy Bar­tram. Watch­ing it was. It has taken two years for Bar­tram, her­self a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic, to come to terms with her fa­ther Ted’s death from a brain tu­mour.

Af­ter a life­time of be­ing at each other’s throats and five years of not talk­ing to each other, the volatile re­la­tion­ship was only rec­on­ciled in the 10 months be­fore his death.

De­spite the emo­tional pain and an­guish, Bar­tram, a for­mer FOX FM break­fast show host, didn’t hes­i­tate when she was asked to tell her story on the 774 ABC web­site.

The idea came about when Bar­tram, who was fill­ing in on the na­tional broad­caster for reg­u­lar host Red Sy­mons, opened her life to lis­ten­ers and re­vealed her fa­ther was not ex­pected to live.

She told her au­di­ence how the pre­vi­ous day her fam­ily had held a wake in her fa­ther’s hon­our — even though he was still alive — as a chance for fam­ily and friends to spend time with him be­fore he died.

The heart­felt ad­mis­sion prompted a flood of calls from lis­ten­ers who had also held cel­e­bra­tions for loved ones whose time was near.

It also sparked an idea from ABC pro­gram di­rec­tor Steve Kyte, who had orig­i­nally en­cour­aged Bar­tram to share her thoughts on air, to cre­ate an Aus­tralian Story-style video se­ries for the web.

The re­sult is Tracy’s Story, a four­part ‘‘vod­cast’’, the last of which goes live on the ABC ra­dio web­site to­day. Each in­stal­ment, all of which are about five min­utes long, ex­plores the dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship be­tween Tracy and her fa­ther, backed by can­did and re­veal­ing in­ter­views with fam­ily and friends.

Bar­tram says it was a cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘I didn’t re­alise how hard it was go­ing to be un­til I sat down to write it,’’ she says. ‘‘I ac­tu­ally found lis­ten­ing to the au­dio very dif­fi­cult.’’

Bar­tram says she was touched by the con­tri­bu­tions from those who par­tic­i­pated, such as staff at her fa­ther’s nurs­ing home and res­i­dents who knew him well and were able to of­fer per­sonal in­sights into the kind of man he was.

‘‘I know how dif­fi­cult it is work­ing in aged care be­cause of my ex­pe­ri­ence there and the love that they poured upon my fa­ther was as­ton­ish­ing, not be­cause he was my dad, but be­cause he was a per­son and they loved him in his own right.’’

Bar­tram says she found the vod­casts an in­no­va­tive way to tell such a per­sonal story.

‘‘That’s what I love about the ABC. On the one hand it’s a gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion, on the other hand there’s an op­por­tu­nity there to be re­ally creative and do some­thing out of the box.

‘‘In this day and age where things are just so in­cred­i­bly ho­mogenised on so many lev­els within the me­dia, it’s great to see some­thing a lit­tle bit left of cen­tre.’’

The project not only helped Bar­tram achieve some de­gree of clo­sure af­ter her fa­ther’s death, but struck a chord with mem­bers of the pub­lic.

She quotes one for­mer lis­tener writ­ing on her Face­book page who was moved to deal with a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in her own life.

‘‘I watched part three of Tracy’s Story and then do you know what I did? I went and rang my dad and we talked for half an hour and then as we were hang­ing up, we both said ‘I love you’ to each other. Thank you for re­mind­ing me how im­por­tant he is in my life,’’ the woman wrote.

Bar­tram says the mes­sage ‘‘never go to bed an­gry’’.

‘‘Peo­ple die and they’ve never said ‘I love you’ or ac­tu­ally re­solved some­thing they’ve been sulk­ing over for five years,’’ she says.

‘‘Even my hus­band will say to me ‘give me a kiss. It might be the last time we see each other’. You’ve just got to re­mem­ber that.

‘‘So I just think it’s (the vod­cast) a lovely thing and I’m re­ally grate­ful to the ABC for do­ing it.’’



af­ter years of es­trange­ment, Tracy Bar­tram and her fa­ther were rec­on­ciled be­fore his death.

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