Memories of my dad
Tracy Bartram’s story of her father struck a chord with listeners
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.