Growing up without a Dad…..

I grew up in a household that I can only describe as a fairly “normal” Australian family to be a part of. A Mum, a Dad, two older sisters and two dachshunds. We had an Auntie Thelma who was 24 years older than my Mum, who had a daughter around the same age….. and then she went on to have two boys who were really my mum’s nephews, but they kind of all grew up together as siblings. Like I said, “fairly Normal.” They were a “good Catholic Family” from Moonee Ponds. Mum’s Dad had died when she was only nineteen….. So I never got to meet him. I think Dad’s Dad died when I was a baby, so again, I never got to meet him properly either. Dad had one brother, who for most of my life that I can remember lived with Dad’s Mum Nana Val. So I had Thelma’s husband who was of course my Uncle, but more like a Pop or Grandad, and then I had my Dad…. who filled many male shoes in my life. Dad worked very hard….. always. For as long as I remember he worked for Qantas…. before that it was called Australian Airlines, before that it was TAA! I’m pretty sure he nearly hit forty years there when he retired a few years ago. He worked crazy shift work hours for the entire time, and juggled us three girls while Mum put herself through a Catholic Teaching Degree between working for a bank and Travelodge at the airport. They worked for everything they ever got in life, and they earned every last bit of it. I remember that Dad had a VW Combi and Mum had a VW Buggy. My sisters and I as we got older used to ask them to drop us at least a block or two away from wherever we were going as they both had such loud and obvious engine noises. The kids at school would yell “Ya Mum needs a new Muffler!!!!” as she drove off down the street in her “clown car!” It’s so funny now what used to worry us so much back then….. it was always about what the other kids thought. I guess that hasn’t changed in schools…. but we were so caught up in what was cool, the latest skates, clothes, what kind of music player we owned…. that we never stopped to think about how hard they worked to give us the option. I see that in my kids all the time….. you think they’re completely self absorbed…. and they are, because they don’t see out of the little bubble which is their world. We feed them, clothe them, clean them, give them money, buy them things, bail them out of trouble….. and protect them from the “other” side of happiness. My parents really did an amazing job of this with me. Until I was thirteen or fourteen I was a happy little content kid in my happy little bubble….. Then I got what we call “hormones.” Have you ever said that word slowly and really thought about how ironic it is?? It turned a lovely little girl into the devil incarnate….. and it nearly killed my parents. I started wanting to do what my older sisters had well and truly done…. smoking, drinking, sneaking out of the house to see live bands. Staying at mates houses, but really drinking in public parks and then walking the streets back to their houses and vomiting in their bins/toilets/gardens….. I really did prove to Mum and Dad that some kids really can be as sweet as pie one day, and shit in your face the next. In year nine at the ripe old age of fourteen going on fifteen (already onto High school number three)…. I thought it was about time to move out of my “Oh so complicated ” household. I moved in with a mates Dad, brother and herself, and started my independent life of working at La Porchetta at night, and going to High School during the day. Or sometimes going…..! I got myself a long term boyfriend who was really my best mate….. and in fact he stuck with me for three years, (three of my craziest and out of control) and was a really good guy, luckily! I managed to survive the next tumultuous couple of years before I “forgave” my parents for just not “getting me” and moved back home. I felt like they were lucky I came back…… yet I was most certainly the lucky one. I moved to my fourth High School which did thankfully end up being fourth time lucky… and I started to piece my life back together with music. I made some of my closest friends at Footscray City. It was the most relaxed and creative school I’d even known…. Free dress to express the inner self, music wasn’t singing in a Choir but it was rock bands…. Creative writing was a subject and you could literally express yourself in any way you felt you could get your message across…… It was wonderful. I had found my place in life. Mum and Dad just kept on supporting me…. no matter what trouble I seemed to always find myself in….. and on my eighteenth birthday they turned up to my house (Yup, I had moved out at seventeen with the next boyfriend) with a Combi Van, complete with the biggest purple bow wrapped around it you’ve ever seen. Could I get any luckier? Although I seemed to always choose the difficult path in life, it was the way I learned and it wasn’t about to change. It still hasn’t. Throughout my years of smoking too much, boozing too much, in and out of jobs, apprenticeships and many other “this is it” ideas…. Dad just kept his foot in my life. I remember he would turn up at nine or ten on a Saturday or Sunday morning, walk in with bags of food shopping, step over bodies, ash trays, beer bottles and God only knows what else, he would clear a space in the kitchen, put the food away and make himself a green tea! We would sit and chat and I never felt judged by him. He might ask if I was looking after myself, if I was happy, but he wouldn’t tell me I was a pig, or a disgrace to the family. He was always the epitome of the kind of Dad anyone would want to be. He still is. I know that Trenton adored him, (as he did his own) and strived to be more like the two of them the whole time he was a parent. He had brilliant qualities from the two of them…. along with his own quirky ones! Trent and I spoke a lot about life…… it was probably a weekly ritual, our D & M’s always ended up being about our incredible families and we wondered how he would cope when any of our parents died. We literally couldn’t comprehend it. We wondered how our lives would have been had our parents not been so there for us. I mean we both knew plenty of people who had not been so lucky…. some of them were incredible…. some not so much. So the importance to us of being there for our beautiful girls was priceless.. I bet if he had one major regret of being taken from this Earth way too soon, it would be not being able to be there for those girls through some of the toughest years of their lives. And that’s where I struggle the most. My girls lost one of their favourite people on Earth. One that “would” have been there like mine and his, through thick and thin, through good and bad. He was nothing if not determined to drag those kids through teenage-hood, so we could go ahead and start enjoying the next phase of young adult-hood. I have no idea on this planet how I will do this with them, but no him. My Dad started coming up every Tuesday after Trent died so that I could go out and do something unrelated to my life. It started out as Pottery classes. It quickly moved to the pub instead! But once a week without fail he would come and let me out of my private hell, to just be Emma, a woman in severe pain and grief. Because at all other times when he wasn’t here and I wasn’t out, I was the mother of six and ten year old girls who had just experienced having their Dad ripped from their lives, sadly right in front of their very eyes. It’s a tough job to hold down, and not lose your mind completely. He still comes every Thursday, limping around in agony as he waits for his double knee replacement in June. He never complains, he never loses it at the girls, he tries to get them to help me more, and he gives them cuddles that would melt your heart. He brings this giant teddy bear kind of love into the house that Trenton had in abundance….. and it’s helping them in a simple way that I can’t. I wish they’d gotten to keep theirs for longer than they had him…… even though he left a Trenton sized impressions in their hearts. He will never be forgotten. xxxxxxx