I was born overseas, but adopted when I was 8 weeks old. I was brought up mainly by my mother; my father was in and out whenever it suited him. When I was 2, Mum and I went away to convention and when we got home, my father had cleaned out the bank accounts and left. So my mother was essentially a single mother. She ended up being my Mum, dad, and best friend, she was everything to me.
My mother was a peacekeeper and always took my father back in, even when she knew he had been seeing other women. She was such a caring and kind person. Even in the periods when he was living separately, he would constantly be calling us to see what we were doing; he liked to be in control. He would constantly put me down and make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t think he even realised he was doing it. I honestly think that he never properly learned how to love when he was growing up. He wanted to be loved, but he didn’t know how to love back. He was the sort of person who would take Mum’s last cent and give it to somebody else. One of those people who are all about their image to others, but fail to consider those closest to them.
He wasn’t the worst of people and I don’t think he intended to cause us so much emotional hurt, but he certainly didn’t treat us properly. Most of the time I remember being either afraid of him or angry at him, but sometimes I felt sorry for him. He was somebody who loved to be the center of attention, who loved to make people laugh, who had to be the big guy. Sometimes I felt a bit like a trophy; something to be shown off, but not to be interacted with. I was supposed to stand there, be quiet, and look pretty so as to make him look good. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my personality; I was always an opinionated little thing who loved to debate and who would always stick up for Mum when he was yelling at her. His favourite line to me was ‘nobody asked you for your two cents worth.’
Life with him was like being on a rollercoaster: one minute he would be doing something nice for me, and the next, he would be yelling at me. I remember he took me once to see the movie ‘Milo and Otis’, which was one of those nice things. However, I became very upset because I felt sorry for the poor cat who was out on his own. My father was so angry at me for spoiling our time together and promised it was the last time he would take me to the movies. He was one of those sensitive types: the ones who take everything personally. I guess I’m a bit like that too, though.
I suppose it made him feel better to belittle Mum and I, a bit of a confidence booster for him. I was a very academic child, a perfectionist. I would come home with a report card full of As and he would say ‘Diary: Satisfactory, what does that mean?’ He would always find the one bad thing and pick on that, never encouraging me for anything good I did. That was really hurtful for me because I’ve always been a perfectionist, or maybe his constant criticism made me into a perfectionist, I don’t know. He would often say things to me like ‘no wonder you haven’t got any friends’. Not surprisingly, I’ve grown up with lots of insecurities.
I always used to think Mum was weak for not standing up to him, but I realise now what strength it took for her to keep forgiving him and to keep a wonderful calm spirit. There are so many things that happened that I didn’t even know about because she never complained. That isn’t to say that I condone domestic physical or emotional abuse in any way, and I would definitely have preferred for her to have got rid of him. I would say that emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse; there were so many times as a child where I wished he would just hit me so I could go to the police and make sure he didn’t come near us again. There were so many times where I felt frustrated, helpless and angry that he could treat Mum and I the way he did. I would say that a lot of the issues I carry with me into adulthood come from having him as a father. However, I do admire the wonderful heart Mum had: to be able to forgive constantly, to not complain to anybody about somebody who was treating you badly, to not retaliate in anger, to never take your frustration out on your child, to be calm and peaceful inside and not become bitter, these are all traits that show amazing strength of character that most people do not have. Really, it doesn’t take much to stick up for yourself and yell at somebody who has insulted your pride; it doesn’t take much to talk about people who have offended you. There’s a hymn that says ‘to smile when your heart is breaking, takes courage of truest worth.’ She was a very courageous and wonderful woman.
I don’t want you thinking my whole childhood was a nightmare, because it wasn’t. My mother was wonderful to me. She spent most of her free time doing things with me; bike riding, playing tennis, table tennis, going for walks, kicking the ball, playing cricket in the street, doing jigsaw puzzles, competing with each other to do the 9-letter Word in the newspaper. Strange as it is in this day and age, people did look down on us because Mum was a single mother. I don’t know why people look down on the ones who are really the strongest people. Why do those who have life so easy look down on those who don’t? It happens, though, and I’ve experienced it. What’s so funny, in a non funny way, is that now I’m married to a doctor there are many people who wouldn’t have spoken to me before who now treat me like I’m their best friend. Mum was such a beautiful person and it makes me really angry to think that other people would look down on her. She never looked down on anybody else and I never heard her gossip about anybody, which is really amazing I think. The worst word I heard her say was ‘oh poo!’ when she was trying to get something down from a shelf and a box fell on her head. That’s the sort of person she was. Anyway, she did everything she could to give me a normal childhood. She took an interest in my schooling and she sang lots of songs and hymns to me. She was more of an active person, not so much an academic. I was a bit the opposite, more of an academic than an active person. Even though she was 40 years older than me, she was always more fit; she could outdo me in riding, walking, swimming, kicking a footy, playing cricket, anything active.
I write so much about my mother because I’ve struggled for years, and am still struggling, with not having her around. My Mum was taken from me far too soon. When I was 16, and she was 56, she passed away. She was the most beautiful spirit I have ever known and that was the worst time in my life when she died. I was in year 12 at the time. I write these things, not to garner sympathy, but to establish a basic background that I think impacts on the person I am today. I am not a wonderful perfect person; like everyone else, I have my faults and failings. I have issues that I have to deal with, and one of the ones I struggle with daily is the loss of my mother. Another issue that I commonly struggle with is worrying, especially worrying about something happening to my husband and me losing him, which I think comes from the fact that I’ve lost the closest person in my life once already. I realise I have a lot of shortcomings and a lot of improving to do. My father and I are on speaking terms now and I don’t have any hard feelings towards him, in fact, I feel sorry for him most of the time because his life hasn’t turned out the way he would have hoped. I don’t wish to see him suffer and I hope others are kind to him. However, at the same time, I do not trust him or feel comfortable around him because I never really established a father-daughter relationship with him; so, while I can forgive, it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t see him as a father. It also doesn’t change the fact that I feel very sad when I remember how he treated Mum and what she had to put up with. I don’t want to blame the past, but it is something that impacts on who I am, and how I think, feel and behave today.