My brother & I grew up without the presence of our father for most of our childhood. There were brief times we spent as a family of four, but those moments were few & far between. My mother eventually packed our bags when my father was at work one day, and we travelled from Sydney to Melbourne, without leaving him any contact details. She had never seemed happy in his presence & spoke negatively about him to my older brother & myself. We never understood why this was so.

I have memories of my dad sitting me on his lap & making up his own stories for me. I remember they were stories of justice & happy endings -such as a little homeless girl living beside a railway track, and all she had was her doll. A railway bridge had been washed away by the rain – and she could hear a steam train in the background, coming towards the bridge. She created a fire on the train tracks, with her beloved doll, to warn the train to stop! A wealthy businessman who was on the train, was so impressed with her selflessness, that he took her home to live with his own family! I missed his stories & those times with my Dad.

My mother sent my brother & I to good schools & fed us the healthiest of foods. To an onlooker, it probably seemed that we had everything we needed – but there was always an ache in my heart & a feeling of loneliness, relating to the absence of the man with whom I shared DNA & blood group, who had jointly given me life! I missed his presence! His deep male voice, his strong arms that made me feel safe.

During our teenage years, my mother told my brother that he was now the ‘man of the house’ – a role that was obviously impossible for him to fulfill, because he had his own needs for male mentoring & direction as he grew towards manhood. My brother became depressed in his 20’s and drowned. I knew beyond any doubt, that he had taken his own life. We had always been close -and I missed him deeply.

There was now a ‘double ache’ within my heart, that never left me! My mother started drinking heavily after my brother’s death- I believe because he had represented the male strength within her life that replaced that which had been my father’s role. A position that had been impossible for my brother to fulfill! His childhood had been taken from him, as he had attempted to walk in my father’s shoes. My mother – a woman with her own needs – could not be the father figure to my brother that all boys & young men need. Nor could my brother be to my mother – the strength & male perspective that she needed! My mother’s drinking increased within her grief – and she eventually died from a ruptured aortic aneurysm, caused by the alcohol she hoped would bring her peace!

As I look back, I remember the deep longing I had to have my father in my life. The need to be ‘the same’ as my friends. Our whole family unit suffered as a result of his absence. He had created the life of two children – to whom he was unavailable. Apparently I resembled him – and I would have liked seeing that! I’ve been told by people close to me, that I can be somewhat quirky! I’ve heard that my father could also be very quirky! I would have enjoyed sharing that DNA connection with him! That same ‘quirkiness’ is in our 4 sons – it’s a family thing. But we were never ‘family enough’ to demonstrate & enjoy that family resemblance.

As a grandmother of 70, who has 4 awesome sons & their awesome wives & 10 beautiful grand children -I still sometimes re experience a familiar pain in my heart -wishing that we could have been a typical, normal family. Two biological parents & the family that they created – with enough wisdom, grace & perseverance to ‘do it all properly!’