This is my story, well some of it!
Sometimes we need to think about our own background to consider how it has impacted in the way we are now.
I suppose it is true to say that I was an estranged child, but to be honest it is not something I think about often or too deeply, but last week I was asked to find a photo of me as a child and I found I didn’t have any, strangely it really upset me. I sat on the floor, surrounded by lots of photo albums ranging from 1920 to present day, and there was no record of me in my early life at all.
It is odd how these innocent actions can rock you.
My parents were married for 33 years, and I have a brother who lives in Brisbane Australia with his family.
It is true to say that I often wondered why Mum and Dad ever got married, they were so different, Mum was funny, loving and cared deeply about her family, Dad was a conservative with a capital C, a well known local business man who worked all the hours God sent, even all day Sundays. (That was pre Sunday opening) He was a pillar of society.
I don’t think they would have got married had it nor been for the war, no-one knew if they would be alive the next morning let alone in years to come. So it seemed the thing to do.
Don’t think that my childhood was unhappy, it wasn’t, and Mum and Dad never had arguments of any sort, certainly no rows.
For 33 years we all carried on, nothing extraordinary or exceptional , just ordinary family life.
Then the bombshell.
I can see it so clearly, I was in bed on a Saturday morning, my brother was living away from home at this point, every morning before Dad left for work he would put the water on for Mums’ bath, this particular morning, Mum stood in my room, and said,
Dad is leaving us.
I don’t think I have ever been so shocked.
That was the beginning of my life being turned on its head.
As a child I think you often wonder what it would be like if your parents separated, but when it actually happens it is very different.
The reason my Dad gave for leaving was that he had to go and look after his mother, my grandmother, who lived about two minutes away from us, didn’t quite know why she needed looking after, but they were always very close. She didn’t like my brother and myself much, we were a bit of a nuisance.
So, Mum and I just sort of got on with it, I suppose. Although I knew this must have been an extraordinary shock to my Mum, she never once made a big deal about it, she focussed totally on us, and how it was affecting us.
Dad had been at his mother’s for maybe a couple of weeks when he asked to talk to my brother alone. My brother had come home for a while when this happened.
When he came back from seeing Dad he was in a very odd mood, and went to talk to Mum, it was Mum who told me that, the truth was that Dad, had in fact been leading a double life.
He had been having an affair with someone 30 years younger than himself.
They had already set up a home, in a very exclusive apartment block, about ten minutes away for our house.
It had been going on for years, and it seemed most people knew about it except us.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is true.
All those hours allegedly working, of course now became clear.
All of this was like some terrible soap opera, but the final act was yet to come.
In the conversation with my brother, he told him that he no longer wanted us in his life as he now had a new life and we weren’t to be part of it!
Pause for breath.
For my Mum that was the worst thing of all, her children meant the world to her and she would have done anything for us, so to have Dad say he no longer regarded us as his children, was devastating for her.
I don’t think I can explain how it made me feel, in the blink of an eye I no longer had a Dad who cared about me or wanted me. This man that I had called Dad for 15 years, was no longer that person.
Not only that, but this man who was so say such a pillar of the community had been cheating on us all, for years.
He was a fraud.
I was estranged from him for over 15 years, when Mum died I thought I might try and build bridges, I had two children at this point and I wanted them to meet their grandfather. After several difficult phone calls he agreed to meet up, it wasn’t easy at all.
We stayed in semi contact for a while, until my eldest granddaughter was born.
I was so excited to be a Gran, I rang him to tell him he had become a great grandad, he was not interested and I never heard from him again.
He lived to be 95.
The final insult was at his funeral, my mum and all of my family and my brothers family were totally wiped out of his life, there was no mention of any of us.
Someone came up to ask me how I knew Henry, I said I was his daughter, they said
I did’t know he had any children.
So I know what it feels like to be an estranged adult child, not only estranged but whitewashed completely.
Oh, and the reason why there are no photos of me is because Mum was so angry when this all happened she picked up everything to do with Dad and threw them in the bin. Photos and all.