14 December 2007
My name is Jayne and this is my brief story, from a child's point of view, regarding a child's separation and the loss of a loving father.
It starts 21 years ago, when I was only 6 weeks old, and my maternal grandfather was sent by my mother to our home and proceeded to order my father to hand over all of my clothes and those of my mother. He then informed my father that he would never see his wife or daughter again. From that day on my mother painted my father as being the worst man that ever lived.
When I was 2 years of age my mother proceeded to get remarried to a wonderful man who would become my main support in the hunt to find my real father. My stepfather had informed me from an early age that he wasn't my biological father but that he loved me as if I was his own.
At the age of six I began to search for my real Dad. Internet connection speed at that time was 56k so you can imagine the amount of time it took for one page to load. I searched the White Pages for what, to a 6 year old, seemed like a long time and I didn't find him as there were 6-7 pages of my father's surname and I had no idea of where he lived or even the state or country.
My mother started to brainwash me into believing that my father hated me. She even went as far as telling me that my father had thrown me on the bed, in an effort to hurt me, that he had called me a money stealer because I needed to have formula and nappies and that he had tried to kill her and myself by running us over in the car. These lies continued to the age of ten, when again I tried to look for my father. This time she showed me a fraudulent death certificate stating that my father died in a train accident in approximately 1993.
Still, part of me believed my father was alive and everyday I tried to dedicate half an hour a day to finding him, but sadly my efforts weren't successful. This continued up until my 15th birthday when I finally gave up hope. My thoughts, at the time, were either that his death was real or, if he was still alive, that he didn't love me and didn't want to find me. Little did I know that my father DID love me and that he DID want to find me.
I am never going to forget the day I received the letter, via the Salvos & as the day before I had been fired from work and I was grieving the death of my stillborn son and was on the point of suicide. That letter saved my life literally. I then misplaced the letter, only to rediscover it on my 21st birthday. Finally, in March 2007, I contacted my Dad.
A month later, on ANZAC day, my partner and I were on a plane heading to Melbourne to meet my Dad and my family. Yes, I was so petrified, to the point of breaking my boyfriend's fingers, but boy am I glad that I made the effort of coming down to Melbourne to meet my family. I fell in love with them. There was no going back from there. That was six months ago. I have now moved to Melbourne and am here for 12 months, maybe longer. All we know is that Baby Gal has come home to her Daddy Dearest for better or for worse.
What I am essentially seeking to convey is that a child will always have a special part in their heart for YOU, their father, and for you not to give up. Yes, it might take 21 years, or it could take a couple of months, but there is always hope.
I dedicate this letter to all the fathers who have lost their children, but most of all to the man that didn't give up for 21 years, the man who I call My Daddy Dearest and my Best Friend. Thank you Daddy Dearest. I love you; please don't forget that.
Thank you D.I.D.s. for the part you played in supporting, helping and encouraging my father to take the step to search for me, when I was old enough. And thank you for the warm welcome, support and encouragement, when Dad and I attended a meeting in November.
Jayne 28th November 2007
20 November 2007
Well here we are again with election time this coming Saturday. You wouldn't believe the amount of calls, emails I have had asking who should we vote for Tone. Well I have gotta tell ya I am not the wizard. Wish I was sometimes but reality is I am not. Dads in Distress Inc are 'A Political', but as this is my diary and I have a mouth that regularly fits my foot so I am going to speak my thoughts.
When these blokes ring me I normally ask them to think about what has been happening over the last few years. Look let's just face this reality; we have had the biggest reform to family law in 30 years, that's 30 years guys. We have had an investigation and now a reform of the child support agency. Not perfect but it's a start. Men's issues, dad's issues are being discussed and listened to and acted upon for the first time. Has any other major party jumped up and said we will fix the problems. No. Now I know it's not perfect but it's a lot bloody better then what was there when I fell into it.
Now before you go jumping down my throat I would like to mention a few people. Ken Ticehurst MP Dobell Central Coast has been an absolute champion on Dads issues. Honestly the bloke has saved more lives then he will ever know. Take a look and listen at him if that is your area. The Hon Alan Cadman MP Mitchell Sydney another honest fair dinkum bloke who defends fathers. And The Hon Philip Ruddock MP Berowra Sydney who I have found to be genuinely trying to fix the family law system, he is a fair dinkum bloke; I would't want his job for quids.
While we are at it, our own guy Ed Debrowski in WA trying for the senate who I have spoken about before, an absolute gentleman with a big heart and another of our own Chris Stokes Anna Bay NSW running for Family First. These are just a few of the big hearted men who work behind the scenes for you and me. There are many more of course, too many to mention here. So who to vote for, well that is your decision to make this coming Saturday. As I have said I am not the wizard. But if I was I would wave my magic wand and...
there would be a starting point of EQUAL shared parenting time on separation or divorce unless there were PROVEN violence or abuse issues...
the dollar value we have put on our children's head for time spent would be withdrawn and replaced with the cost of raising a child...
the three strikes your out would be instigated in contraventions. In other words should either parent BREAK THE LAW, by not adhering to court orders, there would be a reversal of the orders.
None of the above would be needed, there would be no sad dads, sad mums, sad grandparents and most of all no sad children, we would all just go back to liking each other and getting on and there would be no more separation or divorce. There would be no more suicides, there would be no more need for Dads in Distress, and we could all just go home and be dad again. Wouldn't that be wonderful...
if only I was the wizard...
12 November 2007
Recently I have been fortunate enough to spend time with my family who are scattered across the country. Some of you may say that idea would not be so fortunate, but for me it was. I find great sadness that here I am over 50 years of age and I have all these nephews and nieces that I really do not know and who really do not know me. Who is at fault? Well certainly me and I guess they should own a bit as well. I guess that John Lennon quote fits in well here, 'Life is what happens, while you are busy making other plans'. Anyway the main thing was I was able to connect even if for only for a short period of time.
Last Thursday I was in Paddington Sydney doing a radio interview with Georgie Vestey at EASTSIDE FM., we had a great talk exploring the good times, the sad times and the in between times of divorce and separation. I will let you all know when it airs. Georgie is also looking for future interviewees on the subject of...wait for it...male domestic violence, in other words violence perpetrated on the male of the species......hmmm that will be controversial and also another show on the second wives, how hard is that, remarried, two sets of kids from separate marriages, dad fighting to get to see the kids from the first marriage, depression, money issues you name it.
Interested??? Please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org (but must be in the Sydney area) and willing to talk on air although anonymously.
Georgie is an absolutely courageous women and I will let you know as these shows air and will endeavour to stream them on this site.
On Friday I was in Sydney for the 9/11 Event "What is happening to our children", organised by Michael Riddell. Very powerful day and had the good fortune to hear Ed Debrowski speak. Ed is running for the senate over in WA. I know Ed well as he is also our dids Bunbury facilitator and is the Federal Director of the Shared Parenting Council among other things. He spoke from the heart and I am impressed with people who speak from the heart. There is no BS about Ed, what you see is what you get. A quiet, gentle, honest, thoughtful, generous DAD. He is a good man and one who deserves your attention, a champion of children and parent rights.
I also got to hear the Hon Ann Bressington MLA speak, a lady of courage and sincerity and author Karla Lee with her children's books helping kids deal with the issues of divorce and separation. Ed presented me with an award, a beautiful glass trophy etched with the words 'The Shared Parenting Council of Australia presents this Champion Of Children/Champion Of Families Outstanding Achievement Award to Tony Miller. In recognition of distinguished service Advancing Children's Rights and Shared Parenting. It was beautiful and will take pride of place in my home. In my speech I shared something I caught from each of the speakers, but more importantly shared how humble I felt in the presence of those in that room and the reality that I am just a dad with an L plate still attached. I shared of my beautiful boy who is on the needle somewhere in Sydney, I shared of the child sexual abuse I suffered and survived and I shared of visiting the concentration camps in Poland and the lesson of forgiveness I tried to implant upon my other son. When I finally arrived back at my hotel that night I stood by the window staring out and wondering where my boy was and the irony of getting an award for some kind of distinguished service for children, staring, knowing he was out there somewhere, staring, knowing he was in pain, staring, then drawing the blinds as if somehow that stops the hurt. I gotta tell ya, it doesn't and as much as I am grateful and humbled by the award, I feel less then deserving............
11 October 2007
After a recent health scare I have re evaluated what I do in my life. Amazing isn't it that it's not until something dire is imminent before you decide to take stock. At least I am thankful I had warning. Now it is up to me to a point. A lot of men tell me that they had no idea, no warning, that their marriage was falling apart. If we did, they say, we would of tried to fix it. Well I guess that is possibly true in a lot of cases but I tend to think some of us know what's coming but just choose to ignore it in the hope it will go away. I know I did. I also know I have lived most of my life in that way. Ignoring what I didn't want to deal with, hoping it would just go away. Life just doesn't happen that way does it? It has a habit of catching up to you when you least expect it and grabs you by the throat and says DEAL WITH IT. And then you have to one way or the other. And more often then not, it's not the issue that is the major problem but the FEAR of dealing with it, that is.
So how do you get over that fear? Just by facing up to it full on. It's not easy but it soon will be. Get it over with rather then dwelling on it or procrastinating, as this only prolongs the agony. Personally I use my mate the 'Bigfella' to bolster my courage. It is said that when you are in the darkest of places it is actually when you are closest to the light. I have found that to be true. If you are not way inclined well I guess you are on your Pat Malone (alone). I feel for ya. But that's your choice. There is always an answer and well, often the answer isn't as bad as you first thought. And hey it may not be the answer you wished for but it's an answer just the same. And to be honest whichever way it goes things eventually turn out the way they were meant to be. Don't they? You may not think it at the time but it always does.
For me right now, well I am back on the road visiting groups, witnessing first hand the devastation and destruction that is our divorce industry. And I am as busy as Shane Warne's inbox. I don't like it and to be honest often I don't want to get out of bed. But you know what, in listening to the men I get to talk to around the country I have come to the conclusion that we can either make ourselves happy or miserable, the amount of work is just the same and I guess I would rather make myself happy because no one likes you when you are miserable, including yourself.
What really keeps me going though and gives me strength is that I am very very privileged and humbled to visit and meet our hero's of this country, our dads. They never cease to amaze me. They love their children, they never give up, they are just there, some just waiting in the background for their chance to be just that, dad. I had to counsel a dad this week to walk away. Yes to walk away from seeing his little girl. It was a tough call, but the right call for the moment. It doesn't mean he doesn't love her, just the opposite. It took a lot of guts, a lot of courage. Many tears were shed, from both of us. But you know what, this dad is a hero and one day his little girl will know. Dad didn't give up, his story is recorded on this site for her. One day she will know. One day this little girl and her dad will be together again. They were simply victims of a system that let them down. We will change that system, so it doesn't happen again.
23 July 2007
DO YOUR KIDS THINK YOU'RE THE BEST DAD EVER?
Of course they do! And Take 5 wants to hear about inspiring dads all over Australia. Weekly women's magazine Take 5 is looking for stories about funny or brave dads for their forthcoming Father's Day special. So if you have a child or children who would like to share their anecdotes about what a hero - or larrikin - you are, please email Take5@acpmagazines.com.au with your contact details and outline of your story.
I know you are doing a story about what a hero a dad is to his children for Father's Day and you wanted to hear from some kids about how they feel about their dad and this is admirable. But the truth is, for a lot of dads Father's Day is a day they wish to forget. Simply because it is a reminder of what they have lost. Many will not get to spend time with their children, many will not even here from their children. This is not because they are bad dads, it is not because they failed to pay their child support, it is not because they cannot be found, it is not because they were violent or were child abusers. It is simply because at the time they entered the system it was unjust, unfair and unforgiving. Many fought through the courts and were given court orders to see their children which were minimal to say the least. A lot of these court orders were never adhered to anyway and often after dad has spent his lot both financially and emotionally fighting them he ended up bankrupt both emotionally and financially as well.
I see these hero's every day, in the back of Family Law Courts nervously waiting to plead their case, I hear their voices on the end of a phone line often in tears, I read their heartbreaking stories in their letters and emails, I see them crawl into meetings broken and shattered and I also see this enormous love they have for their children, that is something special, that is something no-one can take away from them. That is simply being DAD.
I would like you to tell their story, because these dads are heros. Even though they may not hear it from the mouths of their children I would like you to tell them from me at least that they are, heros. They haven't walked away. They are still out there fighting to see their kids, to be just dad. They are not dead beat dads as the media seems to like to portray them. They are simply dads who love their kids and who wish nothing but to be involved in their children's lives. Just because you are separated or divorced it doesn't make you less a dad. These dads are all over the world, it's not just an Australian syndrome. Fatherlessness is a world wide disease of which these heros are trying their best to change.
We only get a small window of opportunity to have that special bond with our young children. Sadly for lots of dads and their children this opportunity is what is being denied. But these children grow up and one day will look back upon these times and be filled with admiration and love for their hero, their dad, who didn't just walk away but who fought for them, who changed history for them, who loves them. Yes these dads are heros all right, and they need to hear it.
Divorce has no winners. Kids need both mum and dad in their day to day lives.
13 July 2007
I was sitting at an outside cafe reading the paper last Sunday morning. It's a treat I give myself on the weekends when I'm in the 'lost world' as I call the times I don't have my young bloke with me. All my other kids are older and too busy now getting on with their lives in various parts of the world. I'm still caught in that twilight we call an every second weekend dad. I should have been in church but to be honest it kind of pisses me off seeing all those happy married faces, the kids running back and forth to Sunday school, cuddling their mums and dads, the constant reminder of what I haven't got. It shouldn't but it does.
Anyway here I am having just enjoyed a bacon and egg roll and my second cappuccino sitting on the table allowing that beautiful coffee aroma to permeate my senses while reading the Sunday paper.
I hear a voice coming from someone I hadn't noticed who was standing right next to my table. 'Sir, would I be able to buy a cigarette'. I answer without even looking up from the paper in front of me, 'No, I have only got one left'. I watched from the corner of my eye as this person walked away. It was then I noticed it was a male, he was barefoot, and he was black. I ascertained by his dress which was smart, modern, although crumbled looking, that he was young. I followed his walk with one eye on my paper and the other on him as he quietly walked up the road approaching no one else until I lost sight of him.
It was then that I stopped reading the paper and rehashed in my mind my previous actions. I didn't even check my cigarettes to see if I actually had just one left. I didn't even raise my eyes to his. I didn't even give him the courtesy of addressing him face to face. I just dismissed him as an intrusion into my special time.
I sat there contemplating all this in my mind, reasoning with all the excuses I could find as to why I been so arrogant. 'Would it have killed you Tony to give the bloke a cigarette?' 'Yeah well their everywhere, always asking for smokes.' 'So would it have killed you? And, why the arrogance?' I continued to sit and think of what I had just done, trying to dismiss it as 'It was only a cigarette.' I will forget about it in an hour. You can't go along giving everyone a bloody cigarette I reassured myself.
But it wouldn't go away. It bugged me more of why, my dismissive action. It has pervaded my life of late, being dismissive. Fighting the big fight yet forgetting those I'm fighting for. Loosing sight of those around me.
I sat there with the vision of those bare feet in my head and suddenly realised who had just approached me and was flooded with memories of lessons I been had taught in the past.
That we should see Jesus in the poor, the down-trodden and the rejected.
That we may continue Jesus' mission and work for social justice in our world.
That we may learn from Jesus how to be sensitive to the needs of others.
That we may see Christ and serve HIM in everyone we meet today.
Then I remembered something somewhere in the bible along the lines. "I was the one who was hungry and you didn't feed me, I was the one who was sick and you didn't nurse me, I was the one in Jail and you didn't visit me." Then I added one myself, "I was the one who asked you for a smoke and you refused me."
You may laugh at reading this and think it's a pretty stupid illustration and I guess it is. But whether it's a smoke, a few coins, a phone call to ask "are you ok", a helping hand in time of need, a listening ear, a thank you card for nothing in particular. They all add up to who you are, what you are. Kindness and compassion is the rent we must pay for the space we inhabit on this earth, I guess I'm behind in my rent once again.
And I guess I was sent another lesson. Sometimes they are a gentle tap on the shoulder and sometimes they are a four b two across the kneecaps. I will try to get into Church this Sunday.
29 June 2007
I came in the other morning to find one of our telephone volunteers in tears. His name is Mac Werner and he gives freely of his time and energy to help those less fortunate. Mac is a big man with a big heart and takes the calls on our 1300 number. Many of you have possibly spoken with him. I have no doubt he has saved many a life. Mac doesn't ask for much, he is a pretty quiet sort of bloke and he doesn't know I have written this.
Well Mac's daughter Emma is in John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. She is just 24 years old and has had a heart attack, has problems with her kidneys and is on dialysis, needs a kidney donor etc. She is in an induced coma at present and if any of you remember my daughter's recent hospitalisation the story is very similar.
You all know I am a big believer in the power of prayer, so I am asking you all once again to send your prayers or positive energy to Emma and her family to get through this. You all performed a great miracle for Shannon and now I am humbly asking you to reach out to Emma. Mac is still answering the phones here on most days because as he says it's keeping his mind off what's happening.
He feels pretty helpless and I and you know through Shannon's story just how that feels. So if you can, please spare a moment for Emma and Mac, keep them in your thoughts and prayers and ask the Good Lord if he could give her dad and her family a little longer with her, she is only 24, too young, too loved to be taken away just yet. Hopefully He is booked out and she can stay a lot longer here........
Wishing you God's Healing Light
to mend your body through the night.
I'm saying a prayer to God above,
to wrap you in His Healing Love.
Thinking of you not feeling well,
saddens me and my eyes swell,
with tears of concern, for I love you so,
my special one, I thought you should know.
May the Healing Light find its way to you,
may your gray skies blossom into ones of blue,
and I'll ask my angels to come to your side,
to join with yours, in their comfort abide.
Picture yourself wrapped in the embrace,
of our Father as he wipes the tears from your face.
Know that you're loved by Him every day.
May His Healing Light melt your troubles away.
26 April 2007
I had my little bloke over the Easter break, as you know I am an every second weekend dad and I had him this year for the first half of the holidays. No sooner had we arrived home from picking him up from school I could hear him rattling his money box in his room. He came out and announced, "Dad, we need to go the shops". "Why?" I asked. "I just want to buy something". "What is it?" I continued to ask. "Just a toy I have seen, but I really want it". "Are you sure you want this toy or do you want to save a bit more and get something better down the track?" "No dad, I really want this". "Ok mate, it's your money".
Off we went to the local supermarket where he directed me to go about my shopping while he purchased his toy. "Dad I will meet you out the front", he told me. Sure enough when I finished shopping there he was out the front holding a blue bag containing his precious toy. "Did you get what you want?" I asked. "Sure did", was his reply. We proceeded home with him carefully holding onto his bag. Soon as we made it home he went straight to his room and started playing.
The phone rang as I was putting the groceries away. It was a dad who was supposed to get his children for Easter but it ended up a no show. He was crying and I found it hard to pry the story from him. Eventually between the tears he blurted it out.
"I went to pick the kids up and there's no one home", he cried. "I have orders, I'm to pick them up 5 o'clock. I'm supposed to have them for the first week. She knows that. We have been to court. She knows what is suppose to happen. I'm sick of this shit, It's not the first time", he starts crying again. "What am I going to do Tony? I just feel like jumping off a bloody cliff", he says before I can get a word in. "Have you breached her with the court before?" I ask. "Yes, yes I've been back and forth three or four times, what's the bloody use". "Well the court system is slowly changing, so you need to breach her again", I said. "I'm sick and bloody tired of going back and forth, they don't do nothing, she doesn't pay any attention to what's ordered". He starts to cry again and says, "Mate, I have Easter eggs for all my kids sitting at home waiting for them. What bloody good is it breaching her now, I'm not going to get to see them over Easter, the same thing happened last Christmas, it's bullshit. I didn't get to see them then either. I missed out completely". He starts crying even more.
"Have you tried ringing her, does she have a mobile?" I ask. "Yeah, yeah the bloody thing is switched off. I just feel like killing myself, I've had enough of this bullshit", he is really wailing by this stage. I let him get it out and then I slowly begin to talk him around, how many kids? what's their names? How old are they? Tell me about them, what do they like? What do you do when you are with them? This dad slowly begins to fill in the blanks through his tears. "Listen mate, killing yourself is not the answer is it, you obviously love your kids and no doubt they love you". "Yeah, they do", he blurts out, "they have a ball when they come around, we have a great relationship and I know they miss me", he proudly proclaims through the tears. "Yes they do mate and that's why you need to be around, they love their dad just as they love their mum. Listen mate, if you go and suicide chances are that later in life your kids will follow you". "What do ya mean?" his crying stops abruptly. "Well that's the stats my friend". "No, no, I don't want to hurt my kids", he blurts out. "Well what do you think it will do to them not having dad around any longer?" He stays very quiet now and eventually asks, "what can I do Tony?"
"Well listen mate, I just want you to try this, it wont be easy, but just give it a go. When you get off the phone I just want you to relax for a while, either find a cosy place at home or go for a walk, whatever it will take to calm yourself down. And mate if your a prayer then send a few up to the Bigfella, it won't hurt ya and you can be sure he is listening. Once you have calmed down I want you to keep ringing your children's mother, either the mobile or at home but make sure you are very calm and controlled when you do. If by chance you don't get through to her, go back to the courthouse after the break and put in a contravention once again. Believe me the courts are now taking a dim view of these sorts of situations. I know it won't be easy and you may spend the Easter break on your own but I am only a phone call away or you can ring one of our volunteers over the break to get you through. Don't worry mate we know how you feel, we have all been through what your going through right now. The main thing is your children will eventually get to see their dad, that's all that counts". "Ok, Ok I will try it", he says with a little more confidence. "And mate I will send a few up to the Bigfella as well, on your behalf", I say as I end the call.
No sooner had I hung the phone up, my little bloke came bounding out of his room, "what's for dinner dad?" I guess I was just staring at him because he said, "You ok?" After a few seconds I said, "Yeah mate, I'm ok, just really glad your here". He came over and gave me the biggest cuddle, "Me too dad, me too".
Easter Sunday came and my little bloke was up early. I gave him a chocolate egg filled with candy and straight away he put it to one side and said "Dad, I have a surprise for you", and went running to his room. When he returned he was carrying that same blue bag that was holding the toy he had purchased after raiding his money-box. "Here you are dad, it wasn't a toy I wanted". I opened the bag and there was a huge block of chocolate. "I love you dad". "I love you too mate", I said as I received another one of those beautiful big cuddles.
My son soon settled down watching a cartoon on television, so I slipped outside and looked up to the sky and thanked the Bigfella for my fortune and also to ask again that he keep an eye on the bloke that rang me the other night. Later that day I got a call, it was the same bloke that rang the other night. "Tony, it's me, I rang the other night, guess what? Before I could get a word in, I got my kids, can you believe it? I did exactly as you said. When I calmed down and I have to say after sending up a bloody lot of prayers, she rings me,very late, but did you get that, she rings me. First time for anything. Anyway it turns out they were out shopping and the bloody car broke down, she had left the mobile at home. Don't know whether to believe it or not but the main thing is I have the kids". I could hear his kids laughing and playing in the background. "The ex was even surprised and commented about how calm I was, I guess she just expected me to go off as usual. You should of seen the bloody look on her face, when I calmly said that's ok, I understand, shit happens. She even apologised, I can't believe it. Thanks mate for the other night. You don't know how close I came". "Yes I do", I interrupted. "Yeah I guess you hear many stories like mine", he said. "Yes I do". "Anyway, all is well and I just want to say thanks and Happy Easter Tony". "Thanks for calling me back and Happy Easter to you and your children, enjoy it mate", I said as I hung up the phone I could still here his kids laughing and playing in the background.
There are many dads who were not as fortunate as this bloke or myself, many spent Easter alone, many children were denied the right to spend time with their dads or with their mums. Children need both mum and dad in their day to day lives........don't just think about that, do something about it...............
5 males suicide in this country every day, a large percentage of that 5 are dads in distress ending their lives needlessly.
Footnote; my little bloke also managed to save enough from his money-box to buy his mum and brother an Easter egg as well, he was very proud and so was his dad.
24 March 2007
I arrived back into Sydney Airport from London with a stopover in Singapore. I arrived tired, confused, sad and with a feeling of failure. The day I was leaving England my son said good-bye to me outside his flat. He didn't travel the 2 hour trip to the airport with me nor even the 10 minute trip to the bus stop. He just called me a cab and wished me good-bye on the spot. He gave me a hug and a kiss and that was it.
As I sat in the bus travelling to Heathrow Airport I couldn't help but think of the past 5 weeks. I began to cry, in fact I also cried on the plane between London and Aussie. I was able to disguise my tears by wearing my glasses all the way and by mopping the tears as they rolled down my face.
I had failed. I had just travelled half way around the world to connect with my son and for what? It didn't work. Sure we had some moments but for the most part I just felt I was in the road. I got on famously with his mates but I felt that WE just hadn't connected and I couldn't understand why. It wasn't that I hadn't tried.
As I was flying through the air at around 30,000 feet I decided to put the question to the Big Fella and seeming I was flying around up in his neck of the woods I thought there was a good chance he would here me loud and clear. Lord why? Why put me through all this for nothing? I mean I didn't even want to go to Europe. I just wanted to connect with my boy. Gee I prayed and lit a candle asking for your intervention at nearly every bloody old church we visited and we sure visited some. And nothing, absolutely nothing, happened. Am I such a bad bloke? You cannot cut me a little slack here. On and on I prayed. Nothing came back.
And then the voice came back! Please prepare cabin for landing, make sure your seats are upright, your tray table is locked into position and your seat belts firmly fastened. Hold on that's not it! I'm looking for an answer here. Nothing came back.
I arrived home and within an hour had my youngest bloke by my side for the weekend. He had missed me and I him, so we spent a lot of the weekend just giving each other cuddles. Then on Sunday after being out all morning I arrived home to a message on my phone. It was my son in England. And yeah it sounded as though someone had left a window open and he was swaying in the breeze but it didn't matter. He said he missed me, in fact dad I missed you the day you left, we all did. I could here his mates in the background yelling 'come back Tone, we love ya'. Sorry for being a dick-head dad, but that's life sometimes, you're a champion mate, I love ya and I miss ya, I mean that......
I walked outside and sat on the step and had another good cry. I did succeed after all. The Big Fella must have been listening. Now I have four others to reach out to. You see I have been a dick-head too. But now I'm Dad and I'm back......
24 February 2007
It is strange how things happen. If you had told me 7 years ago that I would be sitting here in an
internet cafe in Bournemouth UK I would of thought you were crazy but here I am, thinking maybe I
am a little crazy. I have been to the bottom of the barrel, risen up again and taken many dives
over the past 7 years. Here I am on the last leg of a journey, a quest if you like, to connect with
my son. When I first decided to do this trip I had absolutely no desire to see Europe whatsoever,
my only reason was to reconnect somehow with my now 21 year old son. I was originally to come over
for his birthday but as many of you know my daughter fell ill and I couldn't make it. We have just
finished the trip and are now in Bournemouth where he lives with some Aussie mates.
I guess the question many of you will be asking if you have read the previous articles, is did I
succeed? Yesterday I felt I could just jump on the first plane home. It would be so easy. But what
would I be leaving behind? As a dad what would I be teaching him. I have found many quiet places on
this trip to have a cry. I could of given up 3 weeks ago to be honest. That would of been easy, so
easy, but I am determined somehow to reach into this heart of his and give him something of myself.
When we arrived here his friends all came over for a party. They have set up a bar called
the 'Ginger Abo Hotel' up in the attic where my son sleeps. The place is decked out like a real bar
and the walls and ceiling are covered with the photos of him, his friends and visitors obviously
having one hell of a time. It really is something to see. But most importantly to me was to meet his
friends. You know, my father always said to me 'if you can count your friends on one hand you are
doing well'. My son has many friends and it was obvious to me that he is so loved. He may not like
me saying it that way but the truth is that he is. And I am very proud of him. His friends have made
me feel very welcome, have taken me sightseeing and I have to say we have had more then a few
drinks together. They say 5 beers is a meal, well I can tell you we are all eating 5 square meals a day. They even introduced me to a drink called 'snake-bight', as the name suggests, it packs a wallop. But it's all fun and it has enabled me to see into each of these beautiful young people's hearts. And as I said previously, I am proud of my young bloke and the friends he has made.
But I have to say, it totally amazes me with young people these days. They get ready to go out at
the time I would normally be going to bed. And then as if some strange breed of vampires they party all night and once the sun starts to come up they withdraw back into their rooms not resurfacing again until night. Amazing.
In the movie 'Click' which I saw prior to making this trip I saw a reflection of myself. I guess
that's why in many scenes I was reduced to a blubbering mess. It cemented in my mind why I was making this trip. It's not easy looking at yourself. I mean really looking at yourself. Years ago I looked
in the mirror and I didn't like what I saw. I have set about on a journey to try and make up for that person I use to be. Sometimes I feel I have succeeded in some small way, other times I feel I have made little headway. But that's what it is all about isn't it. One step forward, ten back, but you keep moving forward, you keep going, you keep pushing the limits. The trick is while you are focussing on your destination to not forget the journey, the ones you love and who love you, your family, your friends and to see the goodness in the people you meet along the way.
Back to, have I succeeded? Well I guess you need to make your own mind up on that. I
didn't think I had to be honest until one of his friends told me to go look in his room. I did and
there on the wall was a picture of me from a national newspaper story I did some time ago. And
straight underneath it was a copy of my award nomination for Australian Of The year last year. His
friend said 'he is very proud of you, do you know he proudly read out that newspaper story to
everyone one night', he is really proud of you. He kept on saying that's my dad, that's my dad. I have
to tell you I got a lump in my throat and shed a few more tears on hearing that.
And how are things going? Well few words are spoken but I'm his dad and I guess that's just how things
are sometimes. Maybe we need as dads to just step back a little and allow them the space to come to
us rather then us taking it to them. I'm just kinda standing in the background at the moment. He
knows I am there and I guess that's enough at the moment, just to know your there.
17 February 2007
I am standing in mud, staring through a barbed wire fence into Birkenau Concentration camp. I can hear the voices of numerous tour operators describing in a myriad of languages, what happened here to their clients.
I felt sick and moved away to a quieter position. Everywhere I had visited here, the tourists looked like a nest of hungry birds waiting to be fed by their mother the gruesome details of what had happened here.
Was I any different? No not really. I had heard all the stories, read lots of books, watched many docos and movies on the subject. But nothing, nothing really prepares you to be standing right there. I and my son had followed earlier in line with the rest, marching from one building to the next, listening to our polish tour guide roll out the numbers and the gruesome details as if she had spoken them so many times they no longer meant anything to her. I became more interested in her then what she spoke and found myself listening but also looking for signs of life from her. Was it just that she had spoken about the atrocities that occurred here so often that it now meant nothing to her or was it that she felt disgust at us, the tourists, hanging off every gruesome detail that was spoken, happily snapping away our cameras to record our gory trip. Each of us wanting to take home some sort of trophy to show our friends or family.
Her voice became sort of melodic with no expression or feeling. Until we came to one particular room where she said her grandmother had been an inmate here, it was there that I felt her pain, just softly but I caught it in her eyes. Many people in Poland do work that we would find repugnant in Australia. Life is tough here and you take what you can. Most work long hours for little money. It is about survival, not so much choice. I wondered, did she enjoy her job? Or was it something she had to endure or maybe like me she was trying to pass a memory on.
Besides all this I saw many people visibly shaken, some wiped tears from their eyes as we filed pass whole rooms filled with human hair shaved from the heads of men, women and children and used to make blankets etc, rooms full of suitcases, glasses children's clothes etc and one filled with shoes. I turned to my son and said each pair represents a life lost here. Many of us made the sign of the cross as we passed these.
As I stood there on my own staring through this barbed wire fence I prayed, simply asking the Lord to never let this happen again and to imprint this lesson in my sons heart and mind. I had pulled my son aside earlier and said to him that long after I am gone I hope you remember this day and I want you to tell your children of this terrible place and of what you have seen here today. Tell them it was their grandfathers wish that this should not be forgotten, so as this never happens again... man's inhumanity to man... But please, please teach them also about forgiveness, for if you cannot forgive you cannot move forward. It will eventually eat you from the inside out. It is like a sore that never heals. Please pass this lesson from me to them.
My lesson had a two-fold meaning. Secretly I had hoped he could find it in his heart to forgive a father who wasn't much of a father in his youth. I trust in GOD to deliver that lesson when HE is ready. My son and I did the tour mostly in silence. He took no photos. He spoke few words. The surroundings said it all, there was no need for words, no need for photos. It will forever be imprinted in our memories.
Just before leaving as I stood before this barbed wire fence surrounding the camp staring at the railway line, which was used to transport these poor souls to this terrible place, I turned and made the sign of the cross one last time.
In the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit, please forgive us.
13 February 2007
As some of the readers know I am touring Europe at present on the cheap with my son. It has been the most difficult trip of my life. I am 51, he is 21. He has backpacked much for his age for me it's the first time. But that has not been so much the difficult part. It has more to do with a dad trying to break into what sadly seems a closed heart. We have spent most of the latter part of his young life apart and the object at least from me was to try and catch up. I guess try and understand each other and try and understand the past a little better. Just a dad who still sees a little boy rather then a man. A dad who still remembers the cuddles and the kisses from his boy. A dad just trying to catch up on the years between. I have shed some tears quietly and away from view on this trip and I suppose there will possibly be more to come. I am not giving up, this is my boy, my son, whatever it takes I must reach into this heart and break the shell that has surrounded it.
We are in Krakow Poland at present after travelling the night train from Berlin. It was on this train yesterday in the early hours of the morning that I realised the gravity of this particular leg of the trip meant. We had booked a 'couchette', a kind of cabin which has six bunks you share with other passengers. It was not very comfortable and I found the stench from the toilets invading the room. I spoke to a guy who was sharing our cabin during the night and asked if he was on holidays, in broken English he explained he was going home to bury his mother. I said I was sorry and left it at that. I couldn't sleep very well, trying to figure out if I was doing the right thing trying to connect with my boy or not. Eventually the swaying of the train lulled me into sleep and I awoke in the very early hours of light. I got up and stood in the corridor of the train staring out at the bleak countryside covered in snow.
It was here as I stared out that window that I realised that a group of people also travelled this same route only they were standing, jammed in like sardines into cattle trucks. I wondered as my eye caught this structure or tree or mountain or hill if some poor souls eye maybe caught that same object so many years ago through the cracks of their carriage. They stood side by side, too crammed even to sit, a bucket in the corner was their toilet if they could reach it, most could not so they defecated where they stood, the stench would of pervaded every inch of their cramped space. The old and frail, the young, the children, oh the poor children, how terrifying it must of been. Here I was complaining in my mind of the conditions I was travelling, the more the train travelled the more I understood. Those travellers so long ago had no idea of what lay ahead.
I had undertaken this part of the trip to impart a lesson on my young bloke. My dad had often talked of the war and always ended these conversations with 'mans inhumanity to man' while shaking his head as if in disgust. My reason for bringing my young bloke here was simple. The survivors of the Holocaust are dying out. The memory needs to be past on so it doesn't happen again. Although sadly you only need to turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper to see it is still happening all over the world. And for some of us we don't need even to look that far, for some you only need to look into your own backyard. 'mans inhumanity to man', in its most simple form, is purely an act of unkindness to your fellow man. I think we can all be guilty of that in some form or other.
Anyway I am just a dad trying to impart a lesson, something I guess to leave behind me. I am just a dad and dads should show their young the way. I haven't been a great example in the past, maybe I can make up some time on this trip. Only the future knows. Tomorrow we head for Auschwitz Birkenau and it is there I wish to pay my respects to those that went through its gates and those that didn't make it. It is also where I want to find forgiveness in my heart for those that perpetrated those terrible crimes. Sounds strange doesn't it. But that's also the lesson I wish to impart on my boy. Forgiveness, often it's a very hard ask, none the less, you cannot move forward unless you can find it.
27 January 2007
I hope the following email upsets you, it should. I hope you are as outraged as I am.
As a survivor of child sexual abuse myself I find the judgement unbelievable. But then again we are talking the Family Court here. Mr Ruddock promised us change, a more fair and equitable system. I believe him but it seems some judges are slow to come to terms with his or the Chief Justice's direction.
A couple of grandparents, a dad and more importantly a little 8 year old boy are devastated by a recent Family Court decision. They are not the only ones. We at dads in distress as concerned fathers are disgusted that the Family Court could even consider the scenario below. I mean are these judges in touch? How on earth can they justify moving an 8 year old boy across the country who doesn't want to go, away from his dad, away from his grandparents and then putting him in the care of someone convicted of downloading child porn.
Does it make sense to you? Because it bloodywell doesn't to me.
Come on, where's the justice, Mr Ruddock?
Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 12:10 AM
Subject: Shock at' Family' Court Decision
I thought your organization might be interested in this.
Please find attached a document that explains an injustice meted out in the Family Court in xxxxx last week.
My wife, xxxxxx, and I are absolutely flabbergasted and disgusted by a decision made by Family Court Judge, Justice Carmody, regarding the well-being of our 8 year-old grandson, xxxx.
He is being sent to Perth to live with xxxxxxx- a man convicted to 3 years jail for downloading 350,000 images and 6,400 movies of child pornography.
Justice Carmody's ruling was that because xxxxxx had downloaded the images of young girls, 8 year-old xxxx would be safe because he is a boy!
xxxx mum is a stripper in Perth and her hours of work are from 9.00 pm to 3.00 am.
The Justice ordered that xxxxxx not be left alone with xxxx!
xxxxxx and I are 'gobsmacked' that any judge in an Australian Family court dismisses the potential for harm that xxxxxx would present to a young child. He has another year of probation to go.
I am going to obtain a "reason for the judgement" and will make it available to you if you are interested.
As well as concern about the 'xxxxxx Factor', Justice Carmody gave no consideration to the rights of xxxx, Dad, xxxx who has schizophrenia but is, nonetheless, a much-loved Dad. xxxx lives in Hobart and the Judge treated Perth as it it were a nearby suburb and only a bus ride away. xxxx is on a disability pension and would find it very difficult to book flights to Perth to see his son.
xxxx made it very clear to us that he does not want to go to Perth. He has said on many occasions that "My family is here."
This Court decision is a good example how our legal system favours the rights of the mother at all costs. It does not give consideration as to what is in the best interests of the child.