I met my dad when I was SEVENTEEN
My parents separated when I was six months old and, when I was three, he left the country to start a new life with a new family in the US.
Even though single parent families were not the norm at the time (this was the 80s), it was MY norm. I remember a girl at school finding out my parents were divorced and asking if I was OK, as if it had just happened.
I was actually A-OK. My mother was both nurturer and protector, and with two older brothers I was all set for father figures (I was also extremely close to my grandfather and a few years down the track I would get a step-father too, so really I had an excess of male role models when you think about it!).
My mum tells me how I had insisted I had no father while making father’s day cards at preschool (it seems I was convinced I was the immaculate conception). My Austrian father (who we called Papa) was still in the country at the time, but to me he was “a friend who sometimes brought presents.” My mum was horrified when she realized I thought Papa was his name, not understanding it was the term for father in Austria.
Whenever I hear this story I feel sorry, not for myself, but for the younger me and our family. I feel sorry for the girl who wet the bed until she was twelve, her eldest brother who stuttered uncontrollably as a child and, most of all, for my mother, who carried the burden of being a single mother with three young children (I’ll dedicate another blog to how my mum going to university inspired me).
I have a couple of memories of my father from before I met him—one of him picking up my two older brothers in the yellow Sigma. I tried to stowaway in the backseat and ended up having my fingers accidentally slammed in the door. I remember crying as they reversed down the drive. I have another memory of him taking us to China Town in Sydney and being scared of the Chinese New Year Dragon (they STILL scare the heck out of me).
The memories are like wisps of smoke that dissipate the longer I look at them. I had the opportunity to make more tangible memories years later. You can read about the first time I met my dad on Dear Teen Me, where I wrote a letter to my seventeen year old self.
If you have read When The World Was Flat (and we were in love), you would know I’m ABSOLUTELY FASCINATED by the concept of consequences and what ifs. What if my father had stayed? Would my parents have moved back to Austria as planned? What if I had grown up speaking German? Would I have still loved reading and writing? Would I have become an author?
In the words of Robert Frost: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.