The first time we spoke, I thought he sounded like such a rough, cockney geezer, and he commented that in comparison I sounded ‘posh’. We chatted for a little while, then arranged to meet up a week later. After I hung up, I physically shook for hours.
When we met, there was little awkwardness. We’re both hopeless social butterflies, so conversation flowed naturally, peppered with little jokes. We have the same light hair and pale eyes; even some little mannerisms are the same. At first our intention was to build a relationship, and for a while we did. It’s hard to fit into traditional ‘father/daughter’ roles with someone who didn’t see you grow up, though, so we settled on drinking buddies who shared some DNA.
I moved to Australia in 2008 and the distance between us has made strengthening our relationship hard. We speak on the phone occasionally, text one another at Christmas and New Year and try to remember each other’s birthdays. I would like more but, given the circumstances, I feel like I can’t expect it.”
“Dad and I became two peas in a pod”
Lauren Sherson, a 44-year-old small-business owner, met her father, Greg, for the first time when she was 20. The duo remained close until Greg succumbed to cancer just nine years later.
My parents were married for six months and after my mother left my dad, he was prevented by court orders from requesting contact with me. My birth certificate didn’t show his name. I was curious, though, and began asking about him once I turned 17.
Finding Dad took a bit of time and perseverance. In 1999, I found out the name of the church my parents were married in, and when I arrived at this 1800s bluestone building, they took me up to the attic with a gas lantern – just like in the movies.
Once I found the wedding certificate, everything else fell into place. I called my [paternal] grandmother after finding her details in the electoral roll, and my father rang almost straight away. Fortunately, he was as thrilled as I was, and even though I was emotional and anxious, his voice was soothing and strangely familiar to me. He felt like ‘dad’ immediately.
What struck me most about meeting dad in person six weeks later was just how similar we were. We looked so alike that his friends took to calling me ‘Gregette’ and I discovered that he, too, was an inventor. Although we were strangely silent at first, once we began talking we couldn’t stop; we wanted to know everything about each other’s lives and what it had been like for the past 20 years with this huge piece missing. I’d gone through life as an only child but, as I soon discovered, I was now one of seven kids.
“Although we were strangely silent at first, once we began talking we couldn’t stop; we wanted to know everything about each other’s lives.”
Although my father was living in Hong Kong, I moved up to Brisbane five months later to start a company and get to know my family better. I’d spend three months at a time with him in Hong Kong or the Philippines; at other times he would fly back to Australia to spend time with me. I even managed to get my mother to meet with him and have a drink to clear the air.
For the next nine years, Dad and I were like two peas in a pod; we did everything together. Sadly, our time was cut short. He died of prostate cancer in 2008.
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the genetics versus environment question and for me, it’s genetics. Without having known him for most of my life, I became an inventor too. I invented software and recently launched the Canthea School of Entrepreneurship, which includes card and board games I’ve invented. He wasn’t in my life for long, but getting to know him has made all the difference to my future.”
“Hugging dad felt like my search for home was over”
It’s a Father’s Day first for Simone Chandler/Saunders, a 48-year-old documentary maker, foster carer and dog washer who met her dad, Kevin Chandler, earlier this year.
“My mother struggled with mental health so I spent my early years being passed around family members. When I was eight, I was placed into the foster care system; three of the 28 homes were good and the rest I’ve tried to forget.
Despite what I was going through, I spent the entire time dreaming about who and where my father might be. My mother refused to talk about him, but eventually gave me a name, Kevin Saunders, that turned out to be a bum steer.
I refused to give up on finding him, so I did a DNA test that confirmed my Aboriginality and my nationalities. That gave me something to go off, but last December I received a Facebook message from my father’s niece, who said: ‘You’re Kevin Chandler’s daughter! Your sisters are in Sydney too and would love to see you.’ I couldn’t believe it.
I cried during the call with my sisters, and I wept when we met the following day. They got Dad on the screen and I was shocked when I saw he has the same Abraham Lincoln eyebrows that I do; we’re split images of each other.
Straight away he, claimed me as his own. He said, ‘You’re my daughter. When are you going to come up to Katherine to see me?’ He also told me what tribe I’m from and that was the ultimate gift. All my life, I’ve been asked, ‘What mob are you?’ and I’ve never been able to respond. Now I can proudly say I’m Gurindji.
I knew everyone’s faces by the time I touched down in Darwin early this year. “She looks just like Dad,” I heard over and again as we drove four hours to Katherine. A crowd of people came out to greet me when the car pulled up, but there too was my dad with his arms wide open. I ran and buried myself in them; the search for home was over.
My whole life up until that point felt like it was about rejection; I believed I’d been rejected by my dad, but as it turns out, Dad hadn’t even known I existed.
Straight away, I was loved and embraced by every member of my family. It doesn’t take away the pain of what happened to me in the system, but it’s amazing the healing love can bring into your life.
Dad has been in my life for a few months now and we speak regularly. I’m hoping to go back up to see him again soon, but first I’m preparing to celebrate my first ever Father’s Day. I get to browse cards and buy silly mugs and I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
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