It’s the 39th anniversary of the day my Dad emigrated to Australia. A small town in England had been home till then. I suppose he had happy memories as well as sad, but the negatives were starting to outweigh the positives, and it was time to move on. His sister (who was also his closest friend) and her husband had already moved “down under”, and Dad planned to follow.
If he’d thought moving to the other side of the world would be an escape from past hurts, he was mistaken. Misery followed him. Soon he found himself, lonely and alone, awash in an alcoholic stupor, trying to dull the memories…
He’d never been expected or wanted by his parents. Though his mother came to love him dearly, his father never softened- at least not outwardly. Dad could never shake the pain of knowing he was an accident- unwanted. I remember Grandad, vaguely, from my own childhood, and I shudder to imagine what it was like for Dad growing up with him. He wasn’t exactly cruel, but he possessed a cold indifference that made those around him uneasy. Dad says he cannot remember his father ever saying that he loved him.
If the cold, unloving atmosphere at home wasn’t enough, Dad also faced the cruellest bullying at school all his life. He says the things you see of school bullying in movies and in the news these days is like “a walk in the park” compared to what he endured.
As he got older his feelings of insecurity followed him around like an unwanted stray dog, constantly nipping at his heels. Sadness was beginning to overwhelm him. Dabbling in drinking and petty crime, he seemed destined to spiral downward until the sorrow swallowed his unwanted life forever.
When his sister left, Dad knew his only hope was starting fresh. The last straw was when he went to tell his girlfriend he was leaving. Her mother (who never liked him anyway) came to the doorway and put a curse on him! That, and the fact that the police were after him, was enough to push Dad finally onto the ‘Ellenis’, the Greek liner that was to carry him across the sea.
Though he’d followed his sister to Australia, Dad quickly realised that he would also need to make other friends. Not being especially outgoing, this didn’t come easily. He spent much time drinking alone in his little flat at Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
Eventually Dad met my Mum where they both worked, and they hit it off. Initially they were just friends. Mum was happy with that, but Dad wanted more. From some unknown place, Dad found the courage to pursue her, and he didn’t let up until Mum finally agreed to go out with him!
As they headed toward marriage, Mum had to face the fact that Dad was deeply hurting, and that he was caught in the throes of a powerful addiction to alcohol. She, a committed follower of Christ, knew this wasn’t what she wanted to live with for the rest of her life. Although by that stage she loved Dad dearly, she had to let him know where she stood.
A short time after, they found themselves in a minister’s office. Dad had been going (albeit unhappily) to church with Mum, in the hope of convincing her that he was changing. But she wasn’t convinced, and now they sat seeking this minister’s advice. His advice was the catalyst that brought about a complete change in the life of my Dad.
There was an evangelistic crusade coming up, and the minister encouraged my parents to be there. They went on Mum’s night off. That night- Wednesday November 26th 1969, at 9:15pm- Dad’s life was forever changed. He knew that in Christ he could find the love and acceptance that he’d so longed for all his life, and he willingly gave himself up to Christ’s embrace. From that day on Dad has not touched alcohol, nor had the desire to. He and Mum have been serving God in ministry together. Although life hasn’t been a bed of roses, it has improved immensely travelling in the arms of his Saviour, rather than limping along with sorrow’s rabid dog nipping at his heels!
This day 39 years ago was somewhat sad for my Dad, but I appreciate and celebrate it. It brought him ultimately to Christ, who gave him the strength to stick around, and be here to be my Dad.
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