An open letter to Aaron and Joshua

I love you.

I also love being your Dad.  It is the proudest achievement of my life.  Nothing I have done before or may do in the future, can surpass being part of the creation of the two wonderful human beings who are Aaron Francis and Joshua David.  I also treasure the relationship that has developed between us as adults and which is equally attributable to the three of us.  It is rare and priceless.

I wonder however if my father, Reginald Francis, could rightly lay claim to that title, “Dad”, or to the same feeling of pride that I have articulated above.  Through the work I am doing on my mastery and service course I have come to a fuller realisation of how selfish my father was.  How little affection and respect he was able to give me throughout the course of my early life when so much depended on that.   Here are some of the recollections and details that I doubt you are aware of and which has only just resurfaced for me.

I do not recall receiving more than a card for my birthday or Xmas from Reg and many birthdays and Xmas’s I did not receive even that.  Never a gift that I can recall. I have a sense of Granma being quite disappointed when nothing arrived from him on these occasions.

I also recall in my high school years the desperation my Granma had at the start of each year waiting on money from Reg to assist with the purchase of textbooks and uniforms.  These must have been a large burden for a couple of aged pensioners.  I don’t really know whether they received much support or not, Granma probably wouldn’t have told me either way.

My father left for NZ to follow my mother in 1949/1950.  My next contact with him was in 1957 when he paid for Grandma and me to visit him in Napier.  It was during this visit that he arranged for my Mum and me to meet.  Why did it take 7 years for this to happen and why couldn’t he have come to Australia to visit me?  I then spent a year in NZ with my Mum in 1958 and then returned to Maldon and my grandparents.  After that, my next contact with him was when he returned to Australia in 1962 for my Grandma’s funeral.  I was at that time happily settled in Melbourne doing a two-year post office training course.  So what did Reg do?  Made me leave everything in Australia, including Granpop, and come and live with him in NZ because now he wanted me to be with him.

As a child I was quite often referred to as “Michael, Reg’s son”, rarely just as Michael.  Granpop used to shorten this to call me “Michaelson” as an affectionate term.  Maldon people regularly regaled me with tales of Reg’s daring feats as a child and man in Maldon.  My recollection of Reg when I was a child was always with admiration.  I grew up wanting to be like him and worked hard to achieve that, particularly in my teenage years in NZ.  Hence my overdeveloped sense of humour, my drinking,  and most of all, my selfishness.

Looking back at my childhood years in Maldon I now realise that my relationship with Granpop was more like father and son.  With Reg it was more like an absent elder brother.

I also deeply regret that I didn’t honour Granpop when he was alive as much as I could have.   Granma was always my primary focus with Granpop somewhere in the background.

But it was Granpop who took me rabbitting, who talked to me about the mining days, who showed me how to pan for gold, to cut firewood, light the fire, who stayed at home and “babysat” me on Saturday nights so Granma could go out and play cards, who used to test me on capital cities of countries, who watched me play football and encouraged me to “get stuck in”, who encouraged me to barrack for Hawthorn, who insisted that I go to High School rather than Tech School because he wanted me to be a bank manager as they had all the money.

The one man in my life who loved me unconditionally as a son.

My dad’s name is Francis Albert Stacey, and I will try to honour him and his memory by calling him Dad from now on.

Pop and our dog Henry sometime in the 50’s.

** Authors note: This was written during a personal development training course, Mastery and Service, in 2004.

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