April 1970, 6 months old. My earliest memory. Sitting on a cane chair out the front of my grandmother’s house. Standing alongside me was my brother Wayne, 5 years my senior, ready for a photo with his little sister. “kneel down next to your sister” my mother said, “and put down that knife!”. I remember it clear as day. Even though i was very young, it was my first recognition of things to come. I was told later in life, he wanted to stab me with that knife. Wanting a snapshot with his sister was the last thing on his mind, thoughts of jealousy and hurt. I was the reminder as years went on that he was left behind, raised by his grandparents, while I ended up with mum.
Our mother had been in and out of our lives, with work taking priority. I was nicknamed ‘ Ugly’ and like my brother, left in the hands of our grandparents, Until my mother met Marcello. An Italian, who migrated here on a ship to Sydney Town, to be with his sister and brother-in-law. He found work building and dismantling television towers around New South Wales and the ACT Australian Capital Territory with Telecom Australia. That’s how he met my mother.
We set off, traveling with a caravan, following Marcellos work from town to town. Wayne was never with us, he stayed behind. I remember I asked about him when I was younger. Mum’s answer was, he didn’t want to come, he was allowed to make his own choice to stay and he had to go to school. Now I get that if you were a teenager but Wayne was 5 years old, big choices to way on the shoulders of a little man.
I never really liked Marcello, but never knew at the time, that he wasn’t my real father. I just didn’t feel comfortable around him, something just didn’t gel. I felt closer to my God Parents, Gordan and Laura, my mother’s brother and sister-in-law, who seemed to treat me just like their own. Little did I know that Gordan couldn’t have children, so I got all the attention when we were in town, which was about every 6 months. At the age of three, I used to wander off and hide in the store clothing racks, watching hidden, as my mother frantically looked for me. I was often found in the creek beds behind caravan parks that we were staying in, wandering alone enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. Marcello’s antics frightened me. I never really felt safe. He was lucid, demanding, and demeaning. I guess it was his nature, his make-up, his culture. My mother was timid, undermined, and controlled. I remember sitting in my car seat, mum crying, Marcello telling her to “just shut up!”, water pouring in under the doors of the old Holden. He was traveling through a flooded road towing the van, knowing he knew it all and in his eyes, never made a wrong decision.
I was now 5. We had been in Canberra ACT where Marcello’s job this month had been dismantling a television tower down on the ridge. I remember spending afternoons on site with him and my mother, running up and down the bush roads whilst he worked. One afternoon, there was an accident. It was Marcello. He was dismantling the old tower, he was about halfway up the construction whilst the other worker was lower to the ground. The construction fell, taking Macello with it. The other worker was able to jump free, but Marcello was too high. He landed in a small creek bed, lucky to be alive. For the second time in his life, he cheated death but didn’t come out unscathed. Marcello had broken ribs, a damaged sternum, back, and legs, spending weeks in recovery, not knowing if he would work again. That’s when we returned to my mother’s home. ‘The Gully’, where we ended up settling into the local caravan park in the main town, about 15 minutes drive away, where I was to start school. Wayne stayed permanently with our grandparents. Our relationship was forever estranged. I now felt like an intruder in his life, but to me he was someone I always looked up to and admired, for he, I saw, had the comfort of real family and I felt so alone.
To be continued….
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