As one nears the end of one’s life, a review of the past can have a liberating effect. Here’s a summary of my story.
I was born after my mother had an affair. She was a married woman, separated from her first husband. As I was the only family that she now had (at the time), she decided to raise me on her own. That caused her a lot of stigma, hard work and lean times. But we survived.
My father was a confirmed bachelor. Raised as a preacher’s kid, he went on to study medicine at the University of Toronto. I believe he left after his first year. He then did military duty for WWII, and stayed on in Europe for a while after it ended to produce a monthly publication. He was always literate. His first book of poetry Over the Wheel was self-produced. I have passed on two copies to my children, and still have one in my possession.
His eternal shame, it seems, was that he got a married woman pregnant. I was his dirty little secret. He went to his grave without any of his family knowing. We met once.
The Third Part of the Triangle: me
Not having a father around for the first five years of my life, left me feeling unworthy. If he loved me, he would have been there, wouldn’t he? This gave rise to ‘night terrors’ as a child. I was sure that I wouldn’t survive my childhood. But somehow I did.
In 1955, Mom married Rus. Almost immediately our lives changed: as I’d been born and raised in Toronto, it was a shock to find that we had moved to the countryside. Gone was the city hustle and bustle; now all I heard was the wind in the trees, and the lowing of the cattle in the fields.
Within 18 months, Mom gave birth to my sister Anne. So now I was someone’s older brother. That was different. I had to become responsible. I also started echoing my father’s childhood: a preacher’s kid.
Who Am I?: my search for a family name
From then on, life became a series of births (and one stillbirth) of my siblings. My next sister was Rachel, a feisty little thing (she was premature) and my new comrade in arms.
She came after our brother (Stephen) had been stillborn, so she proved more precious to me. I suspect that death truly enters into one’s consciousness at age nine or ten.
Three years later, our final sister, Elizabeth, arrived to complete our growing family. I was now the on-tap babysitter.
What’s in a (baby’s) Name?
I married young, by today’s standards. In our day, it was completely normal, and expected. Judi and I had been dating three years. We tied the knot on Valentine’s Day 1970.
By this time, I had been writing poetry for about five years, so it won’t come as a surprise that I wrote some for my first wife, too, while we were dating.
First Child: Derek
There is nothing that sobers a person up faster than becoming a parent for the first time. Not that I drank at the time: I was tee-total until 1975.
Derek arrived one early morning in late April of 1972. Immediately he was put under a heat lamp in an incubator, because he was jaundiced. (I don’t think that description will ever go away.) Judi took it very badly. I saw that the strong woman I married had a weak spot for the life of her son. That changed our family dynamic, permanently.
Separation, then Divorce
I was getting restless. I guess I didn’t expect to find married life so stifling. I wanted to explore the world, I wanted to travel, I wanted to move. But first I needed to find my father.
Just before my 25th birthday, I got in touch with my father, who now went by the name of James Miller. He agreed to meet me, and when he was next in Barrie, I jumped at the chance to see him face-to-face. Over wiener schnitzel we discussed my life, my ambitions and my poetry. It was then and there that I decided to separate from Judi. Unfortunately, I would be leaving Derek behind, too.
Within three years, I had married again, this time in Vancouver, BC, to my second wife Suzann. A lot of angst was involved, I can assure you. I was concerned that I’d made such a hash of the first marriage, that I was scared that I would ruin the second one, too.
However, Suzann had a child from an earlier relationship, and that bundle of joy became the blessing in disguise. I would eventally adopt Amy after her sister was born.
My Daughter Rosanna is Born
What can I say? I was smitten at first sight. I resolved to buy a camera and record Rosanna’s life from that moment on.
One sequence, not shown here, involved a series of photographs that I took of Rosanna on our bed: she started out smiling, but, by the tenth shot, she was crying. I titled the sequence “Anatomy of a Cry”. I suspect she got tired of seeing that ‘black object’ (my camera) in front of my face.
However, as always occurs, when a new baby is born, the older child starts to dominate the relationship, leading to slammed doors later in their teenaged lives.
My Spiritual Journey Begins
We moved to England. Suzann and the girls went at the end of September 1984. I followed in February 1985. This would prove to be the catalyst of change for me. It also heralded some changes for Suzann, too.
I have outlined in various posts my spiritual journey, but the beginning was the ‘dream’ that Suzann had months before we moved.
The Turning Point
The years rolled along, quickly, as they do when you get older. My children have now grown up, started having families of their own, and got on with their lives.
In the meantime, I had separated from Suzann, started living with Dianne, and totally screwed up my life. Unfortunately, this led to a point where I contemplated ending it.
Back to Canada and my New Wife
I muddled on through until finally in 2007, I resolved to return to my native country. In doing so, I met up with my very first girlfriend, Susan, who let me move in with her, and her two Jack Russells, Cheeko and Cloe.
We married in 2010. And I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life. This all goes to prove that one should never give up.
Picture credits: all photos are from my personal collection.