Having read what you just have, it might be very easy to assume that my parents were disconnected, uncaring or even negligent. Definitely not the case. My parents are wonderful people and I love them dearly. Never in my life have I had cause to blame them for these earlier events.
My Father grew up on a dairy farm in the Bega Valley. As the eldest of 6, he had many responsibilities from a young age; both on the farm and within the family. Dad never really developed a passion for farming, perhaps because there had always been so much expected of him. When he finished school he went on to study Plant Pathology at the University of Sydney. The majority of his career was spent at The University of Melbourne, initially in the Faculty of Science and then transferring to the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. He was Dean for several years and retired as an Associate Professor in 1995. He specialised in Mycology and has now been appointed Senior Associate in Mycology and Plant Pathology. As a child, all I knew was that he was a lecturer and knew “everything” about plants and animals. Dad was my hero, my James Bond. I always felt safe with my Father.
Besides visiting the farm for our holidays, we also spent time at Tathra in a caravan by the beach. We usually had an annex attached to the caravan where my two eldest brothers would sleep. My youngest brother and I would sleep in the caravan with Mum and Dad. These were classic holidays with cousins galore, swimming and barefoot games on the beach.
Sometimes we were lucky enough to spend time at a holiday house near Wilson’s Promentary on the coast of Victoria. Some of my favourite memories are the walks we all went on through the rugged wilderness of that magnificent place. Dad would always take the time to teach us when and how to be wary of snakes, and would often stop along the way to highlight some amazing botanical detail. At night, he had no patience for torches but rather taught us to wait for our eyes to adjust to the light.
Once, when I was around eleven years old, I slipped whilst gazing at the tiny fish and colourful starfish in a glistening rock pool. I was knocked unconscious on the rocks and received a nasty, bloody gash to my head. Dad carried me all the way back across the craggy rocks, and then up the steep and winding path to the beach house. At some point along the way, I felt that perhaps I could walk but I kept my eyes tightly shut enjoying the safety of his arms and the surety of his step (sorry Dad). My Father would have done anything to protect me from the worst in the world…and still would.