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  • I was born in post war Holland with no grandfathers – one had died and no-one would talk about Dad's father. Oh well.

    As a youngster I proudly wore a wide leather belt with lots of coloured glass studs with an address written on the inside from someone in Palm Beach, Florida, USA. You can see me wearing that belt in this '58 photograph after immigrating to Australia. I remember asking my parents about that address and shrugging it off as just a “benevolent American” who had taken pity on the plight of the post war Dutch. The belt wore out and it went but I remembered the Palm Beach bit.

    Four decades later curiosity got the better of me and a year of Internet searching including through Argentina (another story) and Holland, I discovered that “benevolent American” was my Grandfather (Opa) that no-one talked about. I was gobsmacked that I had once Greyhound bussed passed within a 100km of my Opa whose middle name I carry.

    Why, I asked was I deprived of an Opa?

    The quick background was that my father felt he had suffered a bad deal in Buenos Aires by his father when aged three. His father was prepared to adopt him but he was not see his mother again so his mother took him back to Holland and they struggled for years with Dad even living with foster parents when his mother was unable to care for him. Later as a teenager during the war he was forced by the German occupiers to spend his teenage years working in German factories while his half-brothers lived in style in New York. His father had seemingly snubbed him and so he avoided his pain for the rest of his life with denial of his past as source of discomfort.

    By Dad's dealing with is pain in his way, I missed out on my amazing Opa, a onetime commander of a Dutch submarine honoured by the Queen, Dutch consul to Argentina, manager of a huge oil refinery in Curacao etc. There was a bit more to this. Holland was once very conservative around marriage and illegitimacy and Dad was so bastaard that it scarred him deeply. Dad admitted just before he died that he minimised his pain by avoiding his family, mother (another story) and even my family. I missed out on so much family spirit even Opa's American family, my cousins until 2004.

    Arent we frail to be influenced by societal mores? Don’t we all so desperately want to be loved but if denied, we do strange things to avoid the pain of our past? Sometimes we often suppress the reasons for our actions, numbed.

    Alarmingly, the ripples of that event in Argentina in 1927 (that "bad deal" that sent Dad as a 3yo packing back to Holland) are still rippling and I had a falling out with my son who wants to do the same as has also occurred with my cousins and uncles in America and........ and......... and......but that’s another story about family constellations and subconscious conditioning.

    Human frailties are fascinating and I will write some more later - I find sharing like this healing. I can at least say today I love my dad and I forgive him for denying me my Opa.
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