My dad, Andrew, was born in Ireland and came to Western Australia in his 20s. He retained his accent and was a great storyteller. He was a gypsy and we moved around a lot. He worked in mines and as a fisherman. He loved nature and took my younger sister Hayley and I on fishing adventures in boats that weren’t seaworthy.
As a kid I would snuggle under Dad’s armpits on the couch watching Doctor Who with him. It’s one of my happiest memories of my childhood.
My maternal grandfather, John, was a merchant seaman. He was the patriarch of the family and lived to 93. He taught me all my nautical knowledge. He had exquisite handwriting and kept a diary every day of his life. He was very much a part of our lives until the end.
My mum, Rosemary, was born in Leeds, England, and came out to WA when she was four. She met Dad via one of her brothers as they both worked both in the mines. One Christmas Day, Dad was invited for lunch and he charmed my mother. She couldn’t resist.
I grew up in a small coastal town north of Perth called Leeman. Every day, Dad would take a 40-minute bus ride to get to work on the mines then return with a carton of beer.
Dad was sexually abused as a child but we never knew. He was an alcoholic and when I was 16 his alcoholism forced him to leave me and the rest of the family. We didn’t know where he was for a long time. I went through years of anguish. I felt abandoned.
He went through the AA program and got himself back on track. In the last five years of his life he found us in Sydney. He worked as a caretaker in a church garden and was housed there.
Dad had a brain tumour and in the last year of his life I went to live with him to take care of him. He died seven years ago. It was a wonderful healing process for me to better understand the burden he was carrying. It’s all he wanted to talk about in the end.
I was convinced I’d marry Boy George when I was a teenager. I had a thing for boys who wore make-up and I guess I thought that it would be fun exchanging dresses with a guy!
I went to an all-girls boarding school, Stella Maris Presentation College in Geraldton, and didn’t really notice boys. But later I attended a co-ed high school in Perth, St Joachim’s. I would take long bus and train journeys to get home and that’s when I started noticing boys. I spent a lot of time reading romantic novels like Wuthering Heights and had a warped vision of romance.
My first kiss was at 16 with a family friend’s friend. He was slightly older than me. He was more interested in my boobs than having a first kiss, so it wasn’t the romantic moment I was hoping for after reading Jane Austen. I was a little disappointed. I was so caught up in the romance I hadn’t clicked about the sex drive of young men.
I took my cousin Jason to my highschool ball because I didn’t know any other boys. He was very gracious. He was good-looking and the other girls were happy I brought him along.
At Curtin University in Perth I was surrounded by men. I had lots of crushes and clumsy first experiences with different boys. It was also a time I got to hang out with gay men, as they were all into the theatre like me. That was a great way to understand the male psyche. They were so intimate in conversation and I felt I could talk to them in a safe way.
At university I met somebody who could have come out of a Jane Austen novel. He wore cravats and carried around a book of Lord Byron. He was visiting from England and wanted to take me back to wander around his estate and go pheasant hunting. I didn’t want to trade my freedom for that.
In my past relationships I felt knocked off balance by some men. I am not sure if that was because of the person I was dating or because of me. Maybe I wasn’t ready for commitment until now.
I was instantly charmed by Carlo’s Italian way. One of the first things he said to me was that he wanted to change the world. He has such a positive outlook on life and I find it enticing. He has helped me be a bit more courageous. It’s fabulous planning a life together.
When Carlo asked me to marry him, I didn’t falter. It’s not something I ever planned for my life. I saw the sacrifices my mother made and interpreted it as, “Marriage is bad.” But I am now convinced otherwise.