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Rediscovering My Parents

By Paul Jenkins

Dunedin solo dad Paul Jenkins got closer to his parents after his own marriage had ended.

Recently I attended my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. To me this is a huge achievement, 2 years ago my marriage ended after a 13 year relationship that produced three lovely children.

As a child our household was always crowded and busy; I was the youngest of seven children. I remember dad always contributing around the house, vacuuming, cleaning, baking and cooking meals in the weekend (this was a bonus because he was a better cook than mum).

Having dad as this role model has been useful, as I am now the sole custodial parent of my 7 children with no real support from their mother.

When my wife walked out of the marriage and the family home I resigned from my management job to care for my children.

As a result I had time on my hands and started visiting my parents more often for company. I have always been aware of having great love for my parents, but as adult to adult and a new perspective on life, discovered them as people.

The closer to his parents after his own surprising revelation was: I like them.

I had taken the risk of talking of the emotional aspects of my life (not been done before in the family) and they responded. I have learnt more about their childhood, bad’s involvement in World War II and his feelings about it, and discussed the death of my oldest brother that happened when I was only 4 months old.

At my parents’ anniversary it was arranged that my oldest remaining brother would make a speech, but on the day he called on all his siblings to contribute.

Being the youngest I was called to speak last. I made the usual jokes while I thought about what mum and dad meant to me, and combined with my experience as a father said “As the sole parent of my children I realise that children want lots of things but need only one. That is to feel loved and I never felt anything but”.

We make our lives busy, we have lots of reasons not to spend time with those closest to us because we think they will always be there. We know they won’t. My dad is 79 and starting to wilt.

I have been lucky to have had the last two years as his friend.

Any of us that had a marriage end know our loved ones will not always be there. From that I’ve learned it’s worth the effort to do what I can while they’re still around.

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