One hundred and two years ago Caroline Ada Bryant had a baby boy on this day. Her second child, also her second son.
She named him Colin Arthur Bryant.
As a young boy Colin had hydatids. Maybe that’s why he was a little iffy around animals. His body bore scars from where they had operated to get the small sacs off, and save his life.
He married twice.
His first wife died after they had a son and a daughter.
His second ran off with a no-hoper from the circus after she had a daughter.
He carried that scar with him for the rest of his life as well.
Once a month until the third child was twelve he came to wherever she lived for his visit. He was always dressed in grey pants with a crease down the legs, a grey jacket, white long sleeved shirt and tie.
The aroma of tobacco would waft out of his clothes whenever any wind caught them. Colin tried, he really did, but he was uncomfortable around this third child. He used to look at her as if he was startled by her appearance at times.
It was easy to see he was uncomfortable; coming to the house when she was once again living with the run away Mum – but he never missed that Sunday visit.
The run away Mum’s death caused a few problems. What does a 62-year-old man do with a 12-year-old daughter he barely knows? Especially when he boards with a couple and just has one bedroom to himself – he gets her brother to take her on.
When disaster strikes a year later – the brother throws the now 13-year-old out, Colin has no choice. He is going to have to raise this problematic third child.
Boarding doesn’t work out, so they move into a large house with two bedrooms next to each other, a community bathroom and kitchen. After a while Colin rents a small flat. His bed is in the kitchen, hers in the lounge room. Just outside their front door is the community bathroom they share with the other residents.
Slowly they begin to get to know each other. She learns to cook through trial and error. Colin always eats everything she makes, without one word of complaint. She doesn’t realise at the time how much this means to her.
Everyday until he was well into his seventies he went to work as a store man. He couldn’t quit now he had to raise the young girl. She needed to be fed, sent to school, and clothed.
The day he found out she had been wagging school for months he sat on the end of her bed and cried. When she ran away he agreed to let her leave school and get a job. But his eyes were sad.
Colin taught her to drive the car, and then even lent it to her. Now she was working they moved into a regular flat, where they had their own kitchen and bathroom. They stayed that way for a long time.
The third child worked to pay half the rent, and power, and they even got their own telephone so she no longer had to walk to the phone box to ring her friends. She cooked for Colin every night. She did the shopping, the washing, the cleaning.
Colin played bowls every weekend. He drank a bit, but he gave up smoking. The daughter made sure they celebrated birthdays and Christmas with the other children and his family.
She lost contact with most everyone from the run away Mum’s side. She didn’t know it but Colin had warned them off.
Over the years Colin started to wear the bright short sleeved shirts and even the cardigans or jumpers the third child would buy him for presents. She never saw the grey jacket anymore, and almost never a tie.
At twenty-four, although she knew it was not what he wanted she felt it was time to go out on her own. After flatting for a year she went to Africa where she fell in love.
The third child got married and moved to Queensland with her new husband. She also moved her Dad up to live with them. Before she married she made it clear to her fiancé that it had to be that way.
Her aunt had looked after her grandparents all her life. Her Dad had said that he expected her to do the same. After four years of freedom, she had to do what she had to do.
It did not work out. Colin and the new husband had some difficulty adjusting to each other and they dragged the young woman between them constantly. Back and forth she went. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. One day she broke.
Six weeks before she had her first child Colin went back to Sydney to live with his daughter from his first wife. After a while he moved into a home for war veterans where he stayed until he died.
The third child went to see him when she could. After she moved to New Zealand she even flew him over for six weeks so he could get to know her daughter and son. Colin and the husband were uneasy around each other but the third child told them both to behave.
Her marriage was failing and the third child went away – back to where she grew up to think things out. She spent some time with Colin, and they talked about all the things that had happened.
Four months later when she was living on her own with the children the third child had a feeling. She couldn’t shake it. So she left the children with their father and went to see hers.
He was very sick. Cancer. They talked again. In four days they talked a lot. Colin said he had had enough. He was 86. Three weeks after the third child went home Colin died.
But he wasn’t finished with the third child yet. Angry because she hadn’t kept her promise to look after him until he died, he cut her out of his will. The third child broke again. Broke into so many pieces it took a long time to put them back together.
She didn’t really care about the money. Not that there was a lot of it. It was what it said. Now, when the third child jokes with her own kids about her old age – well, after – she makes sure they understand it IS just a joke. They do NOT have to look after her when she gets older.
The third child was very angry with Colin, for a very long time. Almost as angry as she had loved him. But on days like today, when she thinks of Colin, she misses him. She forgives him. She loves him.
Happy 102nd Dad !! Wherever you are.