I’m sure that my mother, Lesley, once dreamed of being a hero as all children do, but I don’t think she imagined the story would start with her being widowed at the age of 27.
I was four days shy of my first birthday when my father, Richard, was killed in a head on collision with a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. My older brother and sister were in the car; while Jesse was mostly unharmed, my five-year- old sister Estee sustained injuries that ensured she would never walk again.
At 27 my mother suddenly found herself a single parent with three small children and another on the way. In a hearing to claim compensation, the courts deemed her ‘highly unmarriageable’, and she believed that part of her life was irrevocably over.
Mum was born in Mt Petrie and both her family and my dad’s family lived locally, but I think she raised us pretty much single-handedly over the next seven years in our little northern suburbs home. When I think about the strength it must have taken to get through those days, I look at my Mum and remind myself that there is steel at the core of that gentle-looking woman. She’s a bit of a pushover and adores a good cup of tea and a biccie, but she is also a fighter, whether she believes it or not.
I had a scrappy, happy childhood; my brother and sisters and I grew up on 12 acres of bush land and didn’t wear shoes to school if we didn’t feel like it. Mum certainly had her hands full – although Estee is now a fully independent miracle woman, after the accident she needed a lot of care. Jesse was a rat bag and I was a strange, sly kid who was always doing something dodgy, including tormenting my baby sister Nelle.
Somehow, Mum managed to get us all to ballet, netball, footy and piano lessons on a regular basis. We went on holidays to Coolum and Stradbroke Island, and I never wanted for anything as a kid, although I do remember telling my grade two peers that I was poor in a campaign for tuck shop money.
Estee’s rehabilitation and physiotherapy continued, and her main therapist, Jane, became a great friend to our family. Jane also introduced us to Peter, a young guy who had broken his neck playing rugby for the Australian schoolboys. She thought he would be an inspiration to Estee, but Pete became a lot more to us.
They were married when I was seven years old, and I feel so blessed to have two such outstanding humans as my parents – especially since one signed up voluntarily after meeting my younger, diabolical self.
Mum and Pete went on to have four kids together, making me one of eight children. We are now all over the age of 20, and our family gatherings are just as hectic and exuberant as you might imagine.
Courage, strength and heroism come in all shapes and forms. Sometimes, the bravest thing you can do is continue on, day by day, even though the world has dropped out from underneath you. I know that Mum still carries the memory of those incredibly difficult times with her, but today she is extraordinarily happy and healthy. This Mother’s Day I salute her for making it through a series of setbacks that would have knocked a lesser woman for six. Every time I think I can’t get through something, or can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel I remember that my Mum is living proof that better times will come!