• Stephanie Hammond

A husband and a father

Married life was different for us both. I was struggling with knowing my role as wife and mother and looking back, it’s easier to see the dynamics at play. At the time it was different. And from this perspective of time, I can see that learning his place as husband and father was just as strange and frightening to this young man I’d married.

Physically, he was charming. A full 12 inches (30 cms) taller than me, good looking, dark haired, with a winning smile. This photo was taken just after our wedding and you can see what a hunk he was then. His enthusiasm for life seemed endless. And he was compassionate. He stopped to help a stranded family whose car had broken down. He towed their car to our place and brought them home with him. We separated the mattress from the base of our bed and made them a bed on the living room floor and we slept on the base. He helped fix the car and we made new friends. And this was not an isolated case. He was always willing to help and I loved this about him.

From soon after our marriage, his work revolved around trucks. Driving trucks payed a lot more than his job at the supermarket. The hours were longer and less certain and he was always willing to work overtime. So keeping any sort of schedule to ensure a family routine was nigh impossible. Except when he’d had an accident, and he was accident prone. A gas cylinder rolled off the truck on to him at one time. Soon after our second daughter was born he was off driving trucks in South Australia. Here he drove over a hill that had been turned into a cliff face from a sand storm. He was bitten by a scorpion during that time as well.

He tried to exert his authority, once. His father used physical violence and although he hated how he treated his mother, violence was the only model he knew. I still have the scar on my eyebrow where he hit me. But I was having none of that and he was apologetic. He stuck out his chin and invited me to hit him back and with all the force of my little body and the determination he would never hit me again, I socked him right there on his chin. He fell backwards - in shock more than any power in my fist I’m sure. He was so proud of me, that I’d stood up for myself, he told everyone later what I’d done. He never tried to use force with me again. I often think about that and how he must have wished his mother had been able to stand up to his father in the same way.

His ability to bounce back from setbacks with humour was a life saver for us both. He balanced my fears of doing wrong by our little family with a joy of life and optimism that was reassuring. And he also brought a sense of practicality when it was important.

Because of his propensity for accidents, and that we were concerned about how the girls and I would fare if anything happened to him, he agreed to take out a life insurance policy. And we started to plan how we could buy a house in the near future. We moved again, this time, in the same town, to share house with an older gentleman. I’d keep house for him and be there in case he needed help. This would save money that we could put towards a home of our own.

But my husband bought a motor bike with the savings. He’d had it barely a month, if that long, when he took a job long distance driving semi trailer trucks from Brisbane to Sydney. The extra money, he promised, would go into the bank for our future. But he put the motor bike into the workshop for some modifications. I didn’t know about that until later.

He was young. Barely 21 at the time. He wanted to provide for us and he wanted a life too. It was my dream, my need for security, that set the goal to have a home of our own. I loved the security and safety I’d felt during the first ten years of my life, having a family home, stability of a loving neighbourhood, parents who were known and loved by friends and family who lived close. I wanted that for my children. Already I could see that, with six different homes within the three and a half years of our life together, that sort of stability for them was not in our future. It would only come from a home of our own.

He shared that dream to a degree. The timing wasn’t yet right for him. He still had some ‘young man’ stuff he needed to experience and enjoy. Settling down to a mortgage could wait.

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