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Moments in Time


David Jackson

I have always been of the belief that we are a scattering of interconnected moments in time. Woven magic which is not necessarily predicated on where we came from, nor fatalistically indicative of where we are going.

It hasn’t been hard to adopt this philosophy given the background I came from.

My earliest memories are of being part of a large family albeit a foster family.  A foster mother and a father who especially adored me, and a collection of siblings. A brother and sisters both younger and older than me.

We were a happy rambunctious mob – but then silence through sadness fell on us when my dad was killed outright by a drunk driver. Well not outright – he was hospitalised on life support for a couple of weeks where he ultimately died, leaving behind his wife of 40 years, she being my foster mum, and their six foster children.

My dad had been cutting roses for his elderly mother-in-law who lived locally, and whilst delivering them he realised he had left the secateurs on the bonnet of the car and as he made a right-hand turn at a T junction, they flew off and he got out of the car to retrieve them only to be struck down.

Sadly this was not the last monumental tragedy to occur as at age 11 my cousin who was like a brother was killed by a drunk driver whilst riding his bike to school.

These were life-changing events which provided a sadness and grief from which my already poor and disadvantaged family would never fully recover.

Of course, we tried as we struggled with our grief through daily life, but what with the patriarch and breadwinner gone, and an extremely sweet and simple mother aged in her 60s left to raise the rowdy mob of kids without substantial support it was a challenge very often almost lost.

Also, the decade of the 1970’s was a crossroad from the prior religious periods to a more permissive age. The times were changing as were the demands of parents and teenagers alike.

Still, our salvation was my mum’s unwavering and devoted commitment to standing by her children. Whilst we were poor financially we were rich in an abundance of feeling loved and wanted which was a contrast to all of our families of origin who for a variety of reasons had to relinquish care to my mum and dad.

And this was another source of inspiration yet challenge, for my mum welcomed our birth families to not only come visit but stay with us as they travelled from inter and intra state. Already with full occupancy our small three-bedroom government house swelled even larger on these occasions.

Mutual goodwill prevailed as did trust and respect. Who could not be inspired by such a Saint of a woman and foster mum, but all of our birth parents clearly had issues with none more extreme than my birth mum who sadly had paranoid schizophrenia and visited from interstate during episodes. Sweata’s animated and antisocial behaviours were frightening to a child and lacked understanding given cultural differences.

Sweata was a migrant from war-torn Europe, perhaps the hardest of all battles, and her personal tragedies continued when she lost her mum to breast cancer upon arriving in her new homeland and she then suffered degenerative mental health.

Tragedies and sadness abounded and were almost the norm. But from the earliest of ages, I was full of admiration and inspiration for all the kindness and love with which my foster mum lived.

I was blessed in a hurricane of emotional torment and disasters, and throughout my adult life, I carried a sense of self and confidence to try to see the good and do good with others. And I must say it has been a charmed life to always see rainbows leading to pots of gold.

Also, this is a preferable disposition to any alternative.

I entered social work in my late 20s which was a good age to draw on wisdom, and I have worked now for 30 years, supporting parents and children in similar circumstances to that of my life. I have mostly found that respect and compassion are reciprocated.

It’s unfortunate that modern life is even harder and presents more stark challenges than those I was born into. And it is unlikely that I will ever be twice blessed by anyone as loving and wise as my foster mum. But still I try to take some of that vision to rise above all of the self-serving and perpetuating negativity which confines people of adversity to being someone else’s scapegoat.

That is not how life should work. You don’t have to scratch far from the surface to find that there is no such family or society which hasn’t been marred by heartache, injustice and tragedies.

That is life and the human spirit.

It is most often the lament of loss that is more indelible on the human experience than that of joy being the preferred but temporal state.

I think the age we are living in now is attempting to give rise to people’s personal afflictions and ailments which is equally noble and necessary, but these life lessons should not be sold to us as a bill of handicap, inability and invalidity. This is only part of a longer story and journey where we can be assured that life as a bottomless box of chocolates is not our natural state. I think people need a reckoning with joy and sorrow and the interface between what has been done to us and what we do unto others. Somewhere amongst this is our personal need and preference to be the person we were destined to be.

And when your inauspicious start in life robs you of your self-confidence and respect it can easily be duped by others’ prejudices although this should never be the case.

We are our own heroes and warriors and always have been.

David Jackson has contributed his story to two edited collections and co-edited one of these.

Jackson, David. “I was just trying to matter.” In Recipes for Survival: Stories of Hope and Healing by Survivors of the State ‘Care’ System in Australia, edited by Deidre Michell and Priscilla Taylor. South Australia: People’s Voice Publishing, 2011.

Jackson, David. “I set off on an unchartered course…and found myself drifting.” In Against the Odds: Care Leavers at University, edited by Deidre Michell, David Jackson and Casey Tonkin. South Australia: People’s Voice Publishing, 2015.

Image supplied