Watch SBS Insight’s episode on Betrayal – and its devastating impacts – on Tuesday 5th September at 8.30pm on SBS or live on SBS On Demand.
I never expected to hear my father’s voice.
My mother had told me that he had died in a car accident in London on Christmas Eve before I was born.
I had spent so much of my life wondering about my father. I asked my mother endless questions. Sometimes she would be avoidant, sometimes she would give me pieces of information such as a name or a story.
But there were inconsistencies.
When I was in my early 20s, as the internet became more accessible, I searched for records and information that may give me answers. Time and again there were no matches.
When I had children of my own, I became more curious and started asking my mother more questions. Again, the same stories, some more elaborate.
Niki (right) says her relationship with her mother was complicated. Source: Supplied
Then when I was diagnosed with an aneurysm, I became increasingly desperate for answers, both for potential family connections for my children if I were to experience a rupture, but also for the genetic health components.
But as I got older, I found more holes in my mother’s stories than comfort. The inconsistencies remained. I spoke with people who knew my mother at that time and discovered that timelines and locations didn’t add up.
When my mother died, I accepted that the truth would die with her.
A life-changing discovery
When the time came, she had emerged from surgery in a coma. In her last three days of life, before we turned off her life support, I sat with her, played her favourite music and thought about our stories, her stories and our complicated relationship.
I found forgiveness and unconditional love in a way I hadn’t been able to in life.
It was in the midst of grief and turmoil that I decided to order an Ancestry DNA test.
The test arrived within two weeks. I took the sample and posted it back the same day.
I had no expectations, having heard of people waiting years without a significant match. Plus I didn’t have high expectations for the sort of person my father might have been, given most of my mother’s relationships had been with less-than-pleasant men.
Within weeks I had the test results. I logged on immediately to find a close match.
At first, he appeared to be a potential first cousin, who was living in California.
I spent hours researching and eventually found him on Facebook. I sent him a message introducing myself and explaining we were related, and I wanted to work out how….CONTINUE READING
When Niki was diagnosed with an aneurysm, she became increasingly desperate for answers about who her father was. Source: Supplied
He responded within hours, we exchanged a few messages and then decided it would be easier to talk.
Initially, we thought his uncle was my father but the timelines didn’t match. Instead, we worked out that we shared a father and that he was in fact my half-brother.
And it turned out my father was alive and 68 years old. And like my newly-found brother, living in California.
My brother arranged for us to talk on the phone that same day.
‘The years we had lost’
Hearing my father’s voice for the first time was hard.
We both had lots of questions and over that conversation and those that followed, we discussed the betrayal we felt and the anger at my mother for the years we had lost. My father was quite resentful.
Over the next 12 months, we talked a lot, but as time passed, he seemed to change.
Niki spoke to her dad for the first time on her 41st birthday, which she says was hard. They both had “lots of questions”. Source: Supplied
I didn’t realise at the time that he had dementia after having survived a stroke some years earlier.
Meanwhile, I was dealing with my own health issues and awaiting surgery to clip my aneurysm.
Prior to the operation, my brother and my father came to Australia. It was wonderful to see my brother but during his stay my father was difficult, and it had a significant impact on our relationship.
During my surgery, I suffered a brain injury and had to have a second procedure to clip the aneurysm. The recovery was hard; I had little patience and capacity to connect with my brother or support my father as his health deteriorated.
‘Far too late’
Shortly after Covid began, my father was diagnosed with cancer. I tried to be patient with him but once again, his behaviour was challenging.
Four years after our first phone call, my father died.
Because we weren’t close, I felt like I didn’t have the right to grieve for him.
I met him far too late in life and in so many ways, it was the wrong time for either of us to get the most out of our relationship. I will always regret not handling things better.
And I will always feel betrayed by my mother, more so for all that my father missed out on.
There were years lost with me and his grandchildren, while the kids and I could never make up time we never had with my brother and my children’s uncle, and the extended family.
I am lucky enough to still have a good relationship with my brother. And I am grateful I got the answers I was looking for, as imperfect as they are.
Then I may have found him sooner.