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You don't need blood to be brothers: Damien and me. Blood only makes you related, trust and loyalty make you family.
Roy & Bet Watkins, my loving and ever-supportive parents on their Wedding Day, 1950 at St Ignatius, Richmond.
Bet Watkins and me. My adoptive mother. How can it be that the best mother imaginable is a woman who never gave birth?
Five years before this picture was taken I'd been told my 'real parents couldn't raise me'. Forever curious, I would not learn my birth mother’s name, and of her startling vocation, for another 14 years. Three decades of deceptions and dead-ends followed. At 58 a DNA test led to the truth, my father was a celebrated priest.
Geez, this made me laugh. To bolster my gargantuan 'author income' I have a sneaky side-hustle doing reports ... who'd have thought a random wrong number would have just heard a months-old ‘Tell No One’ interview replayed on the wireless!?!
Though we were both adopted it's interesting to recognize, years later, that on special occasions Bet would often dress my brother Damien & I in identical clothes.
Roy Watkins wasn't much chop as a footballer, but he was a wonderful father, my dad. I only had one, didn't need another. Happy Fathers Day. x
‘What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - any fool can have a child. ... It's the courage to raise a child that makes you a father’ Barack Obama.
My brother Damien and me (he was such a great looking kid, eh?).
My mother was called unexpectedly by the church in February '61. She was asked to adopt a 'special child'. At 39 she considered herself too old for a newborn, but she and Roy promptly agreed: a decision for which I will be forever grateful. How would my remarkable adoptive parents have responded if they learned the truth, that they'd been gifted the secret child of a priest?
The Watkins family on our first 'overseas' holiday, New Zealand.
With my memoir being released this year I've been thinking about the years invested in producing it. The reason I had to write was to understand, not everything, and not fully, but to at least put what I knew - and how I felt - onto a page. Akin to an exorcism. It's (almost) irrelevant what the world thinks of it, though I believe there are many who will identify, and many others shocked by what took place. The final para in Genevieve Novak's piece in The Age hits the nail square on the head.
My entire maternal family - blood kin - have no idea I exist. My birth mother has requested I never contact 'her' family, she wants nothing to do with me. Other than my birth mother, my closest living (parental) DNA-match looks so much like me, but in obeying my mothers wishes, I may never meet her. The below reproduced Q & A explores just some of the complexities and anxieties experienced by those of us who are a part of the closed adoption era. Multiply that by 100 if your father was a priest.
Me, sneaking out the back door of church
A great many of the children of priests, and probably many more of our mothers, have been silenced with confidentiality agreements.
'A compelling account of why Ireland was so very Catholic for so long, why that changed - and what remains now that the special relationship has ended' Highly recommended!
The largest, oldest and most active support group for those wounded by religious & institutional authorities.
Wise advice for other children of priests and our mothers. The church, and its supposedly independent agents, often do not have your best interests at heart.
Astounding that the views put by Coping International (an Irish children of priests association) to the Australian Catholic Church are not representative of the majority of the Australian sons and daughters of the ordained in this country. However, the article did include one significant revelation 'Since the inception (of the Coping website) there have been in excess of 150,000 hits on the site from Australia alone'.
I was given my birth father's rosary beads recently. It got me thinking, how many prayers does a priest recite for deserting his son or daughter - for his own sins? Did my father confess, and if so, to who?
Motherless children beating each other to raise money for one of the wealthiest institutions in the world. It’s inevitable that a number of the children of the clergy were raised in orphanages, however my Catholic adoption agency covertly hand-picked my ‘good Catholic home’.
Roy & Bet Watkins engagement
'A seminal work which revolutionizes the way we think about adoption. It describes and clarifies the effects of separating babies from their birth mothers as a primal loss which affects the relationships of the adopted person throughout life.'
I walked in my priest father's footsteps the other day. With an unconvinced smile a young priest flipped me the keys, we filled the tank and headed north. What would the long-dead priest who abandoned his son 60 years ago think if he saw me standing by his altar, unlocking his presbytery & sitting at his kitchen table?
'Mothers leaving their babies at the Foundling Hospital would also leave a small object as a means of identification. The hope was that they would one day be able to reclaim their child'