2. Mefloquine Dispatches: My Daughter, 2016
by Shane Granger
Today, I’ve made a real effort. The boys are excited to see me. We might even go out somewhere later.
My daughter has her hands wrapped tightly around 11Ms leg. She stares at me with the child’s wariness of the stranger in her eyes. She is somewhere between two or three years of age at this stage and I might have held her a few times. I’ve been living in pubs or house-sitting or living rough for the past two years. She doesn’t know me.
Why should she really? When she was born I didn’t visit. When N* was ready to leave the hospital I organised the boys and drove down to Nambour hospital to pick her up. As N* packed up the last of the hospital swag she asked if I wanted to take her down to the car. I readily agreed. Carrying babies is easy. Tightly fit them to the curve of your body and start walking. For all intents and purposes it might have been a bag of shopping really. I get to the car and walk back and forth holding her until N* arrives. She puts my daughter in her brand new baby seat and gets the strapping sorted. After four children we both know that I can get highly stressed around baby seats in cars.
Two and a half years later I’m staring at this child thinking I really do have a daughter. N* and I have been working on me having the boys every two weeks. It’s been working out ok and she thinks I might be ready to take my daughter on. The raw anger of separation has faded away and it’s now about the kids.
“How about I pick you up and hold you”? I ask. I hold out my arms to her.
She tenses up. She holds on to 11M tighter. “T*…”, she wails still in her baby voice. She doesn’t want to be held by a stranger. She has her brother. Her brother has kept her safe and warm for years now, consoled her when she cried and got her treats when she was hungry.
“Don’t worry Dad” 11M says. His voice has always been older/wiser than his years. “She just thinks I am her Dad, she’ll get used to you eventually”…