Editor’s Note: It is not often I include a guest post on the JustaMan blog, but Tony Palombi is a great man with a great story and a great family. He shares the pain of growing up in a broken home and the hope within him. Divorce hurts our children. Let’s not go there!
Children Feel the Pain of Marital Conflict & Divorce
My name is Tony Palombi and yes, it’s a good Italian name. I was born in Adelaide to Italian migrants. My childhood was like the words of Winston Churchill when he said, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounded exactly like my home growing up.
My mother was married to my father by arrangement by their parents in Italy. My father was already in Australia finding work, so mum had the wedding service in Sezze, Italy. The service was in a Roman Catholic Church with the family priest, an uncle who stood proxy, and all the family. They even had a reception afterwards. Then mum left Italy and settled in Australia in the ’50s with her new husband.
Finding a home in Adelaide, they had a family quickly. Over the next 12 years of marriage, mum gave birth to six children. Four girls, two boys, me being number 5. My brother was born legally blind, so this added to the challenge.
I’m not too sure of the reasons, but my father was violent towards my mother. By the age of 3 years old, I was seeing my mum getting beaten, seeing and hearing them fighting all the time. She put up with it for 12 years. He was ordered by the law to leave. He had a restraining order put on him. He came back and almost like a last-ditch effort, smashed all of our windows in the house, then it went quiet.
I grew up waiting for the day when he would return. My older brother and I made a decision to protect mum, so we even stored up rocks and stones and waited, and waited. But he never returned.
I don’t know what hurt more, him attacking, or him not even showing up. Whatever the reasons, I was rejected. I grew up hating my dad. I learnt about fathers by looking over the fence. Watching them play with their sons with new toys. My friends would go away on holidays with their dads, and me, well I stayed home.
We grew up poor, so I remembered neighbours helping us out, sometimes food packages and people taking us to those annual Christmas parties with Santa and fire engines. At the same time, I grew up with a hardworking mum who loved us and provided us with a good home, great Italian cooking and friends around. It was as normal as could be.
When I turned 11, my mother had to go overseas to Italy, so I stayed at St Johns Boys’ Home for what was meant to be three months. I liked it, so when mum came back, I said I wanted to continue and stayed for five years. School never agreed with me, so I dropped out when I was 16. I took a job as a window cleaner and worked in the cleaning industry until 1991. Deep within me though, I knew I was a broken man. I was aware that my social life and work, family and friends could only satisfy me so much.
By the age of 28, I was sad and miserable . You see, my greatest desire in my life was to have a family, children of my own and to have a happy home. But my history scared me off, thinking that I would reflect my father and it wouldn’t last.
I moved to Melbourne and met my wife Annette. That’s when things changed. I fell in love and proposed. She said, Yes! and we married in July 1991. Annette’s father was a minister and talked with me about Jesus. I renewed my faith, gave my life to Christ on March 11, 1991. I also gave Christ my past and my fears.
My biggest fear was the thought of becoming a father, especially when I never had the experience of one. Another fear was that I would take on my dad’s personality and I would walk the same path. Well, good to say, none of those fears, as most things we fear, never eventuated. I also let go of my anger towards my dad and forgave him.
Since being married, my wife and I have raised four children, who work with us as we help people in our community.
My kids have been given the gift of music, so we toured them around to places and produced their music. I always get a smile as I watch them, thinking of the things that I was doing when I was their age.
My wife and I are passionate parents who want to do everything we can to help other families. We used to run programs in schools that help kids with grief and loss as a result of separation, divorce or death. We got to talk with kids because I can relate to their situations.