I grew up in Carletonville, a small mining town in South Africa. As I moved through adolescence, I had a strong sense that I didn’t want to spend my life with blinkers on, I wanted to see and experience the world. With the unflinching support of my parents I set off on a career in oil and gas that would take me around the world.
A few years into my career, I met a beautiful South African lady who would soon become my wife and we had 3 sons. In the early years of their lives they would travel with me but as they reached school age that quickly became unsustainable. So, we were at the mercy of the usual lifestyle where my wife and sons would be at home and I worked the tough rotations. I would call home every night but being away from my family wasn’t easy.
I was posted out to a job in Mozambique at the time and the challenges of the lifestyle were taking their toll on the marriage. We eventually separated and divorced. The boys lived with their mother and I had visitation every other weekend. During the times I was at work, my parents would have the boys for the weekend. And through all this I still called and spoke to my boys at the same time every night.
My ex-wife remarried and her new husband introduced her to people from the wrong side of the tracks. I was working for Kentech in Sakhalin at the time when I got a phone call from my parents. They were nervous about leaving the boys with their mother due to the people she was associating with at her home. They saw it was unsafe for them and so I was on the next flight home, collected my kids and took them away.
Through amicable negotiations with my ex-wife it was agreed that I would take custody of the boys while she focused on getting her life back on track. So, I bought a home in Johannesburg and hired Judy, a loyal and dedicated au pair to look after the boys while I was away on rotation. And for the times I couldn’t be at home, I would video call them every night.
Life was settled and happy and we fell into an easy routine. Then Judy got stomach cancer and could no longer take care of the boys. My mother and father sold their home and came to live with us so they could look after the boys whilst I was away on rotation.
It took a few years for my ex-wife to clean up her act and get her life back on track but once she had a stable life again we spoke about the boys going back to live with her. She was living in Durban at the time and we asked the boys what they wanted to do. They were settled, my two youngest had just started high school and they didn’t want to uproot to another city. So they stayed in my home and went to stay with their mum during the school holidays.
My ex-wife passed from a brain hemorrhage in 2016 and the following year my father passed.
My boys haven’t had the easiest start in life. My work has kept me away from them for long periods of time, which has been tough but it’s what we know and we found our rhythm. Despite all of this I have a really close relationship with each of my sons, when we’re together we spend a lot of time bonding through our love of biking. They are safe and happy and have now grown into exceptional young men.
Two of them are in happy relationships with my middle son still looking. My youngest two sons are finishing their education and the eldest has graduated with a degree in architecture. When I’m home, now there is just me, my mum and the two youngest boys at home but our house comes alive at the weekends with our whole community of friends and family.
And when I’m not home? Well, I still insist on trying to have that call with them every night, but as they are now 19, 20, and 27, they keep telling me to stop checking up on them, but it’s my anchor and I’m not giving it up that easily. Family is everything.