Pop had never told his children he didn’t know who his mother was.
For some reason, we all knew he hated the word bastard – and now we knew why.
Pop had spent the best part of his life hiding a secret he was deeply, deeply affected by.
He always felt that if his own mother had not wanted him, why would anyone else?
It explained a lot about pop’s behaviour.
It certainly didn’t excuse most of it, but it led us to the root of his deep-seated demons.
But after pop realised nothing changed, and he was still surrounded by family, he changed.
I often wonder if it was because pop had finally found peace; he was honest with himself and his family.
He started to accept love, and then he was able to give it.
The pop we knew when he died was a different man to the person he was many years before.
He was fun, warm, kind and silly.
He loved my eldest daughter and was tickled pink when I whispered in his ear in his final days that I was having a second.
I wonder if, had he spoken the truth many years before, his life would have been more fulfilling, and he could have always been the man we loved so dearly when he died.
Things that eat away at people change them – and mostly they are insecurities that start at a very young age. In pop’s case, it ate away at him for most of his life, through no fault of his own.
But that shame saw him make some terrible choices – choices that drained the life out of our beautiful nana.
I believe he was sincere in his regret, but I’ll never be certain he understood just how much pain he caused by not ever acknowledging his feelings.
In fact, nana said to me not long before she died that she had married the wrong man.
She walked into her bedroom and quietly removed a small box wrapped in a pillowcase.
No one else knew about the box until that moment.
Inside were small gifts and notes from a man she had loved more than 50 years before. When she died, it was our job to ensure pop never found it.
So we did. And it was the saddest reminder of the life she had – because the man she married chose so many ways to avoid love.
And despite the shame he lived with, they were his choices – that nana lived with.
We learnt so much from nan and pop’s story – about people, and feelings and how they affect your life and the lives of those who love you.
But we also learnt that dealing with them is what matters most – and how lucky we are to be living in a modern world that allows us to do just that.
Nicole Ferrie is the Bendigo Advertiser’s deputy editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org