My father and mother didn't have children.
Biologically they were my uncle and aunt.
I was born to my mother's brother and his wife. When my blood mother died of scarlet fever complications when I was six months old, leaving my blood father with a six-year-0ld, a farm, aging parents and a retarded brother, my parents adopted me. They were in their 50s.
(I had a picture I kept for many years, but a while ago I put it out in our Ancestors' Grove and it dissolved: Four young men in World War I uniforms. My adopted father's brothers in England. They went to the war and my father, the youngest, stayed home to look after his widowed mother. The four young men all were blown to bits. After the war, and his mother's death, he emigrated to Canada. Married my adopted mother, who had been a telephone operator. As I said, they didn't have any children of their own.)
My adopted mother died when I was eight. She died at home, where my father had looked after her through a horrible illness (she died screaming...doctors were stingy with morphine in those days, for fear the fatally ill would become addicted).
We had a housekeeper for a year or two, until my father fired her for reasons I didn't know or have forgotten. After that, it was just the two of us. And largely I was on my own, since my father had to work. He was a railway engineer who had worked his way up to a prestigious job driving the steam trains from Calgary to Vancouver, but when my mother became ill, and then to look after me, he took a lesser job shunting trains in the yard. For most of my childhood, he worked nights and slept days.
He managed to keep things going, albeit with a lot of reluctant help from me. Eventually I took over the cooking, but when he made the meals they were pretty good, in their ghastly English way. He came from Yorkshire, and made excellent Yorkshire puddings, which we had with roast beef. His other dishes were pork tenderloin rounds, simply fried, SPAM, finnan-haddie, boiled spare-ribs and roast chicken. Vegetables mostly came out of cans...though I remember in early days he had a garden out back. That may have been during the war, when we were expected to grow what we could in "victory gardens".
When I was approaching puberty, he bought a box of Kotex to have on hand and offered to have one of the neighbourhood women tell me about it all. I said nah, we'd seen a film at school, plus I knew from other girls - I was a year ahead in school, having learned to read before, so a year behind in physical development. In those days, it seems we were all on schedule, getting our menses at age 13.
My mother had been a Pentacostalite and had taken me to that (quite entertaining) church while she was alive. My father was not religious and after her death I continued to the church until I didn't want to any more, and he was fine with that. I tried out another church or two, with school chums, and he was fine with that too.
To echo jmac, who kinda inspired me to try to write this, my father did the best he could with what he had. A man raising a child was unusual in that time and place. It wasn't a great life for him - he was lonely, and I wasn't much company. Occasionally, trying to guilt me out, he'd say he could have remarried, there being several widows on our street, but didn't because of me. (He also used to threaten to send me to an orphanage when I misbehaved, tho I can't actually remember any misbehavior, since I was a Very Good Girl. That sounds terrible, except that it didn't fizz me...in fact, I was kind of disappointed when I realized it was an idle threat. An orphanage, with lots of other kids, might have been fun!)
He encouraged me in anything I wanted to do, and didn't push me about things I didn't want to do (except housework). But we were both lonely and didn't really satisfy each other's emotional and all-round companionate needs.
He once told me that there was gossip that...uh...how did he put it?...I don't quite remember, but basically that he and I were as husband and wife. I burst into laughter, laughed and laughed, and he was a little miffed. After all, it was a serious and humiliating suspicion for him.
In some ways, though, it was a correct suspicion, though not in the physical sense - he would try to talk to me, and then have a session of recrimination because I wasn't interested in his train talk or whatever. He really was looking to me for companionship, and it wasn't forthcoming. I was pretty short-changed too, but I was a child, still plastic, still forming, with my whole life ahead of me, and able (eventually!) to find my way, while he was in a dead-end situation.
I finished school at 16 and worked for a couple of years, still living at home. He was retired, doing very little, seeing his few friends, but basically looking to me to fill the hole. Occasional idle threats to make me leave and get an apartment if I didn't *whatever* - talk to him, set upon making dinner the minute I got home. But when I decided to go to university, which was in another city, when I left he was standing at the front door with tears running down his face.
He came to visit once that first term, and I was home for Christmas. Shortly after I returned to school, he died alone - classically, he'd gone out to shovel snow. He came in and sat down at the kitchen table and his heart quit.
He was a very unsatisfactory father in many ways - and I was a very unsatisfactory child - but he did the best he could. As did I.