Wal­ter Mikac’s Mes­sage of Hope

The story of an Aus­tralian fa­ther’s life trans­formed by tragedy and de­spair, and by love and courage

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - August 1998 - BY WAL­TER MIKAC

Ire­mem­ber the days when I was Wal­ter Mikac, the phar­ma­cist, in­volved in am­a­teur the­atre pro­duc­tions, who sat on the school coun­cil and golfed on Wed­nes­days, whose wife and chil­dren were part of a small com­mu­nity in an idyl­lic set­ting in Tas­ma­nia.

I’m alone these days. I sold our house and my phar­macy. I have bought an­other house in Mel­bourne and I am try­ing to start an­other life. But the one thing I don’t have is the thing I want most. My fam­ily: Nanette, the won­der­ful woman who shared 13 years of my life, and my two ex­tra­or­di­nary chil­dren, Alan­nah, 6, and Made­line, 3.

I’ll never for­get the day I first saw Nanette. I was work­ing at the Austin Hos­pi­tal in Mel­bourne. Her curly brown ringlets, blue eyes and smile were cap­ti­vat­ing. At the time I was a trainee phar­ma­cist, she was a nurse. Soon we were go­ing out. I told my par­ents only a year be­fore that I would never marry. But this girl was ev­ery­thing I wanted and more. Two years later we did marry.

Our early years to­gether were full of love and fun. Our daugh­ter, Alan­nah Louise Mikac, en­tered the world on Au­gust 28, 1989. She was such a joy. As first-timers, we blun­dered our way through par­ent­hood.

Made­line Grace was born on ­Au­gust 15, 1992. Christ­mas 1992 was our first as a fam­ily of four and I couldn’t imag­ine be­ing hap­pier.

In Fe­bru­ary 1994, we vis­ited Netty’s par­ents, Keith and Grace Moul­ton, in White Beach, Tas­ma­nia. It was while we were sit­ting on their ve­ran­dah over­look­ing the beach that Grace ut­tered the words that changed our lives for ever: “Wal­ter, you should think about start­ing a phar­macy down here. We re­ally need one.”

I mo­men­tar­ily pic­tured my­self stand­ing be­hind the counter of my own phar­macy. It was al­lur­ing, and Grace’s words set me into ac­tion.

Af­ter sub­mit­ting an ap­pli­ca­tion for an ap­proval, we be­gan imag­in­ing what our life in Tas­ma­nia might be like. The 60-hour weeks I worked would be scaled back, leav­ing time I could spend tak­ing my girls to the beach, gar­den­ing or sim­ply be­ing around to watch them grow up.

The day in April the gov­ern­ment let­ter that was to de­ter­mine our fate ar­rived, I had come home tired. As soon as I flopped down on a bed the girls cat­a­pulted onto my stom­ach. “Daddy! I wuv you,” Alan­nah said. “You’re the best daddy in the world.” This demon­stra­tion of love and en­ergy swept away tired­ness. Then we opened the let­ter to dis­cover our ap­pli­ca­tion to open our own phar­macy had been ap­proved. More pan­de­mo­nium broke out.

Three months later, we left Mel­bourne. We would open our phar­macy in Nubeena, a lit­tle vil­lage on the Tas­man Penin­sula about an hour-and-ahalf’s drive south­east of Ho­bart.

I saw the build­ing that was to

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