Father and young son – different planets on different trajectories

May 18 2016

Hi Dad

I have spent the morning working with Orange Sky, it is a mobile laundry, washing clothes for the homeless in the inner suburbs of Sydney. I am not sure whether you would have looked at me doing this with either; complete disdain or secret pride.

If it was pride, I am certain you would not have let me know, but somehow I would have got the message.

The old grey battleship that has been parked just below me, has been gutted and towed out to sea, waiting to meet its fate as a dive wreck somewhere off the coast; a bit like me at the present time.

I feared you as a small child and did everything I could to stay out of your way. Your easy charm with other people was in stark contrast to the person whose bellow would echo through the house or across the paddocks as one of your rages took hold.

The ever present belt whipped off the trousers, a symbol we all feared and I am so sorry for this, because underneath, lay the good man I came to know many years later.

Your love of the land, your humanity with ailing stock, your disdain for guns unless they were to kill pests or put an animal out of its misery, your compassion for faithful farm dogs when they were long past any useful purpose, your kindness to people who life had beaten into submission; these are traits we have all digested and they have become part of our being.

But; there was the anger, the frustration, the debt spiral and the obsession with appearances that spoilt the early days and tarnished you, as a father.

I so desperately wanted to love you as a child, but the boy who could not return a slow serve on the tennis court, who showed fear in the cattle yards, or; never learnt to ride a horse as well as his siblings was of no interest to you; the lip would curl and the rage would build and it was time for me to retreat before the inevitable beating.

I have just written to Mum and the contrasting paths in my relationships with both of you is something I need to understand.

You were a hard man who softened in later years, Mum was a loving, caring soul who lost her softness in a sea of disillusion.

I need to understand why this happened. I have often said in jest that “my parent’s marriage was the best advertisement for divorce I have ever seen”, some things said in jest have more than a scent of truth!

Bear with me, as I try to deal with good and the bad over the next few months.

Bruce

 

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