A wet cold day in Canberra a time for hope and optimism

 

Hi Sas

It was 15 September 1973, when for the very first time; my NRL team Cronulla were playing in the Grand Final against the silver tails from Manly.

Colin and I listened to the broadcast as we sat in the car outside St Andrews in Canberra, the game was still in the balance as we braved the weather and raced to the foyer of the church.

I took my place at the altar and waited anxiously for you to arrive.

My team would not win that day and would be forced to endure many years of turmoil and frustration.

We too, would have our fair share of turmoil and frustration but the bad times would be spliced with pure joy and deep friendship.

You were a very special Bride; I was in love, proud and joyous.

It was a beautiful ceremony to be followed by a night of fun with family and friends

There was a nagging feeling that what I was doing was wrong, but these feeling were subsumed by the love, hope and optimism we shared that night.

My doubts were squashed as we embarked on our life together.

Whatever has happened in the intervening years, I can only hope your regrets are tempered with thoughts of the love and friendship we shared at that time and certainly from my viewpoint; we still share.

I have guilt about what I now see as my deception, it would not be human not to, but; at the time I honestly believed I could beat the ghosts and together we could achieve the dreams we shared.

The day after our wedding was spent with family and friends before we embarked on the long road trip to the Barossa Valley for our honeymoon.

The Vine Inn at Nurioopta became our haven from the world for the next ten days, as we explored the wineries and soaked up the history of this beautiful part of the world.

I remember you, staggering down the winding stairs at Yalumba after one too many wine tastings, the dinners we shared in the many tiny villages scattered across the Valley and the lush country breakfasts after nights of closeness and hope.

We were special, I don’t how or why we were special, but we were!

The rail lines had become a monorail.

The lines would separate again in  times to come, but we have never been less than parallel.

Maybe, that is why; the specialness of our relationship has never been diminished.

With Loving memories

Bruce

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A wet cold day in Canberra a time for hope and optimism

Hi Sas

It was 15 September 1973;  for the very first time; my NRL team Cronulla were playing in the Grand Final, up against the silver tails from Manly.

Colin and I listened to the broadcast as we sat in the car outside St Andrews in Canberra, the game was still in the balance as we braved the weather and raced to the foyer of the church.

I took my place at the altar and waited anxiously for you to arrive.

My team would not win that day and they would go on to endure many years of turmoil and frustration.

We too, would have our fair share of turmoil and frustration but in our case,the bad times would be spliced with pure joy and deep friendship.

You were a very special Bride; I was in love, proud and joyous.

It was a beautiful ceremony to be followed by a night of fun with family and friends

There was a nagging feeling that what I was doing was wrong, but these feelings were subsumed by the love, hope and optimism we shared that night.

My doubts were squashed as we embarked on our life together.

Whatever has happened in the intervening years, I can only hope your regrets are tempered with thoughts of the love and friendship we shared at that time and, certainly from my viewpoint; we still share.

I have guilt about what I now see as my deception, it would not be human not to, but; at the time I honestly believed I could beat the ghosts and together, we could achieve the dreams we shared.

The day after our wedding was spent with family and friends, before we embarked on the long road trip to the Barossa Valley for our honeymoon.

The Vine Inn at Nurioopta became our haven from the world for the next ten days, as we explored the wineries and soaked up the history of this beautiful part of the world.

I remember you, staggering down the winding stairs at Yalumba after one too many wine tastings, the dinners we shared in the many tiny villages scattered across the Valley and the lush country breakfasts after nights of closeness and hope.

We were special, I don’t how or why we were special, but we were!

Rail lines merged to become a monorail. In times to come they would diverge, but we have never been less than two parallel lines stretching to the horizon.

Maybe, that is why; the specialness of our relationship has never been diminished.

With Loving memories

Bruce

 

A new town and Job A new life

 

Dear Sas

My move back to Wagga in early 1973 and a change of career, meant we were separated for a big part of the time leading up to our wedding in September of this year.

I would so look forward to the weekends when you could come down on a Friday night and we could plan our lives together.

The Friday nights I would be with friends at the old Romanos Hotel waiting for you to arrive, are etched in my mind, the night when you did not arrive as planned, is embedded with fear.

There were no mobile phones and when Narn walked into the pub with a look of concern on her face to tell me you had been in an accident, was a moment in time never to be forgotten.

It soon became clear you were OK and the practicalities involved in getting you into town safely and getting the car picked up, soon took over.

Ossie in his ever practical way, organized a trailer in Canberra and he and Esme drove down on the Saturday to collect you and your car from the yard in Wagga.

We would spend the time we had on these weekends with friends, drinking too much and partying, as well as taking the Moke to places it perhaps should not have gone.

“Moke on Sunday, Garage on Monday” became a habit as we explored the forests and lanes around Wagga and further afield, forgetting for the day, that the Moke was not really a 4WD.

“Wind blowing through the hair, hair blowing through the wind” we were free and in love.

We scrounged our pretty meagre savings together and together with help from the builders I was working for; we dared to look at and put a deposit on a block of land and select a plan we wanted to build.

Within a few months you had secured a transfer to be with me and finally we started our life together, initially in the flat with Gary and then, not long after our wedding; moving into our new home.

We were close then Sas and I think we were happy. Occasionally, the shadow would come back to haunt me when I was alone, but you would arrive and we would fill in the day or two in a flurry of busyness.

Wedding plans, house plans, future plans this was our time for mapping our future and we were deeply in love.

Work was going well and I was succeeding, I think I developed a way of dealing with people that was neither threatening nor subservient and a lot of the people I dealt with at this time, became friends we would share for years to come.

The weekends I would spend in Canberra, were filled with your family and the organisation for the wedding, I will never forget our visits to Saint Andrews and the Right Reverend Hector Harrison OBE. He asked whether I was a believer and I answered honestly.

“I am not sure, but I love your church and I want to get married here”

You glared at me, but I think the lovely old man appreciated the honesty, anyway; he agreed to marry us

As I write this and recall these times, I am angry at myself for what was to happen between us in later   years, but in the end, I think that maybe it was precisely this honesty and love we shared, which would cause what was to happen years down the track.

We were close Sas, and; we were friends. not much of that has changed.

Love

Bruce

The Curse of Cancer

Dear Mum

Late 1972, saw your first brush with this evil disease, the coming chemotherapy would forever cause intense swelling in your left arm and see you in pain for you for the rest of your life.

We were not to know it at the time, but you would live for another 22 years, in some ways these years would prove to the best of times in my relationship with you and Dad.

Of course, there were rough times ahead as some parts of the family disintegrated, but your illness had seemed to quell the bitterness between you and Dad.

I have often thought, this family operates better in adversity and nothing emphasized this as much as the time after your mastectomy and the ongoing Chemo you suffered through so bravely.

Once there had been bitterness and there would be some to come, but for now; we bonded together to support you and each other.

Steve and Madeline leaving the farm in early 1972 had certainly left you isolated, the bond between you and Steve was the love between a mother and son borne out of adversity at the end of the Second World War.

You had not only, the fear of Dad not coming home but also the uncomfortable situation of living with Dad’s parents; people who you had nothing in common with and shared no bond.

Financial pressures, the antipathy between Steve and Dad, the distrust between you and Madeline, the constant battles they both had with Jerry, all played a part in their decision to leave, but you must have felt his loss enormously.

Is cancer caused by stress? Opinion is divided on this, but logically; anything that causes upset must have an effect on how the body operates.

I was not there for much of this time, but on the times when I did come home; I was proud of you, and happy to see that, as dreadful as this period was; you were determined not to let it beat you.

You started studying again and more and more immersed yourself in your art and the company of people who shared your passions.

The old antipathies for anyone who dared the breach the family walls were still there, but they were subtler.

The bitterness between you and Dad had subsided, at least on the surface and the advent of grandchildren from both Chloe and Gordy and; Steve and Madeline softened both of you.

I loved both my parents at this time and I was to love the times I would spend at the farm over the next few years.

It is strange that something so awful as was happening to you, would be a catalyst to some sort of healing for the family as a whole.

Love

Bruce

 

A new beginning and an end

 

Dear Ossie and Esme

Your kindness to me during 1972 and early 1973 will always be a high point of my life, your daughter was a very special person to me and I soon found out you felt the same.

I don’t know whether you had a favorite child, I never saw you either of you turn away from any of your children, but; it was obvious Sas was very precious to you.

As my 21st birthday loomed in February 1973, the isolation from my own parents often preyed on my mind. Dad and I were on opposite sides of the Vietnam Argument causing rancor and bitterness whereas you, Ossie also a returned Serviceman; kept your own counsel on this issue.

To this day, I have no idea what you thought of my minor activism or indeed of the many “hairies” that would often invade your home when we called to collect Sas.

You took an interest and were supportive when, in late 1972; Mum was admitted to hospital after a breast cancer scare. You encouraged me to bury the hatchet with Dad and make the long trip to Albury after it became clear Mum would not escape unscathed from the Surgeon’s Scalpel.

I spent a few days down at the farm and Visited Mum several times in Hospital. Dad and I managed to be civil during this time, your wise counsel stayed foremost in my mind whilst I was there.

Mums Prognosis was not great, this was a very early Mastectomy and there was a lot still to be learned about the process and the effects of treatment.

You did not know my parents at this time but this did not reduce your compassion or thoughts.

As 1972 wound down, Sas and I decided it was time to announce our engagement, this was not a matter to be taken lightly in your household. I had to go through the whole daunting process of sitting down with Ossie and asking him for his Daughter’s hand in Marriage.

This was granted, along with a stern warning to “look after our girl”

Because of Mum’s Illness and my separation from Dad, as well as the fact; our friends were predominantly in Canberra meant that my 21st was best held there.

With not an ounce of hesitation you volunteered to hold a party for me and the night was very special to me.

This would be the first time you had met my parents and I worried how the four of you would get on; I needn’t have worried, Mum and Ossie bonded over your garden, there was old war talk between Dad and Ossie, and Esme was the perfect hostess.

Sas and I had been down the coast for a week before the party and when my mother, in her rather snooty fashion, remarked that she though we should have been “chaperoned”, Esme looked her fairly in the eye and quietly commented that “things were different now”.

My parents were no pushovers; both were strongly opinionated and both had an elevated view of their worldly status, you made everyone feel welcome without losing any of your innate dignity.

Both of you were solicitous and kind in regard to Mum’s illness and the whole weekend was a success.

Your kindness in hosting this party went a long way towards thawing relations between and my parents and myself.

It was after my 21st that Sas and I went down to the farm for few days and through an old friend who was currently working for a builder and development company in Wagga I was offered a job as a Real Estate Salesman.

You were supportive of this move, despite knowing that it would involve Sas eventually moving away.

I am very grateful for your support and everything you did at this time, and; even more grateful for the love and support you were to show me over many years into the future, even when, you could well have turned away.

You were good people and I am so proud to have known you

Love

Bruce

 

Love and Family Reunion

 

It was in the lead up to my 21st birthday that my thoughts turned to spending the rest of my life with you.

We had been down to the farm a couple of times to meet my family and this did a lot to calm the waters with Dad after the bitter Vietnam incident. I think both he and I had decided to steer clear of any further argument on this issue and as usual, my parents were at their best when they were playing host to visitors.

Dad was smitten by you and the discussion on the way back to Canberra reinforced how charming he could be.

“Bruce, your father is a really nice man, why don’t you two get along?” I could have listed a whole lot of reasons, I could have told you about the beltings, I could have told you about Raelene, I could have told you about the arguments and the bitterness but these were in the past, and at the time; I was so relieved the weekend had gone so well and we were looking to the future.

Your time with Mum had not been so successful; “I don’t think your mother thinks I am good enough for you” there was something bitterly protective about my mother I had seen many times before with both Madeline and Gordy, I did not understand this but I was duty bound to spring to her defense.

Mum’s attitude was totally at odds with the warm welcome and inclusiveness I had received from your family and it saddened me.

There were times during this period, when I was wracked with self-doubt about my capacity to quell the demons of sexual questioning and become the husband you deserved. I knew I could never push my longings completely out of mind but I could never envisage living life as a homosexual.

To be honest, the thought was so abhorrent at the time, that any thoughts of this were simply beyond any comprehension I had.

Certainly, there was a part of our relationship which was driven by my desire to be normal at all costs, it is easy to see this now, but at the time I was constrained by the world I knew. Any questioning I had was coloured and distorted by the disgust in the community generally, and within my own mind; for what I thought as perverted and evil longings.

If I did not see myself as evil, how could I possibly embrace the evilness inherent in the perverted thoughts, that would come back to haunt me at often the most inconvenient of times.

Homosexuals were “perverted pedophiles” according to the accepted thinking of the community, it was impossible for me to think I could ever be a part of that “underground”.

I can look back now, and even I; can be incredulous at either my cowardice or my naivety but at the time; any thoughts of not being normal were just too far off centre to have never really entered my mind.

The grief of ignorance and shame is something I will never be able to erase, the toll this would have on you and those closest to me over the years, has played heavily on my mind and, for this I can never truly atone.

The irony of hurting those you love the most, by denying yourself, is a truth it would take me many years to accept. It would cause damage I can never properly repair and the guilt of my cowardice will never leave me.

I did love you Sas and I have never stopped loving you.

Love

 

Bruce