Dear Dad and Mum
It was late 1977 and things between you both and, indeed with me; had probably never been better.
Mum’s continued suffering from the after effects of the cancer seemed to have brought the two of you together and you were both wonderful grandparents to little Jassie.
I had taken to leaving the office in Wagga every few months and heading down to the farm for a day or two on the tractor. This was as much to clear my head from what was happening workwise, as it was to help out the farm because Jerry was away a lot.
It was the evening of one of those visits that is firmly imprinted in my mind. Dad and I had come in from the paddocks for a bath and dinner and there was just the three of us at the house.
I remember the early part of that evening as one of those magical moments families occasionally have.
Dad was in his office with the door open and Mum was in the dining room, knitting and watching something on TV, I was slouched, reading in the old “grandfather” chair in the sunroom, midway between the two of you.
There would be a half hour of peace as we all went about what we were doing and then we would talk for five minutes, before lapsing into a comfortable silence for another half hour.
Three adults with a history, reconciled and at peace with each other.
The phone rang in the office around 9.00 pm, nothing unusual about that, I expected it to be something related to Dads role on the council or one of his many other committees.
The tone of this conversation, though; brought me bolt upright and I craned so as best to listen.
There was something very wrong!
Dad put the phone down, walked straight past me as if I didn’t exist and stood at the door to the dining room.
“Cathy, we have a problem”
“Your son has left his wife and is living with another man, that was Madeilne on the phone, making certain I knew”
Looking back on that night, I am more than a bit amused that it was “Mums’ son” Dad was talking about, up until that time, I had always assumed, for better or worse; we were the progeny of both our parents.
I was less surprised by the revelation than most, Steve and I had talked about it obliquely and I guess because of my own situation, my radar was more attuned to something like this.
Still; the timing of it, and the presence of a partner in Steve’s life did surprise me. I had not known anything about the partner and I certainly had no inkling anything like this was imminent.
Mum recovered from her shock and weakly asked
“How is Madeline?”
“Bloody angry, threatening to call everyone and tell them your son is a poofter”
I think it was the threat of public humiliation in such a tight knit enclave where our family had a leadership role, that you both feared the most.
All I knew at the time is that it was time for me to go to bed. The peace had been shattered and the pieces of your lives had been strewn across the floor.
Christ, having a child arrested for killing someone would have been preferable to this, such was the disgust for peeping toms, pedophiles and poofters in this enclave of “bible belt” prejudices.
I went to bed thinking of Steve and Madeline but rolled restlessly as my thoughts turned to my own filthy set of demons.
Typical; it was all about me!
The next morning, I was up early hoping, last night had just been a bad dream. A peek into the kitchen on my way to the toilet was enough to tell me it was real, the two of you were locked in deep conversation and I did not want to intrude.
More, I think to get away, than anything else, Dad announced he was going into town to get some fertilizer and asked if I wanted to come.
There were perhaps a billion places I would have rather have been than locked in a truck with my father for half an hour on this morning, but I weakly agreed.
The first part of the trip was silence but around Hayes corner, Dad turned to me.
“What do you think about your brother?”
I mumbled and squirmed, muttering something about Steve still being my brother and then Dad said something that wiped away the years of fear, lies and bombast that had characterized our relationship to this point.
“You are right, he is still my son and I still love him”
Dad went on to say
“I was listening to John Laws the other day and he said homosexuals were just normal people who took it up the back instead of in the front”
John Laws was a syndicated shock Jock, his opinions ranged from the loony right to the loony left, only occasionally landing in the centre.
Right at that moment, though; locked in the front of a truck with Dad, I thanked God for the wisdom of John!
My father, the mad right wing conservative, the brutal, bashing demigod of my childhood, the philanderer, the man who never walked away from an argument he could shout his way through, was suddenly revealed as a simple, caring father; trying to make sense of possibly the biggest upheaval in his life.
It was at that moment, Dad; I fell back in love with the good man I would know for the rest of your life.
Mum; it wasn’t so easy for you; you needed a victim and you needed to blame someone.
Steve was your victim and, unfortunately; Madeline and Dad copped the blame.
My heart broke for both of you that evening, but it would prove to be a milestone in my relationship with Dad and, perhaps; just another millstone grinding at the love between Mum and I.