First sign of weakness

 

 Hi Barb

You had been with me in Melbourne and when Western Australia became a reality, you were the obvious choice to be my “eyes and ears” in this new horizon.

It was comforting to know we had you in Perth and it provided a sense of continuity we would not have been able to achieve had we appointed someone from that State in the early stages.

It was early February 1994 and I think it was my first visit to Perth after a hectic Christmas / New year period.

I thought I had completely recovered from the broken leg in the second half of 1993 but, with the benefit of hindsight; it probably would have been much better had I taken a month off at the time, rather than lugging that fucking plaster on and off Aeroplanes for six weeks.

I had had a hectic few days in the West, after flying out of New Zealand over the previous weekend.

I had one more day in Perth and my diary was jammed with meetings, but I did have time to catch up with you, before heading out to grab a sandwich for lunch.

That chat with you is about the last thing I remember for the next half hour.

One minute, I was walking down the stairs of the office with nothing more on my mind than whether the sandwich would be Turkey or Ham?

The next minute, I was being bundled into an Ambulance after fainting and falling down those same stairs.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and that night in Royal Perth Hospital, nothing seemed to be overtly wrong, other than I was simply exhausted.

1994 was not meant to start on this note.

I was on a high after a tumultuous 1993, and this coming year was meant to be the time when our massive expansion drive was consolidated.

You came to see me In Hospital that night, as did Brian. He and I were meant to have dinner together and I hated missing the opportunity to discover another great little eating spot in this city which you had discovered and recommended to us.

Appointments for the next few days were put on hold and; after I was released from Hospital; it was straight to the airport with a slightly panicked Barb continually asking me if I was OK?

Perhaps I should have told you I was not, but I refused to believe there was anything wrong with me that a few days of rest could not fix.

At that stage, I really had no idea just how run down and mentally exhausted I was, there were many things that contributed to this.

The sniping battle with Paul and his father had escalated to the extent that Board Meetings were barbed with innuendo, the broken leg had obviously not helped, I had been averaging more than six flights a week for the past six months, I had been through the stress of trying to integrate four, hostile new networks, my mother was dying and I had started the process of “coming out” to my kids.

It never dawned on me that any of these things in isolation, could have had a negative effect on one’s wellbeing. It certainly never dawned on me that there was anything happening I could not deal with.

We hugged at the airport and you put me on the plane, life was slowly getting back to normal.

Love Ya

Bruce

The shell is cracked

 

Hey Gram

It was late 1993, Marco and I had split after almost 12 months together, it was no one’s fault really. He was still coming to grips with a new country and I was still trying to learn how to live as a gay man.

I would come home from a week away and find the apartment empty, this was perhaps the hardest adjustment; not having someone at home to share the triumphs and failures of the past week.

I made a rash decision to put an ad. on a gay share website for a flatmate, I wasn’t expecting much, perhaps that is the best way to approach these decisions.

I don’t mean to diminish you in any way, but I think you were the only applicant!

Certainly, you were the only one I seriously considered.

We met on neutral grounds for a coffee before you came to look at the apartment. You were a rising young retail executive from Melbourne who had accepted a position with a leading cosmetics importer, necessitating your move to Sydney.

To someone like myself, who had spent too long with my sexuality locked away and was still processing what it meant to be gay, you were a somewhat exotic creature; an openly gay man forging a career in business. There was not many of your ilk in my orbit.

We agreed for you to take the room on a trial basis for three months.

I remember the weekend you were moving in, I had given you the set of keys and headed back to Melbourne on the Saturday morning, for a series of meetings over the weekend.

I was at Myf’s place later Sunday afternoon and I rang to see how your move had gone, I was greeted by my own answering service.

“Hello, you have reached the home of Bruce and Graham, please leave a message and one of the boys will get back to you very shortly” there was no mistaking the tone of the message.

I turned to Myf and laughed “well, if anybody is in any doubt about whether I am gay or not, a quick call to my home should convince them”

It was a bit ironic my cover had been broken by a flatmate, rather than a partner.

Over the next few months I got to know you better and to meet your partner, Ian who made Sydney, his home almost every second weekend.

There were many times when Ian was with us that you would be busy with work, Ian and I would grab a meal together. He and I became great friends and often when I was In Melbourne, we would catch up for a coffee.

I loved sharing with you, I loved spending time with both you and Ian. Two great friendships have emerged from that first tentative ad. for a gay flatmate.

Thanks Gram, you made a hell of a hole in my shell.

Love Ya

 

Bruce

The first moment of truth

 

Hey Jassy

It was a late winter’s night in 1993, you were staying with me for the weekend, there was a reason for this particular sleepover.

Mum and I had recently talked a lot about the urgency of finally discussing my sexuality with the kids. Now you were sixteen, the moment could no longer be avoided, you were to become the test monkey and your reaction would set the agenda for Annie and Kayla.

We had dinner together, just Dad and eldest daughter. I don’t think I was good company, I was haunted by the letter I had spent all afternoon composing. That letter was waiting back at the apartment to be given to you before you went to bed.

When in doubt, I would always take the “Cowards Way”, I could not imagine sitting with you and breaking the news, so I had put my “confession” down in writing.

A letter hopefully, full of love and emotion about what you meant to me, as well as breaking the news that your father was not who you had always thought he was.

I wish I had kept a copy of this letter, but I hope you have it stuffed away somewhere, probably in a shoebox. I bet there have been many times, when you wished you could just as easily stuff me back in a shoebox LOL.

We got home and I handed you the letter, together with strict instructions to not read it before you were in bed and to think about it overnight before we would discuss it in the morning.

I lay in my bed, there was no thought of sleep, my mind was working overtime, trying to fathom what you were thinking.

“Would my daughter hate me; would she turn her back on me” I was racked with fear.

People talk about the truth setting you free.

At that time, the truth was my judge, jury and potential executioner!

There was a quiet knock on my bedroom door, I opened it to see a teary eyed little girl standing there, clutching a bedraggled piece of paper.

“Dad, that is the most beautiful thing I have ever read”

The sense of relief I felt, is impossible to convey, I won’t even try to do it justice.

We cuddled and held each other tight, tears streaming down our faces, neither of us wanted to let go. Moments like this don’t happen too often in families, both of us seemed to instinctively recognise the poignancy and import of what we were experiencing.

I went back to bed and slept like an Angel, I hope you did the same.

Loving you has always been easy, loving you that night was the most exquisite thing I have ever done.

The tears are still streaming as I write this.

Love

Dad

 

Bigotry and Bias

As the farce over the proposed Plebiscite deepens, the letters column in the SMH continues to focus on the pros and cons of this issue.

That this issue continues to arouse the ire of the conservative forces in Australia amazes me to a very sad degree, I think most people would agree that Marriage equality will shortly become law in this country, and yet; the conservatives will not surrender to this reality.

Whether or not the plebiscite is held, the law can only be changed by an Act of Parliament and the waste of resources and time at the expense of the many major issues facing the world and this country is extraordinary.

Nan Howard from Camden is a prime example of conservative priorities; her letter in the SMH today caused me to write the following reply.

The Editor

Ah Nan, you have done it again! (letters SMH 27/09/2016)

So homosexuality is “immoral even if it is decriminalised”.

Your selective use of the term “immoral” is just a foretaste of the hate to surface if this plebiscite goes ahead.

As for equal funding for you to preach your bile; the gay community is totally in favour of equal funding i.e. no funding for either side.

Gambling is immoral, the war in Syria is immoral, our treatment of refugees is immoral, domestic violence is immoral, prejudice of any kind is immoral.

When I see the “high priestess of morality from Camden” start to write in horror about any of the above, I will treat her views a little more seriously.

Sorry Nan, at the present time; your selective phobia is nauseating.

Bruce

Family and business in perfect alignment

 

Hi Sas

It was 1993 and I was back in Sydney, living in the Cross, with Marco now firmly in residence. I have often wondered what the kids made of this charming South American, who was a constant presence in my life.

When the kids came to stay, Marco would move to the third bedroom, but other than this, he was part of our lives, with breakfasts and times out with the kids. Annie in particular, was close to him and they would spend most of their time together, gently laughing at her father’s expense.

You and I both realised the time was fast approaching when the kids had to be told, but this was the perfect calm, before the storm had to be confronted.

You had been casually seeing the man from Wollongong but this had petered out and your fortieth Birthday was looming in June. Marco was insistent we should do something at our place to celebrate this milestone.

It was a pity, the night turned so nasty weatherwise and several people could not make it, but your mum and dad were there as were many friends and of course; the kids.

Marco fancied himself as a chef and was insistent he would oversee the catering, I was relegated to drinks waiter, while you enjoyed your night with family and friends.

I was delighted our little family could get together and work as one, for this special night. I was farewelling Ossie and Esme, when your mum drew me aside and stunned me with these words.

“Bruce, I really like your new man, please thank him for making this night so special for Sas”

Up until that time, I was not aware you had told your folks about my sexuality, I was shocked to hear they knew, as well as being awed by what Esme had just said

Those simple, good people never ceased to amaze me.

Our Twentieth Wedding Anniversary loomed in mid-September, Marco had moved out by this time and I was a single man again.

The fifteenth of September coincided with the visit of several US warships to Sydney and you had cheekily suggested we should go out for the night.

“We might both get lucky”

In the end, we settled on a quiet dinner at a little Italian Restaurant and I rang the Maitre D, who I had gotten to know quite well; to organise a quiet table and a bottle of French champagne.

The restaurant  was a converted old terrace with lots of small rooms, we were surprised when, towards the end of the night, the staff all trooped in to sing Happy Anniversary.

You and I had been to this restaurant several times before, so the staff were not to know the irony of which they were singing.

The surprise on the faces of the table of gay men as we walked past following this noisy celebration, was a sight to be seen.

I knew some of these guys quite well and it took a bit of explaining when I next saw them; but explaining your’ s and my relationship was nothing new.

Towards the end of the year, I was putting together the plans for a State Manager’s seminar to plan for 1994.

It had been a momentous year for the business and Brian suggested we use the “Mantaray” as a venue and invite spouses so we could thank everyone for their contribution to our success over the year.

I was delighted to be able to include you and the kids in this adventure, Kayla decided to not join us as she was campaigning for Captain in her last year of Primary School.

“Kay for sure in ‘94” robbed us of her presence, but you, Jassy and Annie flew with me to Cairns to meet the rest of the team and we set off on the boat, for two nights on the Great Barrier reef.

I would meet with my team for most of the day while you and the other wives, spent your days on the deck, lazily enjoying the sun and the snorkeling. We would all join you later in the day for a lazy swim, before having dinner and drinks together, as the evening closed into the night.

In many ways, 1993 was the year, when our disparate lives and our family, found their balance.

The shadows of Paul’s homophobia and the discomfort of my broken leg were much easier to deal with when I could talk with you and know you were on my side.

Thanks

Bruce

 

Triumph and tribulations

Post 123 25 September 2016

 Dear Andrew

We were two outsiders in the Ray White boardroom, you had achieved your position as the financial architect, I looked to you as the Team Manager, you kept the financial wheels turning whilst I tried to keep the machine running as well as I could.

Our “Owner / Driver” demanded performance and you and I made a terrific team, I always felt better, knowing your hand was on the tiller (sorry about the mixed metaphors).

I had a big trip towards the end of 1993, I was in Brisbane for management training, then Melbourne for a couple of days before going to Tasmania to catch up with the team there and then heading across to Perth where I was to catch up with you and Brian.

Unfortunately, the trip was done in pain, I had managed to get a stress fracture in my right tibia whilst running with Rachel early on the Monday morning in Brisbane.

I hobbled through two days of Management Training, grabbed one night in Sydney on the way through and then limped on crutches through two days in Melbourne before heading across the Strait for an awards night in Hobart.

My pain was made worse as the result of a very bad joke in Tasmania, Joe’s wife and I were sharing the stage and I joked about “bringing four legs to Tasmania but having left my second head at in Melbourne”

She lashed out with her stiletto, it was meant to be in fun but her heel caught the stress fracture so perfectly, that I dropped to the floor in absolute agony. The look of horror on her face, was almost worth the pain.

Shit, I used to really like that lady.

I was flying through Adelaide to get to Perth and I was mortified when it came time to board for the second leg. They insisted on putting me in a wheel chair, and carting me out to the plane with a front-end loader, Adelaide did not have boarding ramps at the time.

We met up in Perth, it was either the beginning of October or November and the figures for the previous month were coming through.

For the first time, we had broken through the $1 Billion Barrier for a single month!

Just a few, short years before, the group had struggled to reach $1 billion for the entire year.

Fine wine and good food killed my pain, as you, Brian and I, dined out on this stunning milestone.

It was night to remember.

I came back to Sydney after the weekend, filled with a sense of satisfaction and optimism. We were seeing the results of an arduous and, at times; debilitating campaign.

Our aim to build the largest network in Australia was on track.

There was still much work to be done, but first I had get my leg in plaster.

Thanks Andrew, it was fun working with you

Bruce