The Pineapple

Dear Friends.

I have mentioned many people in this series of letters because they have been integral to many of the events I have written about.

There are are however, so many other people who have just, always “been there”.

They have been my solace in an hour of need, they have provided the lighthearted moment at the right time and they have have picked up the phone to say hello when a kind word was truly required.

The past nine years have been a roller coaster; desolation, joy and the curious mixed emotions of the hiatus over the past four years.

Billy says I am like a bad pineapple. I look OK on the outside but I am rotting on the inside. Even worse, he insists my attempts at humour are now often tasteless.

He is cruel that man!

Mornings are my time, I am up around 6.00 am to do the rents, my diary and the journal before the shutters come down around midday.

Most afternoons and evenings are lost in a fog of tired, but at least once a week, we will have an early dinner with friends.

My “Guard” insists I am home by 8.30 pm and one glass of anything alcoholic is one glass too many. The look on his face, as I order my solitary glass of red is priceless, if I am lucky he has forgotten about it by the time we get back in the car!

I complain to the Professor about everything taking two or three times as much energy as it used to, he just nods his head and agrees. There is however, one benefit in all of this; I seem to be able to eat anything without putting on extra weight. It is almost as if  I burn the calories at a rate greater than I can possibly consume them.

The downside of this, is the constant fear of choking and the fearsome re flux in the middle of the night, when the acid invades the lungs and I scream for the ability to breathe.

The unexpected joy of my hiatus has put petrol in the tank, but the engine is still stuffed. The plateau, as the Professor calls it, has simply given me a few more K’s before the final trip to the wreckers.

This Journal has given me a purpose and I am sorry I am getting to the end.

Ah well; there is plenty of editing still to be done.

There is one simple conclusion I have drawn after laboring through this series of letters, whatever has happened in my life has been made infinitely better by the people I have had the good fortune to have had by my side.

I have labored as to how to recognize these good people, afraid of leaving some one out but equally adamant I cannot close without at least an attempt to say thanks to the many who have been, as I have said “just there” for at least a part of the journey.

Barry

An old friend I have known from the Wagga years, we have traversed similar paths with family and our search for honesty. Baz, you have done it better than I, but we have been there for mutual support when it was needed.

Thanks Old Mate.

Suzana and Peter

The perfect Australian migrant story. Staunch in your faith, but totally supportive of my journey. You have been there for me, in business and personally for the past seventeen years and I could never have become the person I am without your loyalty and faith.

Thank you for your compassion, your hardheadedness and for being a very special part of my life.

The Days

Trevor, the taciturn but gentle farmer and Christine the perfect foil with your laugh and sensitivity.

We have loved having you people in our lives, you combine the innate decency of your country roots with a casual and warm acceptance that has meant so much to Billy and I. We have shared with you, the joy of seeing Lish and Steve become parents and have watched Chris squirm as despite herself, she falls madly in love with little Addy

Your support and love over the past years, as I have tried to maintain a semblance of normality has been tempered by your fierce determination to never let me feel sorry for myself.

Mark H

For over fifteen years we have been Sunday breakfast companions at least a couple of times a month.

The quietly determined gay academic,  disparaging of anything not to the left of politics and given to a verbosity matched only by my own.

Your support and honesty when I have needed it, has been so important to me

Mark K

The fierce, gay man who votes conservative and is never short of an intense argument as you try to justify the unjustifiable. The would-be Neo Con, saved from a total descent into conservative madness by your open gayness.

You and I have argued for so long and so often over a coffee at Trop. on lazy Sunday afternoons that my blood pressure would be dangerously low were it not for these regular sparring sessions.

Hidden under the bombast lies a gentle heart and I thank you for your caring support.

BB

Another lefty academic! loud of laugh and forthright with your opinions, we have enjoyed many a meal over the years. You would be the perfect friend, were it not for your habit of taking Billy’s side in every argument LOL

Your innate generosity and warmth has meant so much to both Billy and I over the past 10 years.

It is great to have you on our team

Franko and Shirley

A Friendship which sprung from business has given me so much joy over the past 8 years. You two are my own private indulgence, mainly because you are not here that often and I don’t think have ever met Billy.

That doesn’t stop Shirley berating me when I dare to speak of his latest affront!

You are wise and you are compassionate, the loud hugs from Shirley and the gentle glint in the eye from Franko when we catch up, are things I look forward to with eager anticipation.

Your work in China is motivated by your warmth and your pride in your students is something to behold. I am privileged to know you both.

John M

I don’t know exactly when we first met, it is lost in the mist of time. All I know is that I am very glad this no nonsense, politically correct and visceral hater of all that is hypocritical in the world, is on my side (most of the time!)

You have become a great friend to both Kayla and Billy and your rational judgement gives me the shits when I am arguing with either of them.

Despite this, I would never swap you for a friend, you have been by my side through the light and the darkness for almost twenty years.

Your simple pragmatic and very Scottish view of things has given me strength when I have most needed it.

George H,

You, Billy and I have shared many meals together, we have solved all the problems of the world, but; I must admit, not had quite the same success with your tangled love life or lack thereof.

You are a sensitive, caring muso full of heart and compassion, both Willy and I look forward to the times when we can get together.

It is always fun to see George is calling

George D,

The rampantly heterosexual, Greek Tradie whose solicitous phone calls “How you doing Brucie?” are always a welcome addition to my day.

Our coffees together are a mad run through of your latest sexual conquests laced with real care and compassion.

You are a tough man George D, but your heart is as good as any man’s I have ever known.

Be Good old mate

Arthur

You are the decent, kind and at times; outrageously camp, Greek man I have known and loved for many years.

Your heart is even bigger than your flamboyant personality.

Even my, in some ways conservative daughters; who love the gay men in their life, but would prefer their Father’s friends to at least attempt some facade are smitten by your outrageousness, your kindness and your wonderful generosity of spirit that knows no bounds.

I will sometimes call one of the girls after one of our (now much soberer) lunches and there is no mistaking, the warmth as they ask about you.

If anyone can make carking it seem like fun, you can old friend

Di and Phillip

Di ,we first met through Kearns in Melbourne many years ago, Billy and I nursed you through a few broken romances before Phil arrived and the perfect middle age romance bloomed.

I know you would both argue that statement but you guys argue most things, so what the heck?

Laughter and old friends are incredibly important to Billy and I your “mad moments” are the perfect tonic for us both.

The ability to forget for two hours and just have fun is such a treat and I thank you both for these mad light hearted moments.

Phil L

Over the past 20 years I have got used to unlisted calls from all parts of the world and that booming Chicago accent asking “Brucie, how the Fuck are you?”

Friends often ask “Have you seen Phil lately?” my stock standard answer is usually, “No, but he will turn up soon, bad smells always do!”

A loud, giant of a man with endless optimism, but underneath one of the most decent and caring people I know.

Thanks Philly, any thoughts of self-pity I may have, are in your parlance; “hit out of the ballpark” whenever we are together, and; for a straight man you give the best bear hugs in the business.

All good, Old mate.

Justine, Britt, Krystie, Kath, Julie, Marian, Kath and Jeannine

All of you come from a religion that could have hardened your souls against Billy and I. All of you have shown me, the vast difference between faith and religion.

The last eight years have taken their toll on Billy and I know how important it has been for him to have you guys in his camp.

Thanks for making him happy.

Your faith has never been more sorely tested than it has been recently, as the full enormity of the Catholic Church’s guilt and complicity has been exposed at the Royal Commission into Child Abuse.

Justine answered this so beautifully when I asked her about it.

“I love my faith but I am ashamed of my church”

 

 

Billy and I love your faith and treasure your friendship.

Kearns

Defining our friendship is impossible, it just is and has been for almost 30 years. We have shared some wonderful moments in Sydney, Melbourne, Malaysia and Thailand and always, despite how long it may be since we have last seen each other it is as if it were yesterday.

You have spent much of the last 20 years living Overseas and much of the time since 2008 in New York which means we don’t see you as often as we used to.

It doesn’t seem to matter, a phone call, an SMS and the times when you are in Australia are very special.

You are a good man old friend, thanks for being you.

I never dared to dream I could write about this many people and know my thoughts would be reciprocated, even as I close this letter I am aware of others I have missed.

For those I have not mentioned, I apologise, but please know how much you have all meant to me.

I am grateful and humbled your support, a support that at times; I am sure I did not deserve.

Love

Bruce

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When I am gone

To my grandkids

My love for the three of you is limitless, it knows no bounds. Sometimes; I spend wasted time searching for a favourite, that is always fruitless as it should be.

Who would it be, if it were even possible?

Horrie, a little man, approaching this 12th birthday and progress to Senior School?

Decent is an old-fashioned word, simple, but so very powerful.

It is your word.

It is tough for a child to see his little sister get extra attention, even when that extra attention is so very warranted, because of her Autism.

You have not only accepted, you have enveloped. Your patience with Esty gets tested but there is no mistaking your love, pride, generosity, protection and support.

The tall, gangly kid emerging from the surf he loves, the boy who loves his baseball, the geek who can inter himself in a book or lego, the caring grandson steering “Grumps” round the shopping centre, the cheeky soul, not shy about asking for any change I may have in my pocket.

You are all the above and you are more, I love every piece.

Esty, the feisty, determined, demanding, structure loving soul?

A cuddle from you is not freely given, it is earned. Nothing can describe the feeling when you race down the hallway and throw yourself into my arms.

To see you red faced and sweating on the netball court is to experience your difference. To wallow in your tears after a swim that didn’t go as planned, is to search for your heart, what a heart it is.

A stolen moment on the couch before the next urge grabs you, is a simple pleasure without boundaries.

Your difference is acknowledged, celebrated but; never excused.

You are the individual, you see no reason to change, the world must accommodate you.

You will have hard times but you will never be beaten, your ability to wallow and recharge is just one of your miracles.

What is not to love and adore.

Otis, the sweet, demanding elf of the family, a smile to melt hearts across the great divide?

Your cousins are surfing at Lorne in 40-degree heat, you are puddle jumping in a wet, 6-degree English day.

Your birth a triumph, your existence a miracle.

A miracle of boundless love.

“I am feeling poorly, Grumpy” the very English sweet words of a sick boy travel down the ether.

Later, as with your birthday last Saturday

“I am having such a great day, I never want it to end”

A heart bigger than yourself, a smile to light the world. The times you spend on this side of the world are cherished.

I am sorry I am not better at Skype, it gives me a headache, but I love the phone and the enthusiasm in your voice.

The photos of my grandchildren, a glimpse of a world in opposite seasons.

I miss you so much little man.

As my days darken, literally now; the slightest speck on my glasses, a cause for frustration and anger, I would not be human if I did not fear for all of you.

A world where science is ridiculed by the very people who should be listening, a world ruled by despots on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific, a world where real terrorism has less to do with religion or faith, and; more to do with the lies and ignorance of the smug and self-satisfied.

This is the world you will inherit, frankly; it is a world I am not so sorry to be leaving.

Mind you I am no hurry; I have your birthdays, I have your phone calls and I have your cuddles to look forward to.

I hope one day when you read this journal, you will understand how perfectly, this far from perfect man loved you all.

There are worse legacies, there are no better recipients.

Love

Grumpy

XXXXXXXXX

PS It would not be me writing this, unless; I succumbed to the urge to give advice.

These are “The Grumpy Rules”based on a lifetime of mistakes and a few  right moves.

  1. Never take advice from Grumpy, unless; it is based on independent research.
  2. Believe in the enthusiast who does know what they are talking about.
  3. Never believe the pessimist who does not know what they are talking about
  4. Always take notice of your mothers, they love saying “I told you so” LOL
  5. Believe in yourselves, find your own paths with honesty and courage.
  6. Look to others for inspiration but do not judge yourself by others
  7. Be proud of your success, be honest when you fail
  8. Enjoy your life
  9. Trust and trust again, even if sometimes your trust is betrayed
  10. Never stop learning

 

Hard to accept

 

Hi Brian

we didn’t see  a lot of each other after I came back to Sydney or indeed, after I left the company in 1994. You would occasionally call in to the Office in Melbourne during the 90’s but these visits often seemed more like a duty than a friendly catch up.

We would occasionally catch up for a coffee when I was back in Sydney but times had changed and there was a tension in these meetings I wished was not there.

To paraphrase the old Kevin Johnson song “Brian White, I gave you the best years of my life” and yet, there was now a distance between us I found this both unfathomable and hard to accept.

As I write this, I regret not being completely honest about my reasons for leaving the company.

I was loyal to you and I didn’t want to rock the family, I was also acutely aware it was a battle I could not win. Underlying all this, was the hope you and I may have some sort of a business future away from the family.

Your support both personally and businesswise between 1985 and 1994 was everything I could have hoped for. The mistake I made, was to believe our relationship could transcend the business.

The feelings of loss and separation after I left in 1994, are impossible to quantify. The depression and the personal sense of failure are perhaps unfathomable to someone who has not gone through something similar.

The loss of your guidance, support and friendship was the biggest blow of all.

The more I have dredged my past whilst writing this Journal, the more  I have found that for almost every regret, every stupid mistake and every act of weakness on my part, there have been so many positives.

Good people, honest and sustaining love have made light of most of my mistakes. We have laughed about them, people have chastised me for them, my defenses have been shredded by logical argument, but; in most cases, the love has survived and prospered.

I can’t say this for you, and it hurts like hell. One of the greatest influences on my life is now not part of that life.

I know now, that leaving Ray White at the height of my success was not one of my mistakes. That decision should have been a source of pride, instead; I let it become a source of guilt, self-loathing and loss of self-worth.

That! Was my mistake.

A family boardroom when you are not part of the family and your whole being is being undermined by some members of that family, is somewhere I could not be.

I know  people who, still to this day, hide their sexuality at work and, even; in some cases with their families.  Whilst I understand and empathize with these people, I knew in 1994 my journey was so complete, this was no longer an option for me.

I knew that sitting in a Boardroom, charged with barely concealed enmity and homophobia would have eventually destroyed me. Every barb, every slight would take me back to the schoolyard taunts and the guilt I had tried so hard to leave behind..

I should have fought, instead; I slunk away with a sense of shame and guilt.

That! was also my mistake.

A mistake fueled by misguided loyalty and a desperate need to prove myself to you all over again.

The last time we spoke was in May 2013, you called to invite me to the N.S.W. Awards Night where you planned to present me with a National Lifetime Achievement Award.

The night was a week away.

“Thanks Brian, I really appreciate it, but I will not be here, Billy and I are leaving for a holiday in Thailand on Saturday”

“Can’t you change it?”

“No, Flights are booked and Billy has organised his holidays at work”

“I am disappointed”

“I am sorry, but we are really looking forward to getting away, a week’s notice is a bit short”

I sent you a note on the day of the Awards night to wish you all the best, that is the last communication we have had.

I was woken on Saturday 8 January 2017 by a call from a friend.

“Bruce, you have to see the Weekend Australian today”

“Why?”

“You won’t have to go past the front page”

A Picture of you and Rosie under a banner headline.

“From tin shed to harbour side mansion, family values never lost at the White House”

There is not one part of me that begrudges your success, you have built a stunning business and I am proud of my role in that process.

A eulogy to Alan and Paul, however;  was more than I could take with my cornflakes,  There were at least 10 people I could think of, who were more deserving of respect and gratitude for the growth of your business.

You had the front page of Australia’s National Newspaper; you could not spare one line to thank the many people who had given everything to help you achieve what you had.

No names were required, we would have known who we are.

Suddenly, I was glad I did not collect my Lifetime Achievement Award. After almost 22 years I was free.

Good bye Brian

Bruce

 

So far yet so far to go

To the Editor SMH

Brilliant, but so very sad piece by Tim Dick (He was just a little boy taunted to death by words SMH 28/11/2016)

As a product of rural “middle Australia” in the fifties and sixties I was brought up to believe “Coons” were lazy drunks, “Poofters” were all pedophiles, “Wogs” were smelly, salami eaters, Women were meant to make the sandwiches, Catholics probably voted Labor and were not to be trusted, Jews killed Jesus, Bob Katter Snr was the son of an Afghan camel driver (technically that may have been correct) and therefore did not belong in the “real” Country Party etc etc.

I cried with shame and guilt when the reality of my own sexuality emerged, causing tremendous harm to those I loved.

I have spent the last thirty years, hoping hatred and bigotry had been defeated.

But, in 2016!

A 13-year-old boy kills himself because of virulent homophobia and all the pain comes back to haunt us, Pauline Hanson reminisces fondly about the times when “wogs were wogs” and they did not complain, we are still arguing about a National identity for indigenous people, Donald Trump rides to victory on a “hate wave”

Scars become callouses, but scratch them hard enough and they still bleed.

We are, or could have been, a beacon of hope in the war against “Scratching”.

The death of Tyrone reminds us all, how shallow our civility still is.

Bruce Ingrey

Unlikely Pioneer

Hi Jassie

Shit, it has been a journey!

You, as the eldest of the three girls have unwittingly become the spearhead of this crazy social experiment that has been our family.

Your words many years ago, still echo around in my brain.

“You know, you used to be a terrible father, thank god you woke up to yourself”

I can only hope I have redeemed myself in your eyes.

Our weekly phone calls are one of the touch stones of my life, a laugh or two, news of the kids and the week just gone. There is also the usual question “How are you” and the inevitable answer “A lot better than I should be”

I had to sit down with you, way back in 1989 and tell you Mum and I were separating, It was heartbreaking to look into your tear filled eyes, I did my best, to reassure you that somehow things would be OK.

In 1994 I waited, scared shitless, after I handed you a letter trying to explain the last five years and telling you I was gay. Your response was more, much more than I could ever have hoped for.

In 1999, after I had been sick for weeks, I had to tell you I was HIV positive. You were the Rock, forcing me through the next two years of those 23 doses of poison every morning and every night. You must have lain in bed every night, listening to the dreadful retching noise coming from the bathroom, but; early every morning you would drag me out of bed for our walk, before going off to work and pretending nothing was amiss.

In 2000, I waited for you to come home after you had told me you were going to tell Jorge, your dad was gay. Jorge came from the north west of Sydney, where being gay would still get you bashed in the school yard, I understood how much you feared this moment and how important Jorge was becoming in your life.

I have seen you become the “earth mother” of this family, grappling with two gorgeous kids and dealing with the emerging news of Esty’s autism.

I have no idea what or how, you have told the kids about Billy and I, but somehow, by a process of osmosis, they have accepted Billy as a an integral part of the family and it has never been a point of discussion.

In 2008 I had to talk to you, along with Annie, Kayla Mum and many others after the visit to the Professor.

Your strength became my strength, you and Jorge rallied in my support, along with the rest of the family and a wide network of friends.

I have said many times this dying caper is actually dead boring, you gradually lose parts of yourself and the tiredness is almost overpowering. You have been beside me every step of the way, sometimes with your own version of “practical” support but always with love and care.

We laugh when you tell me about Esty’s latest burst of obsessiveness and I can’t understand what your problem is. Billy is always telling me, I am gradually becoming Benjamin Button as I recede into my childhood, sometimes it seems Esty and I are kindred souls, just going in opposite trajectories.

I watch in awe, as you and Jorge give these two kids every opportunity to find their own way in life; the swimming carnivals, the Nippers, the baseball, the netball and of course; the school results.

The pride, love and support you give and have for your kids and each other, warms my heart as nothing else can

It is the simple things I will smile about as the darkness closes.

The time when you and I sat in the coffee shop in Williamstown, playing “words with friends” and laughing together across the table on a lazy Friday afternoon, the mealtimes when Horrie or Esty would spend time in the naughty corner trying to stifle giggles as I winked and made faces at them across the room, watching Esty red faced and determined on the Netball court, seeing Horrie emerge from the surf after a gruelling swim, the hard earned cuddles from Esty, the quiet times with Horrie  as he tells me his breathless garble of news, the not so subtle jibes from Jorge and the times when he lets his heart hang open despite his best intentions.

These are the things, that mean so much at a time when it could be so easy to focus on a bleak future. The kids are my present, you and Jorge are my present and I love you all so deeply.

Love ya all

Dad and Grumpy

 

Time and Tide

Hi Sas and Douglas

Your move to Canberra in 2005 and then to Melbourne in 2012 was hard to accept, I had got so used to having you guys just a quick drive away. The times we would all spend together when the girls, or at least the ones that were in the Country or Sydney at the time, were very special.

Who could forget the day, when after perhaps; more good red than he should have had, John and I drove Bob home and he vociferously ordered me.

“Watch the corners, Bruce, the old bladder is not as good as it used to be”

We all watched in horror as the Bob we knew, faded away; he was forced to silently see his world of fun and good wine drain away, but we all loved him and I think he knew that.

Even today when John and I catch up, he often s reminds me of the times he as a good friend would spent time with the “mad Ingrey mob” his words not mine, but they are always delivered with a smile and a laugh.

I am glad you were in Canberra and had time to spend with your Mum and Dad in their last years. Ossie and Thelma were the epitome of goodness, my trips to Canberra for their respective 80th Birthdays, when they were in hospital and, for their funerals were the very least I could do, to show how much I respected these very decent people.

The last Christmas at your place in Canberra after Esme had died, it was so sad to see Ossie looking so lost and lonely, they were soulmates and I know you felt their loss so deeply.

Billy and I spoke about this as we drove to Melbourne the next day. I was wonderfully surprised to see how deeply he was moved, but Ossie and Esme never judged, and Billy was very fond of both of them. They and Bob had welcomed Billy into a family unit, that must have been so foreign to them, but never once was his presence questioned or he, not made welcome.

Of course, this always applied to both of you and I will be forever grateful for your graciousness.

God knows what Douglas has thought at times. about this very modern family he is so very much a part of and has assumed a leadership role of.

I was delighted when I was In Melbourne for Horrie’s Birthday in 2012, that I was able to spend some time with you both, as you searched for a new home. I don’t know whether I was any help, but I was chuffed to be asked and I had fun with you both.

It is wonderful for Horrie and Esty to have you close by, Nanny Sas and Poppy Douglas are certainly well established in those kid’s lives.

Thank god, envy has never been among my many weaknesses, I just really appreciate all you do for the kids, Jassie and Jorge.

Christmas 2012 was the first Christmas we had not spent together, since Sas and I separated in 1989, it was also the last one where we have not gathered as a family.

Billy and I had friends for Christmas lunch in Sydney but by mid morning, I was feeling a sense of separation. I rang Sas to wish you both, all the best and, a part of me was pleased she was also feeling a bit lost.

You guys have always welcomed me into your home and I think, we could claim some sort of a record for this almost unbroken chain of celebrating special occasions as a true, mixed family.

I was humbled, when in 2015, I was moving house and you both came up to help me through that dreadful time. This was so unexpected but so very welcome, you are truly very special people.

As I have slowly withered, you have both been there, not only for Billy and I but also for the kids.

A very large part of my aim in writing this interminable journal has been to play homage to you both, and; to celebrate what we have achieved as a family.

The skies may be getting darker but you guys have been a beacon of light.

As I reach the end of this ramble through over the years, I realise this is your story, as much; if not more than mine.

With love and gratitude

Bruce