Marriage Doubt and Shame


Dear Sas

Over the next few years, we would settle into married life, a new home, new jobs and a new home.

There were times when I was torn between the life we were creating and the demons that rested inside.

I liked being married, I liked the life we were creating together but there were times when those doubts and demons would haunt me, causing frustration and anger which affected the relationship we shared.

We had friends and a good life, I wanted us to be happy, I wanted to be the husband you deserved but the demons lurked inside.

There was one night in particular, where the shame will never leave me.

We had settled into our new home, it was early in our marriage and arguments arose occasionally as two people learned to accept each other.

I wish I could have understood the demons undercutting the happiness, we should have been sharing.

I have learnt too late, you cannot live a lie; but at the time I did not understand the lie I was living, it would burn inside, seemingly without reason.

An argument erupted over something trivial and took a turn far out of proportion to the initial cause, anger overcame rationality, and I slapped you.

I honestly don’t know who was most shocked at this turn of events, but the shame of this night has never left me.

There is no excuse for what I did, I went for a drive immediately after wracked with guilt and the words of my father from many years ago, echoing in my ears.

“Son you must never hit a woman”

Shame at what I had done, shame at the demons lurking inside burned at my guts. I was a lost little boy again.

I was to learn many years later, that you had called your father after this shameful episode, during the time I was out, dealing with my shame.

I was to learn that Ossie to his eternal credit, told you, in his simple, sensible, inimitable way;

“Everyone is entitled to one mistake, but if he ever does it again, don’t wait one second to call me and I will come and get you immediately”

I did not know this at the time and it would be many years in the future before I was told; but not for the first time, did my respect for the common decency and wisdom of your father grow exponentially.

We grew through this Sas, my gratitude for your grace and dignity will never expunge my guilt but your forgiveness will never be forgotten.

The demons would not leave me and eventually I would face them, but the times and memories we have shared from this time onwards are precious.

It hurts like hell to write this letter but I am glad I did

With love and admiration





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



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.




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 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.




Romance stills the doubt


Hi Sas

The more I got to know you and your family, the more I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.

In the next 12 months we were to spend a lot of time together.

Trips to the Coast, time with Chris and Bep, fun with other friends, dinners with your family, movies and some rather illicit “picnics” in the forests around the Cotter Dam were just part of the process of “courtship”, but it was the friendship and fun we had together at this time that will always stay with me.

The Moke covered a lot of miles in that time, including the trip down to the coast one sunny spring day, without the covers, only to find the weather turn stormy in the afternoon. The drive home in an open car with no roof, no waterproof clothes and virtually no warm clothes became a very shivery experience and one we would laugh about for years to come.

Of course, there were the times we would argue and I would drive home those nights, fully expecting that to have been the last time we spent together. Somehow, by the morning I would find myself apologizing and you were gracious enough to welcome me back.

We were two kids trying to find our way together in the world and times of friction were, in hindsight, to be expected. At the time, though; they were full of all the despair, trauma and loss that only young love truly knows.

Your parents were almost the total antithesis of mine; simple good folks seemingly happy with their lot in life, their garden, their children and, seemingly lacking in any pretense.

This was never more evident than at the dining table. At home on the farm, mealtimes generally descended into vitriolic arguments. Whereas at your place, arguments and raised voices over the table were simply not tolerated, as your father quietly and firmly told me one night when your brother and I locked horns over something long forgotten.

Over the course of many years to come, I would learn to respect and revere these wonderfully simple people. They were some of the only people I know, for whom the word, ordinary was not a “put down” but a heartfelt compliment.

The love and times we shared at those times, did much to push my “demons” into the background, the appeal of being “normal” is almost impossible to explain unless someone is in the same position.

I firmly believed I could defeat the “demons” or, at least; I could submerge them in order to achieve normal love and happiness.

We began to talk about marriage and a future together, I remember these times with fondness and a feeling of contentment.

I know now, it is all but impossible to go through life, denying who or what you are but, at the time life was filled with optimism and hope.

The demons were stilled, at least for a time.