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Mothers Know!

May 26, 2009

My mother was a country gal, she lived in a town a few kilometers west of Newcastle, in New South Wales, the place of my birth.  She had met my father, a serving officer in the Australian Army.  She came from a catholic background but was never what is called a ‘good catholic’ gal.  She took what she saw fit from her religion but was in no way ostentatious in her practice of it.  I was sent to catholic primary and secondary schools in Melbourne where we had moved to and lived with my father’s parents in a middle class Melbourne suburb.  She was liked by her in-laws but her being a catholic was a major hurdle for them.  They were not religious people but catholocism was not their cup of cammomille as became evident in the ensuing years.  She would ride her bike, alone, to the nearby catholic church without telling either my father or his parents.  Almost a closetted catholic in many ways.  Our house had no visible signs of religion.  I received the sacraments as prescribed by the church and became an altar boy.  I think this was the beginning of my future direction.  Missionary priests used come to the parish for a period of three or so weeks in order to stir up religious fervour in those who had lapsed from the teachings of the Church.  Both my mother and I attended these sermons delivered with a touch of fire and brimstone.  I was taken by one of the priests.  He seemed a gentle man, a holy man and I became interested in what he had to say to the congregation about the religious order to which he belonged.  This was the beginnng of my priestly vocation.  I asked my parents at age 14 if it were possible for me to attend the Junior Seminary located in New South Wales.  Here I went at 16 to complete my secondary education under the auspices of the Religious Fathers and Brothers whom I had come in contact with through their yearly missions in the Parish.  I went on to become a novice taking the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, this skinny young boy with horn rimmed glasses and the self esteem of a tea bag.  But I persisted and moved on to the Major Seminary located in my home state.  In total I spent 5 years of my early life under the guidance of  the priests who ran the Seminary.

Fortunately I had a moment of lucidity and knew that this was not the way I was going to spend the rest of my life.  It was my mother who said upon my returning home, “I knew you would not remain there, you like life too much”.  At age almost 21 I was back in the family home.  Within two weeks of leaving the Monastery grounds I had a job in a State Government Department called The State Rivers and Water Supply Department.  I was a pen pusher in an office filled with engineers who were responsible for designing those things that engineers do with Rivers and Water Supply.  The boredom of the job was hidjeous, and I only lasted 6 months before leaving and entering a State Teachers Training College.  All this time I was having doubts about my sexuality.  In 1966 there was no Gay Liberation, there were no help lines or places to meet other men.  There was a hotel in South Yarra where gay, not a word used then, men could meet for a drink and socialise without being too threatened by homophobia.  I had few social networks so this place became a refuge, and provided a chance to meet like minded people.  It was strange as there did not seem to be any organised lesbian networks at the time so it was mostly men, young and old, who frequented ‘Maisies’ Hotel.

By now I was a student and spent my Saturdays at the pub, not drinking beer, but Brandy and Dry, I wonder if it is still served anywhere.  People used to hold parties in their flats, no apartments or town houses or lofts in those days.  All of this behaviour I kept secret of course.  But my mother was suspicious especially when I did not come home on the Saturday night. ‘Where did you stay last night, where did you sleep?” became a familiar mantra from her.  I told some story, all lies.  But she was like some Gestapo Inspector.  ‘You know if you keep mixing with those kind of people you will end up like them!’  The words still resonate decades on.  Mothers know!

After a few years of living a secret life I decided I could no longer stand the accusations, the looks, the yelling, the inquisitions.  She made the Jesuits of the Spanish Inquisition look rather tame I thought.  Mother knows!  I rang her one night, by then living on my own in a small flat and living the life of a homosexual man.  She answered the phone one Melbourne Winters night.  I said, ” You know how for all these years you have made accusations concerning my homosexuality, well Mum, yes I am a homosexual”  She did not need two balls of wool to make me one.  I asked if she would like me to drive over to the family home and see her.  ‘Yes come now”, she replied.  I borowed a car from my current lover and drove to the outter suburbs of Melbourne where they had relocated after living for 20 years in the first house they owned.  The new house was one of those display homes.  Tacky.  It had gold plated taps and fake marble bathroom sink.  I had only spent a year living there before fleeing and living with two other gay men.  Of course my parents never visited.  In fact for the whole of my adult life I can count the number of times they came to see me on one hand.  I had a younger brother, 10 years younger in fact.

It was a cold night and when I arrived she was sitting close to the heater and my father had not returned from work.  He was late home but it did not bother my mother.  By now she had worked herself into a frenzy.  I told her that her suspicions were correct and that I was a homosexual.  I can still see her face.  Her body gripped with tension.  We talked with the conversation interspersed with her ranting and raving.  Then the door opened.  It was my father.  A cold man.  Ex Australian Army but he had left the service soon after I was born.  He now worked in textiles.  For a cold and aloof man it was odd to here him address his wife as ‘Hon’, short for Honey I  guess.  The brief conversation that ensued is keenly etched in my psyche.

‘Sorry Hon, you have no idea the trouble I have had with the car”  Her reply, “You have had trouble with the car.  Well your son has just come home to tell us he is a homosexual!”  My father turned ashen.  His reply inimitable.  ‘Jesus Christ, what’s a man done!”  The quiet Melbourne outter suburban night was no longer.  The three of sat there and I dont remember how it finished.

However it did finishwith my making peace with both parents before they died.  I guess they were of their generation.  Men unable to connect with their emotions and in his case, someone who saw some nasty sights of war.  She, well, there were never any Buddhas, no bamboo in the garden, but I remember her as a schoolboy when she rode her push bike up to the school to bring me lunch, always a treat.  And he, well he always nurtured my intellectual life for which I am grateful.

My Mother always knew, it was just sad that she was so bitter and angry.  She once told her long time neighbor, a dear woman, that she feared that as a homosexual man I would be alone in my old age.  I often think how alone the two of them were in their heterosexual marriage of over 40 years, sadly a loveless marriage.

I am now going to light a candle in front of my Buddha Images, and hope that the two of them have found peace.  Alas I am devoid of Bamboo.  But lots of it is growing outside if I need it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Deb permalink
    December 15, 2011 11:58 am

    Interesting reading Lloyd, I didn’t know the story was so sad, but then I didn’t know the story.

  2. January 21, 2014 6:52 am

    A powerful, beautifully written, excerpt of life. Thank you for sharing. xx

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