May 24

My eyes have been focussed on Ireland as they voted in a referendum to change their constitution to broaden the definition of marriage in that country.

“marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”

Just so we’re clear, it’s not gay marriage nor is it the right to marry a dog, several hundred other people or a bridge. It’s the right to contract in accordance with the law the right to marry another person.  You could be gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered or just plain and simply you.  All you need is another single person and you can get married.

vote yesThe people said yes.

There has been much celebrating in Ireland and around the world.  It’s historic as it’s the first country to vote on marriage equality.  Of course, there are those that are upset about the result, such as Lyle Shelton – head straight man at the Australian Christian Lobby – scared of anything that isn’t just like him.  He very quickly published a media release to tell everyone else just what we should be thinking!  He sums up his whole approach right there in the headline:

Irish marriage referendum a blow to the rights of children

He seems to ignore the 18 countries where it’s ok to get married and guess what, the kids are ok!  He’s not focussed on the Royal Commission on Institutional sex abuse where the rights of kids have been ignored and destroyed.  Nor has he focussed on the rape and abuse of asylum seekers.  No, no, he in his writings suggest that gay people are somehow causing harm to the rights of children.

The redefinition of marriage and family in Ireland this weekend is a wake-up call to Australians who value the rights of children and freedom of belief.

Yes, it’s a wake up call – the decision has been made by the people.  Not by a few lobbyists who head an outdated religious lobby group.   Of  course, family has not been redefined in Ireland.  Just who is allowed to get married, and even then, it’s not so much as a redefinition, but simply a small adjustment.  Opposite-sex couples are still able to marry.   As to the rights of children, last time I check my two were still ok, as are my nephews and nieces.  No impact at all.  Also, it’s Sunday today, no churches have been harmed so freedom of belief endures.

The Australian Christian Lobby is disappointed that the Irish movement to redefine marriage, funded by $16 million US dollars, has succeeded at a national referendum today.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said, “Over $16 million US dollars has been provided to organisations to deliver same-sex marriage over a period of 12 years in Ireland.”

Actually Lyle, that would be illegal.  Foreign entities may not fund or donate to Irish referendum campaigns. It is rather naughty of you to suggest it, especially since you seem to ignore the counter claims that the No vote has been funded by extreme right-wing American fundamentalist organisations.

Mr Shelton said despite the result in Ireland, Australia was different and he called on parliamentarians to carefully consider the consequences for children and to freedom of conscience.

“Australia should not pass a law which forces millions of Australians to pretend that a same-sex couple with children is the same thing as a mother and father with children.

Lyle is right – we are different.  Our marriage act can be changed by parliament.  No referendum is needed.  In fact, it was former Prime Minister Howard, ably assisted by the current PM Abbott that changed the marriage act to make it clear that in Australia marriage is between one man and one woman for life.  It’s ok, you can ignore the ‘for life’ bit if you like and get a divorce, but you can’t ignore the man and woman bit.

As to this rather silly notion that the law will force millions – millions I say – to ‘pretend’ that there’s something wrong with the kids of gay couples.  I mean really Lyle.  What are you going on about?  You do know that already there are plenty of couples who aren’t married raising children?  Some of those couples are married overseas but their relationship is not recognised here.  And some of them are same-sex parents.  And guess what – their kids are ok!  Perhaps you should go and meet with some of them to find out how well they’re doing.

“The redefining marriage movement in Ireland made a big effort to downplay the rights and interests of children, which ought to be at centre stage of all public policy.

The No vote played this game very well and made it front and centre of their campaign.  And guess what?  The rest of Ireland saw through it and told them how silly they are.

“Because marriage confers the right to form a family, it will be very difficult to resist further law changes allowing the exploitation of women through commercial surrogacy.

No, marriage does not confer that right.  We have a right to form a family and plenty of people do that without marriage.  Even those who get married may choose not to have children.   Surrogacy is an issue that is quite separate from marriage equality.  In fact, the attempt to wave a red flag about the exploitation of women while talking about marriage equality is a nice attempt at distraction.  The two aren’t connected.

“The only way the benefits of marriage equality can be provided to two men is to reform surrogacy laws so they have open access to donated women’s eggs and through the provision of ‘carrier’ wombs.

Uh huh.  Benefits of marriage equality?  What has this to do with two people getting married?  It would seem Lyle that you are suggesting that the reason people get married is to have children.  I don’t understand what makes you think this is a benefit of marriage as it can and does happen outside marriage.  Surrogacy again is a separate issue not connected with marriage equality.

“While some same-sex couples are already acquiring children through various means of assisted reproductive technology, this does not make severing the primal bond between a child and their mother or father right.

Acquiring?  Are you talking about a couple of women – you know, lesbians?  Nobody acquires children.  We have them.  You also turn a blind eye to those thousands of children already adopted by same-sex and opposite-sex parents.  This is the reality now and has been for a very long time.  Quite frankly Lyle, this is a furphy.

“Marriage equality abolishes in law and culture the idea that, wherever possible, children have a right to both their mother and father.

Perhaps you can point to which law and which culture that says a child has this right.  When you’ve found it then please embark upon a campaign to remove children from single parents, divorced parents and same-sex couples.  Of course, marriage equality does not abolish anything of the sort.

“If gender matters for company boards and jury selection, then how can we deny that it matters for parenting?”

Huh?

Mr Shelton said the freedom of Christian and Islamic schools teaching the truth about gender complementarity in marriage would likely come into question if marriage was redefined.

You forget about the Jewish faith.  And so it should come into question.    You seem to be of the misunderstanding that christian and islamic schools have some sort of truth that places them outside reality.  They don’t.  What you’re saying is that homosexuality is morally wrong according to your ‘truth’.  Time to get out and face the reality that there is nothing wrong with being gay, there is nothing wrong with being straight.  How long must the rest of us sit back and allow you to use your religion to deny reality?  The world isn’t flat anymore Lyle.

People providing services to the wedding industry, who because of conscience declined to participate in a same-sex wedding, would risk being punished under Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

OK.  So we don’t yet have marriage equality in Australia – so this isn’t really an issue.  However, I would hope that if you are a baker, for example, and your website says that you make wedding cakes, then that’s what you do.  If a couple arrives and you refuse to make a cake because of your conscience, then I’d suggest you are probably in the wrong business and if you are breaking the law then you should be prepared for the consequences.  Are you really saying that religious people are outside the law?  We get to work with lots of people every day and we don’t get to discriminate based on our conscience.  It’s how we get along in life Lyle.  And my suggestion to you is that you take a good hard look at your opposition to gay people getting married.   The thing that is driving your protests is your christian belief.  Let me quote it for you straight from your bible:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

So, if you want to talk about the right to exercise your religious conscience – is this what you mean?

 

 

Tagged with:
Mar 30

Every now and then I think of my mate – Geoff.  I think of his wife, Marie.  My heart breaks.

Tonight I’ve spent the evening out with Michael.  We’ve had a good time.

Before we left my 21 year old son, Tomas, wasn’t home.  That’s a bit odd.  Caitlin my 23 year old daughter didn’t know where he was.  I don’t worry.  At least, I think I’m not worrying.

That’s until I get home some 5 hours later to see his bedroom door is closed.  Caitlin’s bedroom door is also closed.  That means that no matter what has transpired today – both of them are home and in bed.  It’s only then that I realise that the closed doors offer me comfort and remind me that my children are safe.  It’s then that I realise that I worry.

To lose a child would be devastating.  Every time that thought cross my mind, I think of my mates, Geoff and Marie.  Because they lost their two children in a road accident 10 years ago.

Their pain is my nightmare – but I’ve not spent 10 years living it.  I’ve not spent 10 years seeing the open bedroom doors.

A flash of memories of Kate and Daryl is all I have. Quiet words said at the funeral.

My words will never describe the deep sense of loss.

I see it in myself, I can feel the despair.  It will pass for me because the bedroom doors are closed.

Oct 18

My family has 11 children.  My mother gave birth to 5 sons and then a daughter.  I understand that there was much rejoicing when the first girl arrived.  It was said that she would be able to help my mum with all those boys and then look after my parents in their old age.

My sister was Helen, the 6th child.  She died before Mum and Dad and I don’t know how well she looked after my older brothers, and I’m not at all sure she looked after her younger siblings – as I remember rightly she introduced me to smoking and was once told by Sister Jean that girls that wear jeans have abortions.  (It was the 70’s!)  When we were young we fought with each other on a regular basis!

When going through some of Mum and Dad’s things, I came across a folder of letters to Mum when Helen was born.  This first letter is from my grand parents, Dad’s parents.  This is written in 1960.

Handwritten by Nell Storer - June 1960

Handwritten by Nell Storer – June 1960

Dear Ev,

Well what a lovely surprise for us all with your dear little daughter we hoped and prayed you would be blest with a little girl so now we are happy.

I’m sure you can hardly believe its true, you would be surprised how many people enjoy our happiness too, and a lot are outsiders.

Dad & I are going to try and see you Wednesday night, if they will allow us in, & isn’t Pat thrilled to think baby arrived on her birthday & wasn’t she pleased when Brian asked her to be God mother.

How do you feel Ev, well I hope, Brian says you are back to your old form, he is a happy man indeed they all say you both deserved your daughter.

Jeanette rang last night & she was so pleased when we told her, she says there is still hope for her. I must close Ev & hope to see you soon. Lots of love,

Mum & Dad & Pat xxx

for baby
XXX

Let me just help decipher the family tree here for you!

Dear Ev,

Mum’s name was Evelyn, she was called Eve, Ev and sometimes Evie.

I’m sure you can hardly believe its true, you would be surprised how many people enjoy our happiness too, and a lot are outsiders.

We have a very large family – I think outsiders refers to non-family members.

Dad & I are going to try and see you Wednesday night, if they will allow us in,

Uncle Graeme, Aunty Pat and Helen

Uncle Graeme, Aunty Pat and Helen

It was 1960 and not everyone got into the hospital to see patients!  I also like this quaint idea that she refers to my grandfather, Pop, as Dad.  I think that my Mum did call them Mum and Dad, but I don’t really recall.

& isn’t Pat thrilled to think baby arrived on her birthday & wasn’t she pleased when Brian asked her to be God mother.

Pat is my Aunty, Dad’s younger sister – I’m guessing she was still living at home with Nan and Pop.  Brian is my dad.  Helen was born on the June 18th, same date as Pat, something I’d forgotten about.  It must have been a thrill to be asked to be God Mother!

Jeanette rang last night & she was so pleased when we told her she says there is still hope for her.

Jeanette is my Aunty, Dad’s sister-in-law she also had a number of sons and no girls.  She did have one girl, maybe just after Helen was born.

I’m making my way through a small box of memories, there is a lot in there the provokes the thoughts of childhood and fond memories, and letters like this written before I was born, things that I knew nothing about.  I don’t know if Nan and Pop lived in Hamilton at the time, if they did, why did they write a letter?  Was it delivered to the hospital inside a card perhaps?  Did my dad take it to her?  Things we can only guess now.

Family stories.  Do your bit to ask those questions now.

 

Tagged with:
Sep 22

For seven days, our niece Abbey sent letters to the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, requesting that he change the law on marriage to allow Michael and me to get married to each other.

Here are her letters:

Today she received a response! She called me straight away to tell me that she had some good news and some sad news.

The good news was the PM had written back to her, the sad news was that he wasn’t going to change anything.

We talked about the sad news and I said that I didn’t think it was all that sad.  We already knew that he probably wouldn’t change his mind, but I encouraged Abbey to think about the impact she’s had.  Her friends are talking about it, she managed to reach hundreds of people by writing her letters and then some other people also wrote letters. It was good for her to hear about the influence that her efforts had, and we talked about how important it is that people just like her let people just like Abbott know what she’s thinking.  It’s how we bring about change.

Here’s what Tony Abbott wrote:

Dear Abbey,

Thank you for letting me know your views on same sex marriage.

I appreciate you letting me know about your own family. In my family, I have a sister with a female partner.  My sister’s partner is a loved member of our family.

While I respect your views on same sex marriage, I hold a different view.

My personal position is to support the existing definition of marriage.

The Government supports the current definition of marriage contained in the Marriage Act. Any change to this policy would be a matter for the Coalition Party Room.

Thank you again for writing to me.  I wish you well in the future.

Yours sincerely

TONY ABBOTT

Abbey Gets A Reply

Tagged with:
Sep 05

vows

January 30, 2014
Stoneridge Estate
Queenstown, New Zealand

I ask everyone here today to witness that I Gregory Paul Storer choose you Michael Nathan Barnett to be my legal husband.

Michael, when we started our relationship, my online profile said that I understood my place in the Universe and that I was looking for the right person to share it with.  I said that mental voids need not apply.

You have been able to challenge me, reason with me and help me grow into a different man.  I have changed.  I am now a wonderfully happy person, in love with a wonderfully happy person.  You are no mental void but a man brimming with integrity, honesty, openness and love.

Michael today we face each other, I get to look into your beautiful eyes, watch your wonderful face and tell you why I’m here.

You know that I love you.  You know that despite all the wrongs in our world, all the things outside our control and all the things that we control that I willingly look at you and say you are the one that I want to be with.  You are the one that I choose to spend my time with.

I smile when I see you.  I look for you when you’re not here.  I revel in sharing the outdoors with you.  I delight in our conversations about the world.

We walk through the bush and climb to the top of mountains and look in awe.  These are times together that make my heart go zing.  You make my heart go zing.  It’s doing it right now.

So, today, with my heart going zing, I have surrounded myself with love.  I have taken the most important people in my life and brought them here.  I want the love that surrounds me, the love of my closest brother and sister, the love of my wonderful children, the love of my best friends, I want this love to surround me and I want it to surround you.

You too have brought to this place those you love, you have surrounded yourself with love.

There is here today over 200 years of marriage between our friends.  We are engulfed by love.

I stand before everyone here to say to you that I love you.

I love your passion for others.

I love your sense of justice.

I love your thoroughness.

I love your humour.

I love your integrity.

I want you to be my husband.

I want to share all of my life with you.

I want to explore the world with you at my side.

I want to discover the universe with you.

I choose you to be my husband.

 


You can read the vows Michael said to me here

Tagged with:
Sep 04

The SBS program, Living with the Enemy episode on marriage equality was a 50 minute show shot over 10 days.

CMTAMNGP

That means a lot has been left out as the production team go to great efforts to keep the story moving forward and connecting all the dots.  Tough calls are made on what’s in and what’s out.

I don’t have a problem with that, I’m very comfortable with how things landed, the show was extremely well put together and there simply isn’t room for everything.

It was interesting that David’s brother acknowledges that he is still attracted to men, despite now being married to a woman.  The bit missing is my own journey of being gay in my teens and early 20’s, then pretending to be straight, getting married to Jennie at 26, having two children and then finding that didn’t work and back to being true to myself.

I played the game.  I got married, had children and tried to be a heterosexual.  It’s really hard work and as I said in the show, it took me all the way to 35 to sort myself out.  I can only hope that David’s brother has found happiness in his life.  Denial is a very powerful force that can really mess you up.  I know.  But just because that is my experience doesn’t mean that everyone else will travel the same road.

My two children are an important part of my life.  We have always lived together and they did give a speech at the wedding.  It was wonderful and brought me to tears.

Hello everyone.  I’m Tomas

And I’m Caitlin.

For those of you unaware, we are Greg’s beloved children.

We can’t quite express how overjoyed we are to be at this point, sharing in this moment with Dad and Michael.

Ever since we were young, my sister and I have understood and supported our father’s sexuality, joined him in his fight for equality.

And I speak for the both of us when I say we have never been happier or prouder of him than we are today.

Though it may not be quite what you had hoped, being neither on Australian soil, nor by Australian law, we’re glad to have been here for the next big step of your relationship.

Witnessing the love that you share.

And looking forward to whatever else may come in the future.

Be it another wedding in Australia

Adoption

Or one of us finally moving out.

No matter what, we have greatly enjoyed being part of this journey, and take great pride in being part of the march that is to come, through blood, sweat and tears.

Congratulations to you both.

It’s signed:

Congratulations on a beautiful ceremony.

With much love, Tomas and Caitlin.

It was fantastic to have both of my children with me on this very important, significant life event.

 

Tagged with:
Aug 13

Today is a day of anniversaries for me.

I’m celebrating the 30th Anniversary of my Coming of Age.

I’m celebrating the anniversary of my birth.  51 years.

I’m recalling my first trip overseas.

Then, there’s a couple of other anniversaries that need mentioning.

Marriage Equality was blocked in Australia 10 years ago today.

30 years ago was the last time my family was together.

So yes, Happy Birthday to me.  See my blog this time last year!

I remember my birthday 10 years ago.  We were going out to dinner to celebrate.  Somewhere in Chinatown in Melbourne.  It was all arranged.

I wasn’t so much an activist back then.  It had only been a couple of years since I had embraced my sexuality and I was still coming to terms with what it all meant.

I was running late, because I was listening to the radio.  News Radio was covering the live debate from the Senate on Marriage Equality.  Although really it wasn’t about equality.  It was about amending the Marriage Act to include the words

Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

The amendments also required marriage celebrants to mutter those words, just to drive home the point at every marriage in Australia.

I was standing in the kitchen, by the radio, as the votes where being counted, and then listened to the result, 38 Senators voted in favour of amending the Act.  6 Against.  Australia had successfully legislated discrimination against couples of the same-sex.

The effect on me was immediate.  Angry.  I had worked so hard to come to terms with my sexuality.  Many of my family and friends had embraced the new me.  Yet here was the Government, both of the major parties, Labor and Liberal, telling me that my relationship was second-rate.  In effect I was a second class Australian.  I just couldn’t believe what had just happened.  Even though it was expected, I was hoping that at least the Senate might throw the bill back to the House of Representatives and ask for a re-think.

Let me point to that moment in time as the start of my activism for my right and the rights of all other non-heterosexual couples to be treated as equal citizens.

I’ll keep fighting for as long as it takes.  I can’t believe it’s been 10 years!

International Commissioner!

International Commissioner!

The other life event for me 30 years ago was my first trip outside of Australia.  I spent 6 weeks in the USA, Richmond Virginia.  I was at a Boy Scout Summer Camp and it is one of the highlights of my life!  Can you imagine this small town young man travelling solo to the USA.  I’d only ever been as far as Perth and then I drove there.  The sheer excitement and nervousness of standing at Tullamarine, looking at the plane and seeing gaffer tape around the tail wings.  The horror of arriving in Houston to be told there was a strike and no planes were flying.  Getting to New York and not understanding that I needed to fly with a different airline to get to Washington DC, being completely lost in the airport.  Taking a Greyhound bus to Richmond only to arrive at the bus terminal and spend hours sitting there because nobody came to collect me.  They didn’t answer the phone (landlines!) and I had a lot of trouble using the payphone with all this foreign money.

The last full clan gathering 1984

The last full clan gathering 1984

Memories!  When I returned from the US it was only a matter of weeks until I turned 21. 30 years ago today.  At that birthday party the family of 11 children gathered for the last time.  Every other event since then always had one or two of us missing.  And now with my sister Helen and my parents dying it will never be possible again.

Time continues to travel in such a way that we can’t go backwards.

Happy Anniversaries everyone!


Take some time to send a message to your MP about Marriage Equality

Attend the next Equal Love Rally August 16th. Michael and I will be addressing the rally.


 

 

 

Tagged with:
Aug 05

In my large family I have a lot of nephews and nieces.  Some are into their forties and the youngest is 8 years old.

I love spending time with Abbey and with her sister.  They’re great fun to be around.  We play together and explore the world from an 8 year old’s perspective.  We have lots of room for moose and treat them nicely.  They are always appearing and quickly disappearing.

She’s home sick today, and after coming to Michael and my wedding in New Zealand earlier in the year, she’s been wondering why we can’t get married in Australia.  I’m reliably informed that she has some questions for me and that she is learning how changes are made.

How awesome is it that a child can understand the inequality in our society and also work out how change can be started.  From her heart comes her plea and her question to the Prime Minister of Australia.

My niece is awesome!  Thanks Abbey.

Here’s her letter to the PM.

To Tony Abbott
my name is Abbey and I am 8 years old.
My unkls are gaye and we had to go to
New Zeland to have ther wedding it is going
To be on TV it’s called Living with the Enemy they
wont to get marred in Astralea but thats eligle
I will write to you once a day for a week.
P.S. I wold like the law changed.

20140805 Abbey's Letter
Read her 2nd letter and her 3rd letter.  Letter 4 Letter 5 Letter 6 Letter 7

Tagged with:
Apr 26

I’m a lad of Western Victoria, born and raised in Hamilton in the state’s Western District.

I lived there from 1963 until 1995. Then I moved to Melbourne.

Hamilton is the place I consider home.  Despite my 20 years in the big smoke, I still have a hankering for that small rural town.

This Easter weekend I spent my time in the area, it was a bit different this time around.

I visited those places that were important to me, well, those places that give me fond memories.

McIntyre StreetThe house where all thirteen of us lived is still there. It seems that no work has been done on it in the last twenty years, it’s starting to fall apart.  The gutters are covered in mould and moss, the windows looked dirty, it needs a paint job.  The roses that Mum and Dad pruned every year haven’t been touched in decades.

I thought that our back garden was huge.  It was divided into three areas, the dog’s yard, the vegetable garden and the other area that had a big round garden in it that didn’t really have a name.  Perhaps we just called that the back yard.  The reality in my adult years is that it is just a standard house block.  Many years we spent riding our bikes around the round garden and up the driveway, looking at the birds in the aviary, playing with the dog or getting the chook eggs.

TheTreeIn the dog’s yard was a tree that my brothers and sisters spent many hours in, climbing it and sitting in its branches, looking over the back yard and beyond to Portland Road and the empty paddocks.  Just on the outskirts of town was the abattoir and we had a clear view of the building and often we could hear the sheep carrying on in the paddocks having their last feed and then we were treated to the distinctive smell of death.  From the tree it felt like we could see all the way to Port Fairy.  We had special branches that we sat on that formed little seats for us.

corner fenceWhen I wanted to sneak out of the house, I would go to the rear corner of the vegetable garden and climb the fence, it was the only area that my mum couldn’t see from a window in the house, or so I thought, I doubt I ever really was sneaking, but it sort of gave me that impression.  I’d jump up on the fence, over the stump, land on a rock and be gone.

Once over the fence we could wander down the hill of Skene Street to the creek.  In the early days it wasn’t a concrete path, just a dirt track with a big open gutter.  When the foothpath was finally concreted we built billy carts and raced them down the path, holding on for dear life.  It must have annoyed the crap out of the neighbours.

oldbridgeThe creek, or more accurately, the Grange Burn, at the end of the street is ugly.  Still.  It should have character and charm.  Picnic tables and ducks.  It has a footbridge, the original bridge had some character, when Wags (the dog) ran across it the whole bridge would wobble much to the terror of us small ones.  My dad or older brothers would bounce on the bridge to get it swaying just to give us a fright.

both bridgesThere’s an historic sign there now that says the trees were planted in 1904 to beautify the area, 110 year later I’m still waiting to see the beauty.  From a childhood perspective though, the creek was an escape.  We would spend hours under the willow tree trying to catch the prickly-back yabby.  I spent hours with a fishing line in the water, I think I only ever caught two fish, but plenty of yabbies.  In the 70’s there was talk of beautifying the area again, that saw the Council go through and remove a bunch of bullrushes and Poplar trees, but it never really looked any good.

The other place that I spent my youth was at the local scout camp, it’s still there, called Mallangeeba.  It’s about 20 minutes out of town, close to the Wannon Falls.  I was there when the scouts first started using the site in the early 70’s.  I’m told that we scouts all got on a train at Hamilton and took the journey there and got off at Wannon.  We planted trees and camped the weekend.

I was there when the scouts bought the place from the Church of England.  We had to sell the land that we had a few kilometres down the road and I remember that being quite a fight, people threatening to resign if we sold Reed’s Park.  Years later it doesn’t seem so important.

As a lad we use to camp tMallangeebahere with the 3rd Hamilton Scout Group, I can still sing you the Group song, every now and then I find myself humming it.  It was a Catholic Group and because we were Catholic we had a strong commitment to Mary the Blessed Virgin and mother of God. Known as the BVM.  Every time we went camping we’d take this statue of the BVM with us. At Mallangeeba we’d put her in a tree hollow and say the rosary.  That’s one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s.  At least the standard 5 decades, interspersed with a Glory Be to the Father and requesting St Francis to pray for us.
As a Leader I too took my young charges to camp at the Wannon.  We’d gather around the flag pole on the parade ground, I’d stretch out my arms and yell “Pack, Pack, Pack, Pack” and a bunch of cubs would respond with “Paaaaaaack” before squatting down at my signal and doing the Grand Howl.

FallsOver the road from the Scout Camp is the Wannon Falls, a spectacular fall when the water is flowing, at the moment however, it’s dry.  When I left in 1995 the Scouts gave me a photograph of the falls in full flood.

As we drove back into town we stopped at the cemetery.  I haven’t been back here since we buried Dad in August 2013.

Mum and DadI’m not sure what I was expecting, but I marched up to the graveside, my parents’ remains are in the same grave.  I read the plaque and stood in quiet contemplation.  There was nothing emotional about it.  I wasn’t talking to them, I wasn’t really remembering anything in particular I was more interested to see who was buried around them.  Some part of me needed to see this final resting place of my parents, the final resting place of my youth and the final resting place of my connection to this Western District home.

As I drove around the town for one last time, it occurred to me why I was here.

Hamilton is where I was born, I went to school, my first job the paper round, then years of working in the newsagency and then the City of Hamilton.  I was here when man landed on the moon, when the local member Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister, when we won the America’s Cup, when the first Iraq war started.  It all unfolded in Hamilton.

When I was first married I lived in Hamilton, our two children were born here.  We went to play group and kindergarten together before we moved.

I was the City of Hamilton Young Citizen of the Year, received the WF Waters Award for my contribution to Scouting and a Certificate of Merit for Scouting.  I knew people, and they knew me.

Hamilton was my town.

As I drove out the Glenelg Highway back towards Melbourne, with a few tears rolling down my cheek, I realised that I was here to say goodbye.

Home isn’t here any more.

My folks are dead, buried with a bunch of other people I know, just another plaque on the ground.

Now there is no reason to call this home.

Michael and I drive back to Melbourne, we are going back to make a new home for us, the Western District lad has finally left home.mt baimbridge

 

 

*photos by Michael Barnett

Tagged with:
Sep 12

Somewhere along the way my Dad died.  I knew he died.  It was completely unexpected, well, except that he was 84.

Brian Storer

Brian John Storer
13 December 1928 to 30 July 2013

It was 14 months between my mother dying and Dad dying.  The two deaths were so very different.  Mum’s was drawn out and painful to witness, it went on for months and the final 24 hours were horrifying beyond my expectations. Some day I’ll publish the blog I wrote about that, but it’s still pretty raw.  Dad on the other hand went at the end of a normal day.  Like so many others.  We have a photo of him, just hours before he died, he is alert and happy.  When his death came he literally sat down and simply died.  Oh for all of us to have it so easy.  He died his own way, on his own terms, no fuss, not bloody quacks, no hospital stay.  He was a stubborn man who didn’t need anyone else to help him.

I didn’t ever really connect with my dad.  To me in my growing up years he was an angry violent drunk.  He was vindictive and mean.  I guess I loved him anyway, but I feared him and wanted to be spared from his anger.  I didn’t want to be near him when he was drunk as he would often use me (or other siblings) for a cheap laugh or a joke. He thought it was funny to get drunk, wrestle me to the floor and proceed to tickle me.  It was horrifying and scary for at any moment he could erupt into a ball of anger.  I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of the belt or him trying to ‘knock my bloody block off’.

These memories last long into adulthood and it was years before I realised that I was outside his control and I no longer had to fear his anger.  It’s clear that he left a big scar on my psyche.

Do I have any fond memories of him?  I don’t think I have any great moments from childhood that spring to mind. I grew into adult hood and watched as he grew into old age.  He and Mum won Tattslotto and after years of struggling on ‘compo’ after a train accident that left him unable to work this was a fantastic thing to happen.

We sort of settled into an adult relationship.  He loved seeing my kids, he always took a keen interest in them and what they were up to.  Over the years he certainly mellowed.

Then the whole issue of my sexuality came up for me.  Dad was a devout catholic, he really believed in the stuff about jesus.  I did too, for a long time.  It was perhaps the only thing that kept us together. My fear of him rejecting me because I was gay was at the top of my mind.  I didn’t want him, or Mum to find out.  I kept it hidden in plain view.  Both of them met Michael as we always travelled together.  We never really spoke directly about who Michael was and I was always anxious that they might ask me.  I knew that if they did I would tell them that he was my partner and that I was gay.  I mostly keep to myself but when you ask a direct question I’ll give you a direct answer.  My parents would ask my other siblings about me, but never did they speak with me about it.

Is it a crying shame?  Maybe, I don’t know.  And now I’ll never know.

That’s OK.

Yes, there is some regret there, but I understand why I kept this away from them.  I didn’t want to be rejected and I didn’t want either of them thinking that somehow they’d failed me.  I didn’t want them thinking that I needed saving from the fires of hell, or when they worked out that there was no saving that somehow I was bound for the fires of hell.

And that’s what I think they thought about gay people. I can just about recall every nasty thing my dad ever said about gay people.  The ‘woolly woofters’ which I think is rhyming slang for bloody poofters.  I’m not sure.

I’ve shed a few tears about his passing.  I know that there is a spot somewhere in my heart for the love of my Dad.  I feel the sense of loss, a part of my life that has finished.  I feel the pang of that separation, even if it isn’t as powerful as I would have liked it to be. Then there’s a bit of envy as I interact with my siblings.  My brother Craig talking about calling Dad when their football teams played (Hawthorn and Richmond) or my sister Janine telling me about taking him out to lunch just days before he died.  My brother Larry telling me about the things he did for Dad.  My sister Angela visiting him with her children and developing a relationship with all of them.  Including him in their everyday life. I didn’t have that.  I stopped myself from having that sort of relationship with him.  Part of me didn’t want it because my childhood was marred with unpleasantness that I never got over.  Part of me was protecting myself against his rage and his rejection.

Did he know?  Yes, I think so.  I think both my parents knew I was gay, but we never spoke about it, it was a subject that none of us ever wanted to talk about. I can romanticise about my relationship with my dad.  It’s easy to do that.  I did have a relationship with him, it’s just not as I’d hoped for.  I think it’s mostly my fault for not addressing those issues with my folks, despite my straightforward and honest approach with people, the courage and bravery left me when it came to speaking with my folks.  And that’s ok.

It’s not easy to say to people that I didn’t like my dad too much.  Because I didn’t.  I’d do anything for him, but I didn’t like him.  Whether or not the strain of that relationship was felt by him I don’t know.

Have I done the right thing?  Yes.  I handled the relationship in a way that meant I never had to put either of us into a confrontation that would send my stress levels through the roof.  I did a bit of self-preservation.  I may regret that we never had that conversation, but I don’t think so.

I’m at peace with where we left things. Despite all of this, I did spend time with Dad, short amounts of it.  I’d visit and sit with him for a while, watch some TV, talk politics and about the latest news, catch up on stories from home. Then I’d leave.  Sometimes I’d call him.  I set up a computer for him, Dad was mostly blind so the computer needed to read to him, it brought him many hours of both pleasure and frustration!  I felt safest around him when others of his children where present. I was there when Mum died, I made sure that he got what he needed by way of his religious beliefs.  I stood next to him as she died and prayed with him.  I understood just what his religion meant to him and I think I helped him at the time.  I made sure we conducted Mum’s funeral in the true traditional catholic way.  For what it’s worth I also made sure that his final service was very catholic.

Now both my parents have died.  At times I have felt a great sense of loss.  It’s a little overwhelming.

My Dad called me Son.  He is the only person in all the world who called me that.  He may have forgotten my name, there were so many of us!  No, no, that’s a joke.  I called him Pop or Dad, he is the only person in the world who I used those titles with.  The name Son was what separated each of us from everyone else in the world.  Pop may not have had the knowledge on how to show his love for us, but the weight of a single word when addressed directly to you is sufficient to carry the full set of emotions and love.  It is a special bond, a link that only a father and son can share.

Until my own father died, I didn’t realise that I use Son a lot when I speak with Tomas, I call Caitlin Princess.  I’m not aware of whether or not our parents had special names for their daughters.

The value of family can never be under estimated.  The spontaneous hugs from Caitlin when I’m distressed or Tomas standing next to me at the graveside, hand on my shoulder, Michael my fiancé a hairs length away from me at all times, ready to embrace me when the grief strikes, these are the important moments when we pull together to take care of each other.

This is the love of my family that I value.

Mum has gone, Dad has gone, there is no one to call me Son.  The special connection to my birth has gone, the two people whose love for me was never in question have gone.

I feel alone.  I know I’m not, but the world has changed for me.

For me, I need to write this down.  The exploration of my feelings and the grief, the resentment, the anger and the love are a swirling mess of thoughts and emotions.  It helps me to write about it.  I’ve spent 4 weeks in Bali writing this blog.  My finger now hovers over the publish button.

I want to share this.

Everyone dies.  Maybe your dad already has.  Maybe it is yet to come.  Mine died, quickly.

If I’d had some warning, what would I have done differently?

Nothing.

Tagged with:
preload preload preload