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January 3, 2014

Dear friends,

If you are reading this, I have been murdered.

Recently I’ve taken to thinking about my past and in particular my family life during my adolescence. I guess it’s the time of year. Christmas is usually a time spent with family and that sort of thing but with mine back in the comfortably safe distance of New Zealand, Christmas for me is usually spent being thankful that I still don’t live there.

I don’t recall much of my childhood, which later I would discover is due to living in a state of high anxiety. From an early age, say around the point where we can articulate thoughts and sentences cohesively I distinctly recall my first thoughts being around the kind of “what the fuck am I doing in this household?”

My family were (and still are to some extent) best described as a pack of freaks. By the age of eleven, my father, former military man, hardened drinker and then born again Christian fundamentalist, figured it was God’s will to run the household like some clandestine platoon.  A sort of Guantanamo meets Hillsong if you will.   Each Wednesday members from the “New Life” Church would congregate in our lounge room for “bible study,” a two to three hour sit in where they would examine a passage in the bible and then ruminate over what “Jesus really meant.” Anything was up for grabs, and “god hates fags,” was not an uncommon favourite given that homosexuality was still a crime at that time in New Zealand.

I would retreat to the relative sanctity of my bedroom where I’d spend hours listening to pop and rock records, a major consolation, given that the prevailing mindset was that rock was “the music of Satan,” according to my parents’ friends anyway.   However this had been a battle that had been previously fought and won by my sister who was sixteen at the time. She had now progressed to smoking pot, going to rock concerts and earning a reputation as the village bicycle.

My mother, a lapsed Catholic just seemed to go along with whatever my father decided was law, with “wait until your father gets home” being a common refrain whenever I had completely destroyed something, like taking the alarm clock apart (just to see how it works) and then being unable to piece it back together.

My parents would later tell me that I was a very quiet child, withdrawn even. At the time this never really occurred to me. Instead, I just kept a safe distance from my family after reaching the fairly logical conclusion that we had absolutely nothing in common.

By the time I was fifteen it was clear that my parents’ vision of their ideal family was crumbling before their very jesus-saved eyes.

It’s funny now, how the cracks in the Christian veneer of the perfect family appeared so dramatically, despite the best efforts of my father to retain some sort of artificial facade.

But it was the hypocrisy of presenting a model of the perfect family at Church on Sundays and then returning to a household of violence and abuse for the rest of the week that really irked me.

Fortunately, for me, my sister had been the trailblazer.  It was as if as children we had been pre-ordained to lead certain lives irrespective of my father’s wishes.  We each had our fateful roles; master of the house, religious freak, housewife, troublemaker, faggot, slut.

I can almost sense the moment my father gave up hope, when one day I overheard him yelling at my mother “when is that boy going to get himself a trade??!!” (In other words, an apprenticeship as a plumber or an electrician.)

This, while I’m dancing in my bedroom to Wham and Culture Club wearing a “Frankie says Relax” t-shirt with bleached blond hair.   The closest I’d come to thinking about an electrician or plumber was being seduced by one.

“What the hell do you want to do that for?” Was the response from my father when a few years later I announced that I wanted to go to University.

There was never really much encouragement in my household for wanting to better yourself.  Perhaps it’s something to do with coming from a working class background, or maybe it’s just the fact that if you have low aspirations then you’re unlikely to be disappointed if you don’t exceed them.

Anyhow, despite the odds, I’ve survived. And another year on the planet is certainly better than the alternative.




21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2014 10:31 am

    ‘Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic – if it is pulled out I shall die.’

  2. January 3, 2014 10:35 am

    That’s a great quote Edward – that sums it up perfectly!

  3. armchair opinionator permalink
    January 3, 2014 10:52 am

    And despite it all reb, you turned out a great human being.
    Now that’s an achievement!
    Hi to all at GT!

  4. Dianne permalink
    January 3, 2014 10:56 am

    Hello armchair. Well said.

    And beautifully written Reb. Children are a hostage to their upbringing. I do not have much to complain about but a memories of a few things can still catapult me back to childhood and I feel myself stiffening.

    Our parents carry the burden of their own childhoods and so on and so forth down the ages.

  5. egg permalink
    January 3, 2014 11:06 am

    Hi Kitty.

    Beautifully piece of writing, young reb.

  6. January 3, 2014 11:18 am

    You know Reb I read this and like some of my friends in similar situations (one sadly didn’t make it) I cant help but think how blessed I was to have such wonderful, supportive parents (both sadly passed). Thanks for sharing that reflection, your story is a testament to your strength as you we’re so obviously bound by the determination not to repeat the sins of the father. Well written and succinct well done. Comiserations on being a Kiwi and congradulations on getting out 🙂

  7. egg permalink
    January 3, 2014 11:23 am

    ‘…determination not to repeat the sins of the father.’

    That’s a nice line too.

  8. Walrus permalink
    January 3, 2014 11:38 am

    Did you know that childhood is the only time in our lives when insanity is not only permitted to us, but expected?

    ~Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

  9. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    January 3, 2014 12:56 pm

    Hi AO. Nice to see you about.
    My father was a philanderer who drank too much. I think he died quite happy.

  10. January 3, 2014 2:29 pm

  11. January 3, 2014 5:04 pm

    What a challenge, what a survival story. Congratulations on passing a tough test.

  12. TB Queensland permalink
    January 3, 2014 6:07 pm

    Onya, sreb! We are so similar and yet so different … blog bruvvers! 😉

    “What the hell do you want to do that for?”

    LOL! I was forty, when I told my old man I had been accepted in UniSA, he said, “You’re only doing it for your ego!” Yeah! As if!


    G’day KL … always noice to see ya here! Happy New Year!

    ee, very apt quote, sir …

  13. January 3, 2014 6:38 pm

    Unfortunately…I have also been murdered…

  14. Dianne permalink
    January 3, 2014 6:45 pm

    I confess.

  15. TB Queensland permalink
    January 3, 2014 6:49 pm

    Bloody luxury! When I were a lad … we lived in an old tissue box in’t middle a’t rode …

  16. January 3, 2014 6:51 pm

    I think we’ve all been murdered by our parents to some extent.

  17. January 3, 2014 6:52 pm

    BTW, thanks for all the nice comments… I wasn’t expecting that… 🙂

    In fact, I wasn’t really expecting anything… 😯

  18. January 3, 2014 10:42 pm

    ””””””””””hardened drinker(unfaithful-womaniser) and then born again Christian fundamentalist(tea-totaller)””””””””’

    l had an uncle like that reb, what a pain in the arse, and hypocrite.
    lt explains our dog-bothering dislike, l guess.

    Are you in contact with your family reb or `estranged` as they say.?

    Hi Armchair, merry xmas and happy 2014, l hope all is well for you and your fam, and good to see`ya turn up. 🙂

  19. January 4, 2014 12:00 am

    #Robot-Mine-Trucks Dunny TB
    ”””””””””””””Rio Tinto expects to deploy 150 AHS-equipped haulers by 2015.

    Rio Tinto originally housed the supervisory computer at the mine.

    But as part of its Mine of the Future, it established a control center in Perth,

    about 600 miles from the Pilbara mines,

    to remotely direct all aspects of mine operations. This will eventually include drills, excavators, dozers, graders, and even mile-long robotic ore trains.””””””””””

    This was what l was previously trying to explain to you TB & Dunny,

    as you can see from the quote, junking 150 `truck-drivers` and replacing with robotic, rest of machinery to follow suit, including rail. The `command-center` in Perth won`t be `increasing` the mining work-force size, but reducing it.

  20. January 4, 2014 8:17 am

    I am in contact with my family now LYT and we get on fine.

    Although They kicked me out of home when I was in my early twenties. I didn’t talk to them for about five years at that time.. It was a pretty rough period.

    Fortunately my father seems to have lost his religion over the last ten or fifteen years, and seems much happier for it.

  21. January 4, 2014 5:18 pm

    That`s good reb. l think you mentioned elsewhere you had family `tension` when you came `out`. l`m glad you and your family are fine, as l have heard many don`t get beyond their family member coming out, and they wreck the relationship forever.

    Your father misplacing his dog can only be seen as a good thing.

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