My Dad was a legend.
My parents divorced when I was about 7. I had always been closer to my Mum.
I remember before the divorce when they would have card nights, and I’d always opt for being on Mum’s side, or cheer on the girls. So I wasn’t as close to my Dad as my younger brother.
When we visited Dad every second fortnight, he use to play cricket with us, try and teach us to spin bowl, or take us fishing in his dingey. He’d always give me a clip across the ear when I use to whine that the “prawns were spiking me.” He use to thrown his net out to catch the prawns and dump them into a net in the boat, so my brother and I had to pick up the flicking prawns and sort the big prawns in a bucket of water for eating, and the smaller ones for bait. He’d say stuff like “Don’t be a girl” etc. It didn’t bother me, and still doesn’t, as he’d swear like a trooper if one of the prawns pricked him.
He was famous for he seafood culinary skills. He’d catch his own seafood and boil them up in a huge metal pot full of boiling salt water, and we’d sit around the tv and eat mountains of prawns and crabs. He’d also go deep-sea fishing and be paid for the monsters he’d catch.
Dad’s other passion was tinkering on his lil mini-moke, and on mud buggies for the local Mud Trials.
Dad was previously a mechanic for Qld Rail. So often our weekends were spent playing in the pub’s beer garden, while Dad was covered in grease working on the Tandara Hotel’s bright pink mud buggie. The Mud trials were a annual event held in Sarina, where huge buggies were driven around a muddy track to race to the finish.I always thought they were nuts – the buggies had no breaks! So they relied of the mud to slow the chained wheels down at the end of the race.
As a kid, all these manly hobbies use to clash with my ideas of fun. I didn’t mind hanging out with Dad, but felt a bit like I had to put on a show, or act more butch than I was. I use to take it out on my brother. As I felt weak and frustrated, I tended to bully him, because that made me the tough one and him the weak one. (Boy has that changed now, he’s 6 foot plus and towers over me!) As I got older I grew more distant to my Dad. He’d always ask me if I had a girlfriend yet, and the question use to fill me with butterflies. I knew I was different, and didn’t want him finding out, as I was scared of rejection. So over the years I started visiting Dad less and less, and when we moved interstate we’d have the odd phone call. I regret that I didn’t devote enough attention to my Dad.
It was only recently when I headed back to the little rural town in Qld, that I realised that I’m just another bloke. It was after Dad’s funeral, sipping a beer with my Brother, Sister and old friends at the Tandara, that I suddenly realised my fears of returning home and sticking out like a sore thumb, were irrational. I mightn’t be sporting a full and manly beard like a few of the other guys my age in the area, but no one gave me a hard time. I either came off as a city metero or everyone was just friendly enough and didn’t mind.
So I post this thread as a tribute to my Dad, but also for those that are having difficulty with the decision of whether or not to tell their family, in particular their Dad. I never found the opportunity to tell my Dad. Perhaps he knew? Perhaps in later years my younger brother told him? I’m not exactly sure. But what I do know is that I was still able to tell my friends, tell close family, and tell people at work. In time I got more comfortable with who I was, and pretty soon everyone around me knew I was gay. It seemed like such a big thing when I was younger, but now that I’ve grown and I know there are hundreds and thousands of people out there just like me, its actually a small part of what makes me me. So just because I made the decision to come out, and to tell my Mother. I didn’t have to tell every single member of my family. I was still able to feel the weight lifted off my shoulders, but not necessarily divulge the information to every living member of my family.
On the flip side, I also have the regret of not telling my Father. I was scared of what he’d think of me or that he’d get mad with me, so I simply avoided him. Dad was dying of cancer when I visited him in hospital. It had been at least 5 years since I last saw him. Sure he was on morphine, but he didn’t recognise me. I didn’t give Dad the chance to really know me, and give him the benefit of the doubt to deal with the news and react however he wanted to react. I wasn’t brave enough to tell my Dad, and now all I have is the memories.
Whether that was the right decision or not, I guess that’s up to the individual and their situation.
I don’t think I regret not telling Dad, but what I do regret is the space between us, that I allowed my fears to create.
Dad didn’t teach me to shave, or give me “the talk” etc. Because I avoided him, because I knew talks like that were coming, and I didn’t want to get caught out if I didn’t answer correctly or if I slipped up.
I love my Dad, and I’d like to believe come death, that all life’s questions are answered, and he now has an understanding that it was nothing personal, that I was stupid to fear him, and I feel him around, giving me a kick in the butt if I’m being lazy, or if I’m making a stupid choice.
I’m here if anyone wishes to talk about their relationship with their Dad, I may not be a good example of how to handle the situation, but it’s amazing what advice one can give in retrospect.
RIP John Graham Nielsen.
All my love,