Parents - Three of Each
A humorous introspection
by Desmond Rutherford © 2012
I’ve been asked for a short version of little Dessie's early years of parental influences.
It all seemed to me, even back then, to be rather ordinary really, but in reality my early years were a minefield of historical precedents setting our cultural taboos and traps.
How's that for an opening sentence? Okay, don't get excited, here are the details.
Most of the time my mother and her sister suffered from the malady known as 'choosing the wrong husband'. Basically, they would marry any man that addressed them as “My Lady.” Their domineering mother, my grandmother, (duh) had better luck with my grandfather, but irregardless, he died at the early age of 57, leaving me stranded, at eleven years old, without a biological father figure. How did that happen?
My father was one of those men who never grew up. At 16 he joined the crew of the last windjammer to sail to England via the Cape of Good Hope where the ship encountered a storm, and in his words, "a dry bed was just a wet dream," which was how he wrote it to my mother in the letter describing his travelling conditions. They fell madly in love with each other, and when they were both 24 they married and he took to making the bed wet with her, but not before I was conceived. Or was that why I was conceived? Anyway, he was very good at making the bed a wet dream, but not with my mother. She divorced him when she discovered him practising his, 'get a wench pregnant' skills with another woman.
But you wanted the short version...I'm sorry, I get carried away. Let's just say that step-daddy number one was a real 'good guy', until he revealed that he really was The Step-Father From Hell, as we soon discovered after grandfather (remember him?) died. For some reason, known only to the Psycho Step-Fathers' Guild, my step-father decided to beat my mother up every night after grandfather died. It was probably some kind of escape clause in his Step-Fathers' Guild contract, should he ever discover he was totally unsuited to marriage.
After a couple of years of being beaten nightly, my mother became weary of his futile desire to prove himself a man, and divorced him. He then ran off with one of my godfathers; a detail I would not learn until I was in my late twenties. He was one of those guys who try to prove that he is something he isn't. No, I'm not making this up. Luckily, he didn't molest me. My cousin has to accept responsibility for that, when he taught me to play 'doctors' with him, but then I was so naïve at 9 years old, that I thought he just wanted me to examine his body as any good doctor would. Goodness knows what I was touching, as he never did take off his clothes, and later he married. I wonder if that lasted. No traumas for me from that encounter.
I remember the trauma I did have, when I discovered my sexuality. It was a school boy thing. The school doctor, who looked like he could have been someone's father, tested my testicular travelling tendencies and I decided I wanted to improve my range. Once it became apparent that I was only interested in touring the same destinations with same minded teenage males, I knew that my family, such as it was, was not going to cope well with my self realisation of my sexuality. In a moment of insanity at age fifteen, I checked with the local Baptist Church as to what God said about homosexuality. The priest (who should have been a father figure) told me it was better to be homosexual than to molest little girls. What incense was he smoking? It turned out that he was later arrested for, you guessed it, molesting little girls. He obviously didn't take his own advice, but I felt freed from the restrictions of Scripture. Atheism was added to my repertoire and I cancelled my covenant with my childhood religious fantasies. Feel free to do the same. You have nothing to lose but your insanity. But I digress, again.
Step-father number two was much more docile; he was in fact somewhat boring but loved my mother. He was a butcher, and at age fourteen, I told my mother that she married him for his meat. She told me, “Not really, dear,” and then we both burst out laughing. He was not a large man.
In the meantime, my mother's sister (that makes her my aunt) was busy sorting out her 'husband number two'. I think the first one died when I was infant, and much later, when I was in my teens, so did number two. She had better luck with husband number three as she died before he did but then he was sixteen years younger than her. She didn't have any children, though I'm certain she managed to get her consorts to have wet dreams. Needless to say she hovered around her only nephew (me) like any good mother-figure would.
In between all these comings and goings, my biological father, who had joined the merchant navy, visited me whenever his ship was in the local port. He was evidently successful in making beds wet whenever his ships berthed, and indeed found a number of women who were only too happy to give birth to his children. We still, to this day, have never found all my half-siblings and I only met one of my ex-step-mothers, who was really nice.
Then mum died, and even though I was 21, my aunt and my grandmother decided I needed to be looked after. I escaped to Melbourne and found true love, for six months.
All in all, I have to say I was lucky I was gay, or I might have been tempted to shoot myself had I thought life for me would hold only the possibility of heterosexual relationships like those paraded by my parental units. What was that about a man and a woman, a mother and a father, being the best environment for a child? Obviously, whoever claims that, never met my family. Did I mention they were all alcoholics? Setting all their faults aside, I did grow up feeling loved by my parents, all of them.
Even though there was an additional male role model in my life, in the form of a mentor, I do not talk about him directly, though you may find his creative and loving influence in nearly all of my stories. I would have been a very different person without him.
So, this mostly happened over fifty years ago, in a time when gay relations were a crime that could lead to a social disaster, with no chance of redemption. Somehow, I never felt tempted to contemplate suicide. I was always far too interested in discovering how things would turn out. Even the daily beatings and bullying I suffered during my school years, until my mid-teens, never made me question the worth of being alive. As I have said before, I was lucky. I was determined to live. As I approach my sixty-eighth birthday I can tell you now, with no uncertainty, that seventy years of life is not enough, despite all the trials and tribulations we encounter. Indeed, I am wondering if they are what makes life worth living, if we can just accept the beauty that surrounds us, giving us the opportunity to love each other.
Will my partner and I marry? Will we have children? I can tell you we actively support equal human rights for marriage, but we might not enter into marriage ourselves. We never had children despite trying nearly every noon and night for these past forty years, but, like my dad, having made our bed wet, we dream in it.