He showed me how to swing a hammer, the right grip in the right place on the handle. I thank him again in my mind, every time I hammer a nail or a tent peg in. It must have been 1992; then he was twenty-three.
He was fifteen the time I turned from outfacing an abusive tradesman on the doorstep, and found him right behind me, ready in case I needed help.
After my huge, beautiful dog died, he channelled him for me one night on the phone. It was unexpected and a strain, but he stuck with it. I don’t know if that ever happened for him again. The message was good, and true. I was grateful.
He was just a kid, maybe ten, that night when his dad was away. He heard footsteps, furtive, down the path next to the house. A torch flashed briefly outside his bedroom window. “Dad!” he yelled, thinking fast (more deterrent than “Mum!”). I switched on lights and stomped loudly. The intruder ran. We heard him scrabble over the back fence, just as sudden rain came pelting, drenching down.
I remember him walking with me to the shops, chatting of this and that, nearly as tall as I was, casually hand in hand; how happy it made me feel.
Broader and taller by inches, coming off the plane after his student months in New York State. A cowboy hat and an Indian feather – a great honour, he said. His brother and two of his mates bursting in later on his jetlag sleep, grinning. “G’day, Yank!”
He finished renovating his father’s house after his father died. He went to Pam’s house too, to complete what his dad started there to help our friends. That didn’t last; he got kicked out. Gets kicked out of lots of places – even, at last, mine.
Visited his cousin Ellie last time he was home, and his Uncle Robert, the brother his father disliked. Both were glad; needed that family feeling he gave them then, so he said. Maybe he needed it too.
Adventurous always, on our journey towards Ayers Rock he declared, “I’m a born mountain climber.” He was eight; we smiled. He was a born mountain climber – soon out of sight of the rest of us struggling towards the top. He ran up the Rock! No use worrying for his safety; it was out of my hands.
Now too, his fate is out of my hands. He is moving, he says, towards his own truth, his own discovery of love. The final repudiation of Mother, the final claiming of self. So mote it be.
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