“When I was little, mum used to leave me with the guy next door. He used to take my clothes off and tie me to the kitchen table. Then he’d stick things up my arse. I remember him chasing me around the table once. When I told mum she said that I was lying and that I was naughty boy.”
He only partly remembers his dad, a smiling man waving from a tram. When he asked about his father once his mother told him, “All you need to know about him is that he was a drunk.” When Lee was about eight his mother sent him to a home for boys. She didn’t take him there, just sent him off in a taxi with ten bucks in his pocket.
The driver had a thick accent that scared Lee. “You must be a naughty boy,” he said. “Only naughty boys get sent to this place.”
“I’m a good boy,” Lee said. But the driver didn’t believe him. “Have you got money to pay me?” he asked. Lee gave him the ten dollars. At the gates they were met by one of the Brothers. “This kid’s mother didn’t give me any fare,” the driver said. “Someone has to pay.” The brother paid him and turned angrily to Lee, “You get up to the house.”
Years later the Brothers gave him $5 000, all signed off and legal so that he wouldn’t take them to court. He had to agree not to talk about what had happened to him in that boy’s home. “I know it wasn’t much money,” he told me, “but I didn’t want to go through all that stuff again.”
Then, two years ago his mother died. She was old and lived out her last years as a slightly eccentric old lady who was liked by many at her local church. When Lee walked into the funeral ceremony I watched his mother’s friends frown at him, filled with anger from the stories his mother had told about him. She left him nothing, not a cent. All she owned went to his younger brother, a nice kid who never amounted to anything and lived on the streets of Brisbane.
They lowered her body into the ground of the graveyard on the red sand hills just out of town. As people drifted away, I watched Lee pick up a shovel and start throwing dirt into the grave. No one stopped him. He was strong and he just kept going, dressed in his white shirt and black tie, sleeves rolled up, sweat pouring down his face. He just kept going until that hole was filled to the top.
But I knew he’d buried her a long time ago. He buried her when he grew into a good man and a talented teacher with a special connection to the dispossessed and lost kids in his class. I knew he’d buried her when I heard him busking in the café strip, his long fingers sending notes washing over passers-by like gifts. And one day I saw this great and deep love for their dad in the eyes of his two kids.
That’s how Lee buried his mother.