How to bury your mother

graves-original.jpgHere is a story my friend Lee told me when we were both sixteen: 

“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.

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9 Comments

Filed under child abuse, death, friends, loss, Love, rape

9 responses to “How to bury your mother

  1. nothing that short should be that troubling, nor that uplifting. Of course, I’ve buried my mother.

    great gift you have there.

  2. Doktor Holocaust

    I once encountered a proverb, I have no idea if it was ancient or just a modern Yoda-ism from someone trying to sound sagacious: “To rid yourself of an enemy, outlive them,” which comes to mind here, as does “The best revenge is to live well.”

  3. Wow, left me crying. Well told. Glad you found me so I could find you in return!

  4. Cj – I’m glad you got something out of this piece. It’s all true and yet, you know, I took years to put all those individual things together in one place, to see how they connected.
    Hi Dok – the saddest part of the story is that he wasn’t looking for revenge, he was still looking for his Mum and burying her at the same time.
    Simonne – Well, I guess you are not the first person to cry at my writing but maybe the first to do so appreciatively!

  5. this was worth years…i write posts in 7 minutes, and thats what they’re worth. You really do have something special…this hit all the right nerves

  6. Kym

    Serendipity-I meandered through Max and Criminy’s blogs and ended here.
    Serendipity-implies joy but I didn’t find joy here.
    I found an essay as chewy and satisfying as good sourdough bread.

    Thank you.

  7. I have a few things in common with Lee and I would have to invent a new emotion to describe it.
    Sometimes only ones own life and actions, not words or revenge can cancel out this kind of hurt.
    Well told Oscarandre.

  8. Doktor beat me to what I first thought.. I was told many times “The best way to beat the enemy is to live Well”.

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