Hello All. When I think about delicate things, I think about things that are hard to talk about. I also think of washing delicates and flowers. I think that things that are hard to talk about are the most interesting out of those, so I’ll go with that.
My parents have raised me to be able to talk to them about most things. One time (in my youth) I came home from a night out and was having a “psychedelic pot freak-out” (my term). I felt able to tell them – during an ad break of ‘ER’ – and my Mum was so down to earth about it. She ended up climbing into bed with me and gave me a cuddle. She never lectured me about it, just showed concern. I’m very lucky to have that kind of relationship with them.
The closet thing we have had to a skeleton in the closet in my family was the discovery my Dad made at his Mum’s funeral in 1995. His Dad had died in 1988, and Dad’s cousin said to my Dad dramatically at Granny’s funeral that Grandad had “done time and your mother had to live with the shame!”. This came as news to my Dad and his brother, and begin a long slow process of them discovering a truth about their parents that had been kept from the boys (they were 6 and 2 years old at the time) by their whole town. Grandad Taylor went to gaol in Wellington for a year, charged with having stolen money from the local council he worked at as a clerk. He had used the money to buy rare books. He had always been a bit of a fish out of water in the small country town they lived in – a bit of an intellectual in place full of God-fearing farmer folk. My Dad remembers Granny and Grandad’s relationship as being a bit prickly, and this goes a long way to explain that. During his gaol term, Granny had contracted tuberculosis and passed it onto my Uncle. It was an incredibly difficult time for all of them. The thing is, that Dad hadn’t really registered that his Father had been away. What with the upheaval of his Mother and brother’s illness, it was probably pretty strange time. Dad has a few memories that have helped him piece it all together: a new girl at his primary school once taunted him: “at least my Daddy’s not a gaol-bird” to which Dad thought “ha, what do you know?!”; and he remembers his Mum getting a shock on day at seeing his Dad having climbed in the window. He must have gotten out of gaol unexpectedly and didn’t have a key. He also recalls a definite frostiness in his Mum’s attitude to his Dad’s book collection.
In the Information Age it is pretty much impossible to imagine such a thing happening today. Over 10,000 people in their small town knew, and kept the secret. The children of the town were all sworn to secrecy, so that my Dad and my Uncle didn’t have to live with the shame as my Granny and Grandad did. Grandad never went back to his old job, but the town’s people made sure he was always employed. He was the bowling greenkeeper for a time. My Granny had half of her lung removed, but her and my Uncle recovered well.
Was it a gentler time back then? Or is it in fact harsher to make a secret out of something that had nothing to do with the boys? Would it have been better for everyone to have been honest about it? When my Uncle was a rockstar, he got busted on drug charges while they were on tour. He remembers my Grandad saying to him in hushed tones “the bastards have got you now”. My Uncle thought – ‘what would you know, Dad’. It turns out he knew a whole lot.