Monday, June 02, 2014

SOMETIMES IT TAKES ONLY 60 SECONDS - SO SEIZE THE MOMENT…

My late brother Graham with a friend taken 2nd May, 1998...in front of the old "Gympie Rattler"**


A collage of photos of Graham taken throughout the years...Clockwise from upper left with Bernice during one of her visits to Mackay in the early 90s; Graham taken at North Mackay circa late 1967; Graham - the day of his trip on the "Rattler", 1998l and finally, Graham, me and his first born son, circa 1969.
Noosa Beach in front of Surf Club Circa 1970
View from present Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club...circa 2014 - overlooking Laguna Bay

Six years ago - two days before 6th June, which was to be the 10th anniversary of the passing of my older brother Graham - I made a split-second, spontaneous decision.  The decision made on the morning of 4th June, 2008 turned out to be one of the best decision I’d made or contemplated making in a long time. It was probably the best decision I'd made in a long time.

Through life we’re faced with choices; some expected and wanted; others unexpected and unwanted.

On the morning of 4th June, 2008 I hesitated only a moment before making the decision to open Pandora’s Box in the search for my half-brother. I’d always known I had a half-brother - somewhere. His existence hadn’t been hidden from me. It was never the main topic of conversation of any given day; but stored in my mind the knowledge of his being persisted.

Every now and again in the preceding years I’d conducted half-hearted searches without success. Of course, my earlier investigations were conducted before the introduction of the internet and the expediency it offers. Day-to-day life, as it has a habit of doing, would take control demanding priority, and I got on with whatever needed my attention. In the meantime I carefully packed away, within easy reach, my pith helmet and safari outfit in readiness for future hunts whenever the urge nudged.

When caught at the crossroad of choices it’s probably prudent to contemplate a while before jumping; or tiptoeing even. However, spontaneity so often proves its worthiness.

My parents separated and divorced when my brother Graham and I were still very young.  Actually, my mother and father separated before I made my entrance into this world.  

Graham and I were never got to know our father other than through stories told to us about him by our mother and our grandmother.  Both Mum and Nana never uttered a bad word against our father. They never tried to sway Graham or me against him. Nana, in particular when talking about him with us, blamed the times (the “war years” – Second World War) for the troubles the then young couple faced.  And from what I’ve learned through the years, both our mother, Elma, and our biological father, Joe Nicholson were headstrong young people, not prepared to give the other leeway, as it were. 

 (To clear up what might be a misunderstanding; I wasn’t named after “Leeway”….I was named after Vivien Leigh. My mother loved her as “Scarlett O’Hara” in “Gone with the Wind”. Thankfully, whoever completed my birth certificate misspelled “Leigh”…making it “Lee”.  Personally, I prefer the latter spelling; it’s brief, straight-forward and to the point."

Joe, our father and my mother's younger brother, our Uncle Dudley, were good mates.  Dudley and Joe joined the army at the same time. Together, they got up to harmless mischief as young blades have a tendency of doing; so we were told by Nana.  Nana was the teller of stories in our household as I've previously mentioned in other posts. Graham and I often urged her to spill the beans because we loved listening to her tales.

Being of curious mind (in a past life I tutored Sherlock Holmes. It was by my guidance he became the competent sleuth he was) when in my 20s I conducted a couple of successful searches for family members on my father’s side.  Two of his sisters, their families and a brother still lived in Rockhampton, the town of their birth.  Our father’s parent came to Australia from County Cork shortly after they married.  They settled in Rockhampton where they raised their six children. The Nicholson clan was Irish-Catholic. 

Graham and I, raised by our mother and grandmother were true-blue Protestants; Presbyterians. As young children we religiously attended our local and nearest Presbyterian/Scots Church every Sunday morning for “Sunday School”.   

Dressed in our Sunday best, Graham would race on ahead of me; he didn't like to be seen in public with his little sister.  That would be a blot on his image; he had to put up a good front to his mates!  I'd run behind him, trying to swallow my tears; panting and  pleading with him to slow down...to no avail.  Little sisters can be such pests!

Back in the Fifties there were two Presbyterian Churches in Gympie.  It was because, I imagine, many Scots settled in Gympie in the 1800s during its rich gold-mining days.

My maternal great-grandfather, Robert Hose – my Nana’s father- worked at the Scottish Mine at Monkfield, Gympie.  I wrote a story in my blog back on 2nd September, 2012, titled “Little Treasures of Days Gone by – Discovered and Uncovered”. Robert Hose was killed in a tragic, unexpected accident on that day; he was only 50 years of age.  He wasn’t an underground miner; he always worked above ground, but on that fatal day he stood-in for a fellow who couldn’t attend work because of illness.

As time went on I honed my sleuthing skills. In the early Seventies when I was living in Toowong, Brisbane I succeeded in locating my father, Joe Nicholson; but from afar.  He and I spoke a couple of times by phone.  He was, at that stage, living in Sydney, New South Wales. Unfortunately, we never did get to meet face to face.

Through my contact with my father's sisters, my aunties, I had learned I had a half-brother. 

Later, in 1994, when I was living in Townsville for a brief time, I learned further that it was thought my half-brother, named Warren and my father had left Sydney. It was believed both were then living in the Tewantin area on the Sunshine Coast.  Tewantin is close by to Noosa Heads; and to Sunshine Beach where I’d lived from 1979 to early 1986.  I conducted the usual phone book searches etc., but found no clues; uncovered no trails. Life returned to normal; investigations and manhunts were put on hold.

In late April 1998 I returned to Gympie from North Queensland to live and work. The next four years I remained in Gympie, my old hometown before in April, 2002 I moved here to where I presently live in. (There must be something about April that gives me itchy feet…sometimes).

Frequently on a Sunday, my day off…Sundays-Mondays were my weekends (at times only Sunday) I’d take a trip to Noosa, Noosaville and Tewantin to savour the magnificent ambience, and to enjoy a leisurely lunch at a favourite restaurant of mine on the Noosa River at Noosaville; or perhaps visit another favourite spot on Hastings Street in Noosa.  Those areas have always been close to my heart; my feelings won’t change.  I’ve written often about my times spent there; and no doubt will continue doing so. Back in the very early Sixties, my brother Graham was a surf lifesaver at the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club. We spent every weekend at the coast.  He went his way; and I went mine; but he kept a sly eye on my movements and that of any prospective roving eyes of his lifesaver mates!  Many a time he warned them harshly -  "she's my sister...so hands off!"  Dammit!  And the warned heeded the warnings!

Moving forward to 4th June, 2008…without a tentative thought I pushed my office chair up close to my desk and computer.
Obviously, with the anniversary of my older brother Graham’s death drawing near, subconsciously, and consciously, I was missing him. My emotions were coming at me from all angles.

Entering the Internet Highway I began my search for my half-brother, Warren.

Lo and behold! Almost immediately, without a map to guide me, I’d made the right turn; taken the correct route. No dead-ends or detours hindered my journey. 

I found Warren Nicholson…my half-brother!  

Within minutes we were talking on the phone.  

When he first answered his phone, I gently eased into my call, allowing him time to digest who I was.  With clarity, I explained who I was while at the same time giving him information that only I, his true half-sibling would know.  I didn’t want him hanging up on me, believing me to be an annoying, unknown, faceless caller ringing him from a suspect call centre in the Philippines or India; or Nigeria, even! 

Although in a state of shocked surprise, he was thrilled I’d found him.  We talked at some length when he then asked if he could ring me back later that day.  He needed time to digest what had just occurred.  Good to his word, he rang me that afternoon; and again we talked animatedly.

Since then Warren and I have kept in contact verbally at least once a week; and we’ve spent time together on occasions.

It’s as if we’ve known each other all our lives; we’re alike in so many ways, it’s incredible.  We don’t need a DNA test to prove we’re related; that we’re brother and sister.  There is no denying who and what we are.

And all those times I spent at Tewantin, Noosaville and Noosa when I was living back in Gympie before moving here to the mountain, I could have passed Warren or my father, Joe in the streets of Tewantin – because that is where Warren and his wife live.  Our father lived with them up until his death; approximately two months after I found Warren!  I’ll go into further detail about this in a future post

Along with finding my brother I acquired a whole new family; one which includes a wonderful sister-in-law, two lovely, unselfish nieces who are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. We, too, are in regular contact. Between them and their partners they have three gorgeous little girls; each one is as bright as the shiniest sparkling button. I also gained another nephew and a grandnephew. (Some may say “grand”; others may say “great”; to solve the dilemma - I say it’s both grand and great)! 

Finding my brother and his family gave me a fresh outlook on life; a different perspective on things past, present and future. People, and items, lost for years can be located. It’s a matter of looking in the right places when going off on a search.

I took a leap of faith in making the decision to open my Pandora’s Box. Don’t blindly believe everything you read. Pandora’s Box (the “box” was actually a large jar) doesn’t always harbour evil. By opening the lid doesn’t necessarily mean it will be detrimental to your health; or the far-reaching consequences - dire.

Another example, as the story goes, the Garden of Eden’s forbidden fruit included not only the apple, but pomegranate, fig, carob, citron, pear, quince, and more; they’re all very good for us. 

On 6th June, 1998 I lost my brother Graham.  He passed away from a vicious throat cancer at the age of 56…far too young. Graham had never smoked a single or part thereof cigarette in his whole life. He hated cigarette-smoking.  Constantly he berated me for being a smoker.  Mum and I were the smokers in our family.  I gave up, cold turkey, a few years ago.

Graham’s passing left a huge gap in my life.  He and I didn’t always get on. We had “our moments”; many of them.  There were times we didn’t talk because of one reason or the other. He could be pig-headed; cantankerous; one-eyed; he was set in his ways and beliefs – it was “his way or the highway”: and he could be damned right annoying.  There were times I hated him; but I always loved him.

He and I also enjoyed good times together. Our senses of humour were similar. He loved to tease me; he did it well, having had years of practice from when we were little kids!.  He knew he could always get a “bite” from me; take a rise out of me.  He knew which buttons to push.  He enjoyed the game.

We laughed at things others wouldn’t understand; or had a chance in Hades of seeing the humour.  Often, simultaneously we’d see the funny side of something so inconspicuous; so ridiculous.  Overcome with fits of laughter, we’d begin tossing mumbled asides back and forth between us.

Graham thought the world of me, this I know and knew; but he had difficulty in expressing his emotions; his inner feelings.  He was my “big brother”; and big brothers seem to believe it is their role (and right) to protect their “little sisters”…particularly those who don’t have a father.  Many times, even when he was a little boy, Graham took on the burden of being “Lord Protector” of Nana, Mum and me.  He felt it was his role to do so; it wasn’t. No child should bear that burden; or believe he should do so.

He always told me when he died he didn’t want any hymns played.  He asked that I play John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”.  I fulfilled my promise to him.

One of the best times, if not the best, Graham and I shared was the night we went to see John Denver live in concert at Townsville’s Entertainment Centre – 21st November 1994. Graham adored Denver – his words and music.  Graham took the Monday and Tuesday off from work, making it a long, long weekend.  He drove north to Townsville from Mackay so we could attend the concert together.  The evening of Monday 21st November, 1994 was magical.  Graham and I even got to meet and talk with John Denver; to shake his hand.  

After we arrived back home Graham and I talked long into the wee small hours. He was perched on a kitchen stool, and at times lent against the fridge; I sat on the kitchen bench with my feet dangling down.  We sipped on a drink or two…peace and tranquility reigned.  Denver gave us that special time; it was his gift to my brother and me. I will never forget that night.   It was meant to happen, I believe.

I miss Graham still, of course…and come Friday, 6th June….I’ll have a few words with him.  It won’t surprise him, though…often I have a few words with him...most days I've something or other to tell him....

It is a shame my two brothers never met…..



*** "The Gympie Rattler"...the restored old steam train takes tourists out through the Mary Valley...a rich, lush dairy-farming and agricultural area outside of Gympie.  Graham's first job after leaving school at the young age of 14 years was with the railway department. While on the job he often went out through the Mary Valley, to the little country villages along the way...chugging along in the old steam engines.  His friend Bernice, pictured with him above, took him out that day...just a few weeks before his death. For Graham it was a much longed-for trip down memory lane... one he'd wanted to do for many years.  I was so appreciate of Bernice's kind gesture...that Bernice did that for him.

34 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

A wonderful thought provoking post. A few years after my mother's death we discovered that we have relatives she concealed from us. She told us that her brother (a doctor) died of a melanoma he neglected. The implication was that he died young, and childless.
In fact she died before him - and I have cousins (on the other side of the world) I have never met.
Some day...

Lee said...

You were quick off the mark, EC...you posted while I was making revisions to my current story. :)

Life is full of turns, dips and by-ways...all families have their stories...some are kept secret...some aren't...but no family is exempt, I believe.

Thanks for dropping in...I appreciate it. :)

Helsie said...

So many families have hidden secrets..... And so many of us have relatives out there who we've never met. So glad your story turned out so well, they don't always have a good result.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Such a wonderful story and how really sweet that you found your half brother....As Blanche DuBois says, in 'Streetcar Named Desire'...
"Sometimes there's God, so quickly..."
You have led a fascinating life, Lee....

Lee said...

Hey there Helsie. I imagine you're back home by now...exhausted but happy from your wonderful trip.

Yes...I'm glad I took the step and found my half-brother. We both are.

Thanks for coming by...and thanks for sharing your holiday with us, too. :)

Lee said...

G'day Naomi...yes, sometimes some things are meant to be.

You're the one who has led a fascinating, life, Naomi. Mine pales in comparison. :)

Thanks for popping in. :)

Dexter Klemperer said...

Nice post. St. Pauli Girl is a big John Denver fan so we listen to him fairly often. And I always get a kick out of the line "while all my friends and my old lady sit and pass the pipe around."

Lee said...

G'day Dexter...His voice was even more pure and strong live; and he was so much better-looking in person, too than in his photos. He was a handsome man with good, strong features.

And he certainly did have a way with words!

I love his music, too...but it does stir up so many emotions within me, as well.

Nice to see you, Dexter. :)

Chatty Crone said...

Okay what a great story. I lost my brother in 1997. I have a half sister - not one I met - but I am sure glad I have her.

Some day you all will meet!

Lee said...

Hi there Sandie. Thanks for coming by. It's always nice of you to do so and it's always nice to see you. :)

Lynn said...

I'm glad you had such wonderful times with Graham before his passing. I saw John Denver in concert, too, more years ago that I care to think about. A sweet voiced man.

Robyn Lee said...

How lovely to have found another brother, Lee. I, too, have half siblings...two sisters and a brother. I met them years ago but my father and I were never close so we haven't really kept in touch.

I can relate to having a brother warn prospective boyfriends off. I had two older to do that, plus a couple of younger ones to spy on me and any boyfriend. I'm actually surprised I managed to get married lol!

A sad but lovely story, Lee, and it's also great it turned out so well.

Carol in Cairns said...

Lee, this was such a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it. My son has four half brothers whom he hasn't seen since he was 2 when his father died. As a Mum, I hope one day his brothers will make that same effort to make contact with him again. Things are so much easier these days with a Facebook and the Internet. He was so loved by his brothers as a little fella.

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh, this is in many ways a sad story Lee, and yet really at heart a happy one, you were in touch with both brothers, even though they never met, and you found such good things about both of them. I'm really glad you're in touch so much with Warren, sounds like you are making up for lost time.

Lee said...

Hey Lynn...I'm glad we got to see Denver together, too. It was a shock to us all when Denver got killed in that untimely accident. When I heard the report on the news I immediately rang Graham...and he was shocked and very saddened.

Thanks for coming in. :)

Lee said...

Hi Robyn...It's sometimes like "six degrees of separation"...we scatch the surface and we never know what we might find!

Graham embarrassed me a few times by warning future suitors off! lol

Thanks for popping in.

Lee said...

G'day Carol. I do so hope that your son and his older brothers connect again...for all their sakes...the ties that bind.

I'm so glad that I did take the step to find Warren. It could have turned out differently...he may have not wanted to know me...but we were lucky...my curiosity turned out well for us both.

Nice to see you, Carol...I hope all is well in your world. :)

Lee said...

Hi Carol...life is like that, isn't it? Sweet and sour; sad and happy; good and bad....more shades than a rainbow and more than fifty shades of grey!

Thanks for popping in. :)

River said...

Years ago my own brother tracked down our half brother and met him, he said he is a very nice man, married with two children. His purpose was a DNA test, my brother wanted to know if this half brother had the same father as he. (my brother is also a half brother, as was the third brother, from another different father). Nice that you met your half brother.

Arlynda Lea Beuterbaugh said...

What a wonderful story! I am sorry about your early loss of Graham, but finally finding your half-brother is great news. By the way, since you are in such a good mood, would you mind telling our cats to settle down? I'm afraid I'm losing the battle quite badly.

Lee said...

Hi River...my half-brother, Warren and I get on very well...we talk regularly and at length. I'm glad we're in each others life...and he feels similarly, as do the rest of his family.

Thanks for coming by. :)

Lee said...

I'm not sure that I am in such a good mood today, Arlynda. For me, it's a day of much reflection.

I learned my place in my household long ago...my cats taught me the pecking order around here...and most times I'm not at the top of it. :)

Take care...thanks for coming by.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

I have been told that I have a brother, who looks just like me. I don't know if he is a full or half-brother, though.

As for your own quest, I am very impressed with your courage. I have started to try to track down just who my biological parents are several times, but the thought of facing more rejection weighs quite heavily on my mind. I know that my birth mother died around 14 years ago, but I still don't know her name, not that of my biological father. The fact of my adoptive mom going to great lengths to make sure that I would not find my biological parents has left a very painful scar.

Lee said...

It is difficult, Jerry...I know.

You pose the question to yourself over and over again, whether you're doing the right thing or not...or whether you should just let sleeping dogs lie.

The hurt and scars do remain; and the passing years don't fade them; but we try to deal with everything the best way that we can; in a way that suits us as the individual.

The individual....you; me - we individually are the only person who knows and feels our innermost thoughts and emotions...no one else...

I prepared myself, I guess...for answer to my quest to go either which way; and I'd prepared myself as much as I could to accept what I received at the culmination of my quest.

I was fortunate mine turned out the way it did; it could've quite easily turned out otherwise.

I am glad I did venture forth, though.

Thanks for coming by, Jerry. :)

Riot Kitty said...

What a wonderful tribute to your brothers. Spontaneity so often proves its worthiness - so very true.

Lee said...

Thank you, RK....and thanks for coming by. :)

Wendy said...

My only hope is that I do not have any relatives hidden anywhere. I don't like the ones I've got so certainly don't want anymore!

Sorry to be so blunt, but that's the truth.

Lovely tribute to your brother.

Lee said...

The truth is good, Wendy. Better to be that way than be a hypocrite. I've a couple of relatives that I'm not too fond of, too.

One is the daughter of my late brother; she's a selfish, judgmental little bitch who's so far up herself she'd better watch out she doesn't turn inside out.

She wiped me off her family tree and blotted me out of her social calendar 10 and a half years ago for reasons known only to herself.

It hurt at the beginning...butI now couldn't give a damn. She doesn't talk to one of her brothers, either...so it's not just me. Her loss.

Nice to see you...thanks for popping in. :)

Katfish said...

MsLee g'evening! 'Twasn't an identity change (as gracie9501 relates to my beloved Harley's name and has been the beginning of age old email addresses since late in 20000) - Dealing with omnipresent Google led me to use it as an ID when I refused to give but bare bones I.D. data

Adullamite said...

How sad to lose a brother. But it is good that you miss him so, it speaks volumes. It is also good that you have found another!

Lee said...

Katfish...I don't blame you for giving only bare info. Big Brother knows more than enough about us as it is.

I'm always happy to see you whatever name you appear under...as long as I recognise it as being you. :)

Lee said...

Thank, Adullamite for popping in. I'll always miss Graham; and having found Warren was meant to be. :)

Lady Di Tn said...

Lee
When you describe Graham, I was sure you were talking about my brother Sam. All the adjectives you used,such as pig-headed, cantankerous etc. was full on how my brother and I go through life. My brother has a very, very bad attitude concerning life and he is top dog selfish. At the moment we are not speaking. I love him but sometimes wish to push him off a cliff. Your love for your brother Graham is very well show in all you have written about him and then to find a half brother that you are fond of. My father carried on so many affairs it would not surprise me that I do not half siblings walking the earth but I can honestly say I never wish to meet them as it would only bring back the pain of how he treated Mother. If that is unkind well so be it- as I do not wish to see more proof of his indiscretions. Peace

Lee said...

Lady Di...I don't think you are being unkind in what you say at all.

Families, siblings can be and are a strange lot.

Nothing is ever picture-perfect within them. As a child I believed that to be so...with the families of others, not my own. However as I grew older, I learned my childhood beliefs were that of fairy tales.

I would say that your brother, like my brother Graham holds anger because of the deeds of your father. Graham's demons were caused by things that occurred in our childhood. He stored a lot of anger within...and that does no one any good.

Children are not to blame for the behaviour of their parents; although they don't understand that. The harm is done and sometimes, most times, it never disappears. It remains forever.

Adults have to be responsible for their own behaviour; and be aware of the harm their irresponsibility etc does to tender young minds.

But we can say that until the end of time...it's like whistling in the wind.

Thanks for coming by, Miss Kitty.