For a couple or so years I called him “Gar” because I couldn’t pronounce his name. I can’t remember the exact date or day, but I do remember the light-bulb moment I said his name correctly for the first time. So proud was I that I’d finally conquered a major step forward in life. Gar’s name was “Graham”.
Two years and eight months older than me, he was my brother. Graham took his role as older brother seriously, which annoyed me often through the years; particularly during my teen years when he gave hopeful, would-be suitors the evil eye. Big Brother was not only watching, but he also verbally warned off a few interested lads. Spring and summer weekends my girlfriends and I spent on the beach and in the surf at Noosa Heads, while surreptitiously eyeing off the tanned, trim lifesavers. Graham, at my insistence, became a Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaver! How silly of me it was to convince him to become a lifesaver. I needed my head read!
When I was a kid, I felt a bit miffed to discover there were more baby photos of him than of me. A few years down the track, I understood the reasons why, and all was forgiven. Of course, Graham was the “first born”, but it wasn’t the sole reason for his hogging of the camera. Upheaval hit our family unit when I was a tiny baby. A way of life, and lives, changed forever, when, without a backward glance, our father flew the coop, leaving only our mother and grandmother to care for us. Mum and Nana had a lot on their plates in more ways than one. Never losing sight, they set guidelines for Graham and me to follow. Among the many lessons instilled were respect and discipline. Graham and I had a lot on our dinner plates, too, regardless of whatever arose to hinder our path along life’s highway.
From a young age Graham adopted the mantle of “man of the house”. Others didn’t expect, or ask it of him. Only he expected it of his self. Graham left school at the age of 14 years, gaining work with the railway department. A short time later, on his meagre wage, he bought a record player. He then purchased our first fridge. Off to the dump went the ice chest. Next, along came a new dining table and chairs. He then surprised us with a television set. Graham’s generosity towards his family, towards Mum and Nana, was endless.
Eventually, he moved to Mackay, where he worked within the cane industry for a number of years, after which, he gained employment in the fire department at Mackay airport. Circa 1968, Graham relocated Nana and Mum from Gympie to Slade Point, a beach suburb of Mackay, setting them up in a two-bedroom cottage where they comfortably lived out the remainder of their years.
My brother enjoyed a cold beer, and he loved a Bundy...Bundaberg rum for the uninformed...but Graham despised cigarettes. Never, not even during his experimental teen years did he once lift a cigarette to his lips. Non-stop through the years he lectured me about my smoking habit, a habit I gave up a few years ago. My doing so would’ve pleased him no end…and, me…no more lectures; no more nagging!
He didn’t suffer fools, not one iota. A straight-shooter, Graham looked others directly in the eye. He had an insane sense of the ridiculous; a fun sense of humour. I believe I was the only person who really knew and understood him. Lacking insight, and demonstrating little compassion, or empathy, most others were insensitive to his ways and needs. Under his oft-times brusque exterior, Graham was a good man. I knew that, even if at times he annoyed the “whats-its” out of me! Graham and I had our “moments”…many of them. I was also aware of his many worthy traits; deserving traits he kept disguised from the prying eyes of others.
Graham loved music, particularly country music. One of the best times we shared was the night we were members of the audience at John Denver’s concert held in the Townsville Entertainment Centre. To top the night off, we met the artist. Graham was a huge Denver fan. After we arrived home to my cosy abode in West End, a Townsville suburb, Graham and I, perched on kitchen stools, talked into the wee small hours. He drove back to Mackay later that morning.
When I was living and working in various towns in North Queensland, almost every weekend Graham visited. No matter the distance, the drive to and fro never bothered him. I was unsure if his regular visits were to see me, or Missy, his cocky cocker spaniel…and for my meatloaves, which he loved. I always made an extra meatloaf for him to take home. For five or so years, Missy was my ward after Graham could no longer have a dog at his premises. Pushkin and Rimsky, my two cats, made her feel welcome –most of the time.
Gone too soon… 28/02/1942…06/06/1998