Just as I was thinking about love in all its rituals and forms, there was Malcom watching the Pollies versus Press cricket match in his straw hat. Not any kind of straw hat, mind you, but a very neat and stiff kind of hat. And his blue shirt and grey pants and well-polished black shoes were so incredibly neat they could have been starched!
All that neatness and stiffness made me think of Malcolm as a small boy dressed up in his best clothes and told not to get dirty. That led me to Malcolm’s mother who left him when he was nine to be raised by his father. And how hard is that?
Then I thought about Lucy watching Malcolm get dressed for that cricket match and maybe saying ‘Not that shirt’, or ‘Those pants go better with that’, and ‘Don’t forget your hat’.
Without getting overly mushy, that led me to thinking about how much Lucy loves Malcolm; it’s as plain to see as the proverbial pimple on a pumpkin. She adores him.
Of course, it’s also not hard to see that Malcolm loves Lucy more than life itself and his pursuit of politics and power would mean absolutely nothing if push came to shove. (As it often does in that kind of world.)
To my surprise, a day or two later, there was Malcolm shedding a tear or two on national television. To all intents and purposes, the tears crept out when he was telling the story of an elderly Indigenous woman who recalled her mother singing her a lullaby as a child.
As much as Malcolm was moved by that story, I suspect he was also crying for the mother who sang lullabies to him as a baby. For the mother who left him alone at nine. No more tucking in. No good-night kisses. No bedtime stories. Just a great big hole where there had once been a mother.
Grief is like that. When we least expect it, out drips a sneaky tear or two to remind us of our frailty and need. Think about that mass outpouring of grief when Diana died. Sure we were devastated for those little princes but we were also crying for our own losses and tragedies and abandonments.
I’ve just read Sophie Laguna’s Miles Franklin winner, The Eye of the Sheep, and what an exquisite book it is. I cried for Jimmy and the other children abandoned by their fathers, for their desperate humbling need of a father’s love. But I knew I was also crying for the child-me abandoned by my father so many years ago. You’d think I’d be over it by now, wouldn’t you? But, no, there it was just wanting another little cry.
Love is like that. Humbling and needy and unexpectedly tearful.
There’s a boy I sometimes see walking on the beach with his Dad. He’s probably about sixteen, almost as tall as his father, and although they walk ‘together’ they actually walk metres apart, sometimes one well ahead of the other.
I just know that boy is going through the awful gangly, silent, grumpy stage that happens to boys when their hormones start raging. I can see the father loves his son and will never give up; he will stick in there until his son becomes a man and starts talking again.
And although his son would never admit it–and probably doesn’t even know it himself–his Dad’s love is what he needs right now. Desperately.
Some years ago, I remember seeing another boy, maybe four years of age, who tottered out of a shop on his chubby four-year-old legs. And as his mother and many brothers and sisters stepped over the gutter to get to their car, the little boy stumbled and fell.
He picked himself up and screamed out his frustration then turned on his mother and kicked her hard in her ankle. And this big woman, surrounded by her big family, calmly steadied and soothed him until he stopped kicking and crying.
Mothers and fathers, we fail our children in so many ways without knowing it. Even when they are older, we keep taking their kicks. They kick us because we love them and they know we can take it. They kick us because sometimes life is too hard and there is no one to kick except those who love us to bits. Like Lucy loves Malcolm and Malcolm loves Lucy. Like the boy on the beach and his Dad and the distance between them. Like the little boy whose Mum didn’t shift the gutter.
So many different kinds of love. So many reasons to shed a tear or two.
I’m glad our Prime Minister can cry for the little boy Malcolm who lost his Mum. It gives me some hope that if and when he wins an election in his own right–if and when he gets rid of that destructive, conservative rump of his party left over from the Abbott days–he might look more kindly on the plight of those children in detention who should not be there and who have now become our nation’s greatest shame.