My grandparents are buried here, in Tewantin. I remember the day we lowered Pam into the ground, it had been raining for days. I took a step back as they lowered the casket into the canopied hole dug fresh that morning, and found that I had landed the heel of my boot in the middle of a gigantic sojourning cemetary worm.
Pam and Hal had retired from a life of sheep cattle and wheat in Western NSW to the sun and the enervating salty seas of Noosa. Hal passed ten or fifteen years earlier than Pam; I don’t remember much – prostate cancer, and hushed stories of Hal fighting off the nurses in his latter bedridden days tortured with morphiaed memories of WW2 in Papua Guinea, the Japs. Japan was where my CD player came from. It didn’t connect.
We played the Majestic in Pomona a little over a week ago, with The Soldiers Wife. Again, I was drawn out on a memory – this time Pam. She’d taken me to that indeed majestic place of red velvet curtains and wooden floor boards in my late teens to watch the silent movie The Son Of The Sheik, accompanied by live theatre organ and flickering subtitles. I didn’t think of Egypt, of Hal in Tobruk. I didn’t feel the heat of the dessert dunes. I thought Rudolph Valentino was hot.
You can’t beat yourself up for youthful ignorance, I think now. Think of that ignorance as a protection in that moment. Too young. On Saturday, after the Pomona show, we launched ourselves into the Partners Of Veterans Association two-yearly social bash at Standdown Park, north of Gympie. We swan about in costume and hug Anne, Pam, the true wives we’ve come to know and admire. Bertie and I jump up onstage with the Australian Army Band (Brisbane) for a song and a dance. And we sing our songs, songs inspired by our audience, and the air is still and everyone is silent. And afterwards, a few gentle conversations, more hugs, the gratitude of the women, that they be heard, and us, swamped with gratitude for having found a way to make our songwriting gifts valuable to the community.