The Bearded Man: Great Bearded Blokes #2 … Greg Humphreys

You will not know him but my #2 great bearded bloke is my Uncle Greg.  My Dad’s brother, Uncle Greg is just one of the best blokes you would ever be likely to meet.  He is a committed family man, a hard worker, loves a rum and coke and is a proponent of the expletive “Crikeys” as the strongest swear word he uses.

I just love the bloke and I love the relationship he has with my father.  They have become more and more close over the years and, even now, I love nothing more than sitting next to them and listen to them talk about life.

It is a personal choice and this is my personal list and my Uncle Greg is, simple, a great bearded bloke!

The Family Home: it is time to say goodbye

I have spent this morning with my parents at our family home helping them to pack it up as they move to what has been described by them as their “retirement” house.

As I drove home, I reflected on the house my parents have called home for the last 38 years, indeed it is the only house they have ever owned, and the house that I grew up in. Bizarrely, for an object such as a house, I think I am going to miss the brick house in Bundamba that John and Irene built.

It was a warm and happy house to grow up in with parents who were loving but strict and who worked hard to make life easier for my sister and I. As my brain works through my memories of the house I am struck by random images and moments such as:

* a skinny kid with a bad flat top spending hours with a tennis ball and a cricket bat playing test matches against the back brick wall in summer and kicking goals between the two big trees in the back yard in winter;
* that same kid lurching over the laundry tubs blood streaming from mouth after being hit in the head with a baseball bat by his sister;
* my sister’s wedding day and the military precision with which my mother organised the female contingent who were all staying at the house;
* hearing the phone ring in the middle of the night and overhearing my dad by informed that my hero (my grandad Alan) had died and seeing my dad cry in my presence for the first time in my life to that point (at the age of 19); and
* the day a little black dog dog we called Benson arrived and the day my Dad found him in the last throws of life in the back yard over a decade later.

It was a happy place as I said but it was also a place where I felt most comfortable. Twice, in the depths of depression and bereft of hope, it was the place I returned to to heal, to reflect, to cry and to talk.

It is funny but on reflection this house, that my parents have loved and, in recent times, pampered, has almost been as much a part of our lives as another family member. And, now that the sale of the house is in the shadows of completion, we are in mourning, in a sense because part of our history is no more.

I am sure that I will love my parents new place when it is all set up and we are invited to it. The same rules about sitting on the “upstairs” / “good” lounge (strictly verboten) and touching Dad’s mower (also strictly verboten) will apply. That said, when I walk into it for the first time I am sure I will be struck by its differences. That will happen, in part, because when I walk in I will not see the one lasting part of me that was in the old house: the mark on the hard wood floor from the day I dropped a bottle of green cordial in the lounge room and it smashed. Needless to say mother earned her nickname of the “Red Dragon” that day.

So with the self indulgent trip down memory lane above consigned to print, there is nothing else to say but goodbye to the home of my childhood (I will not be going back there before the sale settles) and look forward to making more memories in my parents new house. With that in mind: can someone hand me a bottle of green cordial?

Social Media Hiatus: interim disruption or a permanent change?

I have not checked in to any of my social media accounts since Friday. No twitter. No tumblr. No linkedin. No Google plus. And on Thursday I shut down my Facebook.

There was no one “thing” that lead to this occurring. I will confess that I had been enjoying social media less as my timeline appears to have been taken over by the political and the negative rather than the banterous discussion that I am used to. That issue though is easily fixed by unfollowing.

It has also been a very busy weekend filled with time with family and friends. And that is probably where my social media vacuum has come from: I have been having face to face interactions with friends and family that has gotten in the way of other social interactions.

You know what though: it has felt great! Now I am not saying that the interactions have been any more genuine or heartfelt because they have been face to face rather than over 140 characters. What this time away from social media has shown me though is the importance of making time to see people face to face rather than just behind the screen of a phone or computer. That is certainly a promise to myself moving forward.

Will I come back to social media is the other thought I have, certainly yesterday and this morning, had. The short answer is yes: this is only an interim disruption brought about by a confluence of events. That said, I think out of this weekend I have learned to seek deeper engagement in my interactions and that is what I will be looking for in my usage of social media.

That means more blogging and tumbling I think over and above twitter because of the greater flexibility the unlimited nature of the length of posts. Bring on deeper interactions I say: but this blog aside not just yet … I think the interim disruption (posts on this blog aside) can last just another day longer.

Becoming Uncle Steve: it took me a while but I got there

Today marks twenty days until I become an uncle for the third time. To say that I am chuffed would be an understatement. My nephews Jack and Cooper, it would be fair to say, have changed my life.

To say that before they came around that I was not that most “kid friendly” of chaps would be an understatement. Having worked at a Tenpin Bowling Centre for 5 years during my university years, I had often seen the worst of the behaviour of children and my cousins all being basically around the same age as me (with a variance of maybe 5 years either way) meant that I never really been around really little kids. Those factors led to my default setting around children to generally be taciturn and standoffish to say the least.

That all changed when my little mates, first Jack and then Cooper, came along. I remember the day Jack was born like it was yesterday: my sister went into labour moderately early in the morning, an ice age passed with me pacing and checking my phone, the call came through that he had arrived, I had a little bit of a cry and then I went out and got absolutely slaughtered (I used to drink then).

When I met Jack for the first time the next day I was astonished by how small he was (forgive me but I was a 27 year old bachelor lawyer workaholic: babies weren’t within my social sphere) and by how my heart beat got so much faster when I held him. I wasn’t the best catch of a cricket ball during my playing days and all I could think of was dropping him!

By the time Cooper came along two years later I was an old hand at the “holding the baby” lark but my heart beat still hastened every time I held him.

At this juncture, I have a confession to make that just breaks my heart. Frankly, until 15 months ago I was a pretty terrible uncle. Indicative of that is the fact that even though I try my damnedest I really can not remember much of my interactions with my little mates before then. I could make all of the excuses under the sun for this aberration but the fact is I was a selfish prat who put his family last for those first five years of Jack’s young life.

Now, I spend every moment I can trying to make up for that lost time. This has become even more important to me now that the boys are moving with their mum and dad (and soon to be new brother or sister) to the other side of the country.

What I love most about the time I am now spending with my nephews is watching them grow up. They are different in so many ways and yet they share some of the same DNA as me. They have their own personalities and yet they still rely on me, when they are with me, for so much. Jack is the quiet one whereas Cooper is the more rambunctious one. Jack is the tall one whereas Cooper is going to be more stocky.

Now that they are a bit older they are starting to play sport which has added a whole other dimension to our relationship. Rugby league, soccer, tennis and swimming have all become fixtures to varying degrees for my nephews and try to make every game I can. They have even started following rugby league teams though the fact they have become followers of the Broncos and the Dragon is something that will be subject of discussion in the years to come.

There is so much to look forward to in their coming years and I look forward to hopefully being a part of that. I know that I will miss them terribly when they head to the West but I will keep my promise to Cooper to “come for sleepovers” at every opportunity.

They both are truly at the epicentre of the best things that have happened in my life and I know that during some particularly dark period in my life their unconditional love for me as their uncle was a fill up I needed to push on rather than chuck it all in. That is what has made becoming Uncle Steve in more than just name over the last 15 months all the more special.

The next twenty days is going to fly by and then I get another chance to be an uncle. I hope I am better at it this time than I have been in the past. It is funny you know, my heart just started beating faster again …