For Michael—my son—and Rob
Hackney Town Hall
September 12, 2014
Friends and family, you are here for Michael and Rob
Despite the distances you have travelled, or that great job.
You’ve brought feathers and boas and party balloons,
Hearts full of gladness. A flower girl dances. These are the boons
Of honesty, courage, friendship and love.
Rob, these last 14 years, you’ve pledged fealty to Michael. Truly,
You have earned the right to be recognised—socially, politically, legally.
All of the above.
I acknowledge that. There will be others who won’t.
Outside, beware The Golden Dawn in Greece, and others who don’t
see the affection that binds, the trust that endures.
Fortunately, laughter heals. Love cures.
Well Michael, my son. You’ve stepped out again. Now you are wed.
So I’ll tell you a story from a time long ago. A short one; ’nuff said.
Our ancestor, Christian Haeffner, was trained as a cooper. Though lame, club
footed, he walked from Sydney to Albury.
No work in sight, he
found gold and opened a pub.
Proud Lutheran, grandson of a judge, alright.
He married Catholic Mary, née Conway, in leafy Beechworth, in 1854.
They pioneered a family, after marrying for love, Catholic no more.
My father’s Dad, we called him Pop, had been a Catholic too.
The ancestral Devlins were from Ballynacrine—I’ll give you a clue,
It’s now Draperstown, nor’west of Loch Neagh.
They came to Melbourne by clipper, “The Morning Light”.
Pop toḻd his Dad one day, “I love Gertrude”.
“Oh no!”, said his Dad. “She’s not a Mick.
You marry a Methodist? The thought makes me sick!”
On the day of his wedding, Pop went back to his house
all a-tremble, quite anxious about his future spouse.
His heart filled with trepidation for his home was locked.
The way inside was barred. He stood there, quite shocked!
Until he spied that open bathroom window. Pop crept inside.
There on his bed his wedding suit lay.
He dressed himself quietly and stole away.
None of his family that day came to see him be wed.
When he embraced his loyal Protestant wife, tears were shed.
He let all her children keep her faith. Like Christian, he too had married for love,
but he faced rejection, hostility, anger and silence. All of the above.
Should I, your Dad, oppose your innermost longing?
Close my heart too? Prevent your belonging
as Frederick did to poor Edward, my grandfather, my Pop?
It is almost time for me to desist from speaking, to come to a stop.
Am I to be a Frederick to your Edward, full of sharp rebuke?
Let me check. More of this hereafter. Oh no, is this a fluke?
Briars do have leaves as well as thorns—as sweet, as sharp.
I must away. Conclude this speech. End the tale.
My response is prepared. On darkness and doubts I will not harp.
I’ll cherish the gladness. Embrace you both now. Do not fail
men. Be true. Never weaken. In this I say from afar:
“In your long-sought unity, rejoice! You’ll have no anger from me.
You are a prince, Michael”. I say this sincerely, and happily:
“Rob, you were not my son-in-law before. Now you are”.