What I’m about to reveal is so personal that ordinarily it would remain buried in the deep hole containing my family’s dark secrets dating back generations.
Like the time my paternal great-grandfather returned home to the farm to find his wife in bed with another man and murdered them before turning the gun on himself.
My father told me that story over a beer at a golf club after a round in which he aged terribly before my eyes.
‘You’re ashamed of me, aren't you?’ he said.
I didn’t know he had emphysema. And we never again played golf together.
I’m glad he didn’t live to see this, but if only he didn’t die that way.
With the conflagration engulfing the world, as climate catastrophe and the worst forms of barbarity shred humanity, me revealing my own dark secret doesn’t feel inappropriate; on the contrary, it feels entirely appropriate.
I speak of a decision my wife and I made 35 years ago – a decision that destroyed our marriage and probably contributed to her premature death but, ultimately, proved judicious. Of that I have no doubt.
For who would have brought a child into the world if they knew this awaited us?
A world that turned on us so violently after we turned on it and criminally ignored its pleas.
It was I who proposed that my wife, Erin, have a late-term abortion.
But it was the irrefutable findings contained in her research as a climate scientist – the irreversible slide towards the whirling blades of Armageddon – that prompted those dreadful, fateful conversations.
It didn’t matter that the passing of each subsequent year strengthened the legitimacy of her findings: the mass migration from dying Africa and inundated, low-lying island nations; the increasing malevolence and frequency of storms; the mass extinction of species; the exponential rises in lawlessness ...
It would have been our first child. We had tried for years to have him.
Yes, him. My wife, near-catatonic distraught for days after the abortion, didn’t want to know the sex.
But I asked the doctor. Erin died not knowing that. Or knowing that I named our son Peter after my father. (We told people it was a miscarriage.)
We were never the same. I think she despised herself more than she despised me.
It didn’t matter that the passing of each subsequent year strengthened the legitimacy of her findings: the mass migration from dying Africa and inundated, low-lying island nations; the increasing malevolence and frequency of storms; the mass extinction of species; the exponential rises in lawlessness, and the increasingly brutal crackdowns; the murderous response to border protection – state security forces and militias machine-gunning refugees trying to enter the US, the state-sanctioned sinking of refugee boats heading for Australia and New Zealand.
She didn’t even say goodbye.
We had been together since high school, and she told me in a cold phone call it was over.
I said goodbye at her funeral. The church’s old ceiling fans clunked ineffectively on full bore as sobs coalesced with profound humidity – oh, the heat, the stinking heat – to form a broth of despair.
That year the suicide rate in Australia climbed by double digits.
Standing alone over her grave, I professed my love, but said I would do it again.
Long ago I realised my wealth was largely meaningless.
What good is it owning a superyacht when the parties you host on it are secondary to the malaise shrouding you in darkness and making a mockery of your expensive smile?
What good is it owning a luxury penthouse when the streets way below are on fire, and it is only a matter of time before they break through the front door?
As I type this, my last disseminated thoughts, they’re banging on my door, untethered from decency by the indecency of our demise.
I recall that golf club conversation with my father. When he asked me if I was ashamed of him, I didn’t respond.
He took my silence as confirmation I was ashamed, I’m sure.
I should have told him that I saw him as a flawed man, like myself, but my love for him was the love of a child who saw his dad as the person he wanted to be.
I’m not alone. With me is Peter, his brown hair short, his cheeks dimpled – the best android little boy money can buy. He clutches my hand and says: ‘I’m scared, Daddy.’
Mark Bode is a Fairfax journalist