Twisted Twine – Part Two

I believe that we can never truly appreciate the depth of the impact that we have on each other.  Our interactions can leave the softest of footprints and sometimes the deepest of wounds. As humans, our lives are inextricably interwoven.

I like to think of everyone, as coloured twine. The length of the twine determined by the days of our individual living experience.

A person’s twine, shifts and changes in texture and strength, varying between vibrant and strong and frayed and bleached in colour.  It can be matted with extraneous clutter, weak at points, even diminished to a single strand, only to become robust again, a distance further and so it goes.

This twine is not severed with the umbilical cord, instead it is set free, to roll forwards.

Science would describe the life force, as atoms of energy attracting and repelling, creating ‘pure light’, and at our death, returning to join the ‘great universal matter’, only to be recycled once again.

At this point, our beliefs may indeed, dictate the direction of those released atoms and the reincarnated recycling.

My faith promises me, that my father’s atoms, are heading straight to join the ‘atoms formally known as Mary’,  his beloved wife and best friend.

My father’s twine has been woven though the lives of others,  over the course of 101 years.  His kindness and his generosity has enabled him to be deeply loved by many.

Some of these people, as his only daughter, I will never know. There are many who say that they ‘love him’.  He has been blessed by many of these relationships, and burdened by several others.

I have always respected an individual’s right  to choose whom they will love. I have shared this old school gentleman, my father,  with my beloved family and friends, because his intelligence and wisdom governed by his deep faith, has been far too bright an energy to selfishly trap in a box of neediness. He has taught me well how to ‘pay it forward’.

Now in the final weeks of his life, a woman has emerged claiming to be a ‘surrogate daughter’.  There are no dirty secrets. No trysts, no cheap liaisons. No front page news.

Their friendship is not one that I recall being mentioned in the weekly conversations that I have had with my father or have been made mention in any of the hundred of letters exchanged between my father and I.

We have through our life choices and through circumstances,  lived in different states of Australia.  This has not prevented us maintaining a strong loving relationship. The art of letter writing is something we both have embraced.

I have no real knowledge of who she is, and who she has been to him since the death of my mother in 2003. I suspect that she is like many people, been attracted by his light.

This woman, whom my father has struck up some ‘undefined friendship’ , unbeknown to him,  has claimed him, as her ‘surrogate father’. A woman whose psyche, I suspect,  has been disrupted by grief of the loss of her own parents (this she divulged to me ), and the suicide of her partner (third party report, that she had told another aged care resident).

This is also a woman who does not understand boundaries. In the past week, after a claimed absence of three years, she gained access to my father, undertook personal tasks she insisted were directed by him, accessed his wallet, his address book, opened his mail and read my private correspondence.

She introduced herself as his ‘surrogate daughter’, to me, when she proclaimed that I could ‘speak to him, through her’.

I did not hesitate to correct her regarding her role, to question her presence and request of the nursing staff that she was not allowed to gain access.  She did however return twice more, throughout the week and gained entry once.

Her ‘claimed need’ was only to ‘be there and to hold his hand’.

Her needs, it seems, outweighed my father’s right for peace and my need to keep my stress levels down. It is challenging to have your aged loved ones living at distance. It is not always practical or possible to be able to sit with them over the many weeks or months, while the twine slowly rolls to an end.

She did not recognise or adhere to any protocols, seek permission, respect family wishes or interact with professional staff regarding my father’s current medical state.  Her presence included harassment of myself and the staff. The police have been informed and a standing order is in place.

It is questionable, that this woman’s development of several new relationships with two other elderly people at the same residential facility,  (who are on the continuum of dementia), can be construed as simply charitable. Their families can decide if they want her to access their loved ones.

I am clear about who has access to an 101 year old man, who has diminished cognitive capability, is physically weak, and whose twine is slowly coming to an end. It isn’t someone who doesn’t understand ‘ethical boundaries’ or skilled in caring for the highly vulnerable.

It isn’t only death, that finally separates us from the living. It is our own selfishness and a twine knotted tight,  tangled with grief and loss, weakened by self interest and deep fear of loneliness.


Until I’m looking at the other side of the grass

There is no point whinging about the absurdity of this life, though I am compelled to be like all of us, a little aggrieved that it must end at some time. The dichotomy of life is not lost on me. We exist as imperfect beings, unique and extraordinary in our capacity to withstand grief, hardship, pain, loss, suffering and in our abundance to love and bring joy, laughter and happiness into the lives of others.

To harbour hatred in a vessel that it designed to be illuminated by wisdom and compassion, is as pointless as filling spring water into a muddy vase.  Life is the most precious essence of all. Why is it that the living of life is fraught with such peril?

I have been considering the art of distraction. It is a well honed physiological strategy that mothers of young children, addicts in and out of recovery and politicians, regularly use. We all use distraction. Some use ‘busy work’, obsessively attempting to control the universe by having origami folded hand towels and dust free homes. Others have art works on washing lines, with matching pegs and clothes in ascending size to obtain maximum sun.  Those with higher order thinking skills prize their intelligence,  diligence and dedication, surrendering  countless unpaid hours in the pursuit of recognition and respect, while distracting themselves from the reality of their replaceable selves.

I have been known to watch absolute rubbish on the box. I have a bookshelf which shouts academic, literary lover and obsessive book collector but I like to watch reality television. While I may draw the line at Big Brother, Dating Naked (seriously?) and any alcoholic    housewife of any state of America, I admit I have watched Mob Wives. A study in aggressive, undereducated women with mafia links and incarcerated  partners and over inflated self worth and value.  “I know violence is not the answer…but yes it is” – Drita.

This appears to be in conflict with the reality of having cancer and realising that time is finite and often less than we imagine that we have. It is challenging to say in the present and attached to reality, as fantasy or the quick boil of a stranger’s emotional instability is more palatable than facing the truth of mortality. Call it relaxing, downtime or avoidance, it is time wasted. An opiate , morphine to dull the intellect.




This glorious life


There is an acuity that occurs after cancer enters your life. A recognition of the richness available in every moment, which is best seized and a deep regret for every moment that has been wasted. It is as if a steel file has been run vigorously back and forth across my senses. Those same senses that were once blunted by the grind of everyday living, are re-edged, and tautly tuned. It is an orchestral awakening of which I can not sleep through.

This is both lyrically metaphorical and frustratingly actual. For sleep, does not come easy and I find the brightness of my thoughts keep rest at bay. I am not fixated upon the fear of my eventual death, though the thought of further treatments and reoccurrence do not make restful bedfellows. I do not lie awake planning my funeral. Far from it. It is simply, that the luxury of ignorance is no longer mine. The 400 thread count of my sheets do not save me from the reality that living is temporary.

Surrounded by Karri tree giants, I feel oddly connected to all that has come before me and that which will follow. It is though I was once off station, living in the static of white noise. There is a new found deep appreciation for the simple beauty of a raindrop and an indescribable aching in my core, that music will some day cease to be heard by my soul. These are the blessings that illness brings or perhaps the torture, when limited time is left to relish in the gift of life.

I am stung repeatedly by the awful truth, that the most glorious of all, the living must die. The living design, in all matter so exquisite. I can’t shake off, the intensity of my observations. The theatre of life and death, played out in the forrest, in the bush, under a moss covered stone, in the murky bed of a river and beneath the shadow side of a leaf. It is miraculous, when you can see God in all living matter. How often do we take time to do so, or in the exact moment are distracted by thoughts unrelated?

For me, post cancer, the artificial, societal construct has completely burst, and no diversions work for long. Neither the previous frenetic pace of my sole parenthood and the laser beam focus on my career or my comfortable inner life, hammocked between thoughts, protected me from cancer. I lived a life, heavily peppered with responsibility and burdened by other people’s perceptions of what I should or could achieve and I escaped into my head as often as possible to avoid the truth of my despair and dissatisfaction.

It has been suggested that I spend what remaining time I have, in the pursuit of that which resonates with my spirit. Good, solid, though somewhat predictable advice. The sensible course of action usually is. Flippantly I rattle off a list – travel, write (preferably from exotic places), love, laugh, eat, sleep soundly and have more sex. One small obstacle remains in the path of this perfectly sensible edict, that is cash to fund some of these pursuits. Cancer has been an expensive experience, but one that provides blessings, like cataract surgery.