Tag Archives: love

Towards the end of days

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My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends — it gives a lovely light! – Edna St Vincent Millay

My father’s candle has been alight for many years. It is expected that soon, there will be no wax left to burn.  Is it, as the night, follows the day.

But I am in not in the wings for this performance. I am like others, living at distance from their ageing parents. I call and talk to care staff often, listening for hope that my father will rally and recover his will to rage on into the grainy dawn.

At 101 years of age, his protest is a quiet, polite one…simply refusing to eat much… to walk unaided….to talk on the telephone.

Tell my daughter, I am as fit as a fiddle’, he said.  He is not.

Truly, there is nothing that has been left unsaid….I love him and he ‘loves me more than dearly’.

We are not into protracted goodbyes, and still here we are..in one.

I am managing it from a distance and it is not easy. It is not about control, it is about ensuring that he is treated with respect. We place such faith in carers to do so and for this we pay so little.

How did we get it so wrong? Our teachers, nurses, emergency services, armed forces and carers are paid less than they deserve. What did the recently resigned Australia Post CEO, Ahmed Fahour do to justify his 5.6 million salary?  Sounds like the price for a commercial hit man’s wage to slash jobs, reduce services and implement software to replace human labour.

My once active father is now bed bound. Hoisted and cradled in a sling, like a slightly bruised overripe banana in a hammock.His humour has not quite dissipated, although the waves of pain medication, has dulled the flame.

Talking with his carer Andrew today, we laughed about my father’s idiosyncratic ways.  I asked if he had a call button close by.

‘Oh he now knows how to use that’, he laughed. ‘Never heard a peep out of him for years, so independent, now he calls me whenever he needs me’. He calls it, ‘ The Communicator’.

On the rare occasion, that he has sat in his chair, he has asked for the ‘slippers with the zippers’, in a singsong voice, amused by the rhyme.

Andrew was able to mimic him, like many of us can. We do it out of respect for him, and because of his distinct use of language and his Cornish accent.

He does not have Alzheimers, or dementia, though he is forgetful. In my crowd of menopausal and post menopausal women that is a given.

My father, Reg and I have found ways to bridge the distance over the past fourteen years, since his beloved wife, Molly, my kind mother passed over. I have travelled to Tasmania, to many times to keep mentioning. We talked on the phone each week and wrote a flood of letters.

I have kept his ‘pearls of wisdom’.  One year I constructed a book of his poetry with accompanying images and presented it to him.

A writer or perpetual ‘communicator’, lives to be published, self or otherwise. He offered me, his second edition, which I kindly refused on the last visit.

He is no Wordsworth. He has not been a lover of great narrative fiction, preferring autobiographies of war heroes and the occasional politician.

His is no Edna St Vincent Millay or  e.e. cummings, my favourite two poets, but his poetry reflects his love of nature and the need to preserve the environment. ‘Oh wondrous Mother Nature..’

I confess in my twenties I stole, ‘The Collected Works of e.e.cummings’.  There are worst things to do.

The poet’s defiance of using lower case resonated with my twenty something, middle-class socialist rhetoric of ‘rebellion’ and ‘free education’, so I released it from the university.

I didn’t factor in that a ‘future me’, might also enjoy reading it. I returned it over 10 years later and paid a whopping fine.  My parents  had royally screwed with my consciousness, early in my life.

When that dreaded phone call comes, and I race to see him for the last time, I will be deeply in grief.  There is no better words, in my opinion,  than these from e.e.cummings to describe the power of love.

 

 

 

 

 

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Boomerang traveller

Why would you want to go there?

It is like the twilight zone! Everyone is stuck permanently in 1970.

Despite the teasing, I was eager to visit my parents and older brother who had relocated from Brisbane, Queensland to rural Green’s Beach, Tasmania.

It was 1982.

My parents had purchased a house in need of repair, with a separate chalet, on a large parcel of land. Never showing any interest in golf, I was surprised to discover that the back-garden gate, led onto the green. The closest my parents, came to the Member’s Bar was to regularly re-cycle buckets of balls that they dug out of their garden.

My friends however, were correct on some accounts.

Living in Sydney, I had adopted an eclectic style influenced by Debbie Harry from the American band, Blondie. I wore my hair pixie short and dyed it platinum blonde. I fitted seamlessly into the Sydney band and club scene.

However, in Launceston, plaid shirts, mullet haircuts and corduroy flared jeans were still in full swing. I had traded neon lights for the sound of screeching tyres.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the local parade of car enthusiasts, showcased their Torana, Fairlaine, Cortina or Kingswood by bog laps around the city blocks.

In the daylight hours, I could be assured of at least a couple of wolf whistles and cat calls, walking down the Launceston main street, despite having little skin exposed. I soon adopted a more laid back style and bought a pair of Tasmanian made, Blundstone boots.

My adventures around Tasmania, over the past 34 years, remain my fondest. I have been ‘in love’,  since my first breath of full bodied air.

Armed with a bulging backpack, I hitched many times across the ‘Apple Isle’.  Despite my parents’ concerns about hitchhiking, I thumbed my way from north to south, east to west, sometimes with others, but mainly on my own.

I have slept in many youth hostels, including one with a pet wombat, and played cards late into the morning with travellers from all over the world. In 1985, I returned to live in North Hobart for a year. I worked in a friend’s café, and made my debut, as a backup singer in a local band.

I have numerous stories that await another time to be told.

I have witnessed a lot of changes over the years. The shift from unlocked houses and cars, to security systems and the steady disappearance of the manufacturing industry. Tourism is Tasmania’s ‘bread and butter’ revenue.

The remote wilderness areas never fail to impress, as do the pristine beaches of Freycinet and the stunning Wineglass Bay. The tulip fields of Table Cape in full bloom are a rainbow of beauty.

The convict ruins of Sara Island, Port Arthur or Bruny Island remind us all of our humble national birth and the resilience of the Tasmanian people who have forged lives out of bush, so dense and inhabitable.

However, there are some casualties of time, the once iconic moonscape of Queenstown is now like a damp biscuit, forgotten and unappealing.

The avant-garde creative communities of Hobart, Burnie, Launceston and other Tasmanian rural townships have created strong networks where business innovation has flourished. There continue to be thousands of examples of great entrepreneurism, including the mobile coffee van with portable fold out tables and chairs, for tourists viewing Hell’s Kitchen at Eaglehawk Neck.

Salamanca Place markets, I believe are still the finest example of creative markets in Australia. I am not sure that in 2016, they are quite as eclectic as they were in the early 1990’s when bands played on the grassed area. In my younger body, I enjoyed freely dancing to the home grown indie rock.

In 2015, I discovered Tasmanian artist Dewayne Eversmith, when he was touring in Perth, West Australia.  In 2012, Dewayne, at that time an Aboriginal Health Worker, was the songwriter of the 250-million-dollar Australian tourism promotion. His inspiration was Strahan. He had not released any music at the time.

I have returned to Tasmania over 16 times, since 1982. It is my second home.

In the festive season of 2016, the lure of the Asian tourist dollar is reflected in dual signage written in English and Mandarin in most of the major attractions.

I deeply appreciate the importance of targeted tourism for the sustainability of small townships and the Tasmanian people in general. I wonder however, how much ‘cultural sensitivity’ is discussed to assist tourists before travelling around Australia.

Consideration works both ways. Perhaps our eagerness to sell our country has lowered the opinion of others of the worth that we value our land and our customs?

In the pristine wilderness of Strahan, I do not want to hear high pitched voices, loudly conversing, nor do I want to have my view interrupted with the taking of endless photos of the same scene with different members of the troupe.

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Here in Tasmania, if you are fortunate, you are still able to witness Australia’s fauna in situ.

Despite quietly stopping to view a wombat on the stretch between Cradle Mountain and Sheffield, I did not feel inclined to inform a car of international tourists who had stopped to seize upon a photo opportunity, the whereabouts of the live animal.

As an Australian and protective of our fauna and flora, I did not want this beautiful creature to be exposed to opportunistic tourists. There were no fences there, to protect these animals from our need to capture our experience of them.

Tasmania is to be embraced as a unique place of beauty and experienced through interaction, not viewed through the lens of a camera alone.

Perhaps we all need a 12 step program?

This weekend I reconnected with a friend whom I have know since 1982, if my memory serves me. We met in an bar.  Being an Australian, this will come as no surprise.  The bar was styled in a country ‘n’ western theme.  I remember vaguely it had ‘wagon or wheels’ in the title?

My friend and I, were the purveryors of alcohol at the Menzies Hotel in Sydney. Being early 1980’s, theme bars were unique and the Menzies had over 20 of them.

I distilled my barmaid duties mainly in the Porthole, a white collar businessman’s bar that traded until 12.00 pm and after that, in the Jungle Room until the wee hours. We poured a lot of Sydney Draught, in the pursuit of enabling social lubrication.

I had planned to visit my parents who had recently relocated to Tasmania and imbued with an adventurous spirit, she travelled with me. We hitched around the Apple Isle, listening to Bette Midler on a ‘walkman’.  We were kindred spirits, our sun in Libra, both born in Year of the Buffalo, in 1961.

I moved to Perth in 1984. We  wrote letters to each other for about 12 years after, before they became sparse and then replaced with infrequent random contact via Christmas cards or the ‘out of the blue’ telephone conversation. The tenuous link, like overstretched elastic.

Long since heeding the internal voice of reason, the grown up me, is bemused, like others, by the words used to describe the  state of alcohol intoxication.  Out of the 400 I located, I offer for you consideration, the states of being:

hammered, vulcanised, twatted, pissed, fossilized, amp-faced, parcel-forced, gashed, hosed, bullocksed, motherless, cucumbered, door-nobbed, mangled, embalmed, mortal, cemented, gooned, munted, pixilated, ring-pierced, bladdered, maggoted and laminated.

None of which, beats being farchnocheket ( Yiddish).

Addiction is however no laughing matter. Before you cast judgement and that ‘stone’,  thinking that the demons of drink, drugs or gambling are not your vices, check your ego or your over work compulsion or your Pokémon Go addiction. How balanced are you?

The 12 Step program was first published in the 1939 book, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio, in 1953 AA gave permission for Narcotics Anonymous to use its Steps and Traditions.

In summary, AA is a process of admitting lack of control, recognising a higher power that can give strength, examining past errors, making amends for these errors, learning to live a new life with a new code of behaviour and helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

I think perhaps I have been co-chair of my own Auxiliary of Fellowship and have collected a discrete collective of members over my life. We have provided the opportunity for each other to explore the murky waters of our socialisation, confront the ghosts that will not pass into the light,  examine our moral inventory, dissect our adult choices and/or our foolish and some cases, nefarious actions. We have reviewed our personal catalogue, admitted our wrongdoings, and attempted to make amends.

Many of us pray and mediate and actively engage in a conscious connection to a higher power, God or whatever is greater than the indulgent ego.  My tribe have a well developed sense of humour after all we have been living with our idiosyncratic self for years and the mirror of our intelligent equals in the friendships that we have made.

We are all imperfect, fractured human beings. And many of us are warriors and survivors. I can too can be self obsessed and small minded. Hold your hand in the air, if you too can relate.

Open but confidential sharing of our human failings, help others recognise and admit their own. A 12 step program is not just for those of us that are swirling in the whirlpool of addiction or those who have made it to the calmer edges of the bank. It is for all of us on the active journey of self actualisation, as without deep contemplation of our human existence, what have we achieved? A collection of things?

My tribe are scattered around Australia and around the world, but the thread is not broken. We are members of an Auxiliary of Fellowship. Perhaps that is the true definition of a ‘soul mate’.

Some of us, are members of Alcoholic Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous,  Narcotics Anonymous or we are the adult children whose lives have been deeply and permanently affected and are attempting to ‘heal’ through Al-Anon, Nar-Non or CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous, which addresses compulsions related to relationships.

Some of us have no formal involvement with AA but have sought the confidential counsel of the wise, our beloved friends. There is something deeply satisfying in having friends for many decades, not in the realisation of your aging, but that you are lovable. Love is after all the only true ‘drug’ that ails the spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In honour of Rachael

Why is it, that the simple truth is the most difficult to accept? Actor, William McInnes recently reflected upon the journey that we all must face, our mortality. He described the grace and courage that his wife, displayed during her stages of dying. He reflected that medals should be given for such displays of human excellence. These are, in general, reserved for acts of heroism in war and on the sports field. It is curious what virtues our society rewards and how unprepared for death we often are. We do not engage in such discourse, for fear of being labelled morbid, odd or negative.

It is far too easy to fall into a state of complacency as the roller-coaster of cancer treatment begins to slow. After the initial healing from surgical intervention occurs, and the heavy grey days of nausea, nerve pain, mouth ulcers and exhaustion during chemotherapy cycles fade and fatigue from weeks of radiation eases, a new phase of post treatment begins or so I am told. I am yet to complete my six weeks of daily radiation treatment, however I have gratefully experienced the lull between raging storms over the past 8 months.

I am not alone in wanting to return to the halcyon days of ‘pre-diagnosis’, before cancer became a word used regularly in my conversations. Often I awake stunned that I have had cancer. It still seems surreal, despite the evidence of trauma and pain. My face is now, one of the faces of cancer. There is no profound reason why I should not be. There are many others who have cried indignantly when diagnosed, living poster lives of healthy, fit people. Cancer is far more complex than the surface read.

I simply had not scripted a life threatening illness into my journey. Who does? Rachael didn’t either. At 41 with 2 children under 10, a husband and family that loved her and a career as a Federal Government public servant, Rachael was mostly content. No different than most of us. That was until she found a lump in her breast. Rachael had a little over two years to live, dying on the 22nd August 2012, taken too early at 43.

I had lost contact with Rachael, due to my relocation back to the West in late 2010. The last time I saw Rachael was at a luncheon in her honour. She was mid-cycle in her chemotherapy rounds, and wore a brave face generously, to make it less confronting for the rest of her work colleagues. A face that I now recognise as reflective of my own. I decided, post my diagnosis and majority of treatment to search Facebook for her. I found many others including a recognisable Australian actress, who borne her name, but not the Rachael that I had worked alongside. A simple Google search lead me to the Canberra Times obituaries.

Suddenly the possibility of my death became ‘real’ again and the bubble of ‘complacency’ burst. The illusion is that we all live with the presence of death in every second of life. Those of us who have had cancer are more acutely aware of what is at stake. We are encouraged by spiritual gurus, to live in the now, adopt a state of mindfulness and balance work and life. I’m still working on the first one and frankly I struggle with it, as I am ricocheted from memory to memory. Ironically, I have less problem with a fantasised future.

Rachael is the first woman that I have personally known to die from breast cancer. All the other women that I know that have had breast cancer, are thankfully still living. We can thank the Australian Government for the early intervention, screening and monitoring service that we can access, though free access for women under 40 and over 65 is still a barrier. Most of these women I know, have passed the 5 year mark, some with reoccurrences, though the majority are living the new ‘normal’. I am shattered that Rachael will never experience the milestones with her children that I have with my beloved sons, and that they in turn have lost her generous and gentle love.

It is for Rachael, as well as myself, that I have recommitted myself to the lifestyle changes that I must adopt to secure the best chance for my survival. Words like rare, aggressive, and difficult to treat, haunt me. I hang onto descriptors like clear margins, clean pathology and early diagnosis. It is not the wealthy Angelina Jolie, whose preemptive mastectomies performed by a top plastic surgeon who inspires me. When I waver, I think of Rachael. I have found the secret to happiness, it is being healthy and loved. Thankfully I am presently both.