Category: F is for friends

“Do not judge the bereaved mother. She comes in many forms. She is breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS but she IS NOT, all at once.

She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.”

~Author Unknown

 

Jumbled thoughts scramble to make coherent sense at 2am. No fewer than three subjects of blog posts emerging at the edges of my consciousness begin to form.

Five days on and my girl is still fighting off her middle ear infection and tonsillitis. I’m so spent after keeping vigil while she endures her fitful feverish sleep next to me and getting only grabs of twenty minutes’ shut-eye at a time myself all night, every night, that I go to talk now and it sounds like jibberish.

I think I’ll save talking for another day. But it is time to write.

This article has been on my mind since I read it yesterday. It’s all so familiar that to read it once more, to highlight and quote from, would feel like reliving it again. I don’t need to do that to myself, not today. Instead, I urge any of you reading this to bookmark it and go through it carefully. It’s as brilliantly written a piece on a mother’s grief as any I have ever read – or written (back in the day, I used to write and write and write on the subject myself and, ironically, still didn’t feel heard despite the acknowledgement of supportive comments).

I am staring down the barrel of my tenth year on this Earth without my baby daughter. She would be celebrating her double-figures birthday this coming January. I’d have a moody female on my hands by now! She would have endured untold numbers of heart operations too, even to this stage of her life. We were told she’d never be able to be active, there would have been restrictions on her that by now we would have surely adapted to.

Looking through that piece, and the many comments in response to it, so much is familiar. But I have to ask myself, this far on, who really cares? I hate to tell any of you who are newer to the experience… but you get to a point where you feel a little trapped. You’ve had no choice but to walk on by now. So if you are here, still breathing, moving through your daily existence, and the years pile on… well, surely, you’ve reached your maximum limit of goodwill from friends and family.

Those who have stuck in there with me have changed, as much as I have, in these intervening years. People who had no children or young families ten years ago all, without exception, have offspring now of various ages and stages. Back then, my daughter’s short life and death were sprung on them just as shockingly as it was on me. Some got out of the task of supporting me early on, others remained and carried me through in varying degrees (as best they could). Others were on the periphery, throwing me lifelines every so often up until just a few years ago. But as their lives have changed (as has mine) and their commitments have grown and widened, the contact has waned. Who knows what will befall those families? I pray I never have to support any of them in the same manner they had the call to action I inadvertently gave them in 2004.

The lengthening of my grief began quickly at the hands of someone I thought would be a stalwart supporter. And it shocked me as much as it did rile me, in my burgeoning Anger Stage of grief. See, I was abandoned less than two years after my daughter died by a close relative who had always been the first to call me if she needed my support, including being there through her two newborn phases even while I was grappling with infertility and miscarriage, putting her needs first. That embittered reaction to my own grief response remains in place today, hurts of the other party allegedly greater than that which I was going through (and still carry today). But so be it. For that person’s pain to be so insurmountably great and heavy a burden that I had to be abandoned, it’s little wonder she couldn’t stick around to “cope with me”.

At first it seemed insurmountably hard to also grieve this loss to my life, so soon after trying to find my new normal. But the saddest part about this estrangement to me is the removal of the opportunity to learn and grow together. It simply was not this person’s destiny to walk alongside me, I accept that now. But it has taken years to reach this point.

In the remaining eight years, I’ve had minimal and varied levels of support from my ever-changing circle. It’s no accident that I have now a completely new set of friends. Firm friends, meaningful connections, easy relationships that are not costly on my energy. I can only assume, as these are friends by choice, that the same goes for them towards me.

The thing that strikes me is that over the course of a decade, everyone changes. My family makeup has changed, through deaths, births, estrangements, divorce and marriage. Where some members of my family have stepped away, other relatives have stepped forward and it has been one of the best and timely surprises (suffice to say, I LOVE and adore cousins – one of the unsung and overlooked connections and, to me, possibly more important than the sibling connection which can be so fraught with pain, belittlement and competition). And yet, I’ve still managed to enshroud myself with guilt that I am the one who’s caused all the problems because of the metamorphosis I underwent, beginning ten years ago. I have become this new person since the days before, so much so that they had to stop relying on me for a time. Because I changed the game plan, see. The person I was died in 2004 along with Ellanor.

In many ways, to this day, and because I feel I can never reclaim the dignity and sense of self I lost along with her, nor can I repay the listening-ears (for effective or not, they were still doing their best to hear me, a walking, talking, seemingly bottomless well of expression), I cannot overcome the feeling that I abandoned them. That in me, they lost a peppy, witty sister who was not prone to bouts of crippling depression, who could always say and do the right thing, who would take the knocks and the jibes with good humour and laugh them off.

Because I changed, because I don’t put myself second any more (for survival at first and then out of newfound respect for my core, original self – the one who emerged from those ashes), because I have worked so hard to constantly monitor and be responsible for what I do and say which is much easier said than done… I find myself on the outer of my family. I have no old history with my relatively new friends.

But am I worse off? I ask myself, in my state of being so tired that I am unable to mask my historical wounds. And the answer is an emphatic and, finally, truthful:

No.

 

Please hang in there with those who are journeying with you as best they can. Let them be there. You don’t have to accept what they say, you don’t have to be pragmatic and say they’re being abysmally ineffective with their words or deeds. But these things will happen, despite how well you try to protect yourself from them. So in the end, it’s not so much what to say/what not to say to a bereaved parent that is going to matter to you. It will depend on whether you can forgive yourself – your vital, natural, original self – for your actions and responses towards those who have hurt you deeply on your walk.

 

I love a good wedding. So much better than a bad wedding. Although… they can make for some fantastic entertainment!

On the weekend, we had the utmost pleasure of officially welcoming a new aunty and sister in-law (and another cousin, her young daughter, for our LGBB) into our family. When it’s right, it’s right. And you can just feel it. Because… there is nothing to feel. You know what I mean? No angst or niggling concerns. Just… level-headed “this is it, this is special, this feels right” contentment. Bliss. And a gathering of friends from both sides that is just as comfortably matched. That’s not luck. That’s fate, that is.

 

"Aaaagh! She's a bride! She's a bootiful bride!"

 

During the course of the evening, I looked around and took in the scene. Happy people chatting everywhere. One of the guests was the 93-year-old grandmother of the bride. She was there without her husband. He died only a few short months ago. We had met him several times over the past few years and they were an amazing (and exceedingly lovely) couple. Cared for lovingly by her daughter and grandchildren at the reception, she was never without someone by her side. But oh. What a huge gap his passing must have left. One of the most touching scenes of the night will stay with me for a long time; the sight of aged mother clinging to her daughter – the mother of the bride’s – arm and crying into it, a hug of thanks for the beautiful words she had just spoken during her speech.

Of course, I was already in tears as the father of the groom (my father in-law) had just finished a heartfelt tribute to his son(s) and for the first time, a public acknowledgement of our girl, Ella. The mention of her name caused uncontrollable tears to spill of their own accord down my cheeks. It was so instantaneous that it rather surprised me. Damn that decision not to wear waterproof mascara… but I think I got away with it.

Weddings are like that, aren’t they? The elderly guests can’t not be a little wistful about them, remembering their own weddings decades ago. The absence of family members of the wedding party are also keenly felt, whether young or old, recently passed or gone for years. I know Steve and I both felt the shadow of our missing girl, who would be turning nine in two months. She would be on the cusp of becoming a young lady now, she would have commanded that dance floor along with her cousins and little sister.

 

A union of a couple who are willing and wanting to publicly formalise their commitment to each other, in the presence of friends and family, is so sacred. I am still clueless that, with all we have now at our fingertips and all the freedom to pursue whatever religion (or not) and lifestyle, any governing authority has the power to prevent the formalising of that love and commitment.

I just don’t get it.

I have a friend who has been with his partner for ten years now. These are friends who stood close behind me at Ellanor’s memorial, their familiar faces there as a show of support for us. I have never asked them but feel sure they have a similar desire for their loved ones and friends to bear witness to their commitment to each other. These guys have shown more resilience as a couple, mutual respect, contribution to society, and enriched the people around them with their enjoyment of sharing the life they have set up for themselves, than some hetero couples I have known or come across.

How is it that if you are a man and a woman, you can marry without so much as a couple of months together? Just because you are opposite genders? How many couples do you know who might have rushed into marriage for the sheer romance of it and have now found themselves in a pretty mess? I know what affects society more. And it’s not the gay couple willing to state publicly they love each other and will support one another to the end of their days.

 

Or, to illustrate it another way (and I realise this is the USA – duh – but for want of a visual to prove the ludicrous exclusion of same sex couples):

{ source }

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, or heard people admit they don’t know, what to say or how to be around someone who has lost a baby. The thought occurred to me overnight (after having this asked of me again just yesterday) that my reply could be applied to pretty much any situation. Obviously, you cannot fix something as final as death. You can’t take away a person’s angst over a fight they had with their mum. You can’t mend someone’s loved one who has terminal cancer. You can’t change family court-ordered situations for a friend. Despite often being impossible, it isn’t appropriate or even necessary to get involved to that degree. But you can be there after the fallout.

When it matters most, many of us don’t have the level or duration of support that’s really needed to help us get through.

How about we start by simply asking:

“How can I help?”

You know why people think that’s so tricky to ask? Or inconsequential in the face of such dramatic life-change? They’re trying to predict and preempt what the reply will be. SO, it follows that if you are going to offer that simple, short, four-word (and no more!) question to someone, you’ve got to be prepared to pull out the stops and step up and do whatever.

It may be you have to drive someone’s elderly parent to an appointment across town, or take that single parent’s child after school, you wash someone’s dog for them, or walk with them to visit the grave of their child. You may just find yourself sitting in their kitchen and saying diddly-squat while they pour you a cup of tea as they pour their heart out.

All too often, I heard, “If I can do anything, you just let me know.” Often, this was accompanied by a patronizing touch on the shoulder. I’m here to tell you, that won’t do. That will never do for someone who is independent, obviously hurting and/or grieving, but frozen in any direction – least of which the direction of saying they need help when previously, just yesterday, in fact, their situation was “normal” and they were fully functioning, self-made, capable adults who didn’t need help.

It is extremely difficult for some people to ask for help. Even harder, sometimes, is the realisation they even need any. Until you are in that situation yourself, you don’t know that most of the population apparently think it’s a given: “Just ask for help when you’re down in the pit and need a hand out. And if you can’t, then that’s your bad luck….”

But what if it’s not what you’ve ever done in your life because you never had to, or you stopped asking because you’re so used to being let down, or you’re scared of the lack of control… or whatever combination of many reasons it might be?

When that independent person suddenly gets thrust into a situation where they clearly could do with receiving help from others, do we really think that person is going to be in a state of mind to ask for the help they need? Often, no. They’re not. They keep going, keep surviving until “whatever” comes next.

But oh boy, what a big difference we could make to each other if instead of that open-ended “You need me, you come and ask”, we turn up and say with grace and humility:

“Tell me how I can help.”

Sometimes practical help isn’t something that will change anything about a person’s situation. What if what they are seeking can only be found within themselves? Could a simple question posed at the appropriate time get their mind thinking in a direction that helps to free up the barbs around their thinking? So that they find the answers themselves eventually?

“What would you change if you could?”

Simple little questions. No agendas. No trying to guess the answer or the outcome for yourself. Leaving it all up to them, with your passive and, therefore, powerful support backing them up.

Even if your offer is turned down, you’ve changed something in that person. They might have just needed that spark of initiation – “Ah! Not all human beings are out to get me/bad/unfeeling….” – and you may never know what you’ve started in motion. Remember… you can do this for another! Check your ego at the door first, extend the hand of help, ask the questions.

You probably won’t get the accolades to match what you’ve done for the other person. BUT… this is true service.

 

And now, I shall leave you with my favourite song from the man who should have been Mr Kirrily.


When in doubt, make like James Taylor - “If it feels nice, don’t think twice”…!

Oh how I love James Taylor so much. He is absolute perfection. Listen to that cream-and-honey voice! Look at that gorgeous face. He’s soooooo handsome, so sensitive. I’d marry him tomorrow if he’d have me. Oh…. and if I weren’t already married to my own tone deaf James Taylor (hi, Lenny!).

Turn it up loud. Harmonize in the chorus! Try not to think about what I think he means when he says “What I’d like to do to you” because I’m sure he means something different to what I imagine… Ah {swoon} Sweet Baby James.

Shower The People

You can play the game and you can act out the part
Though you know it wasn’t written for you
But tell me, how can you stand there with your broken heart
Ashamed of playing the fool
One thing can lead to another; it doesn’t take any sacrifice
Oh, father and mother, sister and brother
if it feels nice, don’t think twice (just)

(Chorus)

You can run but you cannot hide
This is widely known
And what you plan to do with your foolish pride
When you’re all by yourself alone
Once you tell somebody the way that you feel
You can feel it beginning to ease
I think it’s true what they say about the squeaky wheel
Always getting the grease.

Better to…

Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel…

 

This post is long. It’s over 1,000 words. Correct post-length purists, ban me from your feeds if you must. I tried to cull sections. I just couldn’t. That’s my expressive bad and I’ll own it.

 

Last night, Steve brought me home a new computer. According to him, I got it because, apparently, I am (and I’m quoting here) “lovely”. Also, it’s “faster, prettier, can run modern software”…. I’m assuming he was talking about the computer in that last bit of his quote, and not me. I’m not very fast at all.

Boom-tish.

For the tech-details-hungry amongst you, it’s a 15″ MacBook Pro 2.5ghz i7, with 8GB ram, a 750GB Hard Drive and the optional high-resolution anti-glare screen, with added 256GB SSD driver. Because my husband works at Geek Heaven, it is even running  the new (and as yet unreleased) OS, Mountain Lion. The system boots from cold in under ten seconds. That’s less time than I take to think about what I want to do first. And apps launch in 1 second. That’s just…

{ image }

But here’s the thing: This is a top of the line machine…. as of one month ago, anyway. It’s only three weeks old. And it has just been superceded by the latest release this week. It was traded in yesterday by its owner. He didn’t want it any more. He wants the new, NEW Apple MacBook Pro with the retina display new-fandangle thingy (sorry, I’m all tech-talked out, look it up if you want to get educated on it).

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

There is so much cancer around at the moment. And I’m not talking about the zodiac sign. Diagnoses, scares, waits, treatments… Parents, friends, sisters, cousins, neighbours. The Big C, man. It’s all over all of us.

I got a call out of the blue this week from my oldest friend. Her mother, one of my dearest elders from my childhood, is currently enduring a huge battle. A double mastectomy already completed, treatment for an aggressive breast cancer now begins. I’m bereft for my dear friend and her mother. My surrogate mother, in many respects. Here she is, facing this on her own; her partner died suddenly when I was heavily pregnant with the LGBB. I went to his funeral, this larger than life, funny,  retired primary school teacher whom I had adored. Hugging the belly he had only weeks before had a jolly, pleased laugh with me over, I sat on the floor at the back of the room, holding myself together and listening to his daughters stand up, in turn, and express their shocked grief at his sudden death.

We’re here one day. And sometimes, the next day we’re just… not.

Sometimes we’re granted seeing the end coming. Not all of it’s pretty. But when we’re forced into that eye-of-a-needle focus, when it’s someone so close to us and we have to see how tenuous our grip on life really is…. don’t we have to wonder?

What are we doing?

Really?

Why are we locked in a cold war fight with our loved one who wronged us so long ago we can hardly remember why we refuse to talk to them now?

Why are we getting angry at drivers in front of us?

Why are we busy meddling and assuming all sorts of incorrect things about anyone?

Why, please somebody tell me, are we teaching our children to “be the bigger person” instead of just being??

Why aren’t we teaching them to notice how they feel in their tummy and be guided by that? Tip: That purity, in them, is a better judge than any adult-affected instruction.

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

We snapped the new computer up for a steal – thank YOU, Apple Gods, for allowing Steve to work in his fantasy job, knee deep in Apple products – at over $1,000 below usual retail. Given that I have worn through my second keyboard in as many years – I am a prolific shortcut-keyer – and my battery has piked, it seemed a no-brainer that we should snap it up before it hit general release for sale to customers. Call it a perk of the job.

My second replacement keyboard. I promise I'm kind to my keys. I love them… but possibly a little TOO much.

 

The guy was so desperate to get his hands on the newest MacBook Pro, he thought it was a better deal to cut this one loose and lose a bit of cash for the benefit of a computer that will, arguably, be superceded again in another couple of years’ time.

I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

That the world is filled to the brim with so much Want that not even all the Have that we already have is enough.

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

This week, in a rare attempt to connect with a part of my childhood that made my tummy happy, I sought out a recipe my mother used to make. At her very best, she used to prepare this (below), bundle us all into the car early on a weekend morning and drive us into the hills, all rugged up and ready to just…. Be. Go outside and be. Sometimes, my older siblings would declare death to the other – and fight it out there and then – so the yelling and the hostility and all that emotional violence couldn’t be avoided. Not even outdoors, out of the confining walls of our unhappy house.

But man. These pancakes. Cooked to perfection over a camp fire on Mum’s iron griddle. They were The Awesome. Nothing better to an 8 year-old than unbreakable pancakes that can be drizzled with lemon and dusted with sugar and rolled into fat, edible cigars.

Be my guest. Try my childhood favourite.

 

Rubber Pancakes

1.5 cups plain flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup applesauce (or 1Tbsp oil, I use rice bran)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 large egg

Mix it all together. Batter will be pretty thin, place 1/2 cup batter at a time into hot non-stick or lightly greased pan and cook on both sides (flip to second side once bubbles appear all over surface of pancake). Pancake will have a thick crepe texture. Serve with lemon juice and/or little sprinkle of sugar, roll up and devour. Repeat. Over and over.

My husband, Steve, is a tall man. He has a tiny car.  Let me illustrate:

Image Source:  The Simpsons (of course) and here

No, I mean… He’s reeeeally tall. And it’s really small. Let me be clear about this:

Source

Okay, so now you know all you need to know, I think, to picture the look on my face when I realised that our pending two-week driving trip to Sydney would have to be undertaken in Steve’s car. Not my luxurious, roomy LEMON of a car but his two door trolley sized vehicle.

See, here’s the thing (and why my ranty blog post was ruined by kindness):  This week we have been handed a quote from the mechanic for $2,500 worth of repairs to my little French delicacy. We have spent at least that much in less than six months on the blasted thing for incidental “we’ve never seen that happen” repairs. As one good friend put it, “Ahhh, Kirril, French cars are like French women; they look good, they’re petite, appear fun and relaxed… like a secret affair. Then when they know they’ve got you, they start draining your wallet.” He is not far wrong. Not far wrong at all.

There is just absolutely no way that we can a) go to sunny Sydney and back without the fan (note: not the air conditioner, this $2,500 is simply to get the not-working FAN fixed!) or b) spend that sort of money right before we go away. 
Our driving trip has been described to the LGBB lately as “our adventure in Daddy’s car.” We’ve had no choice but to use the fallback run-around. The phrase “We’ll just have to pack light” is putting it mildly. We both know it. Without saying it, we’ve been dreading it. But thinking positively. Hey! It’ll be memorable. Let’s see if we can do it and survive each other. So the plan to take Steve’s car has been moving forward.
The plans have been coming together fairly well:
…with MUCH less animation (source: here) and no festive balloons

If you ask me what I picture in my mind when I think of having to “pack light” for two adults and a five year-old in a folding seat two door hatch with a boot space the size of a glove box, it sorta looks like this:

Except these people have it lucky, they have rear doors. Bastards.  Source

Imagine my utter – sputtering, gobsmacked – humble delight, then, when on my way up to Peace Space for a preparatory refresher day of a course I did back in 2009 (I’m taking on some new energetic healing work, it’s another post for another time… but I’m excited!) I was sent a message from the mum of one of the LGBB’s closest kindy friends.
Turns out, she was telling her husband last night about our car trouble. He suggested, “Why don’t I take Steve’s car and they can borrow mine? I only use it to run to the station anyway.”
Despite the absolutely shitty drizzle that had settled in for the long haul over Melbourne today, the clouds parted and a ray of sunshine beamed with an angelic “Ahhhhhhh”. Okay, maybe not that last bit. But I swear, you could have shoved me with a feather.
To say Steve and I are humbled and grateful for this massive offer is putting it mildly. We did the “Are you SURE” dance back and forth a couple of times. But finally, to avoid any offense being inadvertently taken, we graciously accepted this awesome hand-out.
I’m still speechless by it. The generosity of some people still delights and renews me.
So, I guess… Sydney and surrounds, here we come! In a Honda 4wd! And not a matchbox! Whaaat?! This is nuts. Am I dreaming? *still pinching myself*

Source



Are you a giver?
What have you been given that knocked you for a humbled six?
Note to self: NEVER Google “packed tight”, “tight squeeze” or “tight man in car” EVER again.


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