The Power of a Good Teacher

I have been thinking about the power of good teachers.  The kind that you remember for the rest of your lives and, whose words still have an influence on your life now.  One of my all-time favourite movies that portrays such an influence is Dead Poets Society.  Robin Williams brilliantly plays a character called John Keating, an English teacher who’s unusual but passionate way of teaching and relating to his students are at total odds with the strict and staid ways of an all-boys school in the 1950’s. He encourages his students to “make your lives extraordinary,” and to “seize the day.”  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.   Much like a good teacher, it’s a movie that stays with you forever.

My experience with teachers was mostly positive.  I had excellent teachers both in Primary School and High School with only a couple of notable exceptions who wielded their power in a mean way.

There was the elderly spinster who taught the early primary years.   She was infamous for patrolling the school yard in her scary hair net, tennis table bat in hand.  As a seven-year-old girl, I can remember quite clearly sitting on a bench in the lunch shed with my feet up, saving a seat for my younger cousin Kellie.  She came into the shed and before I knew it had whacked me across the back of the legs as she told me off for having my feet up on said bench.  I don’t think there was a primary school student who escaped the wrath of her bat.  Can you imagine if that happened now?

Then when I was in Year 6, a teacher humiliated me in front of two full classrooms.  I was wearing new blue trousers with a matching blue t-shirt and then a checked shirt over the top left open and loose.  I wore the shirt like that because my waist was so tiny that Mum had to sew giant pin tucks into the waistband of the pants so that they would stay up.  The shirt worn over the top covered them up entirely.  As this teacher walked along the corridor of the open space unit, I was in the second to last classroom, and I was walking back to my seat.  In his big booming voice, he shouted: “Lory, tuck that shirt in.”  I was mortified.  To this day I can still feel how embarrassed I was.  Being incredibly vain and not shy about voicing my opinion even then I replied a very confident “No.”  He was less than impressed.  He yelled his request again, I stood my ground as there was no way I was going to ruin the illusion of my fabulous outfit, and I was dragged to the principal’s office, crying by this stage as all eyes were on me.  I don’t remember the ins and outs of the conversation that ensued in that office. Suffice to say when my Mum came to pick me up at the end of that day and saw how upset I still was she flew back into that office.  A  heated conversation took place that saw Mum return to me in the car with a very red face and a “there will be no further problem with what you wear Lory EVER again!”  Go, Mum.

My Year 6 teacher at the time was a cool looking, smartly dressed long haired young man.  He was furious with that incident and did not hide his displeasure for me being reduced to tears.  As he handed out books for the next lesson once I had returned to class, he got to me, and he leant over and said in the kindest of voices, “Good for you standing your ground.”

I had him for Year 7 too, and he was absolutely the first teacher who had a real positive influence on me for all the right reasons. He once wrote in one of my report cards; “Lory has strong opinions and is not afraid to share them, and I encourage this whole heartedly.”  I feel that was pretty progressive for 1976. I actually continued to visit him in his classroom until I was 18 years old and would talk to him about any problems I had, job prospects and just life in general.  He had a similar rapport with many other students too, but I also had a few friends who did not gel with him at all.  It’s interesting how the same teacher can have such a different influence on a classroom of students.

I started high school nervously like everyone else.  I went from the comfort and familiarity of a small primary school to a high school that was so massive it was spread over two campuses, separated by a large oval.  It was imposing. I was lucky though, all my friends were at the same school, and before long it was the new normal.

The classic underachiever I coasted through the first few years.  I was a good student, didn’t get into trouble and got on well with all my teachers.  My Year 8 Art teacher was memorable in that he gave me straight A’s on the proviso that I introduced him to my older sister at the end of the year.   The thing about that was I couldn’t and can’t draw to save my life, and I don’t have a sister.  Lol.

But my “John Keating” came along in Year 9 and taught me for the next two years.  He was my English teacher, and his name was Dennis Carlsson. He was quietly spoken but held a captive audience.  He was passionate about teaching all of us.  He was encouraging and pushed for you to be better in the most nurturing of ways.  The lessons he taught he would relate back to real life.  He believed in me and made me feel I was capable of anything.  Every word he said I felt he was talking just to me – I hung off every single thing he said.  As a bit of a rebellious teenager, his lessons gave me direction.  I looked forward to them, and I looked forward to talking to him.  I would wait with bated breath as he marked my essays as his opinion was so important to me.  His validation and encouragement were everything.  The comments he would write in the margins of my books I would re-read and analyse over and over.  They were always positive as if he knew that even when I got things wrong, he had to handle me sensitively.

It was to him that I confided my love of writing.  We talked about journalism as a career option, but he said he did not want me to lose the art of honest storytelling.  He told me that when he set the essay task where he provided the initial first line and then we had to write a story from there, that he would really look forward to reading what I came up with as it was always personal and raw. In my report card, he wrote that my writing possessed a “maturity beyond her years.”  I was thrilled.

Fast forward to the following year and even though my love of English as a subject hadn’t changed and my joy at still having Mr Carlsson as my teacher was evident, my commitment and effort took a “teenage” nose dive.  He was on to me like a shot.  Made me wait back after class one day and gave me a firm but friendly talking to about not being an underachiever and how disappointed FOR me he would be if I didn’t continue to strive hard.  He did not want me to waste my “potential.”  A lot more was said, and I was in tears at the end of it, but that conversation will stay with me forever.  His use of disappointed FOR me not IN me……………..brilliant use of words.   I felt terrible, thinking I had let him down.  I continued to be a too talkative student (yep, that sounds just like my Matthew) in my other classes but for Mr Carlsson, I gave my very best.  He believed in me, and everyone needs that from someone other than family.

So as much as I loved English that was how much I hated Math.  Again I had really great teachers but just struggled to “get it.”  My Year 10 teacher was a gruff, sarcastic man who I actually really liked.  He would go through a problem on the blackboard and then say to the class in general “Now are we all understanding? Can we move on?”  Without waiting for a response, he would then good naturedly turn to me and in a sarcastic voice would say “What about you Millie?” (A name I got called a bit as my surname was Milligan.)  I would roll my eyes in feigned annoyance if I knew it but more often than not I had yet another question to ask and he, in turn, would roll his eyes but never seemed to mind in going over the problem again.  It was fun, good natured banter.

However, it is he who I think could have used his power wisely and steered me in an academic direction I didn’t take, but with his encouragement, I just may have.

We were at the end of Year 10 and starting to plan our Year 11 subject choices.  Being lazy I was looking at doing the Year 11 Business Course.  I loved typing, found it easy, loved English, and it had the added bonus of dropping Math and Science.  YAY!!!  I wouldn’t have to try quite so hard. One day after a Math lesson this teacher asked me what my plans were for the following year.  I said that I was thinking of doing the Business Course.  His response was belittling although, given the friendly banter we shared I don’t believe he expected me to take his opinion so offensively.  Anyway, he laughed at me.  He said that trained monkeys can type.  Do you want to be a trained monkey? You are not the dumbest in my class……………I don’t think.  I was embarrassed and furious all at once and being the stubborn teenager I was it was like a red rag to a bull.  *#@* you!  So where a few minutes before that conversation I was “thinking” about the Business Course, a few moments after I was doing it no matter what.

Sadly I think if he had had an honest, adult conversation with me and gave me some kind of encouragement that I would have coped with Year 11 Math, as that was a real concern for me, I would have listened to him.  As an adult, I really regret taking the easier path and often wonder how different things would have been had I went on to study further.  Again, the power of a teacher.

As I type this, I am looking at an old school photo of myself.  A young happy girl with messy hair, freckles and eyes full of optimism.  I had a fantastic, loving family and lots of great friends.  But every kid needs that adult in their life that believes in them when they don’t have to.  Who chooses to nurture and guide.  Finds a way to engage them.  Invests in their future.

We all need a teacher like “John Keating.”  I had mine, and I will forever be grateful to him.  He added the spark required to ignite the fire simmering within me.  Who knows, if not for him I may never have started this blog.

Who was your “John Keating?”

Time To Be Happy Again

Seize the day.  Live in the moment. Things will only get better.  It could be worse. You are strong, you can handle it.

I bet everyone has been on the receiving end of at least one of these statements.  Each one I have heard on more than one occasion over the last three years.    Well intended I am sure they were.  Well received, perhaps not all the time.  Only now, as I start to feel physically better, can I look at these words and feel that I can now apply their positivity to myself.

I feel, and hope, that my health issues are almost behind me once and for all.  The past seven days I have felt so much better.  I have energy, motivation and an extra spring in my step.  I am singing out loud again (awful for some I am sure.)  I am feeling like I am emerging from a deep, black hole and that the smile on my face is now real.  I have been faking being happy, ok, interested, for a long time.  I am really good at it too.  But it has been exhausting.

For those of you who don’t know the past three years have been challenging to say the least.  Having said that nothing that I have had to deal with is unique to me.  There are plenty of people who have suffered way more than I and, unlike myself, continue to suffer with no end in sight.  I’m just sharing my story.

Working through my health issues my GP asked me 3 months ago to go back to the beginning, to write down, in list form, all the events that had caused me stress or upset.  I was at an all-time low.  I had finished my injections in February and expected, unrealistically I now know, to return to good health pretty quickly.  I was so tired and miserable and when my side effects continued I hit a brick wall.  My mental health was being tested to its limits.

My list was:

  • Dad diagnosed with blood cancer November 2013.
  • My breast cancer diagnosis August 2014.
  • A dear cousin died September 2014.
  • Very ill October – December 2014 as a result of hormone treatment for breast cancer.
  • Start alternative hormone treatment in the form of monthly injections for a period of two years in February 2015 which resulted in severe nausea (amongst other things) every single day.
  • My Dad died unexpectedly June 2015 four days before my 50th birthday.
  • A close friend died unexpectedly July 2015.
  • Left my long term job February 2016.
  • Got a new job April 2016, left that job July 2016, took Dad’s ashes back to Isle of Wight, England August 2016 and then started another new job on my return.
  • Mum had a fall and ended up in hospital October – November 2016 and already had required a lot of support from my brother and I since Dad died.
  • A dear friend became critically ill October 2016 and was in RAH for 4 months.
  • Izzy, our beautiful dog died April 2017.

All the while, from October 2014 up until July 2017 I was still struggling with severe all day nausea and bone pain.

My GP knew my history or thought they did, but seeing it written down like that was a bit of an “aha” moment.  Cleary,  a lot had happened in a very short space of time.  They asked me what from that list was affecting me most.  I just burst into tears.  “Everything on this list still affects me.  How can I separate any of those things?  I think about them all.  I lay awake at night thinking why?”

Why indeed did any of those things have to happen and hurt so many people?  I am a peripheral person on two of these tragedies but I care deeply for those I love and looking at that list, well it was just too awful.  Too much.

We talked about the analogy of waves which I found relatable and appropriate.  In a nutshell, I had been swimming in very calm waters for most of my life when suddenly I was caught in a rip and dragged far out to sea.  As I desperately tried to swim to shore a huge wave came and dragged me under.  As I tried to surface another wave came and I was fighting for air, not having caught my breath from the previous wave.  OMG!  That was exactly how I felt.  I could see that I had been only half dealing with things because too much happened at once.   And all these things were life changing, significant and terrible.

As I have said before having feelings validated is just so important and I left that appointment exhausted but feeling better about myself and my coping mechanisms which I now realised were under enormous duress.

So how did I cope these last few months?   Well, I hibernated.  I am a happy homebody anyway but feeling flat and having episodes of vomiting that came on with little or no warning well I felt happiest and safest at home with my 3 men.  I managed to work, see Mum and enjoy the odd lunch but pretty much I did not much at all!  And as I withdrew I was able to unravel my thoughts.  And then those thoughts stopped keeping me awake at night.  I went back to writing a to-do list something I have always done but had stopped doing for some reason.  Unfortunately, I am still unable to read a book, and I am an avid reader, but I have been listening to my Buddha music, lighting my candles and truly relaxing.  Hopefully my ability to concentrate and read my much-loved biographies, I have a few waiting for me, will return very soon.  Writing this blog has been fabulously cathartic too.

This past week has seen an amazing turn around for me.  To wake up without nausea………………I cannot begin to tell you what that feels like.  The first few days I was cautiously optimistic but guarded, waiting for that familiar wave of seediness to hit.  But it didn’t and it hasn’t.  I have been more productive and have more energy.   I used to sit down after having a shower. I used to sit down after drying my hair.   I used to sit down after hanging out the washing.  I used to sit down a lot because I was spent doing the simplest of tasks.

In the last 24 hours, everything tastes better.   Food has not been pleasurable for me for a while – just a bland means to an end to having something in my stomach.  I do hope though that this will not become a problem having just bought nice new clothes lol.  I am thinking about food quite a bit.

Physical health and mental health go hand in hand and I feel much happier.  For the most part, I have felt that everyone has been living fabulous, fun-filled lives and I have been stuck trying to get through each day, life passing me by so to speak. But I think I am back.  My new friends at work have not known me well.  This could be eye opening for them lol.

I still have a shoulder that is on its way to being frozen if I don’t get it sorted so that is now a priority.  My repeat mammogram and blood tests are due mid-August.  There is always a certain amount of apprehension with that coming up but I am feeling a little less anxious about that too.  On the whole, I am looking forward with renewed positivity.

If you know or are supporting someone who has been diagnosed with cancer it’s really important to try and understand that the immediate surgery, chemotherapy (I was very lucky not to need and endure that), and radiotherapy are only a part of that person’s fight.  Ongoing cancer treatments, in my case hormonal treatments as my cancer, was oestrogen positive, come with so many debilitating, long-lasting side effects that many people are left unsupported because people just don’t realise that the battle continues. Many specialists (not mine) are only interested in doing whatever it takes to reduce the odds of the cancer coming back – regardless of the toll that may take on other parts of your body, not to mention one’s mental health.

To that end I have already decided that should I be unlucky enough to have my cancer return I will NEVER go on hormone treatment again.  It is just too debilitating for a “no guarantee” outcome.  I feel I have not participated enough in my boy’s lives these past 3 years, even though they were my top priority.  I do not want to be the sick Mum anymore or ever again.  For three years every birthday card, Xmas card and Mother’s Day card from Matthew has made reference to my health, “Hope you get better soon Mum” or, “Wish this nightmare was over.”  No more.

I have said before to always be kind as you do not know what people are really going through behind their smiles. I have experienced a lot of kindness, understanding and support from so many of you and I have appreciated it all. Many of you have not believed my smile and have made allowances accordingly.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Some days I used to think that the “old” Lory was gone forever.  But I think she might just be on her way back.  Going where who knows but here’s to happy days ahead.

 

 

Always and Forever

It will be two years on June 28th, 2017 since my Dad died.

My every thought is consumed with memories of him.  Not just his last few days either, although they certainly play over and over in my mind.  I am just finding that when my mind wanders it is to thoughts of him.  I haven’t found inspiration to write this past week and I think my heart and brain is too cluttered with “Dad.”  So I thought I would share with you all the eulogy I wrote for his service on July 3rd, 2015 – the day after my 50th birthday.

It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do but, to get up and talk about my Dad, filled me with enormous pride.  It was the last thing I could do for him. My final tribute.  He would have known that I would be the one to speak and that gave me the extra strength I needed that day.  And, together with the support of Jesse and Matthew who each stood behind me and at times placed a hand on my shoulder or back when words caught in my throat, my Dad was with me all the way.

I feel he is close by this past week, but he is never far away.

In my heart, he will always stay.

For my Dad xxx 

The last speech I did for my Dad was for his 70th – just over five years ago.  I looked back over that speech the other night and my opening paragraph was how young and fit he was.  It is still so completely unbelievable that that is no longer the case and that he is not even here with us anymore.  It is not how it should be.  Someone got it wrong.  Exactly this time last week he was still cracking jokes with us.  We were all laughing with him together.  We had no idea what horror was going to take place and the speed with which it would come.

Dad was a proud Isle of Wight man who only left the Island and his beloved family to come to Australia for a life of adventure and a better life for his future family.  He said he never regretted that decision but as the years went by he certainly missed the copse and downs he roamed as a boy and his own family. Certainly, most of our chats in hospital rooms or chemo sessions ended up with Dad reminiscing about his childhood or talking about his siblings, his adored sister Josie, the lovely Gwen and his big brothers Bill and Mugs.  We only wish today we had more pictures of Dad with his brothers and sisters but they have all been apart for so long we couldn’t find one remotely recent that had them all in together.

He made Australia his home and what a wonderful home he created with Mum for Mike and I.  We were very fortunate to grow up in a happy, loving and fun household.  We had parents that not only loved each other but were in love.  Music was always playing and Dad would sing and play his guitar a lot.  He actually had a really good voice and would tell us that often.

Dad was a very clever, intelligent man.  He could hold a conversation on any topic and make it interesting.  He was handsome, quick witted and funny.  He was a self-taught handyman who could turn his hand to anything or give anything a go.  I do however remember dodgy tiling, it was often less than straight and a very wonky handmade linen press but he did it all himself.

Dad always had time for us. He took us on lots of camping holidays, Stawell Victoria most often our base.  Off the four of us would go in the infamous red Mini Clubman.  Mike and I separated by pillows in the back so “his feet wouldn’t touch mine.”  With both of us asking Dad, “Are we there yet?” after only 5 minutes.  The getting there with us in the back drove him nuts he said.  Every night after work he would kick the footy with Mike in our very big back yard.  Every night.  He would come and watch Mike’s footy games and my netball games.  I always felt I played better when he was there – I always wanted to make him proud and cared what he thought.

Mike’s best memories of Dad are those nights playing footy or cricket and play fighting.  Mike actually broke one of Dad’s fingers playing karate which made Dad run around the house yelling.  Mike also hit back a cricket ball that struck him hard on the leg and resulted in bruising so bad he had to go to the doctor.  On another occasion, Dad and Mike were motorbike riding.  Dad decided to be a smart arse and zoomed up, and swung the bike around to flick mud over everyone.  Unfortunately, he fell off and ruptured the ligaments in his knee.  Off to the doctors, he went again where the doctor politely suggested: “Don perhaps you should give up the extreme sports with Mike?”

With that advice, Dad and Mike took up kite flying.  They bought a massive orange puffer kite – it was 5ft tall.  They were flying it in the back garden which was not far from Commercial Road, a very busy road when all of a sudden the kite dipped over the power lines and they heard the screeching of brakes.  They waited for the sound of cars crashing but fortunately, the kite rose up again so they quickly wound it in and Dad said to Mike, “Don’t tell your mother!!”  They ran inside and said nothing.  Mum said she thought they were very quiet that day.  Hmm yes they were.

Another great experience they shared together in later years was going to the War Memorial in Canberra.  Mike took Dad Business Class which he loved and they enjoyed a fabulous day.  It was something on Dad’s bucket list he was thrilled to tick off.  In latter years they played golf together and only a month ago they went to lunch at Hogs Breath – for some reason that was a place Dad always wanted to have lunch.  Another tick off his list and now the last day out they shared together just the two of them.

Mike said he used to think it was ridiculous the “junk” Dad held onto. Dad was a collector of all sorts of nuts, washers, brackets and bolts.  Jars and jars of them he had in his shed. However when Mike bought his own home Dad always had the exact bracket or bolt Mike was looking for.  Not so silly after all.

Dads great love of the guitar, he was completely self-taught, led him to teach Mike.  One song only though and that was the song playing when you all walked in today aptly titled “Walk right in.”  Well, unfortunately, Mike never progressed with learning any other songs.  He really liked this one and he played it.  Over and over and over again.  Sadly though, for all of us, Mike was quite hopeless and Dad was not shy in telling him so.  This is why the guitar is over there with Dad.  It’s in good hands there.

As a little girl, one of my favourite memories is standing on Dad’s feet and dancing with him.  Snuggling up close to him on the couch and just always thinking he was so handsome.  I just always adored him.

Dad and I were similar in many ways.  Same bright blue eyes, both very impatient, we never read an instruction book, (which would always result in Mike having to sort it out – “leave it to Mike” Dad would say.)  We share a healthy dose of road rage, a taste for nougat and very grey hair.  We loved our horror movies.  Mum said that as a six-month-old baby she would give me to Dad for my 11pm bottle and go to bed.  She said Dad would prop me up in his arms and we would watch “Deadly Ernest” together.  So that is how far back that shared interest started.  Some of my best days with Dad were when we would go on father-daughter “dates.”  We would see the most horrific movies and then afterwards debrief over a pizza and beer.  Best of all we would laugh.  A lot.

However, there were times when I found him less than funny.  He would laugh very hard when we hurt ourselves and once after I had received a very nasty electric shock and developed a bit of a phobia of anything electrical, he pretended to be electrocuted while plugging in a toaster.  I was furious because I really thought he was going to die and we were only laughing about that the other day.

Dad’s humour with electricity was not isolated to me though.  Many years ago Dad’s lawnmower was playing up.  He was checking the spark plugs and told Mum to put her finger on one, to see if that was the problem.  Innocently Mum did and she got a very nasty zap.  Well, she ran into the house screaming and did not speak to him for days.  Dad thought that was hilarious too.

One of the funniest days with Dad and there have been many, was only last month on one of his chemo days.  I had picked him up and we drove to Flinders Medical Centre.  The parking, as most people who live in Adelaide would know, at Flinders is just horrendous.  So because we thought we would be having months of appointments and to just reduce the amount Dad had to walk with his terrible breathlessness, we applied for a disabled parking permit.  We hadn’t received it at the time but I had the paperwork from Dad’s GP in my glove box.  So I said to Dad that we were going to go “rogue” and I parked in a disabled car park and scribbled in red pen on the paperwork, “Authorised awaiting sticker” and shoved that on the dash.  Dad loved it. So I said look I know you are unwell but really shuffle along when you get out and wait for me to open your door just in case we are being watched.  He very sarcastically asked if I would like him to trip himself over, fall and get some blood on his face, “You know make myself look really bad.”  I assured him that would not be necessary, walking slow and hunched over would suffice.  We laughed all the way into the chemo suite.

We sat down and as I said Dad was incredibly impatient – he would tut and huff after waiting only 5 minutes.  Well, this day we were called in straight away.  Fantastic he said and we went and he sat in the big recliner chairs they have for the patients.  I had mistakenly pressed the wrong buttons on these chairs for Dad on a previous visit.  He had wanted to put his feet up and I pressed the back button and flung him back rather fast.  He insisted I had given him whiplash, “As if I don’t have enough problem, Lory.”  Even the day before he died he was still wiggling his finger at me smiling and telling everyone how nervous he was when I was in control of moving his bed up and down.

Anyway, he was so excited about getting in quick to have his treatment but he had been terribly unwell the previous two days and I had a long list from Mum of things to tell the nurses.  So our lovely nurse comes over, “Hello Don how are you?”  “Not bad,” he says.  I said “SORRY? Not bad?”  He shot me a look and said, “Well yes not the best over the weekend.” I then stood up and reeled off all that was wrong with him.  The nurse raised her eyebrows and said to Dad that we can’t give you your chemo until we look at your recent blood test.  Dad had one every week.  Well, unfortunately, that days result hadn’t come through so she said I will make you a cappuccino but you need to wait awhile and we will decide what to do.  Ok, he says smiling at her as she walked away and then he shot me another look and said, “We could have been out of here if you had kept your mouth shut.”  I said bad luck got to get it sorted and so we waited. For 4 hours.  We chatted away and had a few laughs.  And I loved the uninterrupted time we had together.  The time spent together albeit for awful reasons was not without its blessings.

So while we are waiting a girl walks into the middle of the chemo suite (there are about 12 patients having chemo at one time) and she is pushing a trolley on top of which are copper upturned bowls.  Dad raises his eyebrows at me and I shrug my shoulders – I don’t know what she is doing.  She looked a little alternative – Dad later described in detail to Mum her “weird” clothing.  Green trousers, purple top with bells on the sleeves and messy hair.  I noticed none of that.  Well, she sets up behind me and the bowls are in fact some kind of Buddha/Zen-like chimes which she starts to play with some kind of stick.  Dad, who was speaking quite loudly because he didn’t have his hearing aids in says, “How bloody ridiculous.  Is that going to cure me of cancer is it?”  You could not get any more unbuddha like than my Dad.  I was crying as I was trying so hard not to laugh.  Well, then the girl goes over to the lady opposite Dad and starts swishing the bowl and a brush around her head and upper body humming and chanting as she was doing it.  Worried that she might come pay him a visit too Dad looked at me threw his head back on the chair squeezed his eyes tightly shut and said: “I’m asleep!!!”  It was so funny.  The nurses at the station were watching all of this and they too were laughing.

Well this lovely girl eventually wheels her trolley out and leaves the room.  Dad opens his eyes, once it was “safe” and said to the lady opposite “God I was worried she was going to come to me next.”  She replied, “It’s ok, I find it quite soothing and cathartic.” Dad misheard what she said, remember he has no hearing aid in, nods in agreeance with her and  said, very loudly, “Yes I think it’s a load of garbage too.”  I could have died on the spot.  It was very funny.  So when we finally left he was so relieved to be going “I have a sore arse from sitting so long you know!” that he was walking a little faster than when we walked in.  As we were going back to the disabled car park I had to remind him to slow down a bit and then pretended to “help” him into the car.  I went to put his seatbelt on and he wagged his finger at me again and said with a big smile, “Steady now.”  It sounds ridiculous but that day was a great day.

Andrew is the one and only son-in-law but even so, Dad would say he was the best one.  Dad had great admiration for Andrew and his final words to Andrew were what a good father he was.  In turn, Andrew had a lot of respect for Dad and loved and appreciated all the time, love and interest Dad had for our boys. Andrew always said how intelligent Dad was and that if ever he was on a quiz show Dad would be his “phone a friend” lifeline.  Just don’t ever get them talking about the Crows when they lost.  They both had very strong opinions on how hopeless their team was at times.

However, as wonderful a Dad as he was I think he saved his greatest role till last and that was as Pop to his boys Jesse and Matthew. From the moment they were born they have been his second shadow.  He sang to them as newborns and they stopped crying.  Jesse used to like the song Old Shep so much that Dad wrote out the words for him one day and he keeps that somewhere special even now.

He pushed them in the pram and rocked them in his arms when they were upset.  As little boys he played Cowboys and Indians with them complete with homemade bows and arrows he made for them, he would take them for long walks and made them their own walking sticks.  Once during a day trip to Kuitpo Forest with Mum and Jesse, he walked ahead and dropped 50 cent pieces along the ground.  He convinced Jesse that they had stumbled on a hidden treasure.  Now that’s a thoughtful Pop.

He has played Monopoly, UNO for hours, read them their favourite books over and over, taken them to lots of movies – horrendously violent ones a lot of the time.  Jesse and he share a love of cowboy movies to the point where Jesse tried to watch one with us at home one day and he said that it wasn’t the same not sitting next to Pop so we turned it off.

Matthew makes Dad laugh a lot and they share a quick wit and that terrible sense of humour!!  Dad would watch Matthew’s favourite DVD’s over and over with him even though it drove Dad nuts.  They too used to go for walks together with Scruffy and Dad loved how Matthew doted on his little dog.  Dad and Matthew eat left handed even though they are right handed, as does Mike.  Dad loved that there was a lot of “Milligan” in is little mate.

Quite simply he is fabulous with them and so very proud of the young men they have grown up to be and the beautiful, close relationship they still shared right to the end. They adore him and Pop would have had to have been one of the most used words in our house and his.  He has provided them with some of their happiest memories and for that, I feel so lucky and am forever grateful.

The last few months have been really difficult as Dad got more and more tired and sick. Dad spent an enormous amount of time resting in his chair and his loyal companion, Scruffy was a source of great comfort and his own personal hot water bottle as she lay on his lap all day long.  Dad was a passionate dog lover, Rusty and Milly amongst his best four-legged friends, and he spoke to Scruffy nicer than any human I can tell you.  I had heard him call her darling and once he even called her Lory.  I told him off for that slip of the tongue.

He and Mum always close became even more of a team.  Mum the most devoted carer I have ever seen despite her own health issues. Dad was in the very best hand’s Mum, you have been absolutely amazing – he struck gold with you as we often told him and he agreed wholeheartedly.  Mum was his primary concern right up to the very end.  Look after “Cookie” was the brief.  True love they had.

Dad’s admission into the hospital Thursday night was nothing to be overly concerned about initially.  The plan was to keep him in a few days, get over an infection and come home.  By Friday night things had become more serious, by Saturday morning 630am we thought we would be able to bring him home in a week and have palliative care for a couple of months but then by 930am that very same morning we were told it was too late and we had hours with him, maybe a day.  It was absolutely horrific and unexpected and he passed away 630am Sunday morning.

So, Dad, I won’t say goodbye.  I truly believe I will see you again. Until then you enjoy that long awaited reunion with those that have gone before you – Your sister Gwen, Jos who you loved so very much and Bill, your beautiful, funny big brother who died only 3 hours before Dad did back in England. I am also sure your old mate Uncle Maurie will be waiting with a nice cold beer for you too.  You loved him.

My Dad, I have no regrets. I loved you with everything I had and I was lucky to be loved by you just as much.

I am so proud to be my father’s daughter and I will miss you for the rest of my days.  It was a privilege to be with you as you passed away but I now know what it means to be truly broken hearted.  Always and forever I will be your girl.

Sliding Doors

I think we have all had a “sliding doors” moment.  A single decision that sends you on a certain path, and if but for that decision lives could have been different, changed or never even eventuated.

I made a decision when I was 19 years old that has had everlasting effect and impact on my life to date.

My short-lived marriage at the age of 18 was over (no surprises there but that is a whole other story!) and I had moved to a little flat in Norwood.  It was a small ground floor flat just for me.  It was sparsely furnished including a pine lounge suite that no one was allowed to sit on as it “squashed” down the cushions and made it look messy lol.  I also had a few Marilyn Monroe and James Dean black and white pictures which I carelessly hung from nails I hammered into the wall. Wasn’t a problem until I moved and had to fix the mess that made but luckily Andrew was around by then to help. But this place was all mine.  I could barely make rent each week; I only ever had fruity lexia cask wine and a bowl of smarties in the fridge.  How I survived financially and nutritionally is beyond me but I did.  I didn’t sleep well there either as I was quite nervous.  Luckily I met an old policeman one day.  My next door neighbour had clothes stolen from her washing line which unnerved me no end and he came to investigate and so we met.  From that day on he used to beep his horn as he drove by at night to let me know he was working and keeping an eye on me.  Used to make me feel so much better.  Nothing untoward about his intentions at all.  I was probably young enough to be his granddaughter.

Anyway moving to Norwood was a big change and quite a distance from Brighton and Oaklands Park where I had lived previously.  I had to find new local everything which included a new Doctor.  I distinctly remember getting the yellow pages out (long before Google lol) and scanning for a GP Clinic that I could walk to.  That was very important as I didn’t drive.  In fact, I didn’t get my license until I was 27 years old – yet another story!!!

So I chose the Practice closest to me and made an appointment.  I had a lot of stomach problems which started when I was a teenager and lasted into my mid-twenties so I was somewhat of a regular patient.  I walked into an old heritage house, converted into a surgery.  Quite different to the modern clinics I had been to previously.  It was a nice feel as you entered with very high ceilings and nice cornice detail.  Behind the reception desk sat a very pretty girl with a mass of dark, curly hair.  She had a beautiful smile and her eyes danced with mischief and vitality.  Her greeting was so warm and friendly.  I remember feeling rather chuffed with myself, what a good decision I had made. The GP, who is, in fact, my GP still today, was just as lovely.  Very old fashioned as he came out in his white doctor’s coat (which he still wears) with such an empathetic manner.  He turned out to be the kind of GP that made unannounced house calls when my boys were unwell as babies just to check on them.  When Jesse was born he made a surprise visit to the hospital to welcome him to the world.  Yep.  He is that kind of doctor.  One in a million.

So as luck? would have it I was back and forth to see him quite regularly and began to have longer chats with the lovely receptionist.  We started to continue on conversations from the previous visits.  I really liked her.  One day, as I was leaving she stood up to go on her break and said: “Do you want to come for a coffee?”  I didn’t need to be asked twice.  And just like that, a friendship began.

Her name is Tracey.

Coffee dates turned into long lunches.  Then evening drinks at The Directors.  Sunday drinks and platters at the house she shared with friends in Parkside.  Very soon we were spending lots of time together.  We just clicked.

Then one day she met “that” guy.  A farmer from the West Coast who she was asked to take out with his mate and show him a bit of the Adelaide nightlife.  She was not keen to do this at all but, good natured as always, she did.  That night he certainly made an impression but at no stage did we think that a wedding would be on the cards a few years later.  Nor did we think that he would become my husband’s dearest friend and closest confidante.  Two men, both left-handed, both barracked for Sturt footy club, both loved red wine, both laughed easily and both would go on to be wonderful family men.

So my city girlfriend married the farmer called Tim and moved to a life on the land.  What a difficult transition that was but she embraced it with full gusto.  I have many reasons to admire her and how she adapted to this complete change of lifestyle. Being 6.5 hours drive away from all friends and family is just one of them.  However, her newfound address provided us with the perfect destination to get away and get away we did.  Often.

Andrew would have moved up there in a heartbeat.  He loved everything about the farm and loved spending time with Tim. They would both be off all day working on the farm while we would stay in the house with our wine and platters talking.  Then at night, we would all head off into the bush for a bonfire, wine in hand.  The very best of times.   Andrew and Tim became very close very quickly.  To the point that two weeks before our own wedding Andrew casually says “I think I am going to ask Tim to be a groomsman.”  I nearly fell off my chair.  “WHAT?? You can’t do that at this late stage, everything is organised.”  Our wedding was very small and we had one attendant each.  Clearly, men have no idea what goes into planning a wedding because he was quite taken aback at my reaction.

Soon enough along came our children.  Their beautiful girl was first.  Our visits to the farm became even more frequent after she was born.  I adored her. She became the daughter I never had, still is.  I am her “chosen” godmother and very proud to be too.  Next, their gorgeous, curly-haired boy followed by my Jesse 6 months later and then Matthew 3.5 years after that.  Tracey and Tim are Jesse’s proud godparents.

Both my boys shared their Dad’s love of the farm lifestyle.  The freedom for three boys to be able to set off for the day exploring is just priceless.  There were no devices, TV, PlayStation.  Just imagination, copious amounts of sticks, bonfires at night, camping in tents, no showers and lots of fun.  We literally only saw them when they found their way back to the house for food.

We continued to visit as often as we could with Jesse spending some holidays up there without us.  He, in particular, has always had a close connection with both Tracey and Tim, just as happy in the shed with Tim as he is chatting to Tracey in the kitchen while she cooks up a storm.  His childhood experiences on the farm and chats with Tim are the sole reason he chose to study Agricultural Sciences at Uni.  He is now in his final year and his future prospects look bright all because of the shared love he had for their farm.

I should mention that I too loved the farm but my motivation to go was to spend time with my friend.  I loved the remoteness and peace that the farm had but would have found it quite daunting to live so far away from everyone.  Tracey is way more social than I so again, I take my hat off to her not only for choosing to give up all that was familiar to her for the man she loved but for doing so with such an open heart and becoming an integral and valued member of the rural community.

Our friendship has also seen more challenges than any other.

Within a week of Tracey and Tim’s son being born in May 1996, Tracey was told that she would need a double lung transplant.  She had been terribly unwell throughout her pregnancy with extreme breathlessness and Drs were waiting to safely do a chest x-ray once she had delivered her baby to see what was going on.  The x-ray revealed that she had lost over 70% of lung function due to an undiagnosed genetic issue which pregnancy hormones had brought to the fore.  I still get goosebumps remembering the phone call from Tim telling us that news.  Andrew and I went into the hospital to see them, I was 3 months pregnant. We walked into her room to see Tim holding their newborn son and my dear friend in bed with an oxygen mask, their faces showing the shock and disbelief of such a diagnosis.

Tracey’s transplant story is a whole other blog but suffices to say it was an incredibly scary, emotional time.  They initially went back to the farm but after a few close calls decided it was necessary to stay in Adelaide and be closer to medical help if needed.  Tracey was feeling very vulnerable and was now on 24-hour oxygen.  There is also a certain protocol one has to go through to be put on a recipient-donor waiting list so it wasn’t until August that she was officially on that list.

Two things that happened during that time I still think about today.  Tracey and I were always trying to be thinner than we were.  We did aerobics classes together, not very successfully as we laughed too much, we had tried many diets between us but bottom line we just liked our wine too much.  One day Tracey came to our house.  For someone needing new lungs, she looked amazing.  White pants, blue and white striped top, she was very, very slim and with that gorgeous face and those eyes that were still sparkling, she looked fabulous and I told her so.  She smiled and said “Yes.  You and I say we would die to be thin.  Well, now I am.”  To this day we can still look at each other and say “Be careful what you wish for because it might just come true.”

The other thing that I can never forget is a weekend away that we had.  It was January 1997 and Jesse was only 10 weeks old.  We all decided to go to Victor Harbor for a change of scenery.  Tracey was very weak and the oxygen cylinder was dragged behind her wherever she went.  Her son was a happy, noisy 8-month-old who she couldn’t even pick up which was in stark contrast to me being as fit as a fiddle and Jesse being a clingy, sensitive, serious  10 week old.  It’s very difficult to look at your once vibrant friend and see her struggle just to breathe and walk around.  I felt guilty that at the happiest time of my life she was going through the most frightening time of hers.  We were thrilled to have our boys so close together but all this other stuff was not part of the plan.  The sound of her oxygen tubing swishing behind her on the floor will stay with me forever.

So the transplant went ahead March 1997 and was a resounding success.  We put off Jesse’s christening until we knew that Tracey would be well and back in Adelaide.  The day arrived, 13th July and it was a heartfelt celebration of new beginnings and the joy that she was here with us still.  I remember when we asked her to be Jesse’s godmother.  I had no doubt she would be ok, I really didn’t.  That’s not to say I didn’t worry but I just couldn’t see a time when she would not be around.  She looked up at me with those big eyes and said: “Do you think I will be here still?”  I didn’t flinch because I truly believed my answer.  “Absolutely,” I said.

Now incredibly, in the 20 years since her transplant,  Tim has also had very serious health issues not once but twice and Tracey went on to lose a kidney to cancer as a result of the immunosuppressant’s she must take for the rest of her life. I was looking after her kids while she went to get those results.  I saw her pull up in her car and she was carrying a bottle of champagne.  I ran outside and said, “Good news then?”  She replied, “No, it is cancer, so let’s drink this while I still have two kidneys.”  I kid you not.   Like we have so often said their story would be a great Australian Story on the ABC but for the fact that the episodes only go for 30 minutes lol.

Recently too, Tracey had to fight for her life when she succumbed to a “perfect storm” of lung infections that saw her in the Royal Adelaide Hospital for 4 months, many weeks of that time in ICU.  Seeing her wired up to every machine, able to hear a little but not speak……………….very confronting. Andrew and I would drive home speechless in the car, quietly processing our own thoughts.  It took me back to visiting my Dad in ICU, the power of the memory of sounds and smells.

Tracey’s amazing vitality at the darkest of times was still there, even in ICU.  Her spark for life visible ever so slightly which filled me with the hope that she was going to be ok – again!!!  One visit with her daughter was particularly uplifting.  It was the day that Trump won the Presidency.  We walked in and went either side of her bed, parting the wires to each hold a hand.  I leant over to smooth her hair back and said hello and advised her that “OMG, Tracey you won’t believe it but Trump is going to be President.”  Bearing in mind Tracey was intubated so couldn’t speak, her eyes flew open and she did an eye roll.  We were overjoyed and laughing.  She was fighting hard and had not lost her sense of the bloody ridiculous.  Tracey also remembers another conversation which gives you a little insight to our black humour.  As I said goodbye to her one day I leant over and whispered, “If you see a bright light do NOT go towards it!”  I knew she would have found that comment funny but I never thought she would actually have heard it let alone remember it.  So to anyone visiting loved ones in ICU talk to them as if they can hear everything because you just never know what’s going on behind all those machines.

So from that random choosing of a GP, we found best friends, godparents, I became an adopted godmother, Jesse found a career path and we learnt over and over again that good health is everything as is a healthy dose of hope.  If we lose hope in life we have nothing.  She has shaped how I live my life in many ways. We have learnt the true meaning of “through good times and bad.”  Tracey has personally been responsible for putting me outside my comfort zone on many occasions.  She has taught me resilience and to live in the moment.  We have had times of seeing less of each other, largely due to being geographically further apart as lives got busier, but we always remain deeply connected. We have never had a cross word.  She knows I have lost my way these last 3 years and she has cried with me, supported and cared and given me space to just be.  “You have always retreated when life gets hard till you figure things out.  You will be ok.”  She said that to me just last month and it was good to be reminded that how quiet I am being at the moment is normal for me.

Thirty-three years of friendship from one random decision.  And you know what?  When I got home from that very first doctor’s appointment all those years ago there was a message on my answering machine advising that I had, in fact, missed my appointment.  Turned out I went to the wrong doctor’s surgery.

I don’t think so.

Do you have a “sliding door” story?

 

 

Our Lucky Day

We all have moments of fear when it comes to our children.  When they run a high temperature in the middle of the night as a baby.  When they run in front of you as a toddler, a little too far away for comfort.  When they run on the football field and get knocked to the ground and take a while to get back up.  Or when they run up the driveway and into that fast car I talk about with a group of young men.  All moments where our hearts can literally skip a beat.  What is interesting though, and true for us all, we fear for our children yet we would fear nothing to protect them.

My greatest moment of fear was when Jesse was 7 years old and was hit by a car.  A speeding P-plate driver no less.

It was a Wednesday evening, St Patricks Day.  I had a nice lunch with a girlfriend and had been excitedly talking about a houseboat trip we were going on that Friday with four other couples.  I distinctly remember saying how each of those couples was going through “something” significant in their lives and how lucky and appreciative I was that my family was so happy and healthy.  I am an extremely superstitious person and as the events of that evening unfolded I really regretted saying that in such a blasé manner.

Later that afternoon Matthew and I, he would have been 3 and a half years old, went to pick up Jesse from school.  Jesse had started tennis lessons only recently and we had just enough time to bring him home for a snack before practice started.  He was thinking about his stomach even back then!!

So after a change of clothes and food, we hopped back in the car. Matthew and I always stayed to watch him, Matthew enjoyed running around with the younger siblings of those at practice.  For reasons that I can still not explain as I went to get out of the car I looked down and I had my slippers on.  Fluffy, leopard print slippers.  Now I am absolutely not a slipper girl, ugg boots yes but slippers no.  A friend had bought me the slippers as a bit of a joke knowing my association of them to be with “old” people.  However secretly I found them so comfy that I did, in fact, wear them quite a bit.

So I said to Jesse, “Oh no.  Mum has left her slippers on.  I will drop you off, quickly go back home and put on my boots, and we will come back and watch you.”  Both boys thought it was very funny and Matthew called me “silly” all the way home.

We had only been home a few minutes when Andrew’s work car pulled up in the driveway.  He worked really long hours so it was very unusual for him to be home that early.  Matthew was thrilled to see him.  Andrew scooped him up and when I told him about my “slipper” situation he said that he would take Matthew with him and go back to watch Jesse.  I knew Jesse would be so happy to see his Dad at practice and as all Mum’s know, being at home alone from 4.30-5.30pm to get dinner ready in peace is not only blissful but so rare.  I was glad of the change of routine for me. And I got to keep my slippers on.

It’s funny the gaps in my recall of that evening. I have no recollection of what I cooked but I can remember how I lined up all the plates on the breakfast bar and, looking up at the clock, had started to dish up dinner knowing they would all be home in a few minutes.  Tennis practice was held at the local club, literally a 5-minute drive.

Then the phone rang.  I will never forget the tone of Andrew’s voice.  It was quiet, restrained but filled with overwhelming tension.  I knew after just a few words something was really wrong.  “Lory, you need to get down here, Jesse has been hit by a car.”  My blood ran cold.  I recall screaming and crying and Mum and Dad said that they later found the phone on the floor in the family room.  I had answered it in the kitchen so my reaction was to throw it as far away from me as possible.  I have no memory of doing that.

The next few minutes are still a blur.  But as I grabbed my bag and locked the front door unbeknown to me I was screaming.  Our lovely neighbour’s two doors down, across the road and next door all came running onto the street.  I must have a pretty good scream.  I was trying to open my roller door to get to my car and I just couldn’t do it.  It was the pressing of one button but I couldn’t manage it.  My neighbour ran up our driveway and grabbed my hands.  I just screamed, “Jesse has been hit by a car.”  She thankfully wouldn’t let me drive and piled me into her car.  Later on, she said that drive was one of the most traumatic events of her life.  I screamed the whole way in her car, urging her to go faster.  I do remember feeling like a mad woman.  I went to open the door; I wanted to get out and run to get there faster.  My heart felt like it was going to explode.  And I continued to cry and scream to the point of almost hyperventilating.  All this emotion in a period of about 4 minutes. Complete and utter lack of control and fear.

As we pulled up at the tennis club I jumped out of the car before it had completely stopped and I ran.  People must have directed me as to where to go because I ran straight to the first aid part of the clubroom where Jesse was.  I got to the door, still quite hysterical and a Dad, whose son practiced with Jesse, grabbed my hands to steady me and said “He is going to be ok.  Lory!  He is going to be ok.  Now have you left anything on the stove back home?”  I said a very quick no and he let go of me and in I went.

Jesse was lying on a couch.  There were a lot of people in the room around him and Andrew, with Matthew on his lap was to his right.  Matthew clearly had been crying and Andrew looked pale and upset.  “Mum, ” Jesse said, his eyes full of tears. I knelt next to him and said: “You’re ok.”

And just like that, I became as calm as can be.  Getting to him and the unknown of how injured he was or……………..well it was indescribable, terrifying, paralysing fear.  But once I could see him and touch him I regained my self-control.  I needed to reassure him that he was going to be ok and like a light switch being flicked on my reaction to do that was instant.

We had a ride in an ambulance together where he asked if he was going to die.  He was very shaken up poor love.  We were whizzed through the Emergency Department at Flinders Medical Centre at a lightning speed where he had x-rays and a CT scan was done immediately.  The Doctor in Emergency said that he could not explain to us how Jesse did not have broken bones.  He had a theory that Jesse was in mid skip, meaning that at the precise moment of impact Jesse was in fact in the air.  Luck of the Irish, only we are not. He told us to buy a lottery ticket. So Jesse’s injuries were a concussion, a nasty black eye and cuts and bruises to his back, legs and left arm.

What happened was after practice had finished Andrew, holding Matthews’ hand, and Jesse walking alongside Matthew, crossed an inactive zebra crossing to get to his car.  (Inactive because it was after school hours.)  Jesse had stopped to hit a pine cone on the road with his tennis racket without Andrew realising and as the sound of a car engine going faster than it should caused Andrew to turn around and raise his arm, in a signal to slow down to the driver, Jesse was in the middle of the road in the cars direct path.  Too late to do anything Andrew and Matthew could only watch as Jesse was hit, flung onto the bonnet of the car only to be bounced off and flung back onto the road as the driver stopped.  His instinct was to crawl to the kerb.  I can only imagine what that must have been like to watch.  Awful does not cover it.

So Jesse and I had an overnight stay in hospital just for observation.  We still went on the houseboat weekend but the boys came with us (that was not the initial plan) as we couldn’t bear to have Jesse out of our sight.  Our beautiful friends, knowing we wouldn’t go without the boys all insisted we bring them. The boys were very spoilt that weekend.

For a long time, I thought of all the little things that happened that night that were different to the normal routine – remember I am superstitious.  A chain of events that were put into place for what reason?  I used to be a big believer in that everything happens for a reason – not so much now.

It still is the worst experience of my life by far.  The fear that something awful had happened to my child.  The unknown aspect of that fear.  It was only minutes but fear doesn’t make you think of positive outcomes.  One’s mind races away with all kinds of awful.

It showed me that the love we have for our children can make you do great things.  I collapsed in a heap after Jesse came out of the hospital and cried to my girlfriends, pouring out all that I had thought and felt since receiving that phone call.  But as far as Jesse was concerned there was never anything to worry about because that’s what I told him and that’s what I showed him.  I was his security blanket, never mind I was being held together by the tiniest of threads.

We got lucky and the lasting effect for Jesse was it made him extremely road safety conscious, cautious in car parks and when he was riding his bike.  Not a bad consequence for a 7-year-old boy.  Andrew and Matthew were quite traumatised by what they saw, I know it will stay with Andrew forever but fortunately, Matthew’s memory of it has faded.

And you know what else? The irony of this story is that for someone concerned about being seen with bloody slippers on I spent the next 24 hours in nothing else.  In public! And I proved I can run really fast in them too.

 

FOOTNOTE:  The young girl driving the car never contacted us in any way.  She was at fault but received no penalty or fine.  She got off with a warning.  I will never understand her parents not encouraging her or, on her behalf, contacting us, sending us a card, letter or something to show that they cared about what happened to Jesse.  That she was sorry.  As my boys are both driving now it is something I would absolutely ensure they did if ever they were in such a situation. I like to think they would do it off their own back.  It’s the right thing to do in my opinion.  Accidents happen but own them.  I can only hope it made her a better driver.

 

 

Starting Over

Have you ever had the thought or desire to change your job?  Start completely afresh somewhere else.  Do something different from anything you have ever done before?  Or maybe your time in your current job has come to an abrupt end and you can’t ever see yourself happy in any other workplace.  I imagine there are a lot of people who answer yes to those questions.  I think most of us would have had the “thought” of what leaving a job would be like but how many act on it would be a different matter.  Well, I did all of the above.  At the age of 50. Twice.  And I am here to tell you it was not easy at all.  Not one little bit.  But was it worth it?  Did it work out?

I had worked at the same place on and off for 11 years. One of my dear friends got me an interview for a Receptionist position.  Oh, how I loved it.  The people, the patients, my job and how my responsibilities evolved over that time.  To get up and like going to your workplace is such a gift and I had that.  It was a fabulous environment and most of the friendships formed during that time I still hold dear today.  Yes during the three month probation period there I was going to resign every day.  I am a perfectionist and I hated feeling “dumb.”  Learning something new and being out of my comfort zone was challenging for my personality type.  The type that has no patience whatsoever.  However, I didn’t.  I ended up loving it and I was actually pretty good at what I did.

For reasons that no long matter I found myself in the position where resigning from that job last year was the only option I felt I had and I was very sad and displaced for quite some time.  I was really invested in the business and the people there.  When you put your heart and soul into something you are richly rewarded but you also leave yourself open to being let down.

The same dear friend knew my confidence had taken a big nose dive and she offered me a lifeline.  She worked in a similar environment and there was an opening there that she thought I would be a good fit for.

Part 1 of starting over began.

It was challenging getting up each day let alone tackling something new.  My breast cancer treatment that I was 17 months into was causing terrible side effects, in particular, severe nausea.  So throw in a case of nerves, very early morning starts and a fast paced working environment, well let’s just say it was not easy.  Again I was so lucky to meet the most fabulous, supportive group of girls who looked after me and encouraged me to stick with it.  However, after four months I just knew in my heart that it wasn’t for me at the stage I was at both physically and emotionally.  I was about to take my beloved Dads ashes back to the Isle of Wight, England so I decided to leave before going on leave and start the job hunt again on my return.

Casually browsing the Job Vacancies online, I really wasn’t looking seriously, as I said I wanted to wait till I got back from England, I came across an ad that I just kept going back to.  It had such warmth and sincerity about it.  It was a small business and it sounded like something I could become invested in again.  It was in an area I knew nothing about, the closing date for applications was only a few days away but something made me apply.

It was quite a long online process, one of those personality type testing questionnaires together with attaching your CV and the obligatory cover letter.  I felt I could write a more personalised, honest cover letter given the vibe I got from the ad.  Turned out to be a very good decision.

I received an email requesting a phone interview, had said phone interview which, when I hung up the phone I said to Andrew, “That went so well.  I felt like I was chatting with a girlfriend.”  A face to face interview was organised for the next day and I was proudly advised that “My Dad will be interviewing with me too.  Hope you don’t mind, he works with me and I refer to him as Dad because he is.”  Having lost my Dad I felt it was another good omen that I could potentially be working with an obviously close father and daughter duo.

The interview went well but I got a good feeling from the moment I sat in the waiting room.  The girl on the reception desk looked like Donna from my favourite series Suits; I tried not to stare lol.  With my trip to England only a week away I had to advise I would be unable to start for a few weeks.  They asked about my “holiday” and when I told them the reason for the trip they were just so lovely and compassionate.  I left there thinking it could not have gone any better.  They said they would be in touch in a few days.

Well, my fabulous referees were contacted immediately and both let me know that they thought I would get the job.  Sure enough, I didn’t end up having to wait days, I got the phone call to offer me the position where I was quickly told that I must have paid large sums of money to my referees for them to talk about me the way they did.  I loved that cheeky comment and accepted the job happily.

Part 2 of starting over began.

Starting this job was the same as the last job, major nerves, severe nausea, increased bone pain, later starts but some additional emotional baggage from my trip to England. All of my Dad was “gone” now, on the other side of the world, it was a funny feeling for a while.     So, Fan-tas-tic!!!!!  What a great recipe for starting something new.

All the staff were just lovely and I had no doubt in my mind at all about how lucky I was to be working with such a nice group but my insecurities and self-doubt were just off the scale.  It did not help that the girl who was employed to job share with me had started two weeks earlier and had picked it all up so fast.  She was and still is a pocket rocket and I think she is fabulous.

So I would take lots of drugs,  copious amounts of notes, and try and listen and take in what I was being shown, all the while trying not to vomit.  I would trudge across the road every lunch time to the local bakery and sit in the corner and cry.  I would text my friends saying I can’t do this not realising that “Donna” was wondering if I was ever coming back from lunch.  I agonised over telling them my health issues.  Would they want to get rid of me if they knew?  Would it make them understand my struggles?  Did I want them to know my struggles?  This went on for weeks.  Each day I would drive home in tears, overwhelmed with how much I had to learn.  Convinced that “Donna” was thinking “who is this dipshit.” I know now she is far too kind-hearted to think that of anyone.  But I felt so old and slow.

Andrew and a few friends finally said to me you have got to tell them.  Just be honest.  I felt like my boss must have been disappointed in me.  On paper, I looked great but I wasn’t delivering what they thought they had “bought.”  So eventually I thought if they knew of my health struggles it might be a bit of an “Aha” moment for them.  Would you believe though that on the two occasions that I plucked up the courage to tell them two staff members announced they were pregnant?  I kid you not.  For such a small staff it was quite unbelievable.  So I would come home each time with the weight of the world still on my shoulders.  On one occasion I vomited on the way home from the stress.

So, unbelievably the day I went to my boss and said “I have something to tell you” she replied with “I know what you are going to say.”  Ummmm, no you don’t I thought to myself.  Did she think I was going to announce I was pregnant too??  She said “Lory, we know about the breast cancer.  One of your referees let it accidentally slip. We have watched you struggle and we have been waiting for you to come to us.  We couldn’t ask you about it because it was not something you shared with us.” Bloody hell.  Are you kidding me?  I put my head on her desk.  Actually, I am surprised my head did not roll off given the weight that I felt had just been relieved off my shoulders.

So with all my cards on the table, and with even more encouragement and understanding given to me, my confidence did pick up.  Only a little though. It is still taking time to build up but it is, each day it grows. Because let me tell you it is really, really hard to learn something completely new in every way.  From the phone, to the email, to the computer program to the terminology used daily, there is not one thing about this job that is remotely similar to any job I have ever had.  Add in the fact that I am working 2 days on 5 days off it’s like I am starting a brand new job every week.  To be honest it hasn’t been until this week that things have really started to “click.”  I also found out on Wednesday that the medication I have been on SEVERELY affects your memory and your ability to retain information.  OMG!  What a revelation.  It was like part validation for why I found learning something new so hard.

But you know what? If I can do it, with the additional issues I have, anyone can.  If you surround yourself with the right people you can achieve great things.  I have done that, I have found a new work family.  I didn’t think that was possible.  We are firm friends and dedicated work colleagues.  We laugh so much. They are all so invested in providing care above and beyond to all their clients that it is something one can feel really proud to be a part of.  They put their trust and faith in me that I could succeed and for that, I will be forever grateful, and I look forward to paying that back to them for many years to come.

Change is so hard, particularly for a control freak like me but change can be so good.  If you are unhappy, burnt out or feel like you are underappreciated where you are take a risk.  Take that leap of faith.  We spend so much of our time at work we must make that time as enjoyable as possible.

When I resigned from my original job I could not see any reason as to why it had to happen the way it did.  But that one decision to leave led me to where I am today.  It was all meant to be and I could not be happier.

It took me awhile to stop looking back but now it’s just full steam ahead.

So, did it work out?  Absolutely.

 

The Girls

Whenever I hear the words “the girls” it always reminds me of Sex in the City.  The scene in the final episode of the series when Big surprises Carrie with inviting “the girls” to their wedding reception.  He knew their wedding day would not be complete without her best friends there to share it.  The joy on their faces when they see each other was just beautiful.

Whether you have your “girls” or whatever you like to call them, squad seems to be popular at the moment, female friendships really are something else.  We generally have a great capacity for empathy and have a very healthy dose of intuition. This makes us a fantastic support for anyone but in my personal experience, it makes for having a safe, non-judgemental place to go with my feelings.  I am not great at verbally sharing “all” of me with anyone – much easier to share it through my writing with all of you – go figure!  In my case, I am lucky that in times of great need my husband is who I confide in, albeit late at night in the dark.  But my friends, the best, the old, the related, the new and the ones who are distant geographically, are all there for me as I hope I have been for them at the different stages of our lives. I hope they know how much they all mean to me.  I think I have achieved what they say on Instagram – “Squad Goals!”

In my house “the girls” are two dear friends I have known since I was 14 years old.  We met in high school.  As three individuals we are actually quite different but, like the ingredients in a Cosmopolitan, put us together and you get a perfect blend.

We have shared typing and shorthand classes, boyfriends (in one case accidentally in the literal sense lol) wild car rides, skipping school, cigarettes on the school oval, sleepovers, deepest darkest secrets, the kind that only school age girls can have.  One went on to marry the loveable larrikin I always adored – I literally grew up with him living up the street from me from the age of 5.  We were definitely destined to be connected forever.

As adults, we have had times of less contact but we always find our way back to each other.  There have been 21st Birthdays – our own and now our children’s, Weddings, 30th Birthdays, the birth of seven children between us, a Surprise 40th Birthday and then our 50th Birthdays.   Sadly we have also had the funeral of that much-loved larrikin that devastated us all and brought us even closer together. His service will stay with me forever.  Standing room only for a man who had no idea how loved he was. I can truly say I think of him every day and will always carry his photo in my purse.  It serves as a reminder of a treasured friendship lost but forever kept.

So on that sad day connections were renewed and strengthened.  Promises made.  A realisation that life is too short and we need to spend our time wisely.  With the people that matter.  With the people we love.  We need to tell people we love them.  It is so important to know that because sometimes what is a “given” or “of course they know” needs to be heard by someone.  Do it today.

The girls were there the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of them among a few friends who received my hysterical phone call as I waited 3 hours at home before my appointment where I would find out my test results. They supported me after my surgery with phone calls, visits, sausage rolls and lemon meringue pie and encouraging cards.  Personal sentimental keepsakes they treasured were lent to me to give me strength.  They cried with me and then we would laugh till we cried, often at the most inappropriate things.  A lot of black humour that not everyone would find funny but it was just the tonic for me.

Then, only recently, within a 12 month period, we each lost a parent.  Three funerals.   Three hearts were broken.  Three girls who would have given anything to be able to go back to the carefree days of high school.

They remember my “stuff.”  If I go back through my phone texts they forget nothing.  They would wish me all the best for my Dad’s specialist appointments – how did they remember such dates? They check in when my boys have been unwell or are sitting exams. They send friendship quotes when they know I am down.  These past few weeks have been a tough time for me and they are like night watchmen with their regular messages of “Are you ok?” or “I love you.”  They say that often. Without the other knowing, they text me at the same time a lot.   It’s quite funny the synchronicity of their thoughts.

So what the three of us do on a regular basis to “escape” is have our “shack” weekends.  We are lucky enough to have the use of a shack in lovely Goolwa. It sometimes takes extreme logistics to get us all free on the same weekend but we manage it at least twice a year.  We all wish it was more often than that but that’s life.

Our routine is simple.  Travel down in one car.  Stop at the local shops.  Load up on a variety of snacks – think Twisties, M&M’s, dips and crackers and Honey Soy Chips – the things we love but wouldn’t generally feast on.  We take preventative Panadol and Berocca.  Then we go to the bottle shop.  I get my Sav Blanc, they get their Chardonnay, then we grab a bottle of Champagne to kick start the day and we are all set.  Probably similar to our school aged outings but now at least we are not hiding the alcohol and buy nice wine in bottles lol.

We go in, turn on the water and the heater/air con, pending the season, put the three two-seater couches into a circle, turn on the music, iPod or 80’s music DVD, get comfy clothes on, bras generally are not required and we talk and we laugh.  No subject is off limits.  No question too embarrassing to ask.  No event too sacred to share.  Sometimes there are tears.  We have all had our reasons and time when a good cry with those that know you best was just what was needed but for the most part, we have fun.

Sometimes we go out for lunch or dinner but more often than not we are happy to just “be” in the “shack.”  We catch up on what our kids have been up to – given there are seven of them that takes some time.  We genuinely have a vested interest in each other’s families and hope that one day two of them will make two of us mother-in-law’s (yes seriously). Two of us have watched as one gave us belly dancing lessons, complete with floaty scarves.  Something I will never forget that’s for sure.  There have also been regular tarot card readings.  The more wine consumed the more accurate they become.  It normally takes my head a few days to get over these weekends, too much wine and not enough sleep, but my soul is always refreshed.  Problems shared are problems solved and we literally set the world right when we get together.

These weekends are all about unconditional, open friendship.  The kind that can only be found when there is so much history between you.  No one knows you quite like your school friends.  That’s not to take away from my other friendships at all. I am really lucky to have many fabulous girlfriends as I have mentioned and I look forward to talking about them all over time.  But there is an “X-factor” that comes with your childhood friends.  One of my favourite quotes is one that says “Everyone has a friend during each stage of life, but only lucky ones have the same friend in all stages of life.”

I am lucky to have two such friends and I love them both.

 

Dad’s Girl

 

It is nearly two years since I lost my Dad.  How can that length of time seem both like forever and yesterday?  How can I have total recall on conversations with him from 10 years ago but go over and over in my mind our last week together, trying to recall the “last things” we spoke of.  The last hug. The last laugh.  The last………………..That is the trouble.  You never know it will be the last time until it is.

Not a day goes by that I do not think of him, long to see him, long to just sit next to him and chat.  And laugh.  Sure, the passing of time makes his loss easier to bear each day but that too is a testament to me wanting to “do him” proud and also to not drag others down with my grief, bore them even.  I know that being 51 years old brings me to the time in my life where parents are going to pass away. My friends are going to start to lose their parents if they haven’t already.  Some have known this loss at far too young an age too. However, your age does not lessen ones grief.

Everyone has lost someone at some stage of their life.  We are all grieving something. That is why we should always be kind.  You just never know the weight of a burden someone carries.  We all walk around with smiley faces that mask our daily struggles.  We do this because life goes on.  Life moves forward.  And we hope that life brings as much joy as it does sorrow.

My Dad brought me nothing but love, laughter and an abundance of joy.  I know I also brought him much laughter and I am sure I brought him different things too.  Stress, grey hair and sleepless nights come to mind, during my teenage years especially.  But he and I were lucky to be each other’s number one fan.  I often describe the bond we shared as a “big love.”  It really was.  How he loved me shaped me into the woman I am today, of that, I have no doubt. He made me feel like I was invincible, his feisty daughter who was capable of anything.  He made me feel beautiful; his blue eyes would twinkle when he proudly introduced me to people.  I’ve lost that sense of invincibility, temporarily I hope, and with that lost confidence in many aspects of my life.  I was Dad’s girl.  So whose girl am I now? Am I capable of the job I am doing?  Am I making the right decisions regarding my health?  Am I giving the right advice to the boys when I am asked?  I have never second-guessed myself this much ever.

And that’s the thing.  When someone you love dies you don’t just lose that person physically.  You lose what they brought to your life in so many aspects.   How only they could make you feel is gone forever.  How they looked at you.  How they said your name.  How they called you by a nickname that they had just for you.  The songs you used to enjoy together.  Johnny Cash has been on repeat in my car for weeks – Dad would love to know that.  How they smelt.  I can walk into a room and if a man is wearing Old Spice (my Dad’s favourite when I was a little girl) I am literally transported back to my childhood.  It evokes feeling safe and sound.   As I type this I am wearing my Dad’s old green gardening jumper. I like to tell myself that it smells of him but I don’t think it does.  Nor does his hat, coat, gloves, hankies, or his flannelette shirt – all taken by me from his wardrobe after he died in a desperate attempt to hang on to him.  Mum joked that if Dad and I shared the same jean and shoe size I could have had a complete “Don” outfit.

There are just so many things that are irreplaceable and unique to he and I and having his clothes is no substitute of course, but that green jumper………..I just love it.

I am really struggling with my health at the moment and the loss of our dog Izzy has left me very flat indeed.  So of late, when I think of Dad, I usually end up in floods of tears.  I was watching “Bridget Jones Baby” on DVD again the other day.  What a fabulous, funny movie.  But the scene where she is sitting on a bench chatting just to her Dad left me completely undone. I know they are acting but they did an exceptional job of conveying the strong connection between a father and daughter.  A connection I miss on a daily basis.

Most days of late I just want to run back to the Isle of Wight (where we took his ashes last August as was his wish) and be with his/my family.  Even to sit by “his” tree would be comforting.  I know this too shall pass; grief is irrational, erratic and exhausting.  But I feel like I am in the “thick” of it again.

I will share with you the poem I read out just before we scattered Dad’s ashes deep in the copse (forest) on his beloved Isle of Wight.  The words will forever be appropriate for me.

Dad, you are loved and missed so very much.

Your song in my heart is so loud today.

 

“The Music Changed”

The day you died, the musical score of my life was forever changed.

A sad undertone was added.

Some days it is very loud.

Some days it is very soft.

But it is always there.

I am thankful for the days when I can hear the joyful melody of life.

I will listen to your song forever in my heart.

By Mardi Slagle Peaster.

 

My Only Sunshine

I think most second born siblings; in particular, if they are the same sex, feel in the shadow of the older one at some stage during their lives.  So today I write about someone who shines so bright that I hope he knows that there is no shadow big enough to ever put him in the shade.

He is a boy. My second born son.  A happy, sunny, good looking child who had wild curly hair as a baby.  He has always been full of life and mischief.

He was an easy baby, other than the projectile vomiting that came with his severe reflux.  I can still see the looks on friend’s faces as they eagerly asked for a cuddle, their wish granted immediately but first, they were covered in a cot sheet.  Just in case.  He was indulged by his very attentive big brother and by the time he was a toddler he was the “boss” out of the two.  He was attached to not one but three dummies.  Just as well as he often threw them out of his cot at his sleeping brother in an attempt to wake him up.

He is loud.   If he wanted something as a toddler he would not come and find you.  He would yell at the top of his lungs from wherever he was. His voice today is still the deepest in the house.

He is kind.  When his brother was sick as a little boy he would gently pat him on the head and on one occasion popped his beloved dummy into his brother’s mouth.  The sentiment was not lost on his brother; everyone knew how he loved his dummies.  His empathy now is still one of his greatest qualities.

He is fearless.  If there was a friend in trouble at kindy or primary school he would be the first to jump in and defend them.  Many a time at a local playground he would get between his favourite girl, a blonde beauty who was a little shy, and the boys pushing and shoving to get to the top of the slippery dip first.  He would raise his hands or legs to “protect” her and yell at them with that deep voice.  It used to make all of us Mum’s laugh that she had in him her very own bodyguard.

I also remember him as a four year old standing between his brother and a group of boys who were not being very nice.  His brother is three and a half years older than him and at that time probably twice his size.  In his booming voice yet again (seriously he was born with a deep voice) and exaggerated karate-like stance he said: “Get away from my brother.”  It completely diffused the situation as the group of boys just could not believe the gall of this little kid.  This behaviour gets him into a bit of trouble on occasion as his passion for his friends,  or an underdog often leads to him getting involved in things that really are none of his business.

He is talkative.  Every parent teacher interview always starts with a smile and a sigh from his teacher, “He is a lovely boy, has lots to say but he must pick his time to share it.”  Yep.  That is one lesson still not learned at school but it makes him a wonderful conversationalist with people of all ages.  Many a dinner or party is made so much better with Matthews’s great social capabilities and his “gift of the gab.”

He is reckless.  So many falls and crashes off bikes, skateboards and the like.  He actually became infamous in Year 4 for riding his push bike down the school slippery dip.  “No mean feat Lory, we were all a little impressed, but it is Road Safety Week!”  Upon leaving primary school he said the person he would miss the most was the First Aid lady.  In fairness, she said she would miss him too.  He was her most regular visitor with the very best of manners but she felt the school budget could look forward to bandages and Band-Aids lasting a whole lot longer with him gone.

He is nervous.  High school in particular was a big step out of his comfort zone and he only knew one person going to the same school.  Big brother was there to help but for a whole term he would come home flat.  Such a social creature, he was missing his own group of mates.  But by term two, as predicted, he found his group and they share solid friendships today.

He is funny.  Such a sharp, quick wit.  He keeps his friends and family entertained.  He is the only one that can make his brother cry with laughter.  Like, completely lose it.  It is a gift. He has total recall of movie lines and punch lines and does fantastic impersonations.  Why this brilliant memory does not recall homework assignment due dates, science formulas or even what day of the week it is is beyond me.

He is frustratingly but endearingly laid-back and forgetful.  Can drive you nuts that the dishwasher he is responsible for unpacking for the last seven years is constantly forgotten – but always in a surprised way.  As if I am asking him for the very first time.  Important school notes have been found months after the event and many a party invite given to me the day before it’s on.  Once I got the 2014 school year book brought home to me at the end of 2015.  To this day we do not know what happened to the 2015 one.

He has been scared.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I think it hit him the hardest in many ways.  His perfect little world was rocked.  His eyes would look at me suspiciously.  Searching for what he thought was a lie in my well-delivered assurances that all would be ok long before we knew it would be.  He avoided me for a while but fortunately before too long he relaxed and became my movie buddy.  Choosing “girly” ones he would lay with me and chat and did a very good job of distracting me and keeping me entertained after my surgery.

He has been heartbroken.  His Pop, my Dad, lay dying in the hospital.  There were a few of us sitting around Dad’s bed as he slept.  The mood was quiet and very sad until he suggested that we go around the room and share our favourite funny story about Pop.  Imagine that.  15 years old and trying to lighten the situation for a room full of adults.  Incredible.  And then, days later, he stood at his Pop’s funeral and delivered his hand written eulogy.  I get emotional just thinking about that.  My heart burst with pride.

He is charming.  With a flash of his green eyes and his beautiful smile, I have seen him disarm quite a few girls and he is completely oblivious to it.  Just recently he and I went to collect a pizza from our local pizza shop.  The girl behind the counter was staring at him so much he presumed she knew his brother and he asked her just that. (This happens quite a bit as they do look quite similar.) She said no but as she handed over the pizza she asked for his name (they knew our surname from our order.)  By the time we got home she had found him on Facebook.  Yep.  Only three years older than him. OMG!  DELETE!

He has been devastated.  The loss of our dog, his dog, a few weeks ago has affected him deeply.  He has removed himself from us and the family home.  Anything that reminds him of his daily rituals that he had with her he needs to escape from.  Like me, he can be a bit of a homebody but home is not is solace now.  I have watched and worried about him a lot. The saying every boy should have a dog was written just for him I’m sure.  I hope he will be able to love another one again.  For now, he can’t bear to talk about it so we will leave it be.

He is assertive.  These past six months he has grown up a lot, in maturity and height, and grown away a little from the big brother who he once thought knew everything.  Suddenly there is more conflict as little brother stands up for himself and completely disregards his big brothers’ opinions and suggestions.  It’s interesting to watch brothers compete for some kind of dominance.  And sometimes it’s just outright frustrating to watch as they reduce themselves to kindergarten age with “That’s mine,” or “What would you know?” or “It’s your turn to do that.”  Yes really.

He is loving.  He gives hugs to die for.  He rings his Nan to check up on her regularly. He writes the most wonderful heartfelt things in birthday cards for all of us.  He takes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day very seriously and does everything to make sure we have a nice day.  The dishwasher always gets emptied that day!

He is tolerant.  When his brother comes home late after a few too many beers and professes his undying love to him, over and over and over again, with little regard for his personal space, he just grins and puts up with it.

He is loved.  I have always described him as the great light of my life.  He is my very own sunshine.  In fact “You are my Sunshine” has always been our song.

He is about to turn 17 years old.  He is a wonderful son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. He is many things to many people but to me he is everything.  When he was 6 years old he once declared to a teacher “I am the most important person in my Mum’s life.  She loves me too much.” She said she loved how joyfully he said this, with the deepest conviction and confidence that it was absolutely true.  Along with his brother, of course, it is true.  My hope, as we navigate our way through these teenage years together, is that he knows it still.

He is Matthew and I adore him.

A few of my favourite things

It’s coming up for two long years without my Dad.  I think about him many times every single day.  A song, a joke, fathers and daughters together, a man walking his little white dog all have the ability to make my heart skip a beat and a lump form in my throat.  The pain of losing him will never go away but it is certainly less acute on a daily basis.  I absolutely still have my days where the mere thought of him brings on floods of tears but I try really hard to remember the big love we shared with a smile.

Anyway, I was thinking about him one night and could hear myself saying, “I would give anything to see him again.”

Give anything.  In a world where a lot of us are lucky to have “everything” in the way of material possessions I thought what wouldn’t I be able to give up if asked to?  Give anything is thrown around easily.  Would I really give anything to see my Dad again?  Would I give up my children, my marriage, and my health to have my Dad back?  No.  Nor would he have wanted me to.  I think the only thing we would give up “everything” for in a literal sense would be to ensure the well being of our children. So that made me think of my “things.”  The “things”, (family, pets, friends, aside – I’m talking material things) that I am actually so attached to I couldn’t bear to part with them.  I am incredibly sentimental.  I have hat boxes full of “stuff.”  Cards, the boy’s drawings from primary school, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, photos, you name it I probably have kept it.  But what would be my top four most treasured possessions.  I didn’t have to think too long at all.  I will share with you what they are and why.

The Lady On A Bike.

I saw this in the little antique shop on Duthy Street.  It was a cold winter’s day and the four of us had gone for a drive.  We had stopped for a coffee and we decided to have a mooch in the shop.  It was 2007 as we were living at Parkside so that would make the boys 11 and 7 years old respectively.  We were all looking at different things and I spotted the lady on a bike.  I just loved it straight away.  It’s a wooden figurine – quite large.  It’s a lady wearing a top hat on a bike that looks a lot like a penny-farthing. It’s a bit quirky; I liked the colour of it too.  I continued to look around but kept going back to it.  The boys were a bit bemused, “Mum, you love that don’t you?”  I really did.  I think it was about $20.00.  Anyway we ended up leaving.  I didn’t have the $20.00 on me and as we all got back in the car Andrew said that if it was there next week we could go back and get it.  I just shrugged.  It wasn’t that important.

When we got home the boys disappeared into Jesse’s room.  The door was shut and I remember thinking how nice it was that they were playing together.  Our move to Parkside saw them have their own rooms for the first time – they had shared a room since Matthew was born.  Jesse likes to say that he loved his own space “finally!” but I know for a fact it took a lot of adjustment  for each of them to sleep in a room without the other.  So when they were in a bedroom together I just loved it.

After a while they both came out and Jesse said he was going for a ride on his bike.  We had just started to let him do this on the side streets only; Unley Road was far too busy for my liking.  I thought nothing of it as he put on his coat and rode off.  He returned after only 15 minutes with a big grin and a big bulge under his jacket.  Matthew joined him as they walked into the lounge, where Andrew and I were sitting, and Jesse pulled the lady on a bike out from underneath his jacket.  They were both grinning from ear to ear.  “We could tell you loved it so we put our money together and we bought it for you as a surprise.”  I couldn’t believe it.  What was fabulous was how happy they were at how happy I was.  It was one of those perfect moments.  It takes pride of place on my dresser and brings me such joy every single time I look at it. Probably brings joy to ONLY me though.  Not many people like it but that’s ok.  To me it is irreplaceable.

My Dad’s St Christopher.

My Dad used to wear a St Christopher for as long as I could remember.  It was something I really associated with him from a very young age.  He and Mum also bought one for Michael and I at different stages of our lives.  I have no idea what happened to mine though.

I am not sure when Dad stopped wearing it but it wasn’t something as an adult that I noticed was missing either.  Until the day he died.  After we left him at the hospital that awful day we went back home to be together with Mum and Michael.  I asked what had happened to his St Christopher.  It’s funny how important things like that become when it feels like it is all that you have left to hang on to.  To keep you close to him. Mum didn’t know and nor did Michael.  So I became unhealthily attached to his medic alert bracelet.  I know – ridiculous!  But it was something he wore every day and I just needed to have it.  I wore it every single day up until we took Dads ashes to the Isle of Wight.  It was only after that that I managed to NOT put it on in the mornings.  Took a lot of will power – it really did.  Grief makes you do funny stuff.

Anyway as days went by and we were slowly sorting out Dad’s possessions I received a message from Michael on my phone.  It said “Look what I found.” Then a photo of Dad’s St Christopher followed, a little tarnished but there it was.  I was so happy.  Unbelievably so.  Michael was so thrilled for me.  Dad had kept it in the back of his wallet for goodness knows how many years.  I picked it up from Mum and I took it to a jeweller to have it cleaned and restored and bought a nice new chain for it.  I have not taken it off since.  I play with it often – it’s like my own security blanket around my neck.  I feel Dad’s encouragement and love when I touch it. This is my most sentimental, treasured possession.

My Diamond Wedding Ring.

Not a lot of explanation needed for this one.  Andrew and I were looking at wedding rings – plain bands – as they were the only ones that we could afford.  My eyes strayed to a prettier band with a row of diamonds in it.  The very astute sales woman was clearly following my gaze and that ring was on my finger before Andrew could say “What the hell??”  I loved it but put it back and returned to the plain band.  Andrew chose his ring and as we went to complete the paperwork to buy the rings he picked up the diamond band and said “We will take this one.  She’s the one so this is the one.”  I will never forget that he said that and did that – we seriously couldn’t afford it at that time.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.  I am a lucky girl. I will wear his ring forever.

My iPod.

Now that may sound a little mad.  But I have had my iPod for nearly 10 years.  A dear friend spent hours setting up various play lists.  All my favourite 80’s songs.  All of Andrew’s favourite songs.  A list for any type of party you could imagine.  The time and thought that went into it was amazing.  I grew up in a house where music was always playing.  Someone was always singing.  So in our home music is very important to us all.  So to recreate these carefully constructed lists on my iPod would be near impossible for me.  I love the music and I love that a friend loved me enough to spend that much time on something just for me.

What are your most treasured “things?” I would love to know xx