Some days I think being a Mum and being a can of insect spray have a lot in common. What an ugly thing to compare the most precious and beautiful state of the human condition to! Hold on though – my mind is running with the theme of protection.
From the moment we conceive or know that we have conceived most Mothers take every reasonable precaution to protect their growing baby. At birth we are making decisions to best consider our soon to be newborns. NO pain relief if it might cross the placenta! Nearly all parents and caregivers are in a constant state of doing everything they can to shield their children from all the physical and emotional harms which might come their way.
So if we are proactively trying to counter every possible situation before it happens then we might be a bit like the top shelf brand of surface spray getting into all the nooks and crannies before anything awful turns up. Good old solid protection!
If we are skittering around fixing things for our kids (of course we are) delivering forgotten hats and homework books – kind of reminds me of chasing the flies out with the spray can. Reactive protection – shield them from trouble and get rid of the baddies!
What if we can be the big gun Mums? Those who have protection sorted, planned and never left to chance. There are those Mums who just seem to get everything right and achieve very pleasing results. Well, that has to be the precisely on date, full service pest protection which comes with guarantees and refunds for any slip ups. Not that they happen. Wouldn’t that be nice in the pesky, incredible and privileged business of parenting?
Insect spray and having kids – the comparison was a touch of whimsy as the notion scrambled in all sorts of directions in my mind as I caught a glimpse of the idea just barely out of the corner of my eye.
I can’t say I lost God because that would imply that at some point I found God. I have always had a faith – I guess a belief in God, most likely brought about by a Catholic upbringing. To be clear there is a tag for the Catholicism I experienced as a child. It’s called being a C&E Catholic – Christmas and Easter. We were a common group.
I attended a state primary school in the 1970s and the good Catholic ladies ensured that the kids with a C noted as their religion were rounded up to complete the sacraments. I recall very little of the process except that it was a welcome diversion to the boredom of doing little else but going to school and being at home.
There were lessons with baked goods at the end (the best part).
We visited the church to give confessions (my standard mantra was – Forgive me Father for I have sinned, I have had bad thoughts) which I hadn’t – as all in all I was a happy kid who had no dramas, found academics almost too easy and lived to play netball in winter and softball in summer. Life was good, so I confessed to bad thoughts and dutifully said the three Hail Marys as penance.
My two older siblings had completed their sacraments in Scotland before we arrived in Australia so my brother who was two years older was also part of our group making first communion. My parents had a photo of us standing together outside of the church which disappointed my Mum when they were developed (back then you would leave your film at Kodak and wait at least a week for the pictures to come back in a packet) because I had dirty knees from playing which did not match my little white dress but did match my personality exactly!
So, I have asked myself – Am I losing my religion? The more I think about it, the less I feel I ever had one to lose. I married in a Catholic Church – yes, the same one but I only had photos taken in the garden this time so NO dirty knees! My husband is Catholic and he absolutely has religion. Weekly attendance at Catholic mass is vital to him – he describes it as the one hour a week he stops to focus on how he can do better. He lives his religion and wishes to adhere to the formalities of his church. He was not and never will be a C&E Catholic.
I spent most of my life with religion. We went to mass as a family. We opted for Catholic schooling in the hope that the environment would best match the family values in our home and extended family. Our kids all completed the sacraments, willingly and happily enough. I believe they have a sense of faith, a belief of more than the immediate. As adults though, they do not participate in their Catholic communities. They do – out of regard, respect, perhaps compliance, attend services during holiday visits with us. If they don’t realize it – doing so, means the world to their Dad.
I do need to contemplate my own faith, my beliefs and how I can best restore and nourish my connection to that which is more than the here and now. My faith is being tested, has done so now for too many years. It seems like my prayers are not being heard and are far from being answered. It has made me less inclined to show up on Sunday. I feel no guilt when I don’t. That kid in me though, falsely confessing to bad thoughts does try to double the efforts after an absence in the hope that perhaps those prayers will be heard and the much needed miracle will happen.
My prayers are not for me and that just might be where the searching I need to do is leading me. I do not ask for myself. I have been on my knees in churches around the globe praying for the health and well being of one I love. I am telling God that this life is declining and where are your eyes God, why won’t you look? Where is the miracle – and what person will not bend and beg for the miracle to bring back energy, wellness and life – crazy, hectic full capacity life to a loved one.
Faith – we need to spend some time. There’s a bit to do.
Rosie is just a little bit too good looking. She actually can’t help walking with an air of nobility. Rosie is regal – an absolute beauty. Her expression is one of confusion should anyone not immediately pay close attention to her – she likes to be seen. Rosie will simply not tolerate attention being given to others.
She pretends to kiss Pendles then will bite his lip. I have seen Rosie push him back into the water when he tries to get out of the lake. She dips her long blonde legs at the water’s edge while he swims far and deep trying to catch her eye. He splashes about but most often Rosie has already moved on to another for her amusement.
Pendles adores Rosie. He is never happier than when she visits. His excitement ripples through his body as he tries to get close, hoping for her attention. Rosie teases him with a little play, some flirting until someone more interesting comes along.
He will watch and wait with his caramel eyes – ready to respond should she signal the faintest interest in his presence. If some other eyes stray over to this fine, young handsome fellow – well Rosie is there in a pounce, claiming her territory.
Pendles only loves Rosie. No other will do for him. She was his first love and will be his last. His loyal qualities may be lost on Queen Rosie but for now he is content to wait for her.
You must be Australian or have visited this stunning country or have loved an Aussie to have a comprehension of a twistie and a VB. I have a new and deeply bittersweet connection to this combination of the uniquely yellow, salty, cheesy, twirly and crispy baked stubby chippy thing. VB, well that is a little easier – it is a brand of beer.
Yesterday, my friend Kate responded to my message on the anniversary of William, their dear boy whom they were able to hold for less than a year. William is brother to Jack who passed to heaven at just five days old. It was the 20 year anniversary of William’s passing, sweet smiling William who is also brother to his beautiful sisters Emily and Jessica who are fine young woman stepping out into the world to discover their journeys. I have deep faith that Jack and William also watch over their brother Paddy who personifies fun, happiness and goodness.
It is a love story.
Anything to do with Dave and Kate – is always a love story. Love of family, each other, their children, their friends – life. Deeply faithful, positive and with full hearts I have witnessed this resilient couple face the storms of life. Their story is not mine to tell.
The lessons that their actions teach me are – love mightily, live compassion, model justice and family, those whom we cherish – well THIS is everything.
For me, the sharing of a story is a gift. Given in the trust that it will be received in gratitude, cherished and respected. The story of William, the twistie and VB tugs my emotions in two ways – sadness always for the loss but joy also that in the darkest time, love finds a way to enter with a moment to be cherished, remembered fondly – replayed in legacy, belief and love – always love.
I am adding an edit here and wanted it to stand out in bold and italics as it is a message from Kate. After reading my words, Kate wanted to share their precious family memory and only Kate’s words are fitting.
“William got to try VB and twisties before he passed. We gave them to him so he could experience two quintessential Aussie tastes.” (From William’s Mum, Kate).
The family continue this deeply personal tribute to William. From frothy fills and squeaking packages comes a bond of love, grief and endless connection much stronger than any storm that dare try to show its dam self this way again.
It is a privilege to bear witness to great strength and resilience in this grounded family. Hanging out with them always means a roaring good time. Pranks and fun! Hosting is their brand – few could match it. Dave and Kate are so consciously present in the epic which is life.
Lucky us, who get to share a little of it with them.
To get to the point – if the kids are married, have their own family and own a house then I’ll be sad to go but I won’t be worried about the kids which must make the going a bit less bloody awful!
I have a list of the things to be done before kicking the bucket – a previous list of desires written on a piece of paper and slipped between the pages of a lifetime event diary which records – just moments. It is not particularly detailed. In fact, it is no longer a valid list as I’ve come to the realization that I only want to see my children happy, secure and loved.
A few days ago I watched – via some social media platform (so many of them now) a short clip of a young American nurse singing a much loved song to a patient who was in the very end stage of life. Indeed, the beautiful elderly woman passed in the following week. Clearly with the permission of her family, that sweet moment was captured and I was deeply touched by the compassion of the young nurse who sung so lovingly with her patient who appeared calm, smiling and peaceful. What a blessing to be cared for so gently in those final days. My heart told me that the woman was ready – to be ready.
My hope, my wish, my dream is to see all three of my children settled with their own families. Married, well – yes, I would feel contentment if marriage is the wish of all my children. A declaration of love and commitment with family and true friends is a desire I have for each of my kids – whatever form that may take. I adore that young people no longer follow a set of rules set by an invisible force of society. They say you have to have…they say you must…they expect you to…who the heck are they?
We have the beautiful, fairy princess wedding of our eldest daughter as a happy and gorgeous memory. Alex and Greg shared their commitment with loved ones and close friends in a beautiful ceremony which emphasized the beginning of their marriage in an elegant and personal ceremony. They had a sparkling party in a pretty ballroom with dancing and happiness. Fairy lights, white linens, candles and deep red roses and loved ones – some who are now passed, making the memory all the more special.
Harry and Heidi are planning their wedding which will be held in America in 2021. They are faced with the challenge of uncertainty at each turn as the global pandemic COVID19 continues to spread death and discord. It will be extraordinarily special when we combine with Cathy, Heidi’s Mom and our families to witness and celebrate the marriage of these two spectacular young people. I know they want a family and my biggest hope is to know and love their stunning children – and I can guarantee they will be tall!
Annie wants to have children. Lucky babies who have this amazing woman as their mother.
I pray that all of my kids are blessed with a family should they want to nourish children with love, care and time. I would feel content to know them in their own homes, with their dedicated and sturdy partners and their children, should a family be on their own little bucket lists.
I know for Shane and I, our own parents were content and proud of their children knowing they had jobs which would sustain them, had chosen worthy partners and made sensible decisions to ensure their own families – all of us blessed, had comfortable and loving homes.
So the bucket list does not contain trips to Paris although I would like to walk on the soil of Scotland one last time. It has nothing to do with dollars, cars or villas in exotic locations. I have no desire to be strapped to some rookie jumper out of a tourist aircraft unless perhaps it is Shane whom I would actually trust to check the gear!
My three loves and their own loves can and will fill my bucket should I be so blessed.
After nearly five years out of paid employment and naively believing I am up to speed with technology – well, let’s just say it’s a whole new world out there!
It was surprisingly easy to achieve the above.
Go camping on the very day the contract link is sent via email.
Camp freestyle with no power and intermediate phone coverage.
Open contract via email in transit and assume that technology such as print, sign, scan, download, attach and send is required and that one and half days is not too long to wait to do so.
Have no clue about docusign!
Check phone in tent at 9pm and finally get coverage to dash off reply to urgent text reminder to sign contract – reply, however it is never to be seen (but showing at my end) Even I know DO NOT REPLY usually means auto – but none on this one so it remains a telco mystery.
Arrive home to the sane world of an actual computer and deal with the volley of events.
Emails and actual telephone conversations.
‘Little’ lesson on docusign from one I birthed – ‘they’ become very useful! (You can actually hear ‘eye rolling’ over a messenger call with no video).
Sorted! I try not to long for the days when a turnaround was not required within hours, minutes even!
I have been reluctant to write about the pandemic – COVID19/ Coronavirus for a few reasons but mainly because I am so deeply blessed to be minimally impacted – so far. It is just wrenching to witness by media the deaths, family separation and the lines of the unemployed. I’ve had access through my literary hub to brilliant and beautifully crafted essays which delve into, through and beyond this insidious virus more eloquently than I could achieve. Writers – may we always, always have our writers.
For legacy then – this is our ‘Corona’ experience. There are just the two of us at home, three if you count the border collie. Retired now for several years, there were no job losses and the contract that my husband is leading continues with creative work practices and travel postponed. We live on a lake and waterway where we can kayak for kilometres and have the beauty of a wide and calming outlook.
Our beautiful beaches did not close for exercise purposes and as we are an easy bicycle ride, walk or four minute car ride – we have been reminded by emerging from the gym to more frequently enjoy our stunning pocket of our lovely coastal region. We did not lose access to fishing – nor did we catch a single fish! Our stand up paddles take us out on the passage under blue skies. Music plays in our home and the television is off. With the means for good technology we have stayed in contact with our families with the chats, the birthday hook ups, kitten catch up antics (our son and fiancee fostered a mother cat and five kittens) and some creative game playing – as such, some of these new connections are certain to remain as our little family and the extended one are spread across the country.
Some days were flop and Netflix saturation but these were minimal and always followed by a recharge of exercise, cooking, maintenance and e-learning opportunities. I had my first Zoom meeting on Friday with the Qld Hospital Foundation for which I shall be copywriting. I have managed to log into my Spanish nearly every day. A patron opportunity has progressed and is to be made official in May. When we come out of this and can get back to the new normal, whatever that might be, it will be satisfying to have not squandered this time of pause.
We followed the rules – all of them. We are still following the rules. For two months we have ventured only to our local walks, beaches and the community supermarket for essentials and have never stopped appreciating that we have such a privilege to do so compared to our global peers.
I have been impressed witnessing the agility of business and individuals to respond to the new concept of social distancing and contactless vendor exchange. In our patch the overall reaction was compliancy and politeness. Our area in no manner reflected the atrocious public behaviours in shopping venues and the urban spaces of larger cities, the ugly viewing broadcast on the news. We did, stupidly – fall prey to the toilet paper hoarders which ironically turned full circle when dedicated ‘senior’ shopping hours allowed elders to buy up the replenished stock for their children! This did go on for a few weeks before easing to the common sense understanding that there was no need to bulk up on loo paper.
Annie lost her job when the business closed. She is currently exploring options for post pandemic life which might include postgraduate studies. Her partner Jake, has never been busier in the family businesses of pet care and building. Alexandria is working from home with a suit jacket handy for zoom moments and is not missing the commute. She has found her kitchen access to cook delicious healthy lunches a welcome bonus and the added time to take walks, pleasurable. Her husband Greg is likewise working from home and with the drop in temperature in our southern states – it’s not exactly all bad! Our son’s laboratory has strict protocols and when he is on the wards of the hospital, he likens it to scenes from sci-fiction movies with the protective gear and face shields – once odd, now routine. His fiancee Heidi has been teaching on line, with reduced classes on campus and is presently preparing for the return of all students in the near weeks. Collectively our young ones have had personal travel and arrangements cancelled or impacted, taken some financial losses but have carried on – not only without complaint, they have adhered to the new norm and just got on with it.
Of course it is not a fairytale here in Australia. People died – sooner than they might have. Families were separated during loss. Jobs and businesses gone – some just started. Our economy will have a long road to some type of recovery where mass unemployment and reliance on welfare via borrowed funds subsides to more robust times of employment opportunity and future promise – especially for our young Australians.
We are part of a global community dealing with the world wide virus of 2020 – COVID19. There are many more questions and unknowns to be navigated. This curve we must ride together has been and will continue to be excruciating, unwanted but humbling. In our home we have made time for reflection, to be thankful and to acknowledge the pure good fortune to be Australian, to start each day with the luxury to have a simple goal, to be nice.
Today I sat in a cemetery for two hours and heard a beautiful story. A love story. Coronavirus is currently first most on everyone’s mind today, and was yesterday and will be again tomorrow but for my friend Judy, there was also an anniversary to feel and acknowledge today on this 25th day of March, 2020. Ten years missed, forever loved. A husband, father, son, brother – a man of standing, integrity, wise, funny, and imperfect like all of us, but just perfect for Judy as she was for him.
I was honoured to be invited to join her and as we sat under grey skies and green trees, the world around us continued on with local government voting at the church across the road, several other pairs and solo visitors to this quiet resting ground of dear ones and cars passing – most likely filled with drivers anxious to make preparations for the next round of government instructions. Today was not about Corona. Today was about Ross.
The sharing of a story is a gift to me – a precious joy. This one is about yellow corollas, Queensland number plates, touch rugby and a delicate bouquet of mixed flowers. They were young. Beautiful of course. He was a country lad who had joined the army as an apprentice and she was a city girl with an adventurous spirit and a sassy attitude.
Judy has a mentor. A charming lady of wisdom and talent who speaks to her of the chapters in her life. The large ones and those which will be smaller. As a writer, I view all of our lives as a story hence chapters sit logically – rolling on with a rhythm which may refuse to be compliant.
She spotted his car first – arriving into the carpark with its bright yellow paint and distinctive Queensland registration in the Sydney enclave which was the location of her own military posting. My heart warmed when Judy shared this part as she was smiling and her eyes had all the spark of a teenager. As she told me more, I was thinking about Ross, oblivious as he parked his little corolla that he was about to collide head on with the unfathomable force of love.
Later there would be enquiries made by this young, pretty blonde girl. Who was he? Where was he from and what is he doing here? She was away from home and all that was familiar and here was this new boy – a Queenslander. Judy does not know – shy! Outgoing and friendly, that very night at the ‘boozer’ over friendly beers and mixed games of darts they exchanged tender flirts and enjoyed the commonality of being superior Queenslanders in this southern state.
Soon enough there was afternoon sport and fitness and a friendly touch game which gave him the chance to impress her. I could hear in the telling that it was not by chance that he was close to her each time she intercepted or had possession. Judy shares this chapter of her life – soon to be their life with elegance and humour. We are comfortable during the telling that he is not here, and yet he is here.
That afternoon and the obvious chemistry, mutual fun and banter must have given Ross the confidence to ask Judy for a date. A dinner date it would be. She laughed at something then – a private memory. The day after their first formal date, flowers arrived for her. She knew then. Their love story had begun.
There would be a tiny Sydney one-bedder and a small cottage further west which brings her only joyful memories. Boozy camping with friends and all the while planning a future – commitment. This was the best love story of all – the real kind.
We are back in the cemetery and it is sad to have to miss Ross. Judy looks and acts strong. She has honored their life and family together whilst carving out a new chapter just as Ross wanted. Now that wish from Ross is a true love story and it does not have an ending.
“Masie, just let me come in and help you?” said Arthur from the other side of the closed door.
“No! Just go and check for the truck. It must be here by now.”
“You know I’ll hear it Mase. I’ll hear it on Scartree and I’ve still got five minutes to get down there,” replied Arthur. She was quiet and that was not usual at all for his wife. “Mase?”
“I’m so tired of this Arthur. No privacy. Please, I’m ok. Can you just leave me be and get the truck.”
Arthur lingered a moment but knew well enough that once Masie had made up her mind, that was it – end of discussion. You learn a bit over fifty odd married years. He’d need Mase to remind him exactly how many. Still he worried and would be glad when he could help her out of there.
He may as well do as she asked and head out to the end of their driveway. Arthur stopped at his mailbox although junk mail had all but stopped. Nothing much to advertise anymore. At last Arthur heard the familiar distinctive drone of the council truck. Finally. His hearing was pretty much as good as it had always been and he was grateful for that at least.
Arthur waved to Paddy two doors up who was already waiting at the end of his drive. They were the last two ‘originals’. Both families had built their modest post war homes back when there were paddocks, single lane dirt roads and milk and bread delivery. Masie had grown most of the greens and vegetables that they needed and kept chooks, her girls she used to call them. The coup was long gone. Their ‘kids’ deciding it attracted rats and snakes.
Arthur could see others coming out. They too had heard the truck. No one dared not to have someone at hand. There were plenty of faces he didn’t know. Sure, some of them waved in passing but mostly people pretended not to see you or turned back and got busy just to avoid talking. Guess they thought an old bloke like him might hold them up for too long. In his day that was called being rude or up yourself – now it’s called social something, oh social distancing.
The truck was coming into the circuit now and seemed a little slower than usual. Most of the houses were double storeys and very modern. The small wooden two bedders with a sleep out were getting razed to the ground as each year more and more of the neighbors sold up and went off to units or retirement villages. The same sort of kids who took away chooks – took away parents. Masie and Arthur were only a few streets from the beach and the once village centre. It was now a mix of high rise holiday apartments and a few of the old family businesses still clinging on with the next generation in charge just waiting for a developer’s offer.
“Come on,” Arthur muttered impatiently because he wanted to get back inside to Mase. Now he could see the fancy automated council rubbish truck with its round belly and massive logo – that blow in Mayor wasted money on anything and everything just to get his face or name plastered any where he could. Arthur recalled when the bin boys would turn up and run into their yard, jump the fence to grab their round tin bin – just to run it out to the truck and empty the contents before replacing the bin and lid to its place in the yard beside the house. The ‘boys’ as they were called were mostly agile, impossibly fit men often in their thirties and forties. Wirey, they were called. A lot of blokes were like that back then. The sort of blokes who could do their own building, concreting and knock up a fence in a day. Not an inch of fat on them. Not like now. Mase got a painter to the house who refused to move a bed because he had a bad back. He stood there and watched him and Mase coax it out of the way. Tosser.
The truck was at the end of their drive with the mechanical arm pulling the plastic bin up to sink its contents into the fat metal belly. That was not of interest to Arthur. He was waiting for the drop from the attached trailer. The driver pulled the next lever and for No 22, the two occupant home of Arthur and Mase out would drop the precious weekly four pack of rolls.
“Don’t worry Mase. I’m on my way now,” chatted Arthur as he started back up their driveway.
It is beyond vile, what just happened. In an empty site, ugly ground, foulest words. It’s pushing at my back and I am trying not to vomit. Bile burns my throat and disgustingly I swallow. Somehow the dog holds me up. I must not let go of the little dog or it will run off and get lost. A car will hit it. Walk and hold. I don’t know the way. Nothing looks familiar. There is no familiar here. The little dog – does it know the way? How can there be this much pain in my chest without a heart attack? If I fall, the dog won’t stay. It will run. I know it. It’s hard to breathe. Step, one step, one more – stay up, keep moving and clench on to the leash, hold on to the little dog. It’s behind me. It did not happen. I did not hear it. I did not see it. Push it back. Keep going, it doesn’t matter where.
I’m on the last flight. I’ve closed my eyes because I have not slept much in the last day or night, or whatever time has passed. The noise of the cabin crew as their feet clomp on the isle is reassuring. It keeps me present. Mum and Dad, I can’t talk to you now. I have to hold it together. I’m on a plane. The noises remind me. Don’t think about them now. Later when I finally get home, I can think about you. I can be under the quilt and in the dark, I can think about you then. I am shamed. I think you saw and you know and I am shamed. I have to listen to the crew sounds. I must keep it together. Do push back, you know how to do push back.
It’s deep night. I’m startled but there is no noise. The panic in my chest makes it hard to suck in air. I have to make a big noise to get it out which helps get some back in. It’s sore but it’s the type I’m used to. That means it will pass. The empty lot comes back in my mind. I see the tuft of grass somehow sprouting from dry, cracked clay. Ugly comes back. Push back, don’t think. I can see white daisies in a glass jar. Sprigs of rosemary in white china cups – all the way down a long table. What next? I can talk to Mum now – it’s dark and no-one can see.