Two Mums And A Friendship

In Australia, Mum lived in five houses – that’s if you include the one my parents demolished and rebuilt.  My Dad felt the quote for pulling the house down was ridiculous so he did it himself.  Mum helped, everyone helped.  In all of those gardens my Mum planted marigolds.  She enjoyed time in the garden but was not a landscaper at heart as it was Mum’s mission to rid her gardens of any trees which dropped fruits, flowers or attracted noisy birds!  Perhaps Mum’s preference for flower gardens may have stemmed back to her young days in Glasgow where the parks with spectacular seasonal flower beds were a treat to visit when the weather was fair.

 

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It is eight years since Mum passed away from heart failure just five weeks after Dad died from cancer which had spread throughout his body.  The passing time has meant that I no longer think to call Mum, I don’t fall to pieces when I see someone who looks like it could be her from the back, to eternally discover – of course it is not my Mum.  I don’t only recall the images of Mum as she was in palliative care.  Now, I have a fuller repertoire of memories, am able to make happy Mum reflections with my family and can fully appreciate any time I spend thinking of her.  It is a blessing that time almost certainly eases unbearable loss into a season of more soothing remembering.

My dear friend is not in this season.  She lost her lovely Mum more recently and it aches me to know somewhat of what she is enduring,  My amazing friend Brenda had a spectacular relationship with her Mum, Loreen Burton who was born on the 4th of February, 1929.  They were absolutely best friends and shared many interests.  Spending time with them left me feeling like I had just been given a beautiful little gift – the present of being in their presence.  This was felt even deeper when my own Mum was no longer with me.

They are accomplished women.  Brenda is a highly qualified nurse who has all the gentleness and nurturing skills from a long career – the qualities we often associate with nurses from a previous era although she is also a recent Master graduate, is a leader and teacher in her profession and nurses in private practice.  My parents had some brilliant and beautiful nurses at the end of their lives but if I had magic, beyond healing them, I would wish that Brenda was their nurse.  There may be some as good perhaps – but none could be better.

 

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I came to know Brenda’s funny, outrageous and energetic Mum later in her life.  Do not think I knew an old woman for a second – far from it.  She had a sharp mind, excelled at anything she turned her hand to, remained fit, mobile and independent until her gentle and unexpected passing in her 90th year.  She personified role model.  Loreen was great company and was wickedly happy to have a sassy flirt with my husband!

Last year during their annual visit to Caloundra I offered to collect Loreen from her morning of cards at a local community hall.  I was searching for a parking spot, expecting to go into the hall and help Brenda’s Mum walk down the steps.  Before I could do so this spritely lady was already out, (having won at cards) and had descended the small but steep flight of stairs and was making her steady way towards the car!

When I visited my dear friend in New Zealand earlier this year we paid a visit to Loreen who lived independently in an immaculate, lovely home about ten minutes by car from Brenda.  Loreen was beautifully dressed, groomed elegantly as she had done so for every day of her life.  Her soft hair was beautifully brushed and her make up and lipstick were faultless.  Loreen spoiled us with a lovely afternoon tea although the exceptional treat for me was to witness this amazing lady moving about her kitchen – hosting and busily preparing tea for all of us.

 

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I miss Loreen deeply for Brenda and I feel very blessed to have known her and to have witnessed first hand the special bond this wonderful mother and daughter shared and still do.  In the next few days Brenda will be attending to her Mum’s possessions.  Gentle and loving hands on the everyday things that make up a home and reflect a life.  The harsh reality of boxes and decisions will not out weigh the deepening of sweet and loving memories collected in the necessary gathering.  When my Mum died I understood that people mean to be kindly but inadvertently say things that are less than comforting.  Some try to offer positivity in listing the many achievements of a life well lived.  However, it was during a private and quiet moment when these words were spoken to me – “It does not matter how old you are when you lose your Mother, it’s hard, very hard.”  That tender acknowledgement felt like the first tiny loosening of the grip of grief.

Be as well as it is possible to be my friend during this season.  In knowing you, your grandchildren will know Loreen.  It is a given that the loving nature, capacity to give and that cheeky humor shall be passed to them just as it was bestowed upon you.

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Guilty – Even When Not Guilty

 

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“If six men went out for dinner tonight, would they be going through and going on about the menu looking for something that is healthy, low calorie, non fat?” I asked barely containing my impatience.

I was feeling annoyed because the act of eating, enjoying wine or cool water and dining with other women should be joyful, pleasant – anything but a time to end up feeling awash with consumption guilt.

I craved glass clinking and the appreciation of not having to cook, no dishes and yes, some hearty pub fare.

What really made me uncomfortable was my internal justification that started with – I did a circuit class today, I cleaned house, washed and folded two loads, went to the main street to buy and pay things, tutored at school and still took the dog to the park.  I missed lunch – had a large coffee instead.  So, I can have a glass of wine.  It should not matter what I order.  I don’t have to feel guilty.

Balance – my goal.  Where are the role models, not the ‘models’?

Luckily, I have a really good one – even if she happens to be half way round the world!

We always had fun.  We laughed and goofed whether working out at Mikki’s fabulous torture sessions, volunteering at the family centre, co-hosting functions, or shopping for ingredients to cook up fabulous, fresh and beautiful food.  We enjoyed wine together on our balconies, even dressed as witches for halloween.

I have never met a fitter woman who loved her exercise, enjoyed great food and appreciated delicious red wine, chilled gin and tonics and other Canadian beverages that had us all singing into the wee hours in my kitchen.  There is actual footage of this!

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She not only personifies beauty, grace and enduring elegance – my friend and neighbour at MAC Dill AFB, Katrin – is a women with a zest for life!  Whether slamming it at the gym (she is one mighty fit mamma all right), tucking into our tailgate party feast or partying at St Petes – she lives balance.  So it can be done.  I’ve seen it.

Just have to remind myself!

 

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Gregory!

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When I hear him laugh, it is impossible and I do mean impossible – not to smile.  Most often I am on the phone to my precious first daughter (because I am blessed to have two) when I hear his blast of a laugh in the background.  He is not a baby or a toddler, although on certain days my daughter may beg to differ.  The belly laugh belongs to my ‘son in law’.

That formal title does not sit comfortably with me but of course I do understand the origins.  He did not come into our life in a traditional or formal mode.  I recall arriving home from school and unloading groceries (even now I am forever unloading food and living items) and was trying to flick on the news.  The television would not ‘load’ as the VCR (yeah that is how long ago it was)…which had been tuned via the tv – was gone. Missing.

My sweet and precious first year university student had happily ‘lent’ our VCR to a “friend” and what stayed with me – was how very quick she was to offer to head back to uni to retrieve the video box so we could resume normal viewing in our house.

Years later – the ‘friend’ is her husband, our Greg – because we’ve toughed out too much stuff to be talking son-in-law.

To get back to the famous Gregory laughter – and it is phenomenal but wrenchingly it is so much more.  Our young Greg, a gentle, sweet, funny and wonderful young man has endured (because he just had to) one of life’s deepest losses and has done so at a tender age.  Greg and his amazing Dad, along with two brothers had to lose their Julie, their beautiful Mum.

I did not know Julie well.  I wish I had. I know we would have been great mates.  I know we would have had so much wicked fun especially at Greg’s expense.

The point is, now – more than ever, when I hear Greg’s laugh – yes, I smile because his laugh is truly beyond infectious but now my heart warms, it’s a glow that I feel deeply – as I just know his laughter goes straight to his adoring Mum.

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Close Write – Click Reader

I have five pieces floating unfinished within my word press.  Time has not been a problem except that every time I open write and pick a piece, any of them – I have ideas that refuse to translate to words on the page.  I still feel connected enough to all of them to want to commit to the work it will take to put them through edit, preview and on to publish.  Willing enough but wanting in the construction phase.

Having just tried again on this perfect afternoon with a soft breeze blowing from the lake through the open doors and the promise of a quiet house all evening – still not much happening on the screen.

So, I am going to spend a good few days enjoying Reader and all the words from fabulous authors who are not blocked, clogged or flipping from one start to another!

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Bank Street Writer

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Tonight I flipped open my MacBook Pro and for some reason it made me think of my first experience with a computer word processing program – Bank Street Writer.

I wondered, does anyone else out there remember this floppy disk program?

In 1985 I was in my first year of teacher’s college.  When our cohort graduated it was the ‘death’ of the Diploma of Teaching and it was rebranded into a teaching degree.  In a handful of years it would become a four year, Bachelor of Education.

However back in the 80s, during the DipTeach, assignments were typed and for a few of us, our papers were created on this early word processing program in the computer lab. Really, it was a converted classroom with eight computers which could take a disk and the concept of computer banks, let alone laptops was a good chunk of years away.  In my second year I could always access a computer but one year later, rarely was there a spare seat as the notion of processing was taking off.

My program was a copy.  One of the clever tech kids copied his program onto my disk and the wonders of editing and a saving capacity unfolded.  Technology was on the move but the Bank Street held on for several years.  Can you imagine a time when the cool academics used over head projectors and might have gone to the bother of gathering colored pens.  Sounds boring I know, but there were many lively debates and copious note taking!

In the late 80’s James Cook was a small regional university which attracted some young and dynamic academics.  I am guessing it helped with the visa process – well, lucky us! The teaching was exceptional and decades on it was not surprising to see more than one of our younger professors in some of the top academic posts in the nation.  We were also fortunate to have a dedicated group of successful teachers who came onto the campus for tutorials – ‘they knew what they were talking about’ – says it all really.  The practicum schedule in schools started early in our course and fabulously for us we spent far more time in real classrooms than contemporary courses.  Our academic subject schedule was greater also – my own kids who have all graduated from rigorous universities are amazed that we had such a heavy study load.  That is not a complaint as it went a long way to preparing us for the real deal!

As well as typing assignments (I clearly recall a lecturer stressing that no handwritten papers would be accepted ) the sophisticated system of handing in assessments if the tutor was not in the office (which was rare as most were full time teachers) was to drop your assignment in a cardboard box left outside their door.  Guess, we were all trusting and honest back then!

It still makes me smile to recall running through the campus gardens when tutorial listings were put on the notice board as the goal was NOT to have a Friday afternoon tutorial or best of the best, clear the whole day.  One had to write their name on the sheet – first in, first on the tutorial.  Easy!  With our schedule then, uni days were generally eight in the morning (always a compulsory lecture which could not be got out of – there was a roll call back then and attendance was a requirement) until late afternoon.  Finishing classes for the day by lunchtime was an absolute treat!

It meant that generally students were on campus all day.  We had lunch together, we used spare time between classes to work on group activities and we loved being in the library, the only air-conditioned building on our campus!  Northern Australia is relentlessly hot for most of the year so the library was a popular destination. This small college made my experience all the richer.  We had no paid parking, no security guards as wonderfully they were not needed, things left behind could be retrieved at the library as someone always handed them in.  Small was good, great even.

Some students left, a few changed courses but at the close of this academic journey nearly all of us celebrated as one large group with wood fired pizzas and many, many drinks overlooking the Ross River.  It did not escape us that we witnessed a spectacular sunset that evening.

Our teaching appointments scattered us around the state and I commenced my first teaching appointment at Wilston State school in Brisbane.

Many years and an array of educational experiences later I would once again be on campus although this time it was in America and I was teaching – Foundations of Education Psychology.  Email had arrived but was still not widely used by many of the professors and my students were delighted that I used this format to keep in touch with them.

My campus experience came full circle at the University of Canberra when for one year I shared it with my three children.  Kiddo one and two were completing post graduate studies, law for Alex and diagnostic pathology for Harry and Miss Annie was in her second year of journalism.  I was tutoring that year and though I parked beside their cars, caught up for the odd coffee we never all made it to the beautiful university sign for a group photo – one big fat missed opportunity!

That was not so many years ago and by now everything was electronic – phones do just about everything, apps, computers and the online world shape learning and teaching. Resources are incredible!  Timetables and tutorials are organized from anywhere one happens to be when they become ‘open’ – no more running across campus!  Lectures can be accessed on line and of course, many subjects are taught and completed with great success in this format.  No more massive packets of photocopied readings for those doing ‘distance’ studies.

Whilst I have seen a great many changes in campus life, some aspects do remain.  On a sunny day the warmth draws students to the grassy areas and the coffee shops are full of chatter and flirting.  There is always someone running – literally running to be somewhere.  Sure, the phones are out and the earphones are in but that invisible presence of promise is still very much everywhere.

 

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Ice

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This is a little no through street about ten minutes from the beach.  At the far end a pretty fern filled lane connects with a busier street with schools, community centre and several churches.  There are playing fields and an old cemetery.

It is usually very quiet and several residents in the no through street are well into their eighties.  The houses are modest, well kept and the neighbors know one another.

Around seven o’clock on a Sunday morning several residents were shocked to see a woman in their gardens, naked.  She was ranting and insistent upon looking for her children.  Gordon, who lives alone and has poor sight became aware of someone inside his house.  He tried to call the police but was too upset and was unable to operate his phone.  She raged around his house looking in drawers and cupboards before heading further down the street.  Nothing was taken.

At least two more houses were entered.  The woman left her own backpack in one of them before moving on to another property where she caused significant damage tearing at a screen and breaking window framing.

By the time the police arrived she was back in the street attempting to get into cars and tool boxes trying to find her children.

The woman was known to the police.  Her children are in the foster system.

The ice was in her backpack and in her veins.

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