That Four Letter Word

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I like you.  I like you, a lot.  I only like you as a friend.  The little word that has the power to lift or douse a heart.  The word that our school teachers might have underlined in essays and suggested that we come up with something more powerful, more creative.

Social media has lifted the status of this once simple, almost plain, somewhat boring word to new heights of popularity and yes – power!  Somewhere, somehow the word was chosen as the click acknowledgement, not read, not noted, not viewed but like.  

So elevated and foolishly life defining has our little like become that global platforms have moved the numeric presence of likes to a private expression available only to the owner.

When my email announces a like, sure it is a positive lift although the real hope is for a read – that the piece drew attention, held that initial interest long enough for an actual reading and finally the courtesy of acknowledgement – depress the star, push the rectangle – all clicks lead to like.

Then there are the ‘sneakers’ – those who read but do not comment and will not click. Of course they exist – the electronic version of the eyes peeping through the blinds.  As writers we must accept that in our circles there will be people that we know and share substantial ties with who want to see what we are writing.  Great stories must have led to this sneaking!

My own like policy is simple.  If I read it – I like.  As the like function is the only method to acknowledge the author and indicate a reading, I feel it is a common courtesy.  I do aim to be authentic.  I do not skim or stroll pieces and hit up the like for numeric building.

I have noted that author’s commonly respond to a comment by thanking the writer for taking the time to comment.  It reminds me that true communication is a two way street – not a lone highway.

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Pearls of Prophecy

Al

 

Muchas felicidades a mi hermano.  Su libro es publicado.  Muy bien hecho!

A great mate of mine, Kate, told me of her friend who hadbacked herself” – invested in writer’s courses and no doubt put in plenty of hard work, time and effort to achieve the completion and publication of her first novel.    I loved that phrase – back yourself!

My brother, Alexander Johnston or Al as we all call him – also backed himself and with dedication and much support created his work – Pearls of Prophecy  (2019) Clark and Mackay, Brisbane.  My memory of his journey with God’s word was not in the sporadic Christmas, Easter and must do sacraments of the Catholic church we encountered growing up – but rather the early days of the Spanish Church meetings held in a tiny wooden church in Fairfield, a southern suburb of Brisbane.

My father fractured from Catholicism according to my mother when a priest in Glasgow thundered at the congregation of poverty stricken Glasweigiens that their pennies were not enough.  As Gerry told it – my father stood up and walked out.  Al’s connection with religion and his independent selection of pathway to God was a choice made in adulthood – his own way.

Al’s dedication, rigorous study and his courage to believe in his vision for Pearls of Prophecy is now an achievement to be acknowledged and celebrated.  This book is a study of great biblical prophesies from the books of Micah, Amos, Joel and others.  His goal was to search for the deeper meanings, the hidden pearls, in God’s precious Word.  “I pray this book will bless and encourage every reader and fuel a desire to seek the deeper meanings in God’s precious Word,” Johnston (2019).

Congratulations my brother – you did it!  I applaud and admire your commitment to your goals and vision.

Que dios te acompañé bendiciones y amor – tu hermana!

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Bird Lady

The house is humble, plain.  Pale beige bricks and a single white garage door ensure that the place could be easily overlooked.  There is no garden, no trees and not a single flower or potted anything.  A square of patchy grass sits in front of the single entrance door and lone window – and it is regularly covered by birds.

Mixed species pecking found treasure on the grassy oasis.  The block is steep so they have a broad view and a protected hill to enjoy the plunder.  I see them regularly but am yet to witness the throwing of seed which attracts this wonder of white cockatoos, sunbirds, finches, warblers and wagtails.  The visitors are ever changing and the mixing is often surprising yet there is a consistency to their presence.  Some species have scouts posted on the roof of the neighboring house.

Just once I saw the single occupant of the house.  It would be easy to describe her as frail, birdlike with fine bones pushing against crinkled paper thin skin.  She is skeletal, tiny and walked very slowly using a frame within the garage area on this occasion.  I guessed the car was long gone.  I’ve never seen a visitor or a grocery delivery but it must happen.  If there are lights on in the evening it may be at the rear of the home as none are visible from the street.  I imagine a single recliner protected by a knitted blanket, the chair aimed in close range of a lonely television.

Though the birds come and they fed happily, easily.  The window that overlooks this incredible activity has blinds which appear tightly closed, always.  When I pass I want them to be open.  I want to notice a gentle lady in a comfortable chair enjoying the spectacle that her seeds deliver.  I want the birds to be her friend, her comfort.

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So Here’s A Little Conversation Stopper

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This happened.  These are simply the facts.  Yesterday, the conversation between my husband and I – whilst driving from our home to the local town centre, live streamed on facebook.

The drive took around fifteen minutes.  Friday lunchtime parking was limited and as usual we were ‘tight’ on time so his majesty (family pet name) dropped me off at the offices of our accountant and linked up with me in the reception area a few minutes later.  We were completing our access authorities (ironic…I know) when he received a call from his sister to tell him – your conversation is live streaming on facebook.

We had barely a moment to process this or attempt to rectify what ever technical craziness was ensuing with his phone when Chris arrived to take us into his office.  The phone was turned off!  My mind was a little preoccupied during that financial meeting.

Have you ever conducted forensics on a conversation – even such a recent one?  I was astounded at what I could not recall.  So, I know I was already in the car and waiting (I’m painfully punctual – he’s a down to the wire kind of guy) and there was some mention of potential lateness.  I responded as I am trying to be more chill about timings these days – “I don’t give a shit about that stuff anymore” and then immediately I said, “oh I take that back. I hate that word. It sounds so rough”.  I really do never use that word but why not, out of the blue, drop an ugly little s word and do so live screening!

Ok, so moving on – we have really fabulous neighbors.  Friendly, helpful and a hoot of fun but with their own lives and interests – the perfect balance.  I was also (are you getting a feel for the one sided conversation that goes on with us a lot?) saying how lucky we were to have such nice neighbors although I did tail that with the fact that when we first moved into our house we were not so sure as none of them made too much of an effort in the early days – of course, live streamed.

Driving now and at the first round-about, his majesty was not impressed with a speeding driver and may have described him as “that lunatic with wheels up on the roundy, he was going that fast”.

I wish the rest of the trip had been insightful, witty and intelligent adult exchange but I have no clue what chitter chat ‘streamed’ next.  In the main street we were looking for numbers and a park and all was going along smoothly until I spotted car park gold – a car just leaving from exactly where we needed to be.  I direct his majesty to take it, only to discover it is a 5 minute park and now the stream of traffic is long so getting out again will be a wait.  He was cranky and would have sounded so – yup, live streaming.  To be fair, he is generally a patient soul, especially with me – our kids would tell you, “Dad never gets cranky with Mum”.  (Think he pays them).

Our conversation ended there as I was out of the car and his majesty was left to find a car spot.  I wonder if there might have been a little fruity comment on my exit – live streamed, if there was!

After our appointment when we had time to discuss what had happened with the phone and facebook we were both furious and embarrassed.  It is outrageous to us that this function on a device could be so easily and mistakenly activated.  In our case there was no damage other than a few days of feeling sheepish – bah, it will pass!

Unfortunately we still do not have clear answers.  The fb app was not open.  The phone was in my husband’s pocket.  We assume that, like a pocket dial the app was accidentally opened and the live button turned on.  Mind you, that theory does not pass the common sense test or this business would happen all the time.  Our young ones have their phones on, fb open…etc so really – we do not know how on earth this happened to us.

Certainly it is a lesson, two-fold.  Pay attention to your devices!  It is our responsibility to better understand the functions and follies of being on line, linked up and out there in the domains.  The second part – well salty words and impatient tones should forever be uninvited to come along.  Working on it.

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Fiction

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Dad Just Needs Some Time

On the first day that Terry was alone on the farm after Maureen’s death, he drove the two hours to Maryborough and bought a television.  It was dark when he got home and although he hauled the box into the house, it sat unopened on the kitchen floor.

The phone woke him.  Which one – he pondered as he padded down the hall to lift the receiver from its cradle on the wall.  “Hey, it’s me.” she started, the youngest one. “Are you okay?  I called heaps yesterday.  Where were you? Dad? Dad!”

“Yeah, sorry – I can hear you.  I was out.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“Out?  Oh Dad,” her voice softened, “Were you visiting Mum?” He had no time to respond. “I’ll be back up on the weekend.  Are you ok? I’m worried about you, we all are.”

Terry jumped in, he didn’t want them to be any more upset than they had to be. “I’m fine love, you don’t have to worry.”  He heard her voice catch as she tried to speak then came the smoothered sobs. “I know love, I know, it’s hard.  We miss her.” he said.

“I didn’t mean to start…”  She couldn’t finish.  He could hear her trying to compose, to steady her breath, he could imagine her tender face trying to be brave for him and then, “Now, Dad – remember you have to eat.  Promise me?  There’s stacks in the freezer.  I’ll see you on Saturday.  I’ll be up early.  Dad?  Love ya.”

FamGosChat

Hey, how are u Xx

Yeah, ok. BS crap actually and worried about Dad.  He got a tv!

WHAT…?  

Yup…tv…set up in the middle of the kitchen.

Really…oh Mum would have a fit!

It’s just plonked there.  And NO, I was not allowed to actually turn it on…Worried 😦

Maybe it’s good. He’ll be so lonely there without Mum…can he work it out?  Um…yeah all a bit odd…agree :/

Geez, old mate.  What ever helps.  TV…would never have thought??

Mum would hate it.  Right in the middle of her kitchen.  Not sure of anything atm :(((

Wish I was closer…does he look alright?

Yeah, ok. Have to remind him to eat tho!!

Miss Mum 😦 sucks :((((((((

Yeah pits!!!

Umm bit weird…went out Sunday to Mum…Dad didn’t come!!

OMG…what? Something’s wrong!  Sure he is not sick???

What do you mean…what did he say…like too upset…what??

Ops…he seemed calm, but said – we like to talk at home? Then he got vague.  Asked what he meant, he just gave me hugs…actually he WAS ok.  Me – a mess!!

Shock, he’s keeping it together for us…I miss ya both…hate this :((

xx

XOX 2 u 2  I’m back in a few days.

I’ll call tonight.  Be well xxxxx

Worried 2…our whole life no tv…Mum adamant…first thing Dad does…so not DAD!!

Will see how it goes this week.  Chat after…look after yourself  PLEASE xXxXx

XXXxxx

Finally, bless our dear kids but finally – the house to himself and the phone unplugged. Terry pulled two chairs in front of the television.  He filled two tumblers with sherry – one with ice and one without.  The kids wouldn’t know – he understood it would really worry them but he so needed this and they had agreed.

Their entire family life they had agreed – no television.  Maureen was a teacher and she wanted their kids to be raised with fresh air, plenty of sport, books, books and more books.  Holidays meant trips to galleries and museums – excursions!  Just look how they all turned out – wonderful!  Even if they insisted at times that they were the unluckiest, out of touch, nerdiest kids in the world – no television!

Terry settled in his seat and fumbled with the remote to find the green circle for on. What the kids did not know is that Terry and Maureen had teased each other throughout their long and deeply happy marriage – “You’ll get a television over my dead body” and then “I’ll be out to get one as soon as you’re pushing up daisies.”  Of course it was marital banter and purely between the two of them and often said during the nightly sherry ritual which started after the kids left home.

When Maureen became sick she teased Terry that he was getting closer to achieving his dream.  They tried to keep up the banter to stop each other from falling apart in the pure misery that the pending separation was causing each of them.

Terry was a smart man.  Grounded.  He also knew that for now – this highly unusual ritual of nightly sherry and teasing over the outrageous thing taking up space in the kitchen was purely survival.

So Terry talked to Maureen about what programs were available, he chided her regarding the educational content, he shared the news with her, the funny shows and he changed the channel when the world he had brought right into their home was just too ugly.  It made the late night hours a little more bearable, just as she had known it would. He would remember to keep their talks private.  No need to worry the kids.

This was not to go on forever – on that they had also agreed.  Maureen was all about timetables and had existed in a world of planning and routines – the year quartered and ordered.  He understood exactly the objectives and outcomes she had set for him.

For tonight though, here now alone but not all alone – the faint aura of light from the television and the glass of watery sherry made missing her just, only just – agonizingly possible.

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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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