Puppy Tales

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!Es otro cuento largo!  It’s a long story! His name is Pendles – not the easiest name on the tongue, though I can see he should grow into it.  I am well-informed by our resident expert on all things Collingwood that the name, inspired by Captain Scott Pendlebury is given not just for the footballer’s immense sporting prowess but most importantly for the respectful, fair, gracious and well liked man who the ‘real’ Pendles is!  There’s also an incident about bouncing a ball on a pigeon and still coming up with perfection that apparently added to the weight of naming this baby border collie – Pendles.

He is a coast boy like our dear Jack and though it is ridiculous, there is a smidge part of me that likes to dream that they have a related thread.  Though we are definite about not comparing, as Jack was our dog of 15 years – a kelpie collie cross with the look of a handsome black and white wonder but the slightly smaller frame and increased agility of the kelpie.  We all swore that boy knew every word we said – he was certainly smart and never failed to be excited and waiting for his run with the all things Collingwood tragic.

Our Noosa boy Jack supposedly fell from a ute – he was such a delightful dog when he came to us at around six months via the Noosa RSPCA (we’ll just look they told me…tell Mum you’ll call him Jack, then she’ll say yes he told the three kids who would happily have stayed behind in the cage with him – had I not relented).  Jack came to us with complete manners, a delight of an animal so perhaps someone really had lost their magnificent pup.  Well, we loved him for the next decade and a half and all in all he had a good life – not rounding up sheep which this clever boy would have easily excelled at but rounding us up and seeing three youngsters into their teens and independent adulthood.

Now Pendles – my name choice was Chewy and at present he is well fulfilling that would be name! Pendles is likewise a coast boy, not Noosa but Rosemount.  (We’ll just look I told him!) From a litter of twelve, five boys and seven girls he was the last boy to be selected.  (Waiting for us, I say!)  I have no idea how good those other little boys are being but our fella howled pretty much non stop on the first two nights!  It would be dishonest to say that the thought that we might have made a grand mistake did not enter my fogged out brain during those wee hours.  On day two we abandoned the expensive doggy pen (which he hated) and introduced him to the side yard (enormous and safe) and family peace has ensued since!

He is a delight.  He is exhausting.  He is adorable and regularly frustrating.  I believe he could be far naughtier and for us, number 5 is a very lucky number.  The sweet pup can play on his own, prefers to be where ever we are – especially where ever Mr ‘Go The Pies’ is situated.  Pendles is joy, fun and light, providing endless pleasure.  Walking him daily is a feat as his attention span is well, comparable to frozen peas just at the moment.  It is delightful to see his interest sparked by a passing leaf, a feeding wallaby on the golf course and then the fascinating lady on her patio who adored his little sit down and refusal to walk until he had one jolly long look at her!

He pops his lead in his mouth to go for a walk and I silently hope that he never gives up that puppy habit – it is so darned cute.  Although supposedly confined to the garden until the full round of vaccinations have been administered in a month – the carefully planned walk takes us down the middle of our neighborhood street where no doggie friends have peed or pooed! On Thursday we start a round of puppy training with no doubt an emphasis on training the pet owners rather than the puppies.  Presently he is a little wary of other dogs and should one pass, even at distance, he sits on his furry bottom and refuses to move.  He is not timid but incredibly curious and watchful.  Roll on Thursday and we shall see if that remains so!

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Should I Stay Or Should I Go And Do I Have The Right To Say?

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That holiday – that one which was – ‘just to have a holiday’ seems so long gone, disintegrated by trauma and the deepest of losses.  When the two of us, along with more than eight million other Australians who embark on international trips made plans to travel we certainly held conversations about flights, hotels, tours and itineraries.  Yes, we bought travel insurance but we did not and have never discussed prior to disembarkation the action we would take in the event of an emergency.  Who would?  Who wants to even think about an accident or illness befalling a loved one? Our trip was last-minute, relatively short – less than a full month.  We could never have imaged three weeks after setting off across the globe that we would be frantically searching for extra flights, changing existing flights, abandoning a tour, forgetting to cancel hotel bookings and existing in a state of panic and distress every step of the very long way home.

Our story had the most heart wrenching ending, the passing of my husband’s mother, though 89 years of age, she was a force.  Strong, with minimal health issues and a will power not easily matched, our future thoughts were always looking towards the cake of 100 candles.  Shortly after arriving back in country we were relieved to be informed that she was showing all the signs of recovery and that our decisions made in panic may have been hasty.  Agonisingly, the following hours brought a rapid but gentle decline.  My husband was beside his mother as she passed and had the excruciating blessing of three days to support his siblings and provide strength and ease at the family death.

I have felt the burden of similar wrenching decisions. When my own father was ill in hospital our youngest daughter was days from traveling to the UK on a school netball tour.  My Dad was insistent that she go and requested that specific details of his prognosis be kept private until her return.  Life would not wait and nor would we have wanted the terrible pain he had to endure until his passing to be prolonged but sadly my Dad’s life ended in the days when she was making her way home.  It was a difficult decision to make but I have never regretted honouring my father’s wishes.  Our Mum would pass away more gently from heart failure just five weeks later and this time I would be days from returning after I had travelled home briefly whilst living at the most northern end of our big state.

We lived in the USA for the final two years of military life.  Being on the east coast we could barely be further from our family and lived through the sad medical decline of my husband’s beautiful Dad, Harry.  Though there was minimal leave on this post, when we did have those precious two weeks we used them to trek across the globe and have the most glorious visit with Harry whilst he was still living in his family home.  That previous May when I had met my daughters in the UK for a two-week trip we had many discussions about possible plans as it became a heart wrenching time when Harry was gravely ill and not expected to regain health.  Everywhere we stopped we found the village church and prayed for strength, recovery and ease.  Each day as we waited on updates we had our plans in our minds.  On that occasion we were truly blessed as against all medical odds, Harry made a thankful recovery.

On our return from the USA we finally made the decision to pass through Amsterdam for a few days.  I say ‘finally’ as I was adamant that we needed to fly direct.  By now my celtic superstitious nature which was understandably on overdrive had me convinced that being overseas brought uneasy karma to my world.  We had a spectacular four days with unseasonal snowfall which blanketed the beautiful old streets and canals – a breathtaking sight and particularly one of life’s miraculous shows for Aussie east coasters.  What we were unaware of during this time was that our youngest daughter was involved in a serious car accident.  Whilst there were no injuries to either driver, her car was so badly damaged it was written off.  Serious sibling discussion and input from two wonderful partners came to the conclusion that telling us would result (and it would have) in an over reaction and panic driven return travel.  Ironically, on the first day back we ended up in the emergency department of our local hospital due to a slash to the bone on my husband’s leg and it was right in the middle of this that our daughter rang to tell us of the accident events!  Our young ones made a measured decision centred on the fact that there were no injuries, no ramifications and with all the official aspects competently handled by our lawyer daughter they made the call to have us enjoy our few sensational days strolling the old town, galleries and canals of Amsterdam.

I truly believe you can honour a loved one from where ever you are and indeed my fear on those occasions of decision making was that the very act of long distance travel which takes away communication for extended stretches could in fact be the wrong choice at the wrong time.  With the advent of miraculous communication options, it is a decision that has never been harder to make.  Sadly, I know of circumstances where the time taken to travel has taken away the opportunity to be in contact with the loved one and family during those precious last hours.  Many of us can recall our early travel when any form of communication could be weeks and indeed months apart.  It was a time where circumstances took away any hope of final reunions.

A dear woman recently passed, years too young and the circumstances beyond tragic and painful for the family.  I had known her best as a sweet young teen, full of plans and dreams.  I could not be at the service but I took myself to the beach at that time, had braided my hair in the style she had patiently taught me and felt a peaceful yet strong connection in my private honouring.  When I wrote to the family I told them of my private farewell and their collective response was truly heart warming.

To stay or go?  It is a deeply personal decision unique for each individual and the circumstances of the moment.  One would hope that such decisions are never based on possible perception nor ever held up for judgement.  Deep regard and respect must also be given to those who have the most difficult position of relaying information between the medical fraternity and loved ones near and far.

My children have wings.  They have been and will be travellers.  I have already impressed upon them my heartfelt belief that they can honour a dear one from where ever they are.  I tell them if ‘something happened’ I would not want them to rush in panic or put themselves on long, late roads and they remind me kindly though bluntly – that’s not my call.  Indeed, I have the right to proactively aim for their ease but no, I don’t get to say.

And finally, especially to all the young travellers whose economic situations may force tough calls, I have told more than one – find repose and be peaceful, as you can honour your dear one from where ever you are geographically – love exists in heart and spirit thus your loved one is right there with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life After Green

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My husband of soon to be thirty-five years in January, shared some sage advice passed on to him by a peer during the two month process of separating from military service. “Take up some hobbies – I mean, have you actually lived with your wife?” The well meaning mate does have a point.  Ours has not been a conventional life or I suppose a typical marriage – if such a concept could be defined.

His service to country encompassed thirty-eight years consisting of an agonizingly high number of deployments of active duty and even more time away from home for training exercises, courses, conferences and an extraordinary number of operational command positions which necessitated long hours.  Moving interstate and living in the Middle East and America meant many houses which became homes, interrupted schooling for our children and career gains and losses for me.  It also shaped exhilarating adventures and opportunities, travel beyond what either of us could have imagined after saying, “I do” and the bitter sweet ebb and tide of wonderful friendships.

Like most families with a parent or possibly both in service, touch and go life does not only refer to time and place.  We decided early on not to count the days apart but rather to focus on the times together.  Though we know the number of postings, houses, schools and jobs we have little use for such raw statistics.  We feel blessed to have not faced the adversity of other families and have always remembered to be deeply thankful.  Life for families with a parent in the military is demanding, requires resilience and is absolutely not for everyone.

Our life after green, that is life after the army is a new season which is gently but surely unfolding.  Those ‘old mates’ who are already out tell us – it takes a good three to four years to get settled.  That is about a posting cycle, give or take.  We shall see!

We are about to embark on a four week holiday.  There have been very few actual holidays for my husband and I.  In the early days economics dictated no travel.  In the slightly later days a backseat full of small wonders ensured holidays were long – very long (think pre-technology) drives to see parents and siblings.  Some postings were year long holidays (well, for the kids and I) and there were trips taken across the globe which crack our faces from smiling and laughter as we look back through the various medias available at the time.

Though, four weeks away on a holiday – just to go on holiday.  Well, that may just test the actually living with wife or husband prophecy.  There are a few brilliant folk to catch up with along the way – perhaps that will ensure that we are still willing to be allocated seats together on the way home.

Growing Up – Instantly.

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She told me that the last words he ever said to her were, “Watch it bitch or I’ll punch your head in.” Recently broken up, they were at the same house – an engagement party with a Hawaiian theme.  Not much of a family affair, really more of a booze up.

The groom to be worked at a large fabrication factory and most of the party were his work mates.  Her newly engaged friends lived in a neglected house on the edge of town where the bitumen road turns to dirt and the house slouched beside disused paddocks.

She said it was cold, mid winter and she was freezing in a white flowing dress with a fake frangipani lei and flowers in her hair.  It had been weeks since she had seen him, that is if you didn’t count driving by his house to check if his car was there or pulling into the dark corner of the football ground on training night.

As she spoke I felt everything changing from the flighty catch up exchange we had been having into this deep revelation of a time when I had been sliding through life with her and yet I had not had a wisp of an idea about what had been going on.

At the party she had been chatting with one of his mates, one who had always liked her. “To be honest,” she said, “I was being full on.  Look at me, so cute, so together.     I knew he was checking us out.  I drove out there and wasn’t drinking.  For sure, he would need a lift home and you know, we’d get back together.”

Going on she explained that after awhile when the other guy went to get a drink, he started walking towards her.  “In my head I could hear him telling me I looked great, that he had missed me and we’d be hanging out for the rest of the party.  That’s not what happened.”

Her eyes looked down for just a second then she pressed on but with a determined voice.  “He came up beside me and leaned in close and spoke softly in my ear.” “Watch it bitch or I’ll punch your head in.” She said his voice was cold and eerily deliberate but that his face had no such expression.  Anyone watching would swear he must have swooped in and said, “Hey. Glad you came. Have fun.”

“He barely stopped.  He said that to me and just kept walking.  I stood there alone and stunned but only for a few seconds.  You know what, I remember every last detail.  I turned around and walked over to the table.  I put my plastic cup of water down and went inside and thankfully the grinning couple were right there.  I told them I had to go, that he was drinking and in a mood to make trouble. They tried to talk me out of leaving but I felt so calm, in control.  I swear it was like a switch being turned on.  When I went out to my car I did not look back and I just knew I was walking away forever.  It was a physical feeling so deep inside of me but it felt good, sad too, but so good.  As I drove back past the house I expected to see him coming out, to catch up with me, to say sorry, to say he didn’t mean it. Nothing.  That was the best thing he ever did for me.  Right then, that night, driving away alone – I actually remember thinking, I just grew up.  I just grew bloody well up, at last!  I felt it, right in that moment I knew everything from that point on was going to be be completely different.  And it was.”

She did give me a sheepish grin at that point as I think she was taking in my utter astonishment.   How could I not know?  Why did I not see it, sense anything?  I was never fussed on him and could never see what she had seen in him, but this?  So is this how it happens – victim allies?

Yes, she tells me his private behaviour could be despicable.  Yes, he did get physical at times.  Yes, he was abusive and rotten to her.  On and off, with her covering up, making excuses to herself and most importantly hiding it from everyone.  The shame of it was hideous she said, but the shame of anyone knowing, well that was just unbearable.

My good friend, whom I know and did not know says, “For sure I wish it never happened.  But it did.  I allowed it to happen too.  For me, I wanted to accept that.

I had some ownership in those awful years.  But that night, that horrible night – just got me to wake the hell up, to grow up!”

She reached over and hugged me then. There were no tears in her eyes, no regrets in her voice.  I was still stunned; my head was shaking silently without moving.  It felt like maybe I just grew up; all be it – quite a few years behind my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

Family Matters

 

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Is it ever acceptable to discuss the physical comparison of a living child with a child who has died?

Even in the context of a well meaning family, if the mother of the living child finds this discussion of resemblance upsetting – should not the conversation cease immediately, without any attempt at justification?

As a young mother I found myself in this very situation. My husband’s parents are very loving and dedicated family people.  In the spare bedroom of their home, a photo of a sweet faced young girl in ponytails and school uniform was set on the dresser and remained there until very recently. When our first child – a gorgeous girl, reached school age and would be visiting for Christmas holidays, my mother-in-law began to raise the idea that our daughter looked very much like the little girl who had died. I never agreed and still don’t and secretly the comparison upset me. More so, I felt very guilty that I was distressed as it seemed disrespectful to the dear girl who had died and to her family. As though that is not bad enough, I also had to chase away the superstitious feeling that because of these comparisons my own child might develop the same hideous illness. Yes, more shame on my part.

I spoke to my own mother about my feelings. A practical Scottish woman with zero tact, she told me to tell my husband’s mother not to say this anymore.  I didn’t. My mother-in-law is a kind woman, always means the best and I did not want to appear rude.

Though I always denied the resemblance, I never expressed my feelings openly to my husband’s family. Years came and went, there were many more children in the family including another girl and a boy for us. When our daughter became older than the girl in the photo, the fear disappeared for me and with busy lives and more people around, the whole business became an event of the past.

At least I thought so.

Recently late one night I checked a ping on my phone to see a photo added to my husband’s chat group with his family.  I had set this chat up so he did not have to rely on my profile to talk with his brothers and sisters. I rarely access it but as chance would have it, I had been sending photographs of our house renovations to engage his Mum in our latest happenings.

There on the screen was a communion photo of a little girl with the prompt of – Who does this look like?  I thought it was one of the sisters – it was not long before the pings indicated it was another younger photo of the precious girl who had passed. I found myself watching a pinging conversation about my daughters. Crazy, how in a matter of minutes all those old fears and certainly the guilt, came flooding back.

But this time, I felt I had the right to a voice.

I stated that the comparison had always been upsetting to me due to the tragic circumstance.

By now all this had brought on late night emotions and some tears – for my girls, for the child who had died so young – and for three wonderful Mothers in my life who had each somehow survived the loss of their child.  I heard the phone pinging but chose to ignore it.

When I woke, of course the upset had passed – there is nothing like daylight to erase the emotional spillage that comes far too easily in the late hours.

A call from our builder about the exact position of our way too expensive fancy black sink had my full attention.

Looking to forward on the pics – I rolled down, not up and thus caught a glimpse of a message aimed at me.

The messages I had ignored the night before had indeed moved on to a whole new topic.

Except one.

One stung.

One message responded to my ‘voice’ claiming the right of justification.  These are not the words.

I deleted the message the moment I read it.

It went along the lines of – “Well, sorry if it upsets you, but comparing family resemblances is to be enjoyed as part of family life and how delighted would the mother of the little girl be to know of all this.”

I disagree strongly and return to my first question.  I believe that once a parent has been honest enough, and trusting enough in the relationship to say – this is upsetting to me, then all public discussion ends and no justification is ever warranted.

I wondered if I was being oversensitive.

There are wise and wonderfully rounded parents in my life whom I adore and respect so I reached out to them for their opinion.

All, indicated that they too would find a comparison (no matter how kindly intended) of their living child to a deceased child, unwelcome.

All, found any justification once a parental distress was shared – unacceptable, no matter the words.

Who has not had Granny tell them their new born looks just like great, great Aunt Bertha?

Who has not looked at family baby photos and squealed at the likenesses?

Who has not compared a niece or nephew to a movie star?

These are certainly joyful, loving comparisons which embody family ties.

As for the comfort of a Mother – if discussions which do not include me (and why would they) bring her some peace and joy in the memory of her dear girl then what a wonderful blessing that would be.

This subject matter is deeply distressing and if only there could be no lost family members, especially children to mourn.

Words are like toothpaste, once you squeeze some out – you won’t ever be able to put it all back.  Just like the paste, the impact of words can linger no matter how much you try to take them back.

So What’s Everyone Blogging About?

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In his memoir, “On Writing” Stephen King includes two quotes before the foreword.

Honesty’s the best policy. – Miguel de Cervantes

Liars prosper. – Anonymous

So how does this apply to the 90s phenomenon which began as web log and is now globally embraced as blogging?  I wanted to better understand the concept of blogging so started with a definition – “a person who regularly writes material for a blog”.  Ok, so that summary was not particularly insightful so I tapped deeper – “a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a web page.”  I will confess (the honesty part) that I had guessed it might have been a play on the words ‘bragging’ and ‘logging’.  Personal and published – the two Ps, now that makes sense, after all isn’t the intent of all writing to be read, just as we speak to be heard and with both, understood?

New to the concept of blogging because in the late 90s and the decade that followed I was navigating the mothering of three wonders, trying to hold on to a teaching career in the midst of the touch and go life of a ‘military spouse’ which other partners of service personnel and those who must up stakes regularly for employment will understand.  Now that the life bag of excuses is depleted, the old but new to me arena of blogging is sitting right in front of me – literally.

Writing that is compelling and raw with honesty is my blogging choice.  My choice to read, my decision to write.  I do though agree with ‘Anonymous’ in every facet of life, liars do indeed prosper – I am sure we can all dredge up examples as such but in this new domain of blogging, honesty is the best policy, the only point really.

What is my blogging goal?  I do not think that I am very good at goal setting – I tend to rush at things but I am a pretty darn good finisher.  If the blogging is to have a purpose other than to write, to express – it is about gathering and sharing thoughts, ideas, joys, memories, hurts, disappointments, hopes and providing legacy.

So here I begin, blogging on about everything with Miguel’s words ringing in my ears.