things I meant to write about

Trigger warning: a mention of suicidal thoughts

Snow. We went to the the snow at Lake Mountain with two other families. It was really, like really cold and kind of blizzarding. I surprised myself by making a egg and bacon pie like Mum would have made and a cake the night before. Another surprise was that I was able to hire warm but bulky snow gear in my size. However I sat in the car watching the snow fall while everyone else went tobogganing. It was six months to the day since Gerard died. Watching snow fall and thinking about how we never went to the snow as a family even though we talked about it a lot seemed an appropriate activity. I also remembered how in my twenties I used to go cross country skiing and how I took that level of fitness for granted.


Craft Camp. As I was packing to go to craft camp I didn't think I would be ready in time or that I would be able to extricate myself from the chaos that is my house. Luckily I had a lift, so I had to be ready. Craft camp was so good, it was nice to see everyone and I was moderately productive and made a doona cover and some pillow cases. I still feel like I am in a hole, behind a wall a bit. But at the end I kind of felt like I was back. It was a good feeling and I was able to hold onto it for a while.

Downer. I went to look at Mum's house which was being prepared for sale with Dad which was good. Then he started talking about my health and his concerns. I've put on weight and my health and fitness is not great at the moment but this talk made me feel worse. Much worse. By the time I got home and to the safety of my room I was a crying mess and my big thought was "why wait? I'll just kill myself now". That thought did pass and I am not troubled by suicidal thoughts in general but it was intense while it was there.

Sun. We went to visit the family in Queensland. It was wonderful. We went to the beach three times and I went swimming in the sea twice. I didn't have to cook or really make decisions and that was really restful. It's a bit intense being around three children all outside their comfort zones but I think the melt downs were fewer in number than before. And it was wonderful to see everyone. If only air travel was a bit cheaper so we could go for weekends as well.

At the doggy beach

Yet another downer. Came home to knee length grass and head high weeds and all the disorder I left behind. (Although coming home to Rupert was so sweet - he was looked after by a friend while we were away and she dropped him home before we arrived so there was a little dog at the window). I know what I need to do but just can't seem to do it. Although I have been moderately successful at walking more. But gees it's hard. And yesterday as hot winds blew around the house, I lost it. Lay on my bed and sobbed. Needing hanky after hanky and many glasses of water. I miss Gerard so much. It's a cliché but it really does feel like a part of me is gone, among other things it feels like the bit that starts things is gone. It's hard to explain the degree of distress I still feel from time to time. It feels like I should be doing better now and sometimes I am, but not all the time. Everything is broken and I don't know which bits to start fixing first. Or I know, but it doesn't happen. Because that starting bit being broken too.

Some hope for the future. I might have some work coming up. That would be good. I'm going to see the doctor about all my niggly health concerns and talk about reviewing my meds. The weather is better. I should be less hard on myself. It is only 8 months since Gerard died and about 11 months since Mum died. Neither of these make any sense to me and I miss them so much. Of course things will be shit, but there are better times to come. I just have to believe that.


On the way home. Very cold.

I had the most wonderful dream last night. Perhaps fuelled by the codeine rich cough medicine I am taking, but it was fabulous anyway. My aunt, the one who is a personal trainer and tremendously fit in her seventies and who was once butterfly champion of Victoria came to get me to go for a run. I said I couldn't. She said let's go and see what you can do. We ran along the side of a big Jeffrey Smart freeway and I ran at 100k an hour. It was exhilarating and effortless. Afterwards we stopped for a drink and she said, see, you can run Janet.

Of course in real life, I can't run, well not very far and not very fast. My weight is at a high and fitness is at a low. I feel like I am getting one cold after another. The current one makes me feel very weak and I cough a lot. So much my sides ache and I worry about annoying the neighbours. Also I was unsuccessful in getting an interview for a job I liked the look of. I'm not devastated by that, part of me is not quite ready, but part of me is. I'd like to be good at something in the bigger world again. But dreams are an amazing thing, I think it was a message to myself that things will get better, that I will find that state of flow, of wonderment, of movement again.


Oh the germs!
Grace really, really wanted a puppy and she used to play with the dog next door through the hole in the fence and there was something sad about that, especially as her Dad had a brain tumour and things were like they were. So maybe puppy moved into the land of something we might do afterwards. We talked a lot about looking after a dog and she demonstrated how responsible she was by taking over the feeding of Tony. After Gerard died, we talked more about getting a dog (and kittens), maybe after Tony died. On the day we left for Bali, I took Tony to the vet.  He had been  shitting inside and the vet said it was behavioural, that is feline senility. He was 21 after all. I felt sad about my decision but really, I'd had enough of cleaning up poo.  Grace's birthday came around and presents were a bit thin on the ground. I'd been looking online at poodles and poodle crosses and had already contacted the Poodle Club of Victoria. I looked at rescue dogs too but I felt that a puppy was better idea. And because of a dog we had when I was a teenager, I wanted a poodle. Anyway, I ended up committing to the idea and made Grace a card promising a poodle puppy.

Two weeks later, she took a day off school and we drove down the new freeway all the way out to Hampton Park. It was spitting and we got very lost but eventually found ourselves at the breeder's home. I think she might have agreed to sell us a puppy because I promised faithfully that he would be an inside dog and sleep on my bed. She might have done a double take when she saw our shit car and Grace's dreadlocks poking out from the hat I made her wear. The puppies were jumpy and cute and the breeder was interesting. I paid her the completely insane amount of money for a puppy over my phone and showed her as the transaction went through. We travelled home with the puppy on Grace's lap.

The first few days were utterly berserk. It was like bringing a new baby home. He cried so I let him sleep on my bed then the second night he slept on my bed and snuffled and cried. The third night I gave him a mohair blanket on a cushion in the bathroom and he settled right down. He ate an m and m from the floor in Grace's room and Grace was afraid he would die. She freaked out about not being able to look after him and keep him safe and said she wished we'd just got a cat. And to be honest for the first couple of weeks, I thought that a fair bit too. But we went to puppy school and I committed to helping him learn to toilet outside. Grace cleaned up lots of poo and wee, good to her word. And then one day we noticed we hadn't cleaned up inside and then it became a week and then, bar one accident, two weeks. I felt so proud of us, he takes himself out, through the catflap (it's big for a cat), all on his own. I think he feels a bit proud and independent too.

There is still lots for Rupert to learn but he is a wonderful dog. At first I really did think I might have made an expensive and hard to fix mistake and there was a bit of your father is gone, here have a puppy in my decision. Probably because other than being there - which is huge, it feels like there is not a lot you can do to help a child who is grieving. So I guess I was prepared to risk being wrong. But nearly three months on I don't think I was. Rupert is full of love and good humour. Indeed I think I really underestimated how good dogs can be. We had a dog when I was growing up and another when I was older and I don't remember much about it except that they were always there. Now I find myself thinking about dog and human relationships and how it came to be like this and whether it is fair to make Rupert sleep in the bathroom when he would much rather sleep in an armchair. I worry about whether he gets enough exercise - Gerard was the best of us for promoting exercise. Grace walks him around the park. Sometimes we go for a longer walk and we have plans for more. Often we both focus love on him at the same time which is bonding for us and for Rupert. Technically he is Grace's dog and she is allowed to take him with her if she leaves home and can look after him. Actually I don't think I want either of them to leave home. But I am back up. All the time.

ps - I think tongue kissing a dog is unsanitary and unwise but have yet to convince Grace.
pps - I sometimes think about what Gerard would have thought of Rupert. He would have baulked at spending the money on a pure bred (although poodle crosses are often even more expensive) but Rupert would have loved him. Gerard was good with animals.

Puppy love.


gerard and cam It is a month today since Gerard died.

I let that sink in. It seems a very long time ago and almost no time at all. I miss him, I miss us, I miss our little family of three. Even if it seemed towards the end that he wasn't really with us. In my eulogy I wrote that it was the saddest kind of lonely and I still feel that every day. I guess that is to be expected.

Gerard went quickly and suddenly. He was well on Tuesday and very early Thursday morning found me calling an ambulance, for a lift I thought. The ambos said he needed to go to hospital and we joined him that morning. He was transferred to the Palliative Care Unit and died that night.

The funeral and wake were beautiful and intense. I'll try and put a transcript up here when I can get to it. We have been nestled amongst family, friends and community. Surrounded by love and support. I can't believe it has been a month.


I started a new book today. In between loads of washing and lunch and explaining how Facebook works to Gerard. He understood yesterday and posted something but today it seems to have deserted him and he doesn't understand that people have left comments. He has difficulty turning on the tv too, but that has been going on for a while and to be fair it is complicated by the Tbox. Still haven't done the dishes or swept the floor. Gerard insisted that he'd been doing it and then gave it a go but found it just too hard. Most things are too hard for him now. We plan things and then he says, later. I'm inclined to just let things slip. Which leaves me with lots of time. So I read. I could do housework but mostly I read.

Lentil burgers on the first page.

I might do some housework tomorrow as we are having some visitors next week. I have put it out there that this might be a good time to visit Gerard. I'm not seeing signs of consistent or even  regular improvement. It's a back and forth type thing but I am conscious that things could start to go really backward quickly. Early on I left some things that needed to be done for later, expecting things to get better and they never did. Not doing that again. So maybe I will do the floors. Or maybe I will just do the greenery in vases and wipe down the table.

New book. Reading a lot for Reasons. Think IG has become my reading log.

Reading is the best thing at the moment. It takes me places, fills my head with stories other than my own for a while. It doesn't cure anything but it is a little time out. I miss my mum terribly and find myself thinking, oh mum would like this book. Only she isn't here any more. Which feels so wrong. How can she not be here? She's my mother. I have other little conversations with her and as I go through some of her stuff, which I am mostly not keeping because there is so much of it, I can smell the cedar balls she used and her washing detergent and it seems so strange and wrong that her house is still there and she isn't. Later we are going to go through her books and craft stuff. It has been agreed that I will inherit her Darkover collection and the Billabong series. Not sure where they will go but I would really like to keep them.

Wonder if this is any good. Loved the Tales of the City series. Found at the tip shop.

Book notes; I am loving Camille's Bread and have read most of it in a day. Unpromising at the start but the characters uncoil against a recognisable early 90s inner urban Australia. The stuff about the macrobiotic diet is apt and irritating in the best way. Reminding me there have always been food nutters around. Paleo/clean eating is just the modern version.

Chicago was good and boring. I'm glad I finished it but there were bits that really sagged. Maybe something got lost in the translation?

Mary Ann in Autumn was kind of a quick read. It tied up some threads from earlier in the series but I think he was reaching a bit. Enjoyable but lacked the sparkle of the early series.

I am instagramming all the books I read now as it is the easiest way to keep a record.

mother and grandmother

Before the funeral. #latergram

This is the text that I read at Mum's funeral. Here seems to as good place to keep it as any.

Hi I’m Janet – one of Kay’s daughters and I’m going to talk a little bit about Kay’s really important role as a mother and grandmother.  But first I’d just like to put something out there and maybe it’s a little bit awkward but I’m going to do it anyway. If Kay had loved horses and had died in a horse riding accident we would have all said she died doing what she loved and it would have been perfectly acceptable. Fifty years on from when she started smoking, it has become (with good reason) less and less acceptable and for Kay smoking became something she did away from others, and I didn’t really acknowledge it.  Sometime in the last week when I visited her at Caritas, as she was being wheeled outside for a cigarette she said to me, I do smoke you know. I used to love smoking too and there were times we enjoyed smoking together, as people do. Of course I wish she had stopped but in a way I miss that.
Ok let’s talk about Kay as a mother and a grandmother.  When Betty and I were growing up, our Mum was much younger than all the other mums. Sometimes I wanted an older Fletcher Jones type mum who knew all the right things to do and who dressed conservatively but most of the time she was our beautiful, youthful mum and we adored her.
After we grew up and left home to make lives of our own we seemed scattered for quite a while. Then mum started talking about starting a fish shop business. That didn’t happen but one day we woke up and we’d renovated an old restaurant in Gertrude street and we had a cafe! Goodness! For 6 years Betty Mum and I worked together. There were ups and downs and it was certainly hard work, but most of all, it bought us back together again.
One thing about Mum that Betty said, was that Mum had absolute belief in our abilities to do things that are non conventional. For example, Arcadia and Betty’s business.
As we got older and older, I think mum despaired of ever becoming a grandmother. She had me when she was barely twenty. When I became pregnant (some 40 years later) in 2003, she was overjoyed. However little Frank was born way too early and died soon after. Mum supported me and Gerard through that dark and difficult time in a very close and real way. For a long time she would regularly visit and we would garden together. Not talking much. Just being together.
So in 2005, when I found out I was pregnant again, she came with me to appointments where there might be bad news until the good news appointment where we discovered Grace was a healthy girl and we danced for joy. After Grace’s birth, Mum took to being a Nana with great gusto.
Two years later Ruby Lee was born and Mum was really happy all over again. Mum had a natural ability to communicate with babies and young children. Ruby lee would often sleep at Nana’s during the day. Mum’s presence seemed to reduce some of Ruby Lee’s general anxiety and Mum loved having Ruby for the day.
Then after another two years, Maeve was born. And mum had three grandchildren. I think that made her very happy. Maeve moved to Queensland when she was 6 months old but she loved to talk with her nana on the phone and on skype.  Even though she moved away when she was very little, Maeve took to her Nana immediately on seeing her. As if there had been no separation.
When Mum visited Ruby lee and Maeve in Queensland, she would sit in a chair and the girls would swarm all over her. They would bring her books to read, pencils to draw with and could be found all curled up in the same arm chair hours later.
When Kay and Lance came together, Lance’s daughters Rachael and Vivian became part of Kay’s family too. As did my partner Gerard and Betty’s partner Cam. Family was always an inclusive thing for Kay. Rachael told me that that Kay was a kind and loving step mum who welcomed her into her family with open arms. They shared many hobbies (I’m guessing cross stitch and knitting?) and had great conversations together. Vivian told me that she thought that although they weren't really open about how they felt for each-other they had kind of an unspoken agreement and they enjoyed spending quiet time in each other's company.
In closing I would just like to acknowledge how well Lance looked after Mum/Kay. Betty and I were talking about it the other day and we felt that it shouldn’t go unremarked. We know that he looked after her because she needed looking after and because he loved her. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy because such things never are. But just because it was done with love, doesn’t mean we should take it for granted. Thank you Lance.
The funeral seemed to go well, if you can say funerals go well. It was nice to see people, even if it was for a sad occasion which sets up a weird feeling. An old childhood friend of Mum's and a recent friend spoke. The house was full of people afterwards. Sad and strange.


Mum died last Tuesday, Remembrance day. She had been in the hospice for nearly two weeks and she became sicker quite quickly. Actually it all happened a lot more quickly than I expected. Even so we had some good visits with her and she was fairly with it up to a few days before her death. Grace and I visited on the Saturday before (in between visiting Gerard in two different hospitals - he is fine and back home) and I visited again during the day on Tuesday. The hospice looked after Mum very well and they minimised her discomfort as much as they could and I don't believe she was in any pain. However her breathing was difficult and I'm glad she could let go when she did.

It's a queer old time. I don't think the full weight of grief and loss has hit me yet. Been going through photos and planning to help Betty tidy up her garden for the funeral. There will also be a Northland trip as Grace has nothing to wear and I should be sewing something black for me. I'm thinking about speaking at Mum's funeral and thinking about what I would want to say. It's obvious that I would talk about how Mum delivered Frank and how she was there for me in a really big way afterwards. I could also talk about how Mum came to my ultrasound appointments and other results appointments when I was pregnant with Grace. How we danced with happiness when we found out that Grace was OK and a girl (although I would have been just as happy with a boy). I could also talk about how she was young and glamorous when we were children, how she drew us and the neighbour children pictures of her upcoming tubal ligation (a bit not done in those days).

I don't know whether to mention her smoking or not. She loved her cigarettes and sometime in the last week when I visited her, she said, I do smoke you know, as she was being wheeled outside for a fag. I used to love smoking too and there were times we loved to smoke together, as people do. But I was angry that she couldn't give up. I wanted more time with my mother, more time for Grace to have her grandmother. In the end I kind of let go of that anger so that I could have time with her. Who knows whether it will bite again. This is what I was thinking about in the shower (as sung by Joan Baez on one of our much played childhood car tapes).

Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man
Be not too hard when he is sold or bought
For he must manage as best he can

Be not too hard when he blindly dies
Fighting for things he does not own
Be not too hard when he tells lies
Or if his heart is sometimes like a stone

Be not too hard for soon he'll die
Often no wiser than he began
Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man
And nothing is given to man