When Dad does dating

So after my mom died (Grief is a real thing) and Dad moved to the retirement village it was a case of so what now? In short, my father is a people person, he must be around people and be interacting with people all day every day.

The retirement village was supposed to tick all those boxes and provide him with hours of entertainment but nobody reckoned on the crippling depression that grabbed hold of him and hung on tight like a blood sucking leach in a dank swamp. He socialised, with some subtle prodding, which later progressed to a metaphorical forklift to get him out of his chair and out the front door but he did socialise. The yawning chasm though was at night, when everybody battened down their hatches and went about their own business and he still wanted to have a person to talk to and share a meal with etc etc.

I’ll tell you one thing for free, when your parental becomes the aimless one and you take on the role of “advice giver” it is a rough and rocky path. Beyond frustrating because what makes sense and is reasonable to you will most times be a foreign language in your parentals life. Anyway after many months and many phone calls and many “Dad you need to put yourself out there, life isn’t going to come to you”, he did just that. He started “dating” (the word seems dodgy given their age group but you know, made a friend, acquired a partner – whatever) a lady at the village who had lost her husband about three
months after my mom died. Was it awkward, oh yes, massively so. It all looked so wrong, which is quite ridiculous given the circumstances, but to see him with another woman just freaked me out – and yes I know that is despite me being the one telling him to get out in the world.

Those first few months were quite something and I’ve honestly not been that uncomfortable for some time. Lots of time talking to my mom and pondering and musing and reasoning and trying to come up with a strategy so that I could move forward with a relationship that was clearly going to form part of my life fabric (and it has, 3 years now). Very deliberately I reshaped how I was going to do things, what I was prepared to do and what I was prepared to “put up with” for lack of a better way to put it. I was, in all honesty, initially resentful of how different he was with H as far the little things go – buying flowers, helping with grocery shopping which had not been part of his relationship with my mom until a good friend pointed out (useful to have good friends) that perhaps he had realised what he hadn’t contributed the first time around and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Fair point and food for thought but it wasn’t easy at the beginning.

Did I mention I have a brother, well yes he lives in a different province and a new woman in my fathers life proved a bitter pill to swallow. Round 999 of talking and explaining and reasoning that she was a really nice person and good for my father and took some of the stress off me and there is an uneasyish truce in place. My father of course thinks that he’s happy so all the family should be happy and is totally oblivious to any undercurrents – this is not a new thing, the subtleties of living have passed him by for as long as I can remember. A close knit family is a blessing without question but comes with its own
matched set of baggage. My husband, who comes from a family with a completely different dynamic and has a father who is cold and remote (the complete antithesis of mine) has I think been bewildered on many an occasion by all our stuff but has proved dogged in his support of whatever decision I’ve made.

And my father and H? All good from what I can see, three years in and contentment reigns supreme – long may it last, are you listening universe thanks.

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Grief is a real thing

So grief, grief is a real thing let me tell you. I’m not sure I really understood the whole process of grief and grieving until we had roughly 18 months of onslaught. I’d been sad before, obviously, you hear about death, you lose a beloved pet (and I howled like a banshee for days after that), contemporaries of your parentals pass away etc etc but it’s only (in my opinion) when it comes knocking at your front door that you really get it.

So first of all my mother in law died, we weren’t close but she died ugly (rampant alzheimers and all the accompanying stuff that goes with that) and I needed to be support for my husband while he dealt with her passing and his father and siblings and all their stuff. I need a new word for stuff but you know – emotion and baggage and arguments and discussions and stuff! Then 6 months later my feisty, never ill, full of life 86 year old mothers appendix burst and she dies two weeks later in hospital. My father literally fell apart and I put up my hand and said it’s ok, I’ll sort it out. You see, I told my comatose mother on the day she died that it was ok to say goodbye and I would look after my father and well that’s a promise you can’t exactly break. She, in her infinite wisdom, had always done everything from cooking, cleaning, finances, shopping for groceries etc etc My father was just, I can’t, I don’t know how, I don’t know what to do. So in the next 6 months we sold his house (at his request), moved him into a retirement village (best decision ever) and tried to find solid ground to stand on. The phone calls were endless and I can remember one night going into a room in our home, switching off the lights and curling up on the floor with my arms wrapped around my head and thinking I can’t do this anymore, I can’t do everything for everybody, when do I get a chance to grieve? Did I tell my husband the depths of my despair? No I didn’t (rightly or wrongly) I’m also the “strong” one, always the one who picks up the pieces so I did, I picked myself up and got back to getting on with life. I think the first time I really cried, well other than at the funeral because who doesn’t cry at funerals (I hate funerals with a passion let me reiterate but we did it because my father thought it was the right thing to do) was driving home from work on my birthday roughly 10 months after she died. It was in the winter and cold and dark and I wept for my mother for 8 kilometres and then I packed it away.

I’m jumping around here but about 4 months into project Save Father, one of our dearest friends also died from colon cancer. He was in his 40’s and once of the loveliest people you could wish to know – his parents have now buried both their sons (the first one in a car accident) so you can imagine walking that road of pain. On the day of his memorial, we got a call to say that my father had been involved in a car accident and was being rushed to hospital. You seriously cannot make this shit up – the photographs from the memorial are something, I look like a ghost. My father was lucky with relatively minor injuries but the psychological impact was massive combined with everything else.

Grief and grieving is an individual process – I don’t believe there is a guaranteed or recommended formula for everyone to follow. I do believe time is critical and that there has to be a line drawn in the sand and when you get to that line its time to start living your life again. You don’t forget, ever, but you remember how to live and why you need to live.

Its now three years later – I’ve had some health issues, nothing major but enough to give me a wakeup call. I’m quite convinced the utter overwhelmingness of the stress and grief was a contributing factor. What has grief taught me? I’ll tell you one thing its taught me –  to take care of myself and make myself the first priority in my life. I consciously avoid people and situations that are stressful and I have redrawn my boundaries – I put up with a lot less than I used to. You’ll probably find that there are people that think I’m selfish but that’s ok because I know my truth and the people that matter know me.

Twas in the merry month of May

To clarify, this the merry month of May was in the southern hemisphere and not north of the equator where, according to Joan Baez “the green buds all were swelling”.

In our part of the world May brings with it the first whisper of a cold breath, the grasslands become a golden carpet and the sky fades (just a little) to a pale blue.
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Some of the trees lose their swagger, fire is a great leveller, but retain a mysterious air with a life time of stories to tell.

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.” Faith Baldwin, American Family

30 days – just like that

The fleeting nature of time, the emphemeral substance of life, the adage of “this too shall pass” was never more forcefully brought home then when turning the pages of my diary. Yes, despite all the technological stuff (to which I’m happily addicted) I still like to use an “old fashioned” diary for work. There is something strangely comforting and affirming in writing down the day – achievements, failures and you’ve got to be joking moments. I use different coloured pens as well (what does that say about my character – probably something dodgy but whatever) to define what’s what. It was while flipping through crisp, clean whiteness to diarise a purple moment for one month hence that the old inner voice woke up and yelled in my ear “do you see that your worries and stress and issues are doable – swish, boom, bang and you moved forward 30 days.” Mouthy wench is the old inner voice but she has a point.

Do you talk to God

or whatever power source forms part of your belief system? This is not a religious poser but merely a passing blip ruminating on whether human beings refer to an intangible something to air their views when life gets on its inevitable rollercoaster of highs and lows.

Example – earlier this week, after an incredibly arsed up day at work, I got in my car to drive home and asked God (my thing, doesn’t have to be yours) if he had got out the wrong side of bed that morning, hence the iffy day! Now some would probably call that disrespectful and irreverent but it made me laugh and the utterly spectacular sunset brought me a hint of sanity and by the time I got home all was well with the world.

Yes, I do have a significant other and we talk a lot and often about everything and then some but pause a moment and ponder on this – I also need someone to talk to about him when he gets up my nose and I want to smack him (which is rare but it happens). So you see there is method in my madness as far as that goes and for those intensely vulnerable moments, which everybody has as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more comforting than a non-judgmental sounding board.

“Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” ~Victor Hugo

Judge, Jury & Executioner

Part of my “growing up” rule book was don’t judge other people. Honestly, I think, when I was younger I wasn’t very good at abiding by that rule – I made assumptions, some good, some negative and some so left of centre that they were just plain stupid (good old hindsight). There are enough “official” quotes and sayings about the subject as well but my personal summation of the whole philosophical slice of the pie is everybody has a story.

Does that sound terribly noble and cliche’d? Probably but more and more I’m having to consciously redirect my thought process and remember those four words. Today I learn’t that the lady at the local stationers, who always looks like a shoddily made sack of potatoes, is not a slob but is in a really crap relationship with a nasty piece of work. On the other side of the coin I also discovered that the woman I work with genuinely has an ugly dark heart and my prior theory of benefit of the doubt may have been sadly misdirected.

Listen more, talk less – everybody has a story.