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.

Advertisements

From me to her

So my 80 something year old mother (a lady never reveals her true age apparently) had a cataract removed yesterday. A lifetime of rude health and then a hip replacement last year and now the eyes. At our bi-weekly dinner on saturday night she announced to us that she was going to die yesterday (note: this isn’t a sign of mental disease more just a flair for the dramatic and an overactive imgination).While my father and DH sat with mouths agape I retorted with an “ok then – burial, cremation or compost for the roses?” We laughed and drank a glass of peach champagne. I phoned her on Monday to say all the best and she said “I’m scared” and it broke my heart just a little bit – this bright, competent, wickedly funny woman who knows half the planet was suddenly very vulnerable. To cut a long story short, she’s much better and the op seems to have been a success but I was thinking maybe I might write a letter (she likes “old fashioned communication”) …………………….

Dear Mom

I love you – you know that right? We tell each other every time we’re on the phone (funny that we don’t say it when we’re together for dinner, maybe the hugging and kissing make up for it). I’m so very grateful to have you as my mother and my friend – we’ve always had a different relationship I guess, even when I was a teenager we were friends.

I’m so very proud of how you came through a dire first marriage and had the courage to leave the ratbag with nothing but the clothes on your back and my brother by your side. Then you met Daddy and despite your misgivings about getting married again you took the plunge and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m a lot like you in as much we’re careful with whom we allow to get close to us whereas Daddy has room in his heart for the entire world and their dog. I know the last 18 months have been scary for you – you’ve always been the strong and fit one while himself has been full of aches and pains and hospital visits.

It’s going to be ok, the upside down world will soon get back on an even keel and we’ll be drinking champagne and doing crosswords without a magnifying glass before you know it.

Stay strong, forever your partner in crime.

Me

Drive-in

I read somewhere the other day (as one does) about the invention of the drive-in movie. Talk about stopping time or an “Alice through the looking glass” moment or some other literary allusion – my family used to be devoted drive-inners.

 image courtesy of blog.1aauto.com

Back in the day when I was under 8 we used to own a bottle green station wagon and a bright orange boxy Datsun of a vaguely dodgy lineage. They were both in their dowerage but still sprightly and the station wagon was the vehicle for drive-in. Our local venue came amply supplied with various fast food joints but my mum would always pack a hamper. If I close my eyes I can smell the coffee that was dispensed from a mustard coloured flask into crocodile green plastic mugs (we must have had a thing for green). Apparently I was too young for coffee so my beverage du jour was juice – something that you had to mix with water, can’t for the life of me get to the brand! On the menu were sandwiches – packed snugly in square Tupperware containers – cheese & tomato, egg mayo or chicken mayo. I think we had muffins for pudding (carrot maybe – so bizarre what you remember and what you don’t). The clearest memory is going from the bath to pj’s to the back seat armed with 2 pillows and a pink blanket. One of those really old-fashioned blankets with braid around it, king size so you could snuggle and make an igloo or a cave or a 5 storey mansion depending on your creativity.

With a full tummy the anticipation took on lyrical proportions building to an epic climax when my folks would pull in the extendable speakers (one on the driver’s window and one on the passenger window), turn up the volume and the adverts would spew forth their drivel (not everything changes). Horror was always the most fun at the drive in – somehow the big screen lent a slightly ridiculous quality to an assortment of ghouls and severed limbs which glossed over their intended purpose. It was fun, it was “good” family time – we always went for the double bill but I don’t think I ever made it past the start of the second showing. My waking memory would be being carried from the car to bed by my dad and my mom “going to put the kettle on”.

PS. DH and I drove past my old “local” drive in yesterday – it’s been closed due to lack of demand, old fashioned apparently doesn’t cut it any more.

image courtesy of 123rf.com

“If tomorrow never comes”

In the dulcet tones of Ronan Keating.

Have you had a good long look at the concept of “what if tomorrow never comes” – will those that are nearest and dearest to you know “how much you love them”? With the latest onslaught of in-law issues – my FIL’s pneumonia and my MIL’s now officially diagnosed Alzheimer’s (big surprise – not!) there was a delegation at their house on Saturday night. My SIL has come haring out from New Zealand, my BIL was down from White River and us of course (being only 5 minutes up the road). Our phone has been going non-stop with the other two overseas siblings – questions, answers, “advice”, and instruction … ad nauseum!

They are normally not a close family (no humungous reason that I’m aware of) and the most poignant part of Saturday night was this sudden outpouring of care and concern because of the current situation. In a way, if blame were being apportioned, my in-laws would have to shoulder a large chunk thereof. As parents, the most uncaring and unconcerned people I’ve come across in a long time – you know the kind where “I’m the parent, you’re the child so you owe me”. It has, as expected, bitten them hard with most visits (from all the children) being a duty thing and not a genuine desire. You could argue and say that any concern is good concern whatever the spark is. I would argue that and say envisage a scenario where there was no long term illness and they both passed without warning (for example a car accident) – would DH’s siblings have been overwhelmed with the what if scenario and I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve? Guilt, in my opinion, is the most destructive of emotions – if you’re distant that’s ok if you’ve made your peace with it but if you’re distant because you can’t be bothered then you’ve taken the lid of Pandora’s box and be prepared to deal with the consequences.

The point of this rambling is this – tell your spouse, tell your children, tell your family, tell your friends (if it’s the way you feel) that you love them / care for them / wish them only well. Tell them today – it may feel a little weird, they’re may think you’re a little off but let their most recent memory of you be positive. If you’re having a fight and you don’t want any more verbal exchange, tell them electronically! DH and I are very close with my parents who are both in their late 70’s/early 80’s and chatting to a friend of mine the other day about loss and that sort of thing she remarked on how devastating it would be for me when my parents pass away. She was, I think, somewhat taken aback when my answer was contradictory. Obviously I’ll be sad but I’m so very grateful to have had a steadfast, reliable, nurturing relationship with people who tell me they love me every time we communicate.

“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say?  And why are you waiting? ” ~Stephen Levine

PS. A quick confession – trolling through my blog looking for something else I came across a very similar post that I wrote in April last year – identical title, different circumstances and slightly different content :O Deja vu of epic proportions – so apologies to anyone who may have thought – hey, she’s already done that!

Friends versus Family – a tug of war?

There is an old adage (origins unknown and perhaps slightly bastardised) ” Your friends you can choose but your family you’re stuck with”.

After a particularly torturous day DH and I adjourned to the garden for some quiet time under a star bedecked velvet sky. An unseasonably hot summery day relieved by a soft breeze we partnered the fireflies in mild mumblings and musings.

A circular path ended in a discussion about friends and family. What determines your level of committment to any relationship? Is a blood connection more important or more binding than one based on common interest? Perhaps more importantly does the parental/filial link create some sort of misplaced feeling of obligation to accept disruption that, if forthcoming from a “friend”, would cause one to terminate forthwith any future interaction?

After a lively debate, liberally fuelled by a cornucopia of tastes from my raid of our local deli who always seem to have something for dinner when i manifest signs of complete dullness, we (or perhaps I – methinks DH caved in to keep the peace) concluded that we (I) bother with people who bother with us. Relationships, irrespective of the connection, are a two way street. The cliche’d give and take is the yardstick – committment and hard work are the building blocks. One cannot be a fair-weather participant in life. Respect and love are not a right determined by any hierarchical structure – they need to be earned.

I did have an eloquent and erudite conclusion to the soapbox tirade but it took a different path while I was trying to find the source of my opening comment. I did however come across this damp-eyes quote ………”Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”  ~Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859

“If tomorrow never comes

will she know how much I loved her” (for interest the source is a love song is by Ronan Keating Irish Voices ). After a particularly vexing day at the salt mines, I retired to the couch last night to while away a few precious minutes immersed in a shuffle mix of Bocelli, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, B Gees, Beatles and Bette Midler (what a blessing the ipod is, listening pleasure at your fingertips).

In mid crescendo (DH was at a seminar so completely unaffected by my warblings – what a performance he missed), it struck me that in such a fast-paced enviroment – everything electronic and digital from birthday wishes to photographs (and the more the merrier please don’t misunderstand me, I’m a huge technology fan), have we remembered to tell those that matter just how much they mean to us? If today is your last day (yes I know the conspiracy theory is the end of 2012 we’ll all be in the hereafter but it doesn’t quite fit my point) will those whom you love know that you loved them? Do you have regrets about somebody that you’ve lost with a whole lot left unsaid? Obviously relationships are not always pink and fuzzy and there will be days where you are feeling less than kindly disposed towards that other person but in the greater scheme of things is that bond strong?

I suspect this latest emotional fishing trip is as a result of my mum’s recent operation – I’ve been enriched with supportive, caring parents who never fail to end a conversation with “love you”, well mum does anyway – my pops is a little more reserved (funny thing that, men being emotionally reserved) but can hand-write a verse that will have you reaching for the tissues. My best friend has an awful relationship with her folks (think barren wasteland) and I said to her the other day whilst chatting over a decadent piece of carrot cake and a cup of tea at Makaranga – “if your parents die tomorrow, will you have regrets about the state of play – is there anything you would do differently?” She is unequivocably comfortable with her situation and that’s all fine and dandy but regret will consume you from the inside out like some virulent cancer.

The universe is full of folk who have expressed their opinion on love and loving in a far more eloquent fashion than I so, still  firmly ensconsed on my soap box and frantically relating back to the musical starting point for this thought journey, I leave it to Nat King Cole  (in my opinion, one of the greatest Big Band Baritones ever) who said The greatest thing you ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”.

The best advice I ever had

from Bob Thaves, the creator of  http://frankandernest.com/ – “Remember Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels”.Loubbotin’s – I can dream

It has “inspired” me in a funny old way to believe that women are capable of greatness in any sphere, no matter the odds and obstacle course crafted by old school business thinking.

Perambulating to the office this morning, it led me to ponder other bits of sage advice and “life lessons” that I have garnered over the years. Mum said – if the label says dry-clean only, believe it (she was right, it took me a while to get it). My dad taught me to dance/love music and that knowing and loving sport if you’re a girl is quite acceptable and will probably help with boys (right again) 😉 . As a couple they taught me that I deserve the very best that life has to offer and that settling for less is really a waste of time.  Heartbreak taught me to trust my inner voice. Relationships taught me that even “nice” people can be really mean at times – it’s up to you how you deal with the problem and how much you’re prepared to put up with. I’ve learned to lock away the sadness and not let it rule my existence. 

Age taught me that being comfortable with yourself is paramount –

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect . It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” – Anon

That said, age has also slapped me around the head with the fact that I can still be afraid (even at my 40plus years) and there will be times when being alone in the dark is quite a scary thing. I’ve learnt that having a backbone and an opinion is a good thing and that glass ceilings are there to be broken through. I’ve learnt the fabulosness of true friendship and how rare it is.

Perhaps the most useful nugget that I’ve gleaned is not 18 carat in nature but the fact that just because I do things differently doesn’t make my way better or worse, it just makes me who I am.