Reading Dad's Journals

My beloved Dad kept journals for many years. He died in 2008. And now I have to read them…

Tag: Family

Where there’s a Will, there’s a [less stressful] Way…

Have you made a Will? If you’re under 50, you probably haven’t. According to the NSW government, at least 45% of Australians don’t have a valid Will. In America, it’s over 50%- that’s more than 157 million people!

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My friend Emma was getting ready to travel solo in South America about 12 years ago; she was 30, and her Mum and Dad insisted she made a Will before she left. She dropped me off a photocopy the day before her flight. I hid it away like an unlucky talisman, safe in the back of a drawer, praying I never had to use it. And I never did.

Is that the most common reluctance around Will-writing; that you’ll somehow bring on your death? According to American research, the top three reasons cited by survey respondents for not having a Will were procrastination, a belief that they don’t need one, and cost.

I can understand procrastination (says she, as weeks pass by between blog posts…). I can understand cost. But not needing one? Hello? Aren’t you ever going to die?

Last weekend, I had to call an ambulance at 3am for a friend (an ex- nurse, only 39, and fit as hell) who thought she was having a stroke. Numb all down her left side, droopy mouth, speech disturbance and confusion, shallow breathing, and a thumping headache. I thought she was having a stroke too. And so did the paramedics. After she’d been rushed to hospital, I curled up in shock on the couch and tried to get some sleep, waiting for her 3 children to wake up for school, wondering what I was going to tell them…

After multiple tests, a bout of vomiting, and the right medication, it turned out to be a rare form of migraine called a hemiplegic-migraine . That afternoon she was home safe, with everyone massively relieved of course. But I’d lain awake, worried sick, trying not to wonder where her Will was in case she died.

Because my Dad died without a valid Will. What a nightmare. Very stressful, and unnecessarily so, for all of us. But that’s a whole other story… [Or a film. It would make a great film. One day…]

Another friend just settled out of court after 2 years of dispute with her deceased father’s de facto wife, who sued for 50% of the family home, when he’d expressed that he wanted it shared equally between the 5 grown children and her. Another nightmare, and very stressful.

So do us all a favour: admit you’re going to die, and write a Will. In Australia you can get a Will kit from the Post Office or newsagent, for less than $15. I know it’s not an easy process, but for the sake of your loved ones, who will be thunderstruck with grief and loss, give them one less thing to worry about: let them know your wishes.

You can use a Will to express desires for the future education of your children (mine states that an amount of money is to be put aside for my son’s university fees and living costs for example). You can bequeath a gift to a charity, and distribute favourite possessions (my god daughter is getting my awesome car, and another friend my dear cat Yeti).

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You can think creatively about connections you want to maintain/nurture (I’ve left equal shares in my house to 2 different friends plus my son, so that hopefully a sense of ‘family’ continues between them). You can also express wishes for your funeral (plant me standing up in a ‘green’ coffin please, preferably near fruit trees), even down to the music you want to hear (bright clothes, happy stories, and a bit of loud disco dancing to send me off thanks).

So PLEASE, if you’ve had it on your ‘to-do’ list for ages, and keep letting it slide; if you’ve made a draft but haven’t signed it; if you wrote one 10 years ago before you had kids; if you’ve gotten married/divorced/been widowed; if 5 years has gone by and you haven’t reviewed it since then… PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE put a morning or afternoon aside this holidays to do it.

Because I can promise you this: procrastination never wins, costs can be kept minimal, and you ARE going to die.

There are many websites to give you advice on compiling your Will, suitable to your country and circumstances. Be kind to your loved ones: make your wishes clear to them, and for them. Choose your two executors wisely; exchange contact details between them. Distribute copies. Tell people you’ve done so. And review every 3 years.

It’s really that simple, to ease the stress on the ones you leave behind.

Simple yet profound.

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6 gifts from Dad, 6 years since he died

My dear friend Shane was a solid support for me in the years after Dad died; he’d call regularly, and listen to me as I struggled or thrived. He was very present and generous, plus unfailingly sympathetic. Then his Dad Frank died. I drove across country to the funeral, and we celebrated the times of a simple man who’d lived a good life, respected in church, happily married, and whistling to himself contentedly right until the end, eating nothing but desserts.

Shane called me about a month later and said ‘I know I was there for you when your Dad died, but I’m ringing to say I actually had no idea what it was truly like did I?’ I kinda laughed and replied ‘I feel as though I went to live on another planet; the exact same style as this one, but for people who’ve lost their fathers. I’ve just been living there alone, waiting for my friends to join me one by one… So welcome, I guess.’ We laughed a sad laugh together, and another layer of our bond was laid down- the silver lining from our losses.

Now another close friend Pete is sitting beside his father as he approaches death; I’m holding them both in my thoughts, although I’ve never met his Dad. And again I’m readying a welcome to the new planet, the slightly blue planet, the sometimes-triggering-small-child-lost planet.

Today is the sixth year since my Dad passed on, and they definitely get easier. Not easy, but easier. This morning I went for my usual neighbourhood walk, listening to music while admiring people’s gardens, and I began to think about what Dad’s taught me since he left. I’ve certainly learnt about Resilience, and that Time really does heal all wounds, but here are my top six gifts from Dad, and I hope they resonate for you, dear readers who’ve lost loved ones, or inspire you to reflect on your own:

1. Acceptance/surrender/gratitude– It’s a cliché, but it’s true. We are all dying, and grief is as much of a guarantee in life as the good fun stuff like weddings, babies, and birthdays. The struggle for acceptance of loss can be short or long, easy or strong, but at some point, Life goes on without your beloved. You laugh again, you cry less, you stop thinking about them every day. Now, I reckon I only check in with Dad once a week or so, maybe less if I’m really busy. I’ve accepted his mortality, and thus my own. To surrender to that means I pay more attention to every day, every pleasure, every sunset. It means I have an up-to-date Will, that I take good care of my health, both physical and mental, and that I’m grateful for almost every day, even the shitty ones when I have to do my tax, or go to the dentist.

2. Family– This means ‘Family of Choice’ too, not just blood. My incredible cousin Jo was the rock that I leant upon to get myself through the first month, and so too my aforementioned ‘brother’ Shane. My ‘sister’ Kat continues to connect me through our history of dancing 5Rhythms, and through our creative journeys. My ‘ex-step Mum’ Suzanne feels closer than ever as the years progress, united as we are in our love for Ben, her son and my youngest brother; long term friends here in Australia know that today is ‘Dad’s day’ for me, when I retreat a little, and pay my respects. Dad was always the one ringing around, spreading the news and the tidbits, staying connected, and thereby connecting us all. Dad taught me about phone calls to family across the globe, and about making time to visit old friends, and I have a much greater appreciation of staying in touch with my widespread ‘family’ since he left.
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I still miss his fortnightly phone calls, and the sound of his cheery hello down the line though.

3. Food, esp raspberries– I have vivid, multiple memories of Dad fussing about the presentation of a dish, or the laying of the table (including napkins with special ring holders). I remember his small exclamation of delight as he tasted something he was cooking, or the playful rigmarole of trying out a new restaurant. Fish, cheese, wine: Dad’s favourites. And Indian of course, which remains a strong family tradition (you can guess what we’re having this evening can’t you?). He also loved raspberries, as do I. In fact, we scattered some of his ashes around the raspberry canes growing in his garden in Victoria, and although I’ve done the research, I haven’t yet tried to grow my own, despite wanting to. But I will. Nothing joins family and friends like good food, and for that Dad, I salute you.
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4. Being alone– I’ve always been independent, have often lived alone, and have travelled solo too. But when Dad died, I fell into a pit of loneliness from which I never thought I’d climb out. I slept with the light on in the hallway for at least 6 months, and had terrible nightmares that gave me insomnia. 3-5am is a lonely time to be awake, and no amount of Facebooking helps. In my deepest times of sadness, I met myself as a small child, lost and wandering, missing her Dad. Somehow we settled down together for a cup of make believe tea, and have been friends every since. Solitude now seems to be a privilege; contemplation and reflection are too, and every time I sit safely in my clean home or at the unpolluted beach, pondering life’s mysteries and gifts, I realize how happy I am to be alone, blessed with only temporary loneliness. Thanks Dad.
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5. History– You can’t change it. But you can change how you feel about it. And can be mindful of the new history you choose to create as you move through your present. My relationship with Dad wasn’t perfect- nor was his own relationship with himself or his other children. But losing him has given me the opportunity to focus on all the good stuff, and let go of the bad. I still know it, and lived it of course, as do my brothers, but I am responsible for how I react to it, and what I dwell on. So rest easy Dad; I’ve finally learnt to forgive us both for all our differences and clashes, even while I now struggle here sometimes with my wilful, moody fourteen year old son! Who, by the way, seems to have inherited your ‘card sharp’ tendencies, which I believe you got from your Mum… Not to mention your sense of humour and good story-telling…

Me and son Alby, July 2014

Me and son Alby, July 2014

6. Energy– When Dad died in Kauai, we had him cremated. We took turns to hold his warm, heavy, strangely-humming box of ashes as we drove to the sea. At sunset, we held a small ritual farewell, and threw some of his ashes into the ocean, so that he could keep travelling the world. We put ashes on his trees in Canada, and into the water that lapped at his garden. We three children each took some of him home to our lands: America, Norway, and Australia. He’s in the pond of the Japanese Gardens in Adelaide, and here at the beach near Byron Bay. He’s still moving, transforming, and growing. For me, he’s in the sunset colours, or beneath a beautiful piece of music. He’s in a leaping whale, a rustling tree, the grin of his grandson. He’s everywhere, in everything, yet also far beyond being tied into any one form. He echoes through the tears I cry sometimes, especially today. He giggles in the funny stories I tell, or sighs with me just as I fall asleep. He’s everywhere, in everything, an eternal energy added to every other lost parent, son, friend, and even foe.

He’s larger than he ever was; so big, he’s become a slightly blue planet, the welcoming-small-child-lost-then-found planet, home to us all, one by one.

Was that Failure, or just Change?

For weeks, my diary had been marked ‘Nov 10- Day of the Dead’. Capital letters, and in pen, not pencil. I told friends about it; tried to cajole my teenage son into going; turned down other invites for that day; I was committed. In a previous post here, I’d written about how important I believe it is to remember and celebrate our ancestors, which is a significant national day in many parts of the world.

So I drove to my local park at the appointed hour, and was greeted by the fresh smell of incense, and the bubble of a hot urn for free herbal teas. Various brightly dressed people were putting finishing touches to the information display, and there was a sense of reverence, provided by the experienced organisers:

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I wandered, preparing myself to decorate a cloth flag, or to peg up an image or some words that would convey an essence of Dad. Other visitors were propping photos of their lost loved one among the exposed roots of the fig tree, and I leaned closer in to see their faces:

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And then a voice inside me said ‘No, I’m not doing this today. I want to go home.’

I took a deep breath, straightened my shoulders, and headed towards the pottery table, where I could mould a raw symbol of my love.

The voice got louder: ‘I am so not into this right now. And I’m SO not fucking playing with clay!”

Another deep breath. An attempt at self-negotiation: how about if I take a few steps back, snap some photos for my blog, and just relieve the pressure for a moment?

Good idea Gabrielle; no protest from within.

A quiet circling of the site, shooting from different angles, and then a soft advance toward the main tree branch again…

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…‘If you take one more step, or stay one more minute, I am going to have the biggest tantrum you’ve ever seen, including crying hysterically while flailing my arms and shoving off well-meaning mourners. I don’t want to share, and I don’t want to care. Get me outta here now!’

O………K…………. Looks like we’re leaving then.

I tried not to skip toward the car. But it was hard not to.

I tried not to drive away with a screeching of hot tyres. But it was hard not to.

It was impossible not to smile with relief.

So did I fail? Did I disrespect Dad by not staying? Was I cowardly?

I realized I just wasn’t ready. Intellectually, I love the idea, and want to make it a national holiday, but emotionally, I couldn’t cut it. Not that day anyway.

So I came home early, to my son’s surprise, and wasn’t in floods of tears, also to his surprise. We played cards, laughing and teasing, then cooked a delicious roast dinner together. Dad would have loved that, and I could almost feel him smiling as we two giggled and cooked.

Every day can be Day of the Dead: using the furniture we inherited from loved ones, or passing their photo in its special frame on the wall. A laugh or an attitude can be handed down across generations, while of course physical appearance is a direct link to our past. I can choose every day to acknowledge Dad, and to give him more attention if I feel like it, such as on his birthday. He would love me to listen to myself, and to not go through with something ‘because I’m supposed to, or because it’s what others expect.’

He would be just fine about me driving away from the park, and would have assured me I wasn’t ‘failing’.

Thanks Dad x

Five years since The Day

It was five years ago yesterday that I parked my car outside work, and noticed that my cousin Joanna had called me three times, and my uncle, her father, had rung twice. All within the last hour. Unusual. It’s a cliché, yet true: a sad mist of foreboding crept up around my ankles. I decided to wait until I’d taught my one-hour class before returning the calls… Half way through the session, the mist reached my stomach, and I began to feel sick. I can’t remember the last ten minutes; all I wanted to do was get outside into the fresh air, and call Jo.

Of course, by the time I did, mist had filled my throat, drowning my ears, making it difficult to breathe. Jo’s terrible, simple, trembling sentence, telling me that my Dad had suffered a massive heart attack while bushwalking, was barely audible. I almost didn’t hear the whisper…’ And he died.’

I’m leaving a blank here for all the stories I could fill in, but won’t.

Or can’t.

Not yet.

Perhaps never.

Yet always remembered.

But yesterday is five years since Lawrence died, and for once I didn’t cry. I wasn’t a complete sobbing, wracked mess like the first year. I wasn’t even worse, like the second. I wasn’t calmer, like the third. I wasn’t spiritual and special like the fourth. This year I was just, kind of, ‘normal’. I did the washing, made phonecalls, taught my class, and cooked lunch and dinner. I didn’t even have a solitary walk along the beach at sunset, my favourite communion.Image

[Dad’s ashes facing his last sunset on Kauai]

Yesterday felt like a day of evolution, or maturing somehow. A realisation that a process had been underway, whether I liked it or not, and that I was nearing the next phase- the simple fact of ‘getting on with life without Dad’.

19 October 1988

This week I decided I needed to get back on track reading Dad’s journals. Opened Diary 1 towards the beginning, and found this entry, with the words ‘Significant day’ circled in the margin:

 “19/10/88- Lying in bed for what seemed like an age, mind wouldn’t stop going over childhood memories, tears, sadness. Went to see J- [therapist], lots more tears as we talked about the same childhood memories, what home was like, what sort of relationship between parents… The universe is telling me ‘It’s enough!’; there have to be positive changes or I shall get sick, have an accident…”

Dad wrote that 25 years ago tomorrow. What incredible timing. And what fascinating yet difficult sentiments.

If I was asked to describe my personality challenges, I’d say that if I’m stressed, I lie in bed with my mind going round and round. I’d say that I cry easily. I’d admit that I constantly reflect on what I’m doing, and whether I’m happy and satisfied. And that if I’m not, I am likely to make a dramatic change- end a relationship/move house/change jobs. I think these qualities are all strengths and weaknesses of mine; the proverbial ‘double-edged sword’.

The coincidence of finding this entry in Dad’s journal, the month after I drove 3000kms across Australia to make positive changes in my personal life and career, astounds me.

It is hard to read of his pain and troubles, but I’m aware that perhaps I have learnt from his struggles? I’m sure many people who knew Lawrence would say he was a cheerful and positive person, perhaps annoyingly so sometimes! But over the years, he and I shared many sad feelings or experiences (as well as all the good stuff and giggles), and I don’t believe he fully resolved several important issues. Do we ever? It certainly isn’t easy. But the repercussions still influenced his behaviour and attitudes, including uncomfortable relationships with some close family.

His entry the next day closes with this:

“… More confirmation of what I’m already working out- that I come from a family where emotions and feelings were strictly taboo. Now I have to work out, with help, what that means to me!”

Dad, you’re English- it’s a national pastime, tabooing emotions. You’re also a man- you are culturally and genetically programmed to deny those pesky feelings of yours. With 25 more years of Western social evolution and psychological research, including the baby boomers’ obsession with ‘self-help’ books, I can categorically state that emotions are now very expressed, and very processed.

We have everything you need to know...

We have everything you need to know…

Shit still happens though. Parents remain poorly suited or stressed; children still learn negative reinforcement; gender stereotypes and inequalities perpetuate. But you did your work, and you died happy Dad, holidaying in Hawaii with your girlfriend. You took up multiple volunteer roles, and ballroom dancing. You shared many loving experiences with your immediate and extended family: you were the ‘glue’ that held us all together, with your fortnightly or monthly timetable of phone calls, relaying precious news, travel plans, and anniversaries, even across the globe.

I’m not saying you were perfect. I’m not saying you healed all your wounds. And I’m not saying you didn’t have more work to do. But perhaps there is always more? And maybe a key to peace within yourself is to acknowledge that you’ve done as much as you could with the skills, tools, and energy available to you? Some scars remain more vivid than others, but a healing process has still taken place. Even if it’s taken 25 years.

My aunt Wendy says grief is selfish, yet I will still cry for Nelson.

Here is my aunt’s full quote, as left as a comment on my last post:

“… I think grief is less to do with the people themselves whom we’ve lost, more about what we’ve lost in terms of our childhood, youth, a supportive relationship, etc. So essentially I think grief is selfish, but that’s ok – we have to be, to some extent, to survive. Grief is the price we pay for loving and being loved.”

This stopped me in my maudlin tracks. She’s a smart lady, my aunt; one of the elders whom I wish I could spend more time with and learning from as she heads into her mid-seventies. But she’s in a small Welsh seaside town, and I’m here in Australia, so Facebook and occasional emails are the main communication channels. I would describe her as a political animal: a feminist, a peace activist, a vocal advocate for the rights of the marginalised everywhere.

This blog refers a lot to my sadness at losing my Dad; while the rawness of it has eased, it remains ever-present, on my trusty clipboard of grief.

But Wendy’s comment shone a different light on my world, which is the best you can hope for when writing I think. I have indeed lost everything she mentions, plus the physical comfort of his voice at the end of the phone, or the smell of him when we hug hello at an airport somewhere in the world. And it IS incredibly selfish: it’s all about MY loneliness, MY challenges in living without his support, my sadness at his lack of influence on my child, his grandson.

But MY world is all I know. It’s all I have. It surrounds me completely. So when something in it is torn away, it hurts. And yes, I will survive, no doubt, although I did briefly come close to not wanting to.

So what about when we lose someone who is not just of our personal world? Someone who is a symbol of hope and justice for millions of people?

When I was 14 or 15, my Mum told me we had to stop eating any food from South Africa. I had to stand there embarrassed beside her in the fruit shop while she confirmed from where the grapes had been imported. And the mandarins. And the apples. Then in 1984 The Specials released ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, and the opening chant cut through my sullen teenage rebellion. Suddenly my infuriating Mum became a cool political animal after all, just like her younger sister Wendy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgcTvoWjZJU

I still love this song.

Now the great man is moving toward leaving us. He’s lived a long, challenging life, and achieved the unthinkable. He means so much, to so many, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The collective grief we will feel on his death will be both universal and selfish; in general terms, we will have lost an inspiring advocate for equality and human rights, who has been a presence in our world since the 1960s. We will also each have a personal connection to that which resonates within us about him, ripping a tear in our unique emotional fabric. Even if it’s just the memory of forbidden seedless grapes and a ska song.

So it is with the loss of a parent. While perhaps my brothers have cried less than me, we each mourn in our own way. Communication builds a bridge between suffering humans; it may be a blog entry, a stilted conversation, or via the pages of a journal. It may unite people across oceans, and evoke support and understanding from complete strangers, such as I’ve experienced here on WordPress.

Profound communication may be achieved in the smallest of actions: our household went without certain fruit in England to let Nelson know that we supported his anti-apartheid movement. It may be a letter you write to a politician, or a march you attend, or a cake you bake. It may be in an unexpected form that reflects who you really are, and what you really think:

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Aunt Wendy is right: grief IS selfish. But so is Love. And one is indeed the price of the other. Thus while I may stumble at the cost, I will pay, over and over.

Dad was worth it, and so is Nelson Mandela.

Birthdays can suck. But not as much as Deathdays.

It was Dad’s birthday ten days ago, April 24. He would have been 78. As usual, his far-flung family and friends toasted him with a good wine (or organic lemonade at my house), and ate Indian, his favourite food. It’s become a bit of a ritual every year now, as the time passes without him.

This year my son was with me on his school holidays (hence the lemonade), so we went to visit Dad in the Adelaide Japanese Gardens where we had (sneakily) scattered some of his ashes into the lily pond in 2009.

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 I enjoy going there very much, ‘to sit with Dad’, along with the sadness that that inevitably brings. He and I had gone there together several times when he was visiting Adelaide the week before he died in 2008; we both enjoyed the peace, and the ordered beauty of the greenery.

Sometimes when I visit, I see couples lying on the grass, snatching a quiet intimacy in the middle of the city. I see new brides, posing in their big dresses, standing on the clichéd bridge across the pond between their old life and the new one they’re beginning- honestly, sometimes there is a queue of brides waiting to be photographed- my highest tally so far is four.

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 Occasionally there is a small picnic, with the glitter of birthday food being shared. I smile, but I’m envious too. For the rest of my life now, and my son’s life, there will be a Dad-shaped hollow. No phone call, no silly card, no even sillier gift. And his family all feels sad on his birthday, but enact our comforting rituals to honour him.

 So birthdays can suck. We all know that. We’ve all had one that fell flat, whether we were 6 or 36. Hell, once I even missed one all together: camping for a week in a National Park on an island near Townsville, roughing it in tents, with no time-keepers or contact with the outside world… We just sort of missed my birthday Wednesday. Not a bad place to lose one though:

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But Deathdays? They’re harder. I don’t know what else to call it: the anniversary of the day you lost your loved one. Is there another word for that day in our culture that I don’t know?

 In Mexico (and other countries) there is The Day of the Dead, usually November 1 & 2, a National holiday, when “… families and friends gather building private altars to honor the deceased using marigolds and skulls, and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed, visiting graves with these as gifts.” (Wikepedia)

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I would find great comfort in a day like that.

I could dress up and walk the streets with all the other people who are permanently mourning, yet also celebrating the loss of a loved one, while embodying the knowledge that we too will one day be celebrated in our turn by those we’ve left behind. I feel a lack of openness in my Western culture, where to refer to dying or death is almost taboo; corpses are hidden away, cremated behind curtains, buried in closed coffins. Grief is too much of a challenge if you feel it for too long; echoes of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ still permeate our social norms.

 Even more poignant for me in terms of honouring the departed are the Japanese Jizo shrines, dedicated to lost, miscarried or aborted children.

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 Many women I know, myself included, have had miscarriages or abortions, and even, most terribly, lost a child at birth or soon afterwards. Yet it remains so often an unspoken loss, or covered over quickly by well-meaning neighbours: ‘Oh you’ll be fine as soon as you have another baby, just try again’. If only it were as simple as that.

 I have a friend whose daughter’s birthday and deathday is the same day. I can’t imagine the profound sadness of that date. And I wish we had more meaningful public acknowledgement of the personal tragedies that can forever mark a person.

Perhaps if we all gathered, united in our physical experience of the ceaseless cycle of birth, life, and death, there would be greater social cohesion and empathy?

After all, everyone’s tears taste the same when we weep.

 Still, I’m grateful that I enjoyed my Dad for over 42 years of my birthdays before I had to learn a new way to acknowledge loss on his deathday of October 30.

 Thus even though April 24 is now forever bittersweet, it is still a day of celebration for many of us who knew and loved Lawrence…

 Happy Birthday Dad xx

 

Valentine’s/Schmalentine’s. But still, where’s my card?

After hours of exhaustive research  clicking on Wikipedia, I found this:

“The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”).[1][3] Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[11]

   So on this day of Western social programming around the commodification of romantic idealism, I admit I class myself as a ‘cynical romantic’. This means I have loved deeply and lost several times, been proposed to twice (were they really serious?), and had seven serious partners in the last 20 years. I love the idea of my perfect ‘soulmate’, but think I’ve definitely met more than one already… And while contentedly self-sufficient and happy, I do still sometimes long for my ‘perfect match’…

    Therefore, while some of you out there are celebrating with a partner (of any gender), or feeling sad/relieved/neutral that you do or don’t have one, I’d like to offer up this little story:

    Every year since I was 16, my Dad sent me a Valentine’s card. No matter where he was working in the world, or later on, where I was travelling, a red or pink envelope would turn up in my letterbox. The year I turned 34, and gave birth to my son at home in Australia, he didn’t send one. And got into so much trouble! He explained he thought it was a bit silly now; he was quietly pleased (I could tell) when I kicked up a fuss and insisted the ritual continue.

   I have had my favourite one stuck to the outside of my bedroom door in each house I’ve lived in, and it’s on there now:

Image    Inside the inscription reads: “Stay away from all the pricks”.

    Thanks Dad, I will. Sage advice for us all hey?

    I miss you Lawrence.

    Let’s celebrate Love today, not just between two people, but between us all   x

 

1st book. 1st page. 1st paragraph. Oh crap, I don’t know if I can do this.

  I re-arranged my work shifts for 2013 so that Friday became my ‘Stay at home and Write’ day. I have banned myself from making appointments or social engagements on Fridays, and sometimes I don’t even raise the garage roller door that leads to the outside world. I am committing myself to a ‘creative cave’; an essential discipline in my writing quest.

   But now, this journal-reading process is making me feel like Fridays equal a trip to the dentist. Just for the record, I didn’t go to one for 8 years. Only when food got stuck inside my aching back tooth every time I ate, and one day I realized there was an entire piece of long grain brown rice caught in there, did I go (six times that year).

   Sorry Dad, but opening your first journal really sucks. It’s like a dental appointment, but knowing you’re going to have a root canal through your heart.

  So here goes with the first paragraph:

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 “Still suspicious & mistrustful, how can that change, not sure it can, and if it can’t no point in carrying on, that’s not how I want to live- being suspicious and mistrustful…”

    Oh crap. I’m so scared. I have no idea how to handle this. It’s very confronting to know that I’m going to discover more sides to my Dad now that he’s dead than those I knew when he was living. I know there is a gift in that, and I hope I will feel grateful one day, but right now I’m just scared.

    Every post on this Blog has upset me, either before or during writing it. But today was the worst. I feel like I’ve cracked the top off a volcano, compelled by a sense of responsibility, creativity, adventure and love. What a damn stupid idea. I am a very small human being, and a volcano is a potentially very destructive mountain. What was I thinking??

    How do I deal with writing about these emotional experiences, on this world wide web? What about privacy issues? I know the people mentioned in these pages- do I need to ask their permission to read about their interactions with my Dad, as a courtesy? Not to mention my plans to write about them all. I know it’s 25 years ago, but still… Is there a statute of limitations on diaries?

 

Help, please. All advice or references gratefully received.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen: introducing The Box

Contains over 20 years of personal journals. Yikes.

Contains over 20 years of personal journals. Yikes.

In a moment of enthusiasm and bravado, I admit I cut through the outer cover. But that was too much. It’s going back under the stairs for now, where it can hum at me as much as it likes- I ain’t openin’ it any further!

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