End Of An Era

Recently my uncle who passed away after suffering with cancer and severe lung problems was farewelled in a poignant memorial service. Held in the place where he had worshipped for over twenty years, the service was remarkable in many ways. Firstly the two clergy presiding were senior clerics of the Newcastle Diocese, a Bishop and a Dean. Secondly they were female.

It seemed fitting somehow that this was so, especially as two of his three children are strong, independent, professional females. The other is a sensitive kind man who was brought up ahead of his time to be a SNAG by his mother, my late and much loved Auntie Shirley. My cousin Stephen gave a truly wonderful eulogy, which had humour and truth mixed in with so much love and pride the tears flowed down my face. No sound, just tears of empathy for my cousin Jayne and her husband who had helped my uncle live at home by being live in carers for the past two years. For my cousin Louise who had been there for her mother who suffered so with cancer over twenty years ago.

I also felt a deep sense of kinship, of family bonding which had been nourished so much when we were younger by our parents. There were times when I had such vivid flashbacks of memory as Stephen recounted how the family had first joined us here as migrants in the sixties. I remember sleeping in our small fibro cabin while they were out the back yard in an even smaller fibro one.

I remember the debates about which TV channels to watch. We watched Channel 9 and 7 while Uncle Eddie insisted on ABC. Thank God for the little bit of intelligent viewing we had for the weeks they were with us! I remembered how glamorous I found Auntie Shirley, how I could not wait to show her my Heidi and Little Women books.

The girls had long hair and it was Uncle Eddie’s task to brush the knots out of their hair. Jayne particularly used to let out blood curdling squeals of protest but Uncle Eddie was no pushover. He tamed their often seawater and salt laden hair and the time doing this created a wonderful father daughter bonding.

We had been here for some years by the time the Elsom’s arrived and while my sister and I had quickly integrated into school and made firm friends my mum had been increasingly isolated by my father who did not like neighbours inviting her regularly to dinner and afternoon tea. Dad worked all hours and though he took us fishing at night in summer after he finished work our next door neighbours became our family. Mr Cadogan had become a proxy dad to us, teaching us to swim and snorkel at The Rock Pool, later on having the most delicious sausages he had barbecued in soft fluffy white rolls. We prawned with nets at Canton Beach, cooking the prawns in boiling salted water in pots over fire pits right there on the sand.

I can only imagine the sheer wonder of this outdoor life for my cousins. Once they were settled in a gorgeous old house with a huge covered verandah in Lorn in Maitland we had regular get togethers whereby Uncle Eddie drove the family down to our house. We either ate the food both families provided at home or if the weather was not too hot we loaded up our car with food and went to The Rock Pool or The Lighthouse or Soldier’s Beach, wherever there were picnic tables.

Oh the food! Food was love in my mum’s mind and she adored her nieces and nephew and my little brother who was born not long after The Elsom’s arrived here. Auntie Shirley was just brilliant at anything she touched. So we usually had a huge cold home made steak, potato and vegetable pie from her and a big homemade Pork Pie from mum. Plus all sorts of side dishes including Aunty Shirley’s famous coleslaw and her incomparable slices for afternoon tea. It was like the feasting of The Famous Five or The Secret Seven during their long summer hols, but this was twice a month!  As soon as the clothes for Sunday church were removed and casual things thrown on the Elsom’s were on their way. And I was SO impatient!

We also visited them regularly on Sundays at Lorn where we would go for walks on the most amazing things. Paths! We eventually meandered across the bridge and down the High Street. This was town life to us and always thrilled me. Even if my sister was a right witch in the back of the car and we both got into HUGE trouble with a very angry dad we still both wanted to visit our only family.

So now that Eddie is gone I feel there is an ending of an era. We cousins are now the older generation, the keeper of these memories. It is why I am determined to get them down now. I am not very mobile but do my best work sitting down so am capturing as much as I can here and in my other blog kissmekate. Eventually I want to join the two blogs together into a memoir and then I can put the whole story together, because as events happen in my life I remember more of the past. So much was hidden before due to emotional trauma in childhood and as a teenager.

Eddie and family, along with The Cadogans made my life normal. Because in seeing them as such happy family units I knew how it could be. How it should be. I will never ever forget what Shirley and Eddie meant to me, including the adult me. They accepted me. They loved me. They showed Christ’s love to me and they were the first people I told when I found faith in my twenties. Uncle Eddie looked out for mum until I got up here to look after her. We chatted on the phone regularly and he was a great support to me when I was live in caregiver to an extremely violent father. When he became very ill I offered to take him regularly to his specialists but he said confidently and kindly that Louise would take him. His children and grandchildren came together to make his end of life quiet and peaceful. Qualities learned at Eddie’s knee.

 

 

 

 

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Nothing Short Of Magik

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my man of many voices. I sent him the post as he is my First Reader and I value his reactions and help with editing.

The last time we had seen each other we had lunch at my friend’s house and after that J kindly drove me home. This takes about ninety minutes via the coastal route and was wonderful as we had both lived and enjoyed that region when we were young.

On the way we looked at the houses we had lived in then. Mine with my parents and brother and him with his wife and children. They were a few streets apart. I was also honoured to be shown his brother’s grave nearby. He had died in a car accident when they were both in their twenties, shortly after they migrated here from England. I was very moved and embraced him. He was trembling and I held him for a long time and massaged his chest, where I could feel his heart beating. Very hard. I kept my hand there until I thought he was more composed.

My son was home when we arrived and we all had an enjoyable time together. When J left he kissed me for the first time. I was so stunned I instinctively turned to my son and mouthed he kissed me! One reason I was so stunned is because its over twenty years since I was kissed by a man out of affection. And I was married for a lot of that time. So I thought I had forgotten how to do it.

We arranged to meet up again the next week on the Wednesday, this time without having lunch at my friends. She is wonderful but it was hard to have any time to talk to each other there. My friend H drove me down to Gosford as she works there three days a week. She dropped me off at Hungry Jacks in Gosford where we had arranged to meet. H and I had toasted sandwiches for breakfast and H waited as long as she could then she went off to work. I waited and then J texted me that he was at a different Hungry Jacks!

He soon arrived and we went back to his place, which I had not seen before. It was exactly him. Books and dvds and sofas galore. Lush green rugs and various pieces of art which had special meaning to him. He showed me over the flat and pointed out the huge sofa where his adult children slept when they came up and where his daughter’s room was. It was very spacious, with lots of furniture but still felt as if it was sparsely furnished. Quite a hard thing to do. Perhaps because its quite a big flat, indeed my entire cabin could fit in his lounge room!

We shared a pot of tea together on the sofa, looked through some photographs of his family in the UK and chatted and were very relaxed together. Then he stood up and said lat’s go and get comfortable shall we and disappeared to his room. I sat there wondering what was going on then followed him. He was laying down on the bed so I followed suite. No idea what I was getting myself into. He put his arm around me and we kissed then he took his shirt off and said that was better. We kissed and fooled around a bit and then he took his shorts off. I took my tunic off and eventually my bra. After a while he went to put the radio on and came back and shucked his sexy aqua under shorts off.

I was a bit bemused by then but willing to go for it. I still had my leggings and undies on, mostly to cover my bag and fat tummy. They obviously got in the way so eventually and excruciatingly self consciously took them off and snuggled into him and he sighed that that was better.

He was so gentle, so considerate, so giving and every step of the way kept telling me everything was in my control. My choice. That he wanted only to bring me joy. He massaged me with Nivea lotion and most tenderly brushed my hair from my face.

We explored different positions as we were not even sure if we could have intercourse due to my scarring and so called deformities and defects from childbirth. And the last time I had sex was with my husband and basically rape while I was recovering from surgery in 2000.

Eventually J asked if I had brought lube and I said no as I had not been expecting anything to happen. He said I had spelled it out in my blog post the night before, where I said about making love to him. I said I meant much later, when I lost my inhibitions. He said well then I was very, very brave. He says that a lot. In a kind of awed way. Whereas I think I am impulsive. But with this man I trust so much it is safe for me to act impulsively, on my instincts.

He is gentle though passionate, kind though brutally honest and a loving partner yet still an individual. I am madly in love with him and I also love him. Two different forms of love but together, deep and exciting.

Since that day we have made love many many times. We found a way to get past my scars and imagine the surprise of finding a fully functioning vagina behind all the scarring. And no pain. It takes a little longer and a few weird angles but we are fine with that. The cuddles, the massages, the caresses are magic and once we go to bed its hard to stop. Though we managed to last week, we went out for a meal afterwards and I think the glow was there for all to see. The afterglow of an afternoon spent loving each other’s bodies and the glow of love we have for each other.

We are also trying new experiences. Unfortunately we were caught by a hiker in the Watagan Forest a few weeks ago when we started making out but we managed to get naked together later in a much more isolated spot. J on the picnic table, me worshiping his body with my mouth. And later we tried to make love leaning over the picnic table but J kept slipping backwards into the dirt. He never said that my movements were knocking him backwards! We have some practice to do on different positions due to my surgeries and are so up for it.

After a largely loveless marriage since 2000 for myself and also a bad marriage for J in the past we are not wasting any time. We are juggling opportunities to get together. We love our time exploring each other’s bodies but also love the region where I live and have been exploring it.

Lake Macquarie is magnificent and its beauty has healed me in so many ways. Now I love someone who has history in the area where I grew up and also where I now live. And I have history where he now lives. Synchronicity. Its an incredible thing to feel like you are meant to have met someone before. And to actually meet them at this stage of our lives. Well its nothing short of magic.

Sharing The Joy

On This Day five years ago we left Sydney and everyone we knew to stay for a little while with my parents while we worked out where we could afford to live.

Five years later and we are a little further north of where they were in Lake Macquarie City. Mum has passed away and dad is in a brilliant care home very near us. Their house is looking great as the new owners are engaged in living in every room. Very different from the reality of Alzheimers where my parent’s lives had shrunk down to a bedroom and a combined kitchen dining area and sitting room, on one level of their three storey home.

My parents had just been released after spending many many weeks in hospital in April 2012, They had been left at Belmont Emergency Department by my sister who had looked after them for the previous seven months or so and had decided that she could no longer cope. This happened without my knowledge until my uncle let me know. My parent’s State Guardians did not even let me know.

We had no idea of their condition as we had spent so much time trying to get help for my then husband since Xmas Eve when he first told us he had wanted to jump off the Gap. We had also been unable to visit them while my sister was there as she was being vicious about my putting in papers for Guardianship for my mother. The hospital social worker in July 2012 had put papers in for my father after his then life threatening stroke and I was advised to do the same by ACAT and others. I was actually talked through the process in 2012 by the ACAT nurse assigned to my parents.

We were already traumatised by events in Sydney, leaving behind both good and bad memories there and to see mum especially like that was, well there are no words. She recognised me though and started crying bless her. Within a few days I had taken them to their many doctors and met their State appointed Guardians. Also many many lovely carers. Karen and Helen especially were brilliant and now are much treasured friends.

We were all taken to Cessnock by my brother to see his family and look at a house we were offered by the Department of Housing there. C had received a text as we travelled north to Swansea about the house actually. It was not suitable as it had too many steps and was in the Ice Capitol of Cessnock but we had a wonderful day catching up with my nephews and nieces.

It also clarified for us that we could not be that far away from my parents. After that I did not have time to dwell on anything. Looking after two demented people in a three storey house was not easy but somehow we did it.

Good indeed can come out of bad. Sometimes it seems that one cannot go on. Life can change in an instant. Putting my red lipstick on, gritting my teeth and just getting on with things when it seems it is impossible is second nature to me. Now however I can smile and enjoy getting on with things.

Life is so calm and peaceful here by the lake. I have reconnected with so many friends and made new ones, deepened existing friendships and now have a wonderful man in my life that I both am in love with and love. He is my best friend, my writing mentor, my life teacher. And such an unexpected gift of pure joy. Life is constantly evolving and I am so thankful for the lessons I learned care of dementia.

To live in the moment. To cherish those I love and to take time to visit them and show them that love in action. To take time to share the joy with others, who knows what it might mean to them? We did not know what was going on all those years we visited my parents but know that they were loved and treasured by so many people up here. I would like to think that I am part of the community, that I can be of use to others. The way strangers were so good to me five years ago.

Timing Is Everything

In July 2015 I bought a small unassuming cabin with a nice sized garden. The place is Land Lease in that I pay for the use of the land and utilities. This is becoming a popular thing with Baby Boomers who need money for their retirement, or like me have little money after bitter silver divorces. The actual park has masses of huge trees and flowering shrubs which are home to an abundance of bird life. It is a short walk to the lake and near to shops and transport.

I was really excited to move in, apart from being heartbroken that I had to leave the family Burmese cat behind. Chanti and I were devoted to each other, as she was to the whole family. Except we had a special bond due to C and G going overseas and Chanti and I really bonding while being alone together. I truly believe she healed me of some of the dreadful pain I felt after my mother’s death in mid 2014. She is an old cat and never jumped onto anyone’s lap, however the day I was leaving she came running down the hallway and leapt onto my tummy and snuggled close. It was harder than leaving my son, because I knew he had wanted his own place since he was 18, and now he was finally getting it.

I ordered my lounge furniture to be made in teal chenille which would take up to three months, and settled in as well as I could with everything else that had been delivered. G drove the removal truck and with C they moved my boxes that had been in storage since April 2013. I had not brought a lot with me from Sydney, mostly my quilts and my art and quilting books, unfinished quilts and my two favourite tea sets of mixed china. Bedlinen, duvets, blankets, towels, cushions and throws needed to be bought up here as well as dinner sets etc. I was basically starting again, I wanted to leave the near thirty years with my ex totally behind me.

My son stayed in Wallsend, his fiancé in Sydney came up weekends and they visited on Saturdays at first to help me get settled. The garden was neat but not really to my taste so I tidied it while I worked out what I was going to do with it. I found it hard at first to adjust to being alone after living with families and my own family for over forty years but I adjusted and enjoyed the time alone to read and watch DVDs and Netflix etc.

However all of 2015 I had been in and out of hospital with bowel obstructions due to a Parastomal Hernia. Luckily one Saturday in late August my son and his fiancé were there when I had a really bad one. Due to nearly dying and needing months to recover physically and psychologically from the surgery I did not return to my home until November. The garden was in a shocking state and there were so many deliveries from eBay and various stores as I ordered most of my household goods online. Luckily the Park staff once they found out I had nearly died opened up for me so the deliveries could go straight inside.

Eventually I had the place absolutely as I wanted it, a spare room for my son or friends to stay in, which they did. My dad visited with a nurse regularly for tea, weekly in fact. Meanwhile my son had a dreadful experience with a home invasion in his place, people were badly injured who got in the way of the assailants. He came to stay with me until he got up the courage to go back but we were both concerned for his safety. Then he broke up with his fiancé early 2016, Chanti the Burmese went back to Sydney with G and eventually C gave into my nagging and the detectives suggestions that he move out of Public Housing and in with me.

Easter Monday 2016 he moved in with the delightful Robinson movers who service Lake Macquarie. The owner had not realised it was Easter Monday so his lovely wife helped him. They did such a great job, very friendly and professional. When they finished here they took his furniture which would not fit and his excess boxes etc and put them into a Storage Facility for him. C was pleased to be in my bedroom as he had a double bed he wanted to eventually have in there. I moved into the spare room which had recently had the floor replaced and wooden laminate put down after a nasty episode of water leakage all over the carpet under the window. I also pulled up all the lino in the kitchen and bathroom and found a layer of stagnant water there. Once it was cleaned out though the floor was sound and no mould was found. I managed with the horrid old adhesive lino as I knew water could not get under that and damage the walls.

We really enjoyed being back together again, though it was an adjustment for both of us we always get on well and work as a team. Around the same time I got stuck into the garden, holding the left side of my tummy firmly as I did so. I cut back really hard the Lily Pily and had my handyman Alan remove some horrid old Azaleas. There were several good plants that I also cut back and I planted a few Buddleja Davidiis. Removed a lot of horrid cobbling which was not working as a path as it was covered by the Lily Pily. A lovely dad and his two girls came and dug them up for me and removed them. For free! Then the long experiment with what would work as a ground cover started. The ground was shocking, I loaded the soil with Blood and Bone regularly. Tried white ground cover magnolias, mass planted. They died. Then white daisies, also mass planted, all but one died. The most success I had was with ground cover nasturtiums, with sugar cane mulch to germinate them.

So after much rearranging and selling of furniture C and I have blended our things to create a cozy though tiny home. Having our own home has made me feel rooted to the community, helped me destress when things with my dad and his care home became so very difficult. Shutting the door, getting a cup of tea and putting my feet up in our home, because it is very much my son’s and mine now, is so therapeutic. After two years of turmoil and the torture for so many years before that, this is my haven, my peaceful place and I love inviting special friends into it. One regret I have is that I broke off contact with someone after I nearly died, that I did not trust that he would want to be my friend through this. However we have reconnected now and are very close. He is the one of the many voices, and I love him so much and trust him. We are so very good together. Sometimes timing is everything, as we both know so well.

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Much Loved and Safe

On This Day five years ago I had a really busy day in preparation for our move north. I decided to have my “After Suicide Attempt By Family Member Psychologist” session coffee beforehand so that I could get on with the many things I had yet to complete before our upcoming moving day.

Usually I sat in Westfield Bondi Junction food court with my face blotchy from crying through the whole session. I liked to try to get ahold of myself before getting the bus home. This time was the first time I did not cry through the whole session.  As a matter of fact I did not cry at all! I graduated, not in the usual way from a course but in that I completed all the things I needed to in my own mind.

I knew instinctively that we needed somewhere safe to stay, even temporarily, where we would be with people who loved us and knew us and wanted the best for us. Being in an unknown environment in the state my son and I were in would not help us heal, however we had to get away from the possibility of contact with D.

So straight after the session I boarded a bus to Maroubra to return the GPS monitoring device I had been given by Stay At Home Leaving Violence, an organisation that had supported us so freely and compassionately. J the Housing case worker was so happy to know where we were going however she counselled me against staying too long, she said I was in no state to be a carer, that I had to put myself first. She also reiterated her opinion that I would be very good at Advocacy work.

Five years later the Advocacy has become second nature, and about so much more than Domestic Violence. It is Dementia, Mesh, Ostomies and Women’s Surgical Issues. And I did stay longer, because though my need and my son’s need was great, my aged demented parent’s needs were so much greater. And one is gone now, and another in care, and both were, and are, much loved and safe.

There Goes My Open Mouthed Smile

Yesterday I had a tooth extracted. It had broken within weeks of moving up here and staying to look after my mum and dad five years ago. I had some kind of a reconstruction on that molar a few years before that but they told me it might not last. I was eating one of my son’s amazing chicken burgers when I got an excruciating pain in my top gum. I semi shrieked, luckily mum and dad had gone to bed already, or they would have called an ambulance. They knew I did not show pain unless something was wrong and an ambulance was their lifeline.

This was quick though, over with as long as I ate on the left side only. A few days later I got so fed up with the reconstruction flapping around and jolting me with pain when I forgot and ate on that side that I grabbed ahold of it and twisted. It really really hurt but I pulled it out. It seemed like half a tooth. No decay at all and I was left with a complete tooth on one side and nothing on the inside, with the gum sealed over it.

I could not afford either the time or the money that year to get my tooth fixed. My parents were a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job then. And I was existing on a pension after my then husband locked our bank accounts down after I locked him out of our flat in Sydney due to his bizarre behaviours. Then there was the physical and mental exhaustion at the end of the day and also nobody to look after my parents while I went to the dentist or recovered from an extraction.

I ignored a lot of things that year including diabetes, however I would do it again in a second. My son was ill as well and developed Pericarditis, there was no time for me to be ill. One of us had to present a front to mum and dad that they were calm and in control of everything that could hurt or bother them. And that is what I did, though I did get on top of the diabetes later that year!

So yesterday I had my teeth cleaned, a molar filled and then a very difficult extraction. The tooth kept breaking and shooting off bits of tooth at high speed. My lovely dentist had to push my head to the left a lot to get at the tooth. Unfortunately I have Foraminal Cervical Stenosis on the left side. Quite severe too! When he finally got it out I was a bit shaky in the arms and my feet kept catching as I walked home. I sat down for a while on the way home and gradually covered the distance. Not sure how. Maybe the same way I coped with mum and dad in 2013. By simply putting one foot in front of the other and working towards the goal. In my case getting home and laying down. Chatting on Facebook to dear friends and in real life to my son C and my friend J. The two most important men in my life. And the most caring, considerate men that anyone could have the privilege of knowing. I have been rewarded over and over since moving up here by meeting wonderful people, deepening existing relationships and reconnecting with people I had lost contact with. All this aided by technology. Facebook, Messenger, Words With Friends and Texting. I could not have accomplished or indeed survived 2013 without these things.

I had quite a bad time with bleeding afterwards, it did not stop for some hours until J suggested small ice cubes. I then got to have a look at my mouth and face. Swollen and distorted from the hard physical work of removing something that just did not want to come out! And there goes my open mouthed smile for a while too! After next week I will have an up to date mouth, until I can afford implants and teeth whitening anyway. And then it is on to the long list of health things to address, and get on top of. Not just because I have people relying on me, but because I have people who love me, and I owe it to them to look after myself. And I owe it to myself too, I deserve to be as well as I can possibly be. We all do.

 

Fifteen Minutes

One of the most important things to do as a carer is to take time out for yourself. Whether it is to go out to a coffee shop or creating your own little area on the verandah or in the sitting room or in your bedroom.

When living with mum and dad I liked to sit on one of their patios and look out to sea. The incredible beauty of Lake Macquarie went a long way to healing me of the trauma of my Silver Divorce. I loved seeing the way my parents dragged lightweight chairs around to catch the early morning sun and also to get the best views.

I liked to get a tray and some pretty china, in this case Magnolia, a set by Ashdene. Tea with a few diabetic friendly biscuits that can take up to fifteen minutes to nibble was heaven. No tech with it at that time, just blissful birdsong.

 

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