Sunday, August 14, 2011

an interlude of a self indulgent kind

The past year, particularly the 2010/11 financial year (July to June) has been the most eventful I can remember.

It's hard not to reflect when a whole pile of things happen to you in a short period of time. Ahh! there's the first slip. When I write that these things "happened to me" I mean that most of them affected me and actually happened to other people.

June 2010 was looking OK! I was working on a project at Australia Post as a Training Manager, and only having stand-up fights with a couple of people a week. It was stressful, but at least I as in Melbourne. I was home one day checking emails, when I received a phone call. The caller was from Virgin Gyms. I had won a six month free membership to their brand new state-of-the-art gym that was coincidentally located across the road from work. I felt great! I started emailing a few people to tell them about it, when my phone rang again. "What have I won this time?" I muttered to myself, grinning like an idiot.

It was a woman's voice, vaguely familiar, then it hit me! My best mate's older sister. It was great to hear from her as I hadn't seen her in a long time, but through the dopey grinning afterglow of winning, I didn't immediately hear that something was very wrong.


"We've lost Adrian!"

I was silent for a while as my bubble burst. All I could muster was "What!" as I physically and mentally collapsed.

She apologised, repeated "he's gone" a few times and I couldn't speak to ask questions or respond at all.

I'll admit that I am emotionally closed most of the time, but when I called my partner, then my dad, I was inconsolable.

Adrian and I started high school together: we hung out a lot, got into trouble, burnt things, blew things up, fought, laughed, schemed and listened to music. We weren't the closest friends all the way through high school, but we thought similarly and made our way too and from school together more often than not. We often chose to walk home from school instead of getting the train. We would walk on the railway tracks, talking all sorts of garbage and keeping an ear out for the train.

Adrian was an enduring friend. We did favours for each other, spoke about our dreams and schemes and tried to keep each other honest and "in-check".

For 25 years we stayed in touch. We were housemates for a while, neighbours off and on, and friends to the end. When I spoke at his funeral, I told people about how good and thoughtful he was, and that he was the most intelligent person I ever knew.

Adrian’s death in June 2010 was a major blow to me. I re-thought my entire life and what I thought of as important. I changed my work situation, quitting a job I’d been unhappy in for ages so I could have more time for friends and family. So far, it has worked.

Some may question how heavily I felt the impact of the next event. My dog Winston, developed skin cancer which spread and he had to be put down. Winston was 15 years old and one of the most loyal friends a person could hope to have in their lives. When I was watching TV or reading he would sleep in my lap or across my feet. He would walk with me for hours, pine for me when I was away, and he would go crazy with excitement when I would return.

So, at the end of 2010 I made a silent wish to myself, hoping that 2011 would be a lot better.

I’ll never forget Christmas time 2010. I’m not very interested in Christmas. I didn’t buy my mother a Christmas present, and had no intentions to see her. This wasn’t nasty or as a result of a fight. Mum and I simply had a strained relationship. On Christmas day I was with my Sister and Dad having lunch when my other siblings dropped in as a surprise with Mum in tow. She didn’t look well and I felt guilty straight away. She had even brought presents for everyone.

In February 2011 she told us she had lung cancer. Guilt hit me again, as my first thought was to doubt that she was telling the truth. Unfortunately it was true, and to make it worse, she put on a brave face and refused treatment.

Time started to blur, and it was not long after finding out about Mum’s illness that my second and older, dog Maizy had a stroke. She couldn’t walk, hold her head up or eat. She was the feisty, naughty little dog who was always in trouble. She was like a cute little kid who you know you shouldn't spoil, but you do anyway. When the vet put Maizy down, I vowed never to have dogs again.

As Mum got sicker, it slowly started dawning on all of us kids (five in all) that she was going to die. You know the facts, but you don’t process it emotionally straight away. It takes time and proof. Before too long, Mum was too sick to look after herself and she was admitted to a respite home. She got sicker and thinner, and in just a few weeks she looked a lot like her brother Gary the day he died. Gary lasted a lot longer, but suffered a lot. He accepted treatment for his lung cancer, and I know he did it for his kids, not for himself.

We visited Mum regularly, and each time got harder as she got progressively worse. One day I received a call from my sister. “You’d better come”. I walked into her room and I’m not sure what happened as I ran out again and almost collapsed. She had lapsed into unconsciousness. It was easy to see that it was nearly time. Family came in and out that day, but the siblings stayed put. Mum was making a lot of noise as her body shut down. It was very disturbing and continues to haunt me. The five of us camped out in a little waiting room on some horribly uncomfortable fold-out beds. In the morning, mum was quiet, so I sat with her for a while. I spoke to her and told her we all loved her and that she should stop holding on. I drove home to have a shower and change clothes. As I lay down on my own bed for a quick rest before heading back to the hospital, my sister rang. Mum had died.

Mum's funeral was held in the same funeral parlour as Adrian's, my uncle Michael's, my Auntie Connie's, and a number of other friends and family through the years.

It feels almost petty to talk about the good things that have happened this year, but it would be wrong to leave them out too. Life has a tendency to go on. During Mum's illness I started a new job and found solace in the nice team and the huge amount of work we had to do. A week before Mum died, I was offered a managerial role, my boss said, because of my passion and commitment. So I had something to be proud of in amongst all of the other things going on. It was around this time also that my partner and I discovered that we are pregnant. We'd been trying, but we had no idea it would be so quick. We're now nearly five month pregnant and everything is going well. We have things to be excited about and to look forward to. Work too, offers its challenges, with a restructure taking place that will change my role again.

Finally, our babies due date is 1/1/2012. Now I've never been one for signs and mysticism, but I couldn't think of a better way to start a year. I'm hoping that it is a sign that 2012 will bring more happiness and less pain than the last couple of years.


Writing all of this down has made me relive it yet again. It will be bubbling away under the surface for a long time, maybe forever. 

So, don't smoke, live your life, don't put things off and show and tell people you love them.

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