Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Senescence (2)

In 2011, I wrote a post called Senescence 
which was about the decline of the quality of my pop's life
in the immediate years after the death of my nan.

This past week I returned home to attend the funeral of my pop after his sudden passing.

This was not my pop that I wrote about 4 years ago.
This was my other grandfather,
the last of 16 siblings,
who died suddenly, just weeks short of his 90th birthday.

In less than the waking hours of a day,
my nan went from living at home with her husband of nearly 70 years
to living alone.

Though there were rarely displays of affection between them,
though they were disagreeable with each other
and progressed through each day with little variation to their basic routine,
it was born of their lives almost completely being spent together.

They had been together for so long
that they were part of the same package.
You didn't get one without the other.
I rarely spoke of them individually.
It was always "nan and pop"

Five days after his death,
all the ornaments in their unit were in their place,
the kettle was as ever ready to boil for a cup of tea
and nan sat in the chair that she sat in every day.

But the table was hidden by floral arrangements and sympathy cards,
 the fridge was stacked with food that had been dropped in by well wishers,
and the chair that always, always, had my pop sitting in when we went to visit was empty.
His room, down the hall, out of sight, was as he left it
but within days his children will take on the task of sorting the material remains of his life.

I have always felt a small part of me change, revert to being a little girl when in the presence of my grandparents,
remembering their significant presence in my childhood.

But things had changed.

My nan was so lost, fragile and grieving.
She looked so dimished at the funeral.
It is true when people say that someone seems to have shrunk over night.

A little girl with flushed cheeks and episodes of overwhelming bewilderment.

Her children and grandchildren were suddenly the responsible adults,
the ones offering solace and comfort, the organisers.

My other pop still lives in his home
but he shouldn't.

In the past few years, his mental deterioration has continued
and the physical decline is taking hold as well.

Old friends no longer visit.

His brother has recently died but no-one told him
and he wouldn't remember if they had.

He still has his cat for company but he forgets her name.
He forgets to let her inside and forgets to feed her.
He forgets to feed himself.

He spent much of my visit sitting and watching me
with the intensity and curiosity of a young child
lacking the knowledge of social politeness.

His manners are forgotten, his ability to remember basic living rituals nearly gone.

But luckily, he has progressed through belligerence and defensiveness
to a more gentle, passive demeanour
and a child-like innocence.

His resolve to stay in his own house can now be negotiated-
thankfully, as it is now a necessity.

Another aged person who I have such fond memories of
but who is nothing like the personality that shared my childhood.

Another one whose child has become his parent.

The next time I visit, I will be thankful that he will be in a home
where there will be the full time care that he needs.

I am hopeful that there will be a new spark of life, of interest in the world because of daily interaction with others

But I left with a heavy heart.

All the memories of my childhood,
of the prime of my nan and pop's life,
that are around the house will be sorted, packed, culled.

He will take very few with him
and that will matter little to him.
 I know that now they have little meaning for him.

They are only material goods but they represent lives that are no longer,
lives that have gone or are fading away.

There is a quote that has always resonated with me.

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many" Anonymous.

But there are so many variables, so much "there but for the grace of God..." 
in our lives, that growing old can be the saddest thing.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Keeping the faith.


We have entered that dangerous territory where
the two oldest children have admitted that the fairy dust has cleared
and that they no longer "believe".

Santa Claus? Easter Bunny? Tooth Fairy?
Not buying it anymore.

Our kids are pretty naive and we have had a pretty good run.

I have only forgotten the nudge the tooth fairy once
in the grand scheme of about 24 lost teeth.
The tooth fairy really needs to use the alarm on her smart phone 
a little bit more.

So far, not a single one of them has taken me up on my offer of wrapping it in thread,
attaching it to the door handle and slamming the door shut
but I am secretly happy about that.

In spite of the annual grumblings from Mr Boozle about how hard it is 
to sneak Christmas stocking onto the ends of beds
when they are laden with bells*,
we have never had to use our
"Just helping Santa out. He had to run- Rudolph was being a pain in the you-know-what" speech.

*It was cute when I was making them
and I will admit that I am into aesthetics rather than practicalities.
That's probably why we make a good team,
in those moments where we aren't exceedingly frustrated with each other.

I could have probably come up with some better explanations about
why the tooth fairy pays a different dividend to other kids.
The socioeconomic rationale didn't really sit well with the five year old.

Near the end of last year, the 9 and 11 year old offspring
admitted to their dad that they were no longer believers.

The oldest said that he lost a tooth at school
and didn't tell us.
The tooth fairy didn't come.

He told us the next day that he had lost a tooth and, lo and behold,
the tooth fairy dropped by that night.

Ergo tooth fairy = parents

(actually tooth fairy = mummy.
Credit where credit is due.)

Too bloody smart for his own good, I say.
Who needs to deal with that logic when you are trying to parent?

Like all good parents, 
we gave them the "Do the right thing and don't spoil it for your sister" chat.
The "If you don't believe, you don't receive"" spiel.

It was so far, so good... until this morning.

The constant tit for tat between the youngest two escalated this morning and
the middle child decided to tell his little sister that 
none of them were real.

She is luckily easily persuaded to believe what she wants
and, when talking to her about dicey topics, she can be easily distrac...oh, look, a rainbow.

Somewhat surprisingly, her oldest brother then saved the day when he contributed this pearl of wisdom:

Hey. They are like God. They rely on faith. They exist if you believe in them.

If you look up one of those books about birth order personality characteristics,
my kids' names would be right there in print.

I know the most Prime Ministers were first born children.

But I wonder if the most frequent child cut from their parents' wills
for being little s*$ts were middle kids.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Dear Mr Facebook.


You win, Mr Facebook, you win.

It is under some self-imposed duress
but I have finally created a Facebook account.

I had been proactively ignoring FB
for a few years now-
which is a big thing for me
because I am always heavily influenced by peer pressure.

 I felt that if I avoided FB
I would be condescendingly superior in my mental- and possibly physical- survival
when the lights went out
and most of the human population (or their brains anyhow) shrivelled up
from social media withdrawal.

It wasn't about privacy.
I have been blogging and using chat rooms for a few years now
and think that I have reached a nice balance of common sense and paranoia.

I know not to announce when we will be away for the holidays,
print my bank account numbers,
or scan in my kids' birth certificates. 

I am in thick with Mr Google and Mr Flickr
(though Mr Google Translate and I have a strained relationship
which is helped by copious amounts of alcohol
only because I could then care less
about his so-called translations)

Besides, when I search for a hotel room on my computer
and you, Mr FB- 

I can call you Mr FB, can't I?
I feel like we are buddies now.
After all, I have been signed up for nearly 24 hours now
so you must know what type of toothpaste I am using 
and what I think of Tony Abbott knighting Prince Phillip-

can then put a sponsored post on a facebook page 
to let me know that the room is still available,
I think that Big Brother aint got nothing on you
and hide information as we might,
you are leaching out of us as we sleep.

The World Wide Web, technology and social media really is amazing.

When I was growing up,
my folks had to go into a bank sometime Monday to Friday,
between 10am and 3:30pm or they had no currency to live on.

And, hey, wait for this one-
if you got invited to something, 
it was handwritten
AND you had to hand write a reply back.
No texting or FB to invite 3000 of your closest friends
and no texting or FB to reply.

This one was before you were born 
and you might not believe it but
as a high school girl, I had a pen-pal who lived in Ireland.
She would write to me on paper and put in a photo
and I would do the same back to her.

So tedious and time consuming
whereas these days I could snap a photo of my
morning toast and Vegemite
and FB it to her 
in less time than it took me to make it.

I know that you are the big Kahuna of social media.
And there is a lot out there to be the big Kahuna of.

To you, Quechup, Plurk and Blauk
are mere smears of chewing gum on the soul of your oversized WWW runners.

And to me, they are the noises your body makes after a particularly spicy curry.

But to people who are looking for friends or a date,
or micro-blogging updates
or who simply want a place to share some anonymous secrets,
they are an important part of their lives.

I realise now, that if you are religious, brunette University student
who knits but doesn't eat green vegetables
or believe in global warming,
there is a social media site designed especially for you.

You are there to keep people communicating.
I get that, you know, FB-

May I call you FB?
I've been signed up for 24 hours and 5 minutes now 
and Mr is just so formal
and given that joining you means that I don't have to send those formal
(yet personal) Christmas cards anymore
or those snail-mail delivered (albeit personal) birthday cards anymore
or even holiday postcards now that I can smart-phone a snap instantly
in front of the Big Lobster on our way down the coast,
I feel that we can dispense with all formality.


But I am not sure the way that you are encouraging people to communicate
is entirely a good thing.

So, Facey, my mate-

You don't mind being called Facey, do you?
It might catch on.-

just in case you didn't work it out for yourself
(though you probably did)
my primary reason for signing up (and possibly signing away my life and my identity)
was for retail therapy.

My husband can only sign up for so many fabric groups 
and buy so much yarn before his mates
reassess his Alpha male status.

(Though admittedly Mr Boozle being an Alpha male
has probably never crossed the mind of anyone who has seen him in lycra)

So here I am.

I have some people in my life, near and far,
who I will value keeping in touch with so easily.
I daresay that I will even find- or be found by- other people
who it will be lovely to have a cyber coffee with.

But I have no interest in how many friends I have.
It's about quality, not quantity.
I want to keep in touch with people who matter to me
or who are important to me.

So can you help me out here?
Because I can't seem to find the button for the passive-aggressive Facebookers.

For those of us who don't want to offend anyone by ignoring a friend request
but also don't want to be friends with all and sundry.

So we would end up friending people 
just so that we don't have to lie awake at night worrying that we might have offended them
but because we have friended them,
we lie awake at night bitching and moaning about the fact
that we have done just that.

See the dilemma?
So, if you could get back to me about that one,
I'd really appreciate it.