Archive for September, 2013


Legacy

A legacy of kindness….

I recently read a book (and then watched the movie) called “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell.
I count it as one of my top ten reads of all time.
It’s not an easy read, either in content (lots of death and savagery), nor in lightness (its complex, you can’t afford not to be 100% focused on the story or you will miss something important).
But this book spoke to me like no other book has done since Greg died.
The themes of death and rebirth, life after life, connectedness between all souls both rich and poor,  is something that that resonates with me on a deeper level.
A character in the book, Sonmi-451 makes the connection between how our acts today form our future and the futures of those whose lives we are part of.
…and I like to think that Greg’s calm nature, his kindness and compassion, even when met with people who were  … ummm …. exceedingly annoying (my view) …. has in many ways, birthed the future.
Not his, but mine.  The children’s.  …and hopefully, his grandchildren’s.
…and I know that his need to treat all he met with love and respect is something he learned from the lap of his own father, a man who was brought up witnessing the extreme cruelty of his own father and who made a choice to be different.
To birth a kind and compassionate future for his children and his children’s children.
…and I realise what it is about this idea that I like so much…..
 the realisation that THIS is Greg’s legacy….
A legacy of kindness.
…and I think that’s a pretty good legacy to have left.
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All the dumb things….

All the dumb things*

… people say.

Last week, a teacher I like and respect was chatting to me in the staff room before school.  She said “I’ve been widowing all weekend because my husband was away.  Amanda, I don’t know how you do it”.

..and I know, I KNOW that these kinds of comments often make the collective blood of widows begin to simmer.

But I didn’t bite her head off or correct her because I know what she was trying to say.

She was trying to say that she admires me because I parent by myself all the time.
She was telling me with her clumsy words that she thinks I have strength and calmness that she knows is hard to keep up.
She was telling me that being a single (sole) parent who is working full time is a hard job.

…and it is.

.
.
.
People say dumb things all the time.  But they think they are being compassionate and kind.  ..and they often are.

At the moment, I am a useless bystander, watching, waiting and hoping that a little girl I know survives long enough to get a new heart.
Last week she went to the doctor with a cold.  By that same afternoon, she was in hospital on life support with cardiomyopathy as her diagnosis.

Lara is 6 years old, on life support and needing a new heart.

This has stunned my collective friends to the core.
We are gobsmacked as to how this cheeky little girl has gone from having a persistent cough to having a ventilator in a couple of days.

…and like many of us have done in our time of grief (myself included), Lara’s mother Ali has turned to facebook as a way of keeping everyone updated on her condition and venting when she needs to.
On the facebook page, she has posted pictures of Lara doing craft whilst hooked up to pipes and tubes and she has posted her fear over the upcoming transfer to Melbourne where heart transplant surgery will occur if a heart is “found“.
I hang off every word, hoping that a heart is found (yet knowing another family has to suffer a tragedy for this to happen).
There’s even a fundraising page which raised over $10000 in less than a week: people care.

….But this is also where all the dumb things are being said … in the comments.

All the classics are there:
What a Little Angel / God is calling his little angel
What a fighter
Stay Strong

Don’t cry
Don’t worry
She needs you to stay calm
Let me know if I can do anything to help…

When what they mean is that the love Lara and her family.
That they are worried.
That they hope Lara doesn’t die.
That they don’t want to show how scared they are for fear of upsetting Ali even more.
That they are uncomfortable and don’t know what to do when Ali airs her feelings.
That they know they should do something but don’t know what exactly to do (so they put the onus back onto the one person who is stressed out of her gourd:, Ali).

What they are really doing is trying to let Ali know she is not alone.
That they care about Lara.
That they wish things were different.

They just tend to eat a fair bit of shoe while they are doing it.

People mean well and their love and concern is real.

This is something I know I need to remember next time someone drops an almighty clanger on me.

* All the dumb things is a line from a Paul Kelly song that I love and it seemed to fit this post….

Changes…..

Right … so no talking about controversial topics.

Like politics.

Or religion

Or feelings…

 

Don’t share opinions.

No … widows must not express an opinion on anything even slightly controversial…

Not even well-considered, toned down ones.

Don’t share anything that might upset someone. That might make someone else think differently about something.

Or research something they don’t know about.

Don’t share opinions and have a debate without devolving into “offense” until someone accuses someone else of being a Nazi for doing nothing more than having a difference of opinion.

No.

Best not say what I’m really thinking.

Best not think or my thoughts might upset someone.

So what’s left to talk about…..

The weather?

No!

I don’t want to say the same things over and over.

There’s something crippling about not being able to express myself.

I don’t want to have to talk about the same thing for 10 more years.

I can’t grow.

I wanna be able to talk about how much I hate something right now if that’s what I feel.

And that’s OK. ’cause what a boring world we would have if we all agreed on everything.

 

So I might not be able to talk to you in person, but you still make a better listener than some narrow-minded people.

 

I miss you.

I love you.

XA

Changes

Changes

What follows is my own opinion.  I know it is not everyone’s and I am truly glad to live in a country where I am free to vote for whomever I wish.  I am grateful to have a vote when so many women are denied this right.  …and I also appreciate the freedom to express my opinions here.

Well, we’ve had a bit of a change over here in the past week….. there is a new Federal government and a new Prime Minister.

…and the emotions of the day, both in the queue at the polling booth (a really rude, racist man yelled at an elderly Asian lady, I just gave him my best teacher stare which seemed to shut him up …. and then later he followed the kids and I back to our car in order to hurl abuse at us) and the certainty that we were headed towards a new political era  ….  left me unable to calm down at the end of the day.

I was in tears as I watched the tally unfold. I was pacing the room and shouting at the television.   Really mature.  But really worried about the future of my country.

To add insult to injury, out voting system in the senate has a loophole which seems to have allocated seats to minor, single-issue, ridiculous parties that have an miniscule percentage if the primary vote, but preference deals have seen them somehow gain seats in the upper house. Motoring Enthusiasts Party anyone?  What about the Sporting Party?  Both of these single-issue groups have been handed seats in the upper house.

It all makes me feel sad and worried about the future of my country.  It seems to me that we are taking a giant leap back 50 years.

…and I had no Greg to commiserate with me. Nobody to remind me that we survived years of this party in government before.  To tell me that things might not actually be as bad as I think they will be (he was ever the optimist but I can’t help but focus on the climate-skeptic, right-wing, compassionless characteristics that seem to underpin their policies).

I know I will pull myself out of this downwards dip and I know that I need to distract myself from thinking too hard about it all.

But for the time being, I shall mope around and kick things ’cause sometimes, that is just what I need to do.

I just hope Greg lets me know he is commiserating with me before I break a toe…..

Father’s Day

Father’s Day

Last Sunday was Father’s Day.
A day that I try to put on a happy, life-can-still-be-good smile that doesn’t quite reach my eyes.  A day that I try to acknowledge with the children in a way that is not morbid.  A day that always makes me feel sad.

Not long after I woke, I heard sobs coming from my son’s room.  This is the child who was 5 when his hero died.  This is the  child who asks me to help him remember what his Daddy sounded like.  The child who loves being compared with his father.

These weren’t the sobs I normally hear of “she took my xxxx” and “if I cry and whimper then I will get out of doing chore y that I don’t want to do”.
No….. these were the sobs that you feel in the pit of your stomach before you hear them with your ears.

When I went in to his room, my darling girl was already in there, comforting her brother.  Being a grown-up 11 year old.  Telling him that it was OK to cry.

Normally it is my girl who I think of as being sensitive.  She is the kid who has a melt down if something is not perfect (God forbid she gets a “B” on something).  She is the one who takes on every throw-away comment as being directed at her and every friendship hiccup as being the end of the earth.

Normally it is my boy who sings and hums his way through everything with a “she’ll be right” attitude.  Who tells it how it is in an honest manner and who doesn’t have a trace of malice in him. He takes a negative comment and either agrees with it as a matter of fact, or dismisses it as utter rubbish.

…and yet he is the one who surprises me with his grief.  He is the one who can barely remember his father but who treasures every photograph.  The child who is determined to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He is the one who can go from Mr Happy-Go-Lucky to Mr Furiously-Sad because of a date on a calendar.

Navigating grief is hard, but sailing the waters with a couple of grieving children adds another dimension.

…but its a dimension that also allows for sharing and understanding of the loss of a person so loved by all of us.