I”m never leaving

surfer3

To be able to roll out of bed and stumble down to the beach, fall into the cool, green Pacific Ocean was the dream after the years of stress, trauma and grief. In short, sick husband, small child, large house, dead husband, single parent, teenage daughter and Parkinson’s. The plan – sell the house and buy near the ocean to be able to……….

It was years in the planning and the night I electronically transferred (very scary) a ridiculous amount of money just for the deposit, I came home to my rented beach pad and flopped on the couch, smoked a medicinal pipe and sighed, “I’ve done it. I’ve fucking done it!”

The smugness set in, I am n ow a real Coogee resident. Coogee is one of the most sought after, laid back beach suburbs of Sydney. AND summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the streets. Thanks Martha for your song that you insisted was a party song not a call to revolution.

Back to my smugness. This morning was a beautiful hot Sunday morning and I rolled out of bed and threw myself in the azure Pacific, lay on the beach and read more about the 60’s song that became a call to arms for the militant black movement. Then I wandered back from the beach. As I slowly walked up the hill I noticed I was being shadowed by one of the many cars looking for a park. The desperate, hot sounding voice from the car yelled “You leaving?” thinking and hoping I was heading back to my parked car. Quick as a flash I yelled back “I live here I’m never leaving!”.

It felt good.

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Fear of Flying

All the tubes are taken out and we wait, sit. This is what we all dread, coming face to face with death. Seeing, and feeling the last breath of the person you love most in this world. Then it happens the final rattle and the breathing stops, panic and not letting go; the screams of “I love you” as if he didn’t already know and hope that the last words of love will help him through whatever is the next stage.

My daughter screamed, “I love you Papa”, then my despair at losing my love turned into maternal despair on seeing my thirteen year old daughter saying goodbye to her dying father.

We kissed him goodbye and clung to each other as we walked back to our little room in the hospital; the longest walk we will ever make.

Five years later, we still sometimes cling to each other. Yesterday, after an exam for her final year of school, she was standing at the top of the stairs looking wistfully at me and I knew something was wrong.  “I miss Papa” she cried and the tears that didn’t really flow when he died seemed to be released like the opening of a valve on a pressure cooker.  I ran to her and wrapped her in my arms and said, “Yes so do I”.

“I was so little” she said. “I never really got to know him”.

Grief never leaves you.

“You must remember the good times you had together” I said. “Because your father was sick you spent a lot of time together. He looked after you while I worked. You probably spent more time with your father than most people do. You were good friends. Do you remember that funny rap dancing video you both made?”  She nodded.

This is the role I seem to excel at; caring for others. The role I am not so good at is caring for myself. I need to deal with the grief, not ignore it but stop feeling as though there was always something more I could have done. I happened upon some jottings I made around the time of his death.

16th May

 Sam died the 10th May 2009 at 5pm in Intensive Care at RPAH after a liver cancer operation where they took out the right lobe of his liver. He never really recovered.

I never told him he was dying but he must have known. When he was moved into the room he knew something was going on but was really confused. We didn’t really say goodbye and there are no notes for me anywhere so he didn’t want to die. I said farewell to him but he didn’t say much to me the whole two weeks.

I know he loved me but I feel he is angry with me for letting him down because he said “Don’t let me go.”

This is my burden that I must deal with if I am to be set free. I let him down because I let him go.  I know that I must shake myself free of this and turn his love for me into love for myself and use it to fly again.

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The Goodbye Song

I tried to find a goodbye song but couldn’t

So I thought I would write one.

It’s time to say goodbye love

But let it be au revoir not adieu

The French make a distinction

See you again or God speed

See you again one day

See you again one day

See you again one day

I never meant to hurt you

I never meant to make you cry

Are the typical goodbye song words

That really come from deep down inside me

You opened my heart and set my body free

And let me love again

If for such a brief moment

Let’s remember the good moments

Yesterday I had a bitter taste on my lips

But I want to remember your sweet lips not that bitter taste

It’s time to go and I don’t hate you

Although we can’t seem to get past anger and hurt and accusations

We both made mistakes

It was really doomed from the start

Though Boo yah to us for trying

I don’t want to hate you but I need to do what I must do

You know what that is

At the moment i can’t see through the cloud but time will tell

If we have a friendship

Or not

Those warm intimate moments will never leave me

That day on the beach, your whispers of  ‘precious’

Your strong masculine arms and your warm embrace

The laughing and eating, your fabulous boots your care about my health

I hope you can find some memories of me that linger

Instead of the vitriol that seems to be all

That is left of our love

I’m sorry

I’m sorry

I know you feel bad

But you must leave now or we’ll both go mad

I’m sorry

I’m sorry

My tremor won’t stop as I write these words

My whole body is shaking

My love goodbye

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The coup

“I broke into a house once”, I casually said while watching the old man and a robot break into a house in the film Robot and Frank.

“What?” he said. “When?” he said as if going through the list of ‘wh’ questions.

“The night Whitlam got kicked out in 1975.”

Gough Whitlam, the Australian Prime Minister was removed from power on November 11, 1975 when the Senate with a majority of the opposing party, blocked supply bills three times to force the government to have a double dissolution.  This basically meant that Australia went to the polls and then voted out our most progressive government in many years. We were all very angry.

“Wow!”, that must have been exciting.”

“It was, and a turn on too,”

“You’re incorrigible – you old sex bomb. Did you take anything?

“Yeah we took a painting”

“Great , where is that painting now.”

“We threw it out threw window.”

“Oh no”.

The 11th of November 1975 and the left in Australia was very, very angry. It was a hot night and election parties were happening all over Brisbane. Strangely enough I was at a party of the only conservative party supporter I knew. He was rich!

I was young, full of energy and was out with a cute English guy who was an actor and also full of mischief. One could hardly call him a boyfriend and he was more than just a fuck. We didn’t have boyfriends in those days we just hooked up with people for a while. After all it was the seventies.

“Let’s do something ‘” he said when we heard the news that our hero was gone – had been kicked out of his rightful place as leader of the country – had in fact been VOTED out by Astralians.

“OK” I said. I was up for anything.

We drove around for a while and came to a beautiful old Georgian style house lit up like a Christmas tree.

“Let’s break into the house.”

“OK” was my incredulous response. I parked the car in a dark side street and we started to climb the wire fence. I fully expected to hear some dogs as it dawned on me whilst astride the fence that we were breaking into Government House. Yes that’s right the residence of the Governor of Queensland. OK it was an anachronism from the old British Empire days and deserved to be mocked but what was I doing.

For some reason the regulatory part of my brain was not functioning and I kept going.

We slowly walked up to the entrance of the house, hand in hand like Hansel and Gretel. The house was ablaze with light. We walked through the front door – no-one. Then we slowly walked along a corridor. I thought the residents could hear the pounding of my heart and would come running with the police. Still no-one. There was a radio in the background somewhere talking , of course about the night’s events.  We came to a bedroom and we gingerly went in to find the bedcovers neatly turned down but still no-one. That’s where we took our souvenir, from the bedroom wall. Then we bolted for the exit, virtually flew over the fence and out of breath ran back to the car laughing and relishing in our bravado.

I realized that crime was a buzz and a turn on. All I wanted to do was to have sex with my accomplice.

We looked at each other and fell into a hungry kiss, climbed into the back seat , tore off our clothes and fucked outside Government House on the night of the coup.

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I’d rather go blind

Mary Coughlan

Something told me it was over
When I saw you and her talkin’
Something deep down in my soul said, ‘Cry, girl’
When I saw you and that girl walkin’ around

Whoo, I would rather, I would rather go blind, boy
Then to see you walk away from me, child, no

Whoo, so you see, I love you so much
That I don’t wanna watch you leave me, baby
Most of all, I just don’t, I just don’t wanna be free, no

Whoo, whoo, I was just, I was just, I was just
Sittin here thinkin’, of your kiss and your warm embrace, yeah
When the reflection in the glass that I held to my lips now, baby
Revealed the tears that was on my face, yeah

Whoo and baby, baby, I’d rather, I’d rather be blind, boy
Then to see you walk away, see you walk away from me, yeah
Whoo, baby, baby, baby, I’d rather be blind…

She was advertised as an Irish woman who sang torch songs. Well that was one damn good cry your  eyes out number. With her lilting accent and the intimacy of the venue you just knew the in between song patter would have lots of “fucks’ pronounced as “fook”. Yes there it was the the first ex-husband who wrote the next song.

“I didn’t sing dis song for a long time cause I didn’t want my first ex husband to make any money. Then last Christmas my daughter gave me a book called “Fuck it.” She paused for audience reaction. I  took the bait and hooted. “It’s a book about intense letting go. Then I thought – fuck it. I’ll make money, he can make money. Just fook it.”

The next day i raced to the bookstore and there it was “Fuck it. The Ultimate Spiritual Way” – my first self-help book in 57 years.

Fuck it” I thought. I’ll start reading self help books. I read the foreward and the author has Fuck it workshops in Italy. “Fuck it. I’m going.”

Fuck it. I’m not going to work today. Fuck it I’m not taking my meds. Fuck it I’m not driving my daughter around. Fuck it I’m having another joint. Fuck it, another wine won’t hurt. Fuck it I’ll have sex with whoever I like. Fuck it I’m not getting out of bed today. Fuck it, there’s no food in the house. Fuck it let’s go out. Fuck it I’m going to the beach. Fuck it let’s leave the mess and so to bed. Fuck it walk away from me.

I’ve just been sitting here thinking about you baby and “Fuck it” set me free.

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St Anthony

Most Italian villages have a patron saint who watches over and protects the inhabitants. The patron Saint of Fabrizia, a village high in the Calabrian mountains in the south of Italy, is Saint Anthony.

A statue of Saint Anthony is a feature in many Calabrian households and resides in a small shrine or grotto in the living room. He is a benevolent saint always carrying a small child and among other things is the patron Saint of sick children.

Early one morning, many years ago, in Fabrizia, a small child, Mimo was getting underfoot during the hustle and bustle of breakfast. Everybody had to be fed before a long day’s work in the fields. Antonia, Mimo’s mother, was busy making coffee and putting enough bread on the table for the large family. She took her eyes off little Mimo for a few minutes.  Then he screamed, someone had knocked a scalding hot coffee pot on little Mimo’s head. Antonia grabbed him and put him under cold running water.

She was hysterical and began pleading with St Anthony not to let her son die. She even made an extra pledge that if he could survive without horrible scarring she vowed that she would lick the marble floor from the entrance of the church to the statue of St Anthony and back 13 times.

A woman of her word, Antonia engaged the help of her older son Marco. Even though the floor of the church is lovingly cleaned by the village women every day, Marco’s job was to wipe the marble floor directly in front of his mother’s tongue as she licked the floor all the way to the statue and back, thirteen times.

There may be some merit in this method of healing as Mimo not only survived but had no scarring.   In return for the miracle, St Anthony was thanked by dedicating little Mimo to the great saint. Every 13th June ( St Anthony’s day and hence the significance of 13), little Mimo was dressed in brown priest’s robes with a cord tied around his waist. He had a little patch of hair shaved from the back of his head until he resembled a miniature Saint Anthony.

Elena, his wife always felt that it was hard to believe the little boy in the family photo, dressed as a miniature St Anthony and flanked by his female cousins dressed in the same garb all with their little hands clasped together in prayer was the same man she lived with for 25 years.

When Mimo feel ill and had to be hospitalised to have a serious operation. Antonia once again called on St Anthony to spare the life of her beloved Mimo. St Anthony again didn’t disappoint.

Not long after the operation, Mimo turned 50 and decided to have a celebration and ‘give thanks’ to St Anthony by adopting a ‘religious’ theme for the party where he dressed as St Anthony. Once again he donned the brown robes drawn together with a cord. This time he wore a wig rather than shave a bald patch at the back of his head.

Sadly, St Anthony’s powers were not infallible. Mimo eventually fell ill again and this time didn’t survive the operation.

It was all very unexpected as up till now family and friends thought that thought Mimo would live forever. A number of his good friends were overseas at the time of his funeral. Elena told them to continue travelling as it would have been Mimo’s wish. She decided to have a memorial service on their return

“When will you be back?’ she skyped.

“On the 11th of June”.

“Ok I’ll have a do on Saturday the 13th. Will that give you enough time”?

“Yeah , thanks Elena, that will be great.”

 Elena, who had been brought up a protestant and had very little knowledge of the significance of saints, made arrangements and had the date printed on the funeral booklets. A friend said, on receiving the invitation,

“You do realise don’t you that 13th June is St Anthony’s Day!”

Maybe the Saint’s work was not over yet.

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One degree of separation

“Di, Gabrielle has had a suicide attempt” She’s in hospital and she’s Ok. “ Cathy said over the phone.

“What” I screamed then continued with the ridiculous phrase “You’re kidding me.”

“What happened?”

“Don’t know it just got all got too much for her. She’s OK but still in hospital.”

“Then what . She can’t go home.”

“She’s coming to my place “ said Cathy.

“Shit can I go and see her?”

“It’s probably best to wait a while.”

“Yeah I wouldn’t know what to say to her”.

Gabrielle had the mysterious affliction – bi-polar syndrome. It meant that she was way up one moment and then down in the depths the next. When she was down she retreated into her room and bed for a couple of days. Somehow in her emotional chaos she managed to maintain a demanding job. Later she told us that all through that time she had been cutting herself, mutilating herself all because of him. Maybe it went deeper than that but when you saw her she was always bright and would openly talk about how she felt.

Finally she had met the man of her dreams, bright, witty, cool with grown up kids. It all seemed so adult. She resisted his suggestions about buying a place together but finally they picked a love nest and rented out of town by the beach. It was all too good to be true. Then they bought the inner city pad together when they worked ‘part-time’  in the city.

She went back to Canada to visit the family and came back full of love, hope and energy at the future with Ned, only to be  to be greeted at the airport with “I’ve met someone else.”

Her world came crashing down and there didn’t seem to be any reason to continue. We wouldn’t let her go, we dragged her back into the world. Then the long and lonely road of healing started and she began to write and write and write. We read her story and couldn’t believe how tortured she had been, how much we had missed with our dear friend.

He came over one day, Joel,  the Eastern suburbs, son of a holocaust survivor, urbane, wealthy, witty and a self-centred pain in the arse. Joel’s amusing stories were always about himself and his string of failed romances since his third marriage breakup. The third wife actually left him and she was currently, according to Joel, shacked up with “ A guy called Ned with a bald head and an earring and wears a coloured Tibetan skull cap”. My partner, Steve, looked at me and said “There can’t be too many bald-headed Neds wearing an earring.” Yes it was him.

This sequence of events was resembling something out of Days of Our Lives. His third ex-wife. Jane had shacked up with Ned, the boyfriend who left Gabrielle and was the trigger for her suicide attempt – perfect DOOL script. Damn those flippant thoughts. This is real!

“Oh no” I groaned. “What’s wrong?” asked Joel. When I explained to him the convoluted typical Sydney one degree of separation connection, he said in his usual mocking tone. “Oh maybe I can  start going out with Gabrielle.” “No” I exclaimed. I vowed there and then to make sure they never met.

For the next ten years I kept my vow and though they were sometimes the only single friends I had, I didn’t ask them to dinners  or go out with both of them together. I knew he would relish in the drama and want to get to know Gabrielle for some kind of voyeuristic satisfaction.

Many years later, whilst slightly pissed and not remembering the ‘loose lips sink ships’ rule I finally told Gabrielle about the connection. It was still very raw with her so we just left the subject alone.

Gabrielle, in the meantime spent many years writing and getting herself together. When she was finally ready to see other men she did what we all do at a certain age – hit the dating sites.

She trawled through the list of supposedly suitable men and finally decided on a coffee date with one.

They met at a beachside cafe and started talking, then did the required walk along the beach. It started becoming obvious to Gabrielle that there were connections between the two of them. She finally asked “Do you know Di and Steve?”

The first man she met after ten years was the man I had been keeping her apart from for ten years.

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