Friday, 18 December 2015

one whole year

You know, I thought I'd be feeling very reflective one year on since the diagnosis and initial biopsy.  That I'd write something profound (ha) about life, death, what's changed for me.  But the well is dry on those subjects.  It's with disbelief that I look at the calendar and realise that it was a year ago my life was fundamentally altered by a phone call, taken in my office after hours. A whole year.

I'm sitting with my son on his sheepskin right now, while he grabs his toes and works on a tooth (I think). (Do not even start with the put down your device and enjoy him crap.  I enjoy him a lot.  I also am an adult and there's only so long I can admire him unswervingly while slobbering on a rubber butterfly). He's just finished a tasty lunch of avocado, preceded by some boob.  We went for a long walk in the sunshine this morning.  In less than a week his father is on holiday for two and a bit weeks.  So, aside from the obvious, life isn't too shabby for me right now. That leads to a lot of guilt.

Christ it's hard writing about the minutiae at the moment.  I don't want to delve into Big Feelings but I can't find a happy place in prattling about what I did today, or what I ate, or what I saw, etc etc.

Call it a day.

Sunday, 13 December 2015


I have a partially drafted post about my car and financial woes (v v minor) but I sounded like an asshole so that's going to languish in drafts until I can figure out a way to lower the entitled whinging factor.

Um, what else that isn't about the death of my dad (still a big deal but I just can't write about it right now)?

Fink had a big week last week.  We moved him into a cot in his own room and, probably not coincidentally, he's slept from 6 to 6 every second night since.  Two days ago he ate his first solid food (kumara puréed with boobjuice) and he devoured it.  I've just fed him some rice cereal and he's worked out how to take food off a spoon.  His poor wee puku is so distended! He has some immunisations today and will be 5 months old tomorrow.  Holy shit, time flies, where mah baybee gone etc etc.

I went to my team's Christmas lunch on Friday. W came with me as his father was out drinking with clients.  God, it was so nice to talk to other adults about grown up stuff that I almost wanted to go back to work right then and there.  Don't worry, I came to my senses pretty quickly and realised that I miss the people, not the work and stress particularly.  I mean, if I could fanny about writing opinions all day I totally would but that is a small part of the job and deadlines, discovery and email drafting are still a big deal (sigh). So, not going back in the immediate future, it would seem.

Summer really arrived on the weekend. It was light until nearly 9pm, there was cricket on, Saturday was about 26 degrees, lovely.  Saturday in particular was great.  P and I have not been together at home on a weekend day with W for at least a month and spending some quality time was wonderful. We ate yum cha, we fed W his first solids and filmed the shit out of it, we hung out in the sunshine, W had an almost 2 hour nap which is unheard of over here, we had a lovely meal cooked in large part on the bbq (polenta, chorizo sausage and grilled veg salad), we played with W who was in an excellent mood post nap, we matched a movie after W went to bed.  It felt like our old pre-baby life, but better for the addition of this really excellent person we both love and who is a lot of fun.  I tried and largely succeeded at not thinking about Dad.  

Monday, 7 December 2015

2015 in review

1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?

Gave birth, mothered. Yep, chalked up quite a few new + big life experiences this year.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No resolutions is the answer to both, I think. I've always been kind of ambivalent about resolving at New Year (read: unrealistic goal setter and lazy at follow up)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Yes. CM, P, S -- & a whole coffee group of babies. Was nice, the baby thing this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die? 
My Dad. 
5. What countries did you visit? 
I didn't leave the country this year. It's been a couple of years now since we travelled internationally.  We talk about our next France trip all the damn time, though probably more likely would be a trip to the islands or perhaps Vietnam or Cambodia in the next few years.  

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
A well and healthy father, but don't see that happening any time soon. God, this is turning bitter & twisted.
7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
15 July 2015. I gave birth, became a mother and met my son.

23 November 2015. Dad died.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
W. Yep, he's quite a big achievement!
Having as few regrets as possible.

9. What was your biggest failure? 
You know, I don't really like to think about this -- I'm giving myself the right to pass on this question this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? 

Actually, I take that back. I had a bastard episiotomy which is definitely an injury.  And then borderline mastitis twice which was a total shitbag both times.  

11. What was the best thing you bought? 
Professional help finishing the front two bedrooms, and the bouncinette. I have no idea where I'd be without that damn boucinette. I love it to death.

12. Where did most of your money go? 

The house, flights to Hawke's Bay and baby paraphernalia.  I never thought of myself as particularly spendy, but I can drop some serious cash on baby crap.  Like, I have a serious sleeping bag problem.  
13. What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
That easy -- my Finky.  He's the sauce.  

14. What song will always remind you of 2015? 
Hello, Adele.  While it was only released recently, it was being thrashed about the time of dad's death. It will also be bound up with the smell of star jasmine, which was beginning to bloom outside the entrance of the hospice during Dad's last days.  There's a star jasmine bush on our fence, and I see it everywhere now.

I wrote the above earlier, then when driving this morning I saw a jacaranda tree in bloom.  The jacaranda was blooming at Mum and Dad's last year just after Dad's biopsy and it all came flooding back as I drove past the tree in full purple fig.  Beautiful and kind of melancholic.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you: 
a) Happier or sadder? Surprisingly, this is quite hard to answer.  We knew Dad's prognosis by this time last year and the initial grief was powerful.  I'm sad now, of course, but in a different, wrung out way.  It's hard to compare the two.
b) Thinner or fatter? SQUISHY BABY WEIGHT ALL OVER
c) Richer or poorer? Poorer, for sure.  We're a one income family at the moment with a sizeable amount of debt. 
16. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Holding Dad's hand and telling him how wonderful he was to me.  It's not that I didn't do those things much, but it will never be enough.
17. What do you wish you'd done less of? 
You know, there's a few habits I could wish away (being on my phone too much for example) but I can't work myself into a lather about it.  

Usually the end of a year is ripe opportunity for a bit of self-flagellation but I can't work myself up to it this year.  I mean, I thrive on that shit normally, but I'm uncharacteristically mellow right now, cutting myself some slack.

18. How will you be spending Christmas? 
P, Finky and I are going to Hawke's Bay to spend Christmas with my mother and sister.  There will be tears, but there will also be an alfresco meal, champagne cocktails and some happy reminiscing too, I hope.

19. Did you fall in love in 2015? 
Utterly and unconditionally with W.

20. What was your favourite TV programme? 
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. So good.  Died laughing about Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, RIP me.  

21. What was the best book you read? 
I didn't read much this year, so the answer is a bit lame. A biography of the Duchess of Devonshire, whose author I can't recall. 

22. What was your greatest musical discovery? 
No discoveries of note this year, I'm afraid.

23. What did you want and get? 
Aside from a lot of stuff I couldn't have, a healthy baby.  God, I am so lucky.
24. What did you want and not get?

Ha, there is far too much I couldn't have. A healthy, well father?

25. What was your favourite film of this year? 
Do you know, I really enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road

It most emphatically was not Jurassic World.  P took me to see that while I was heavily pregnant, and while we both enjoyed the childhood nostalgia element, Jesus it was awful.

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 

I spent my 33rd birthday being a hugely pregnant person, SO FUN.

27. What kept you sane? 
Tea, P, a massage in the third trimester, the Internet reminding me that hormones be crazy.  My pets, my baby.

28. What political issue stirred you the most? 
Medically assisted suicide.  Thank you Lecretia Seales, for using your illness and plight to take steps to ensure this is back on the political agenda.  Thank you.

I could not raise a healthy dose of give a shit for the flag debate.  If I don't hear anything more about it in the next 2 years, it'll be too soon.  There's been some quality assholery all over the board on that one.

29. Who did you miss? 

30. Who was the best new person you met? 
My Fink!

31. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
It's not perhaps a life lesson applicable to all + I recognised how lucky it is that it applies to me.  Family is everything, it's the reason.

left ring finger

I am back at home for a couple of weeks before Christmas. It is a flurry of admin and chores, lavishing attention on two neglected cats, attempting to get W sleeping in a cot before he actually bursts through the sides of the portable bassinet we've been using at Mum's house. I have made phone calls today, opened mail, shopped for food, planned meals, unpacked bags.  I felt useful to my husband, my son, my life.  

Mum now gets to pick up the pieces of her life and attempt to move on, in the era after Dad.  For her, I'm very little help.  I can't replace him.

I looked at her wedding ring a lot, over the past two weeks. Traitorous, I watched it shine while consumed by the fact that she's suddenly a widow, single.  The ring sits in the present tense, a false declaration of what box she should tick on a government form.  But yet nothing feels more true than that ring, a survivor of the wreckage that brain cancer made of their marriage.  

She wore her engagement and eternity rings to Dad's party and to a Christmas party hosted by the neighbours.  I didn't ask about how she felt as she undressed those nights, tucking those rings back into her jewellery box.

They were married 36 years, together 39. She now faces another 20 or 30 years without him (assuming, that is, that she lives a fairly standard life span.  We know that's not a given, we know it now deep in our bones). She's fairly stoic and grieves on her own.  I know that she goes down the farm to check the stock and cries out there, in the early dawn light on the land that they worked so hard to attain and keep.  I cry and rage that it's unfair.  What she says from time to time, before quietly weeping, is that there's someone missing. It breaks my heart afresh to hear it, each time.

She will have less than a week by herself before my sister arrives on the farm.  K and I cross over at Christmas.  P, W and I stay until the New Year.  We have another trip to see her at the end of January, for her birthday.  Mid February we'll join her for a week at the bach on the lake.  We've booked her flights to spend a long weekend with us at the end of Feb.  We're trying hard to fill the giant hole rent in her life, but I'm achingly aware that it's a paltry second best.  

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

i cannot stop reliving it

The sun has come out again here today, after a soupy morning and two days of mizzle. Summer is arriving in Hawke's Bay.  Dad lived almost a full year of the seasons following his diagnosis and, pregnant/postpartum/worried, I lived them with him.

Summer was hot, scorching.  I spent the summer months searing memories of Dad onto my (functioning, non-cancerous) brain, wondering if it would be the last Christmas, the last summer.  Dad nearly died late in summer.  As the heat withered grass, trees, any slice of green, I realised that time was short.  Not just metaphorically, but literally.

Autumn was consumed by his treatment, the failure of his treatment, and periods of hospitalisation; a serious downhill slide as the warm weather continued too long.  I watched the final of the Cricket World Cup at his bedside in hospital, one of the last real times he was the Dad he'd always been, but sick (contrast: the sick Dad of later months).  I spent Autumn bitterly consumed by what to do about my job. It was coming a distant third behind my family and my pregnancy and I couldn't focus.  I took parental leave early on 1 May, worried that time with Dad was very limited and worried about Mum. Though the warm weather lingered unseasonably, it suddenly and unexpectedly snowed in Hawke's Bay in May, the first time in over 20 years.

Winter came in two parts: travelling to be with Mum and Dad, and waiting for W to arrive following my 36th week of pregnancy. It was a period of stabilisation for Dad and we adjusted to his new normal, making the most of the glimpses of Dad we could unearth.  He made the heavens move in order to come to Auckland one final time and meet his grandson, born in the middle of a storm and newly emerged into wintry sunshine.

Spring came with the final deterioration.  It was the best Spring on record in Hawke's Bay on record, they say. The most sunshine hours and the most rain.  The trees on the farm grew prolifically, the neglected garden burgeoned with flowers in a final display for Dad, whose eyes could no longer see it.  

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

one week, two days on

 I see Dad's legs in shorts and jandals all the time, as they were before the diagnosis.  

For the party, I gathered some photographs for a slideshow.  It killed me, of course, but thanks to the pictures I now I see him in my mind's eye as he was prior to the diagnosis.  Those pictures shelved the images of muscle wasting, facial bloating, hair loss, gathered over nearly a year. It's his legs and the backs of his heels I see the most, though. Like he's standing over there, just by the garage. Walking away, perhaps. The back of his head.

Mum sleeps on his side of the bed. She constructs a pillow wall to hug.  She feels like he'll back from a business trip soon. God, she's going to to be so lonely. She already is, I think, though W and I are still here.

I'm going through a weird period of OK. This is life now without Dad, without his disease. This is what it looks like. We just get on with it. I don't know if this phase will last.