Saturday, November 15, 2008


Love Chunks (or Dean, for the correct tone of this post) is currently at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, sitting at his mother's bedside in what could be the last few minutes or hours remaining of her life. She has been gravely ill for several weeks now, too sick even to physically withstand chemotherapy and he's phoned and visited her as often as she'd allow visitors.

As one of five children and the survivor of a divorce immediately following the 'no fault' legislation introduced in Australia in 1976, Dean's been an involuntary passenger on a rollercoaster ride in terms of his childhood, upheavals and in angst-ridden and sometimes bitterly enduring family relationships. Throughout it all though, he has remained strong, kind, clever and respectful and has coped with stresses and anguish far beyond my comprehension with a strength and dignity I've never seen in anyone else. However, I'm aware that such tales are his to tell and not mine. As much as I'd like to....

He called me during Sapphire's tennis lesson to say that "Mum is in real strife. The doctors are talking about 'making her comfortable' and don't think she'll last out the weekend. I've got to go and see her."

Several minutes later, Sapph's lesson was over and we climbed into the car and I told her the news. She looked down at her lap for a few moments and then said, "I wish I'd got to know her better." Sometimes being a sunglasses-slave is a good thing because she couldn't see the tears glinting or my pupils widen in amazement at her mature observation. "Yes," I eventually answered, "It just didn't turn out that way. She had been sad about her life for a very long time and your Dad didn't seem to be the person that she wanted to help her."

Dean and I swapped keys - car and home - as soon as we pulled up, and we waited for Sidonie to arrive. Sid is one of Sapphire's best friends and as I type this, they're both at home with me, happily listening and watching my ABBA Video Collection on DVD and chatting about how some of their 1970s outfits are "So silly - Bjorn dresses like a girl but Agnetha is beautiful, isn't she?" We didn't have the heart to cancel their much-anticipated sleepover or to take Sapphire to the hospital to see a dying and distressed old woman whom she can only recall meeting a handful of times.

Instead, I walked with the two nine year olds and Milly the dog to the Trinity Gardens bakery for some vegetarian pasties, shortbread men and juice and we all ate them in the park, the sun shining and a cool breeze ruffling the newly-opened daisies and bottlebrushes. Milly snuffled enough stray pastry crumbs to make loitering under our feet worthwhile.

As her friend was visiting the toilet, Sapphire squeezed up next to me on the park bench.
"Mum, it's what Grandpa - your Dad I mean - said to me about our moving to Melbourne, isn't it?"
"Sorry love what do you mean?"
She gave me a knowing, how-quickly-you-forget stare. "You know, how it's better to see things in life as a glass half full instead of half empty."

"Yes," I nodded, eyes still looking out over the lawns and at Milly rolling in the rubbish bin's overflow nearby. "He's right. And you're right too. It's so much better to remember the fun and good things and to not just assume that everything that's unknown and not yet happened is always going to be bad."

She waved Sid over. "Dad told me that Grandma got too sad to see anything but half empty."
I nodded again. "It's easy to do love. I've done it a few times myself and know how hard it is to see good things when you're afraid, or alone or worried."
"You're not worried now though are you Mum?" Sapphire patted my arm.
"No, I'm not and neither should you be. Our move and new life in Melbourne will be fine and your Dad will be fine being with Grandma now when she really needs him."

Thus satisfied, she skipped over to the brick kilm to resume the cubby house they were building for their toy rabbits out of bark and sticks, high voices carrying over the wind.

I allowed myself a glass half empty thought - it was a shame that her grandmother hadn't really got to know this wonderfully complex and genuinely lovely little kid. However my glass was indeed half full because the next thought was an automatic and heartfelt one - but boy, am I glad I did. And for Dean too.


delamare said...

Kath, there's much I could say about what you've written today ... I can really relate to Dean's experience. But what I really want to say is that I hope the next few hours/days/weeks go OK for you all. Losing someone that you 'should' have been close to is hard, hard in a completely different way to losing someone you are genuinely close to.

And aren't daughters (and sons of course!) just the damn finest inventions ever. Especially ones who are able to articulate what's going on in such a straightforward, positive way.

River said...

Words fail me. I have plenty to say, but I don't know how to say it.

ThirdCat said...

You know, my immediate instinct was to write 'do not let him leave her side', but we all do these things in different ways and it's pointless me saying something like that.

May your time ahead be gentle. Take care of yourselves.

Miles McClagan said...

Been through it 3 times never gets any easier saying goodbye...very best wishes to you all...incidentally, ABBA? Never got ABBA...I like their Dutch clones LUV though, fantastic, lot of songs about fancy shoes...

Naomi said...

Hey delamare, yes indeedy kids sure have that way of putting a positive spin on things. I think Sapphire, like one of my two, is an old soul, a wise one that has been here before.

franzy said...

I think you kids are going to be just fine. You've got the tools and you know just how to use them.


Catherine said...

What a beautiful and moving post Kath. My love to Dean at this time.

ps on a completely different matter...don't you just love word verification? This one is 'beconbut'

squib said...

What a sad time, all the best whatever that may be

Baino said...

So sorry to hear about your mother in law and even sadder that she didn't get more involved with such a lovely little grandchild. She sounds like an old soul that one. Wishing you all the best and keep that glass half full . . it's not easy under such circumstances. Thinking of you.

myninjacockle said...

Sorry to hear of your family's loss Kath, but heartened by your words on the matter. My thoughts go out to you all.

Terence McDanger said...

She sounds like a great, clever little kid does Sapphire.

Nice post too.

Deep Kick Girl said...

Not much to say except you have one very special daughter, no doubt about it. And I'm thinking of Dean and all of you at this difficult time. Hang in there.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks to youse all. Dean's Mum is still with us, being 'made comfortable' which, being palliative care 'comfortable', won't be a lot of fun for her or for anyone with her.