Taken today. The stillness of the giant saltwater crocodile in the water gave an amazing reflection. In Melbourne.
Taken today. The stillness of the giant saltwater crocodile in the water gave an amazing reflection. In Melbourne.
Taken in the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I think in general I have pretty good instincts but I am pretty crap at acting upon them. I’ll give you a few examples:
I thought I should have left my job at the homeless hostel within about 6 months of starting there. But I thought I would be letting people down or that it might not look good on my CV if I was only in a job for 6 months.
After a year with my ex boyfriend I thought that things weren’t working and that I should leave but various things had led me to think I wasn’t strong enough to cope on my own. So I stayed and he made me miserable and I tried to make him happy but couldn’t. I stayed for 2 years and for that whole time he was cheating on me.
The week before I moved here I went to visit my dad and told him that he needed to start looking after himself because I wasn’t coming back for 2 years and I didn’t want this visit to be the last time I saw my dad alive. He thought I was being ridiculous but we still talked about things like wills and getting his important paperwork sorted out. I don’t know why I said that to him in the glow of a summer afternoon’s sunshine but I just knew somehow that I needed to because my instincts told me he wasn’t well. And two weeks later his doctor’s visit told him he had terminal cancer. Four weeks and 3 days later he was dead and that visit had been the last time I saw my dad alive in any real sense. Of course I saw him for the two days before he died in his hospice bed but by that time he was not really recognisable as my father – the person who told me that I should say ‘May I get down from the table?’ rather than ‘Can I get down from the table?’, the person who would push me on the swing and let me push off his tummy with both feet just to get higher, the person who kept a text message from me saying ‘I love penguins I do’ on his phone for 4 years because it made him giggle.
So I think I know somehow when I need to change things but mostly I’m too afraid to do so because I don’t want to let other people down or disappoint anyone. But I’m 29 now. I don’t want to be living to please others and keeping on to see if it will be alright when I know deep down somewhere that it won’t. And so I’ve come to a decision.
“Fresh starts: thanks to the calendar they happen every year —just set your watch to January, our reward for surviving the holiday season is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of new years resolutions, put your past behind you and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance of a new beginning, a chance to put the problems of last year to bed.”
Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy [2.13]
It’s nearly the end of the year, very soon I will be by a beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and so many things have changed. The Mayans thought the world would end today. They were wrong but for me, this year, a good many things have ended.
The first, in January, was a three year relationship, I thought that we would get married (mainly because he said we would), I thought that we would have children and that I would live in a cottage somewhere in the North East (he said all that too…). Last December I sat at my sister’s and then at my brother’s playing with their children and decided that enough was enough. Enough making do with someone who couldn’t look after himself, enough hoping that if I was supportive and patient that things would pay off and we would be happy. Enough of being afraid that I couldn’t cope on my own without him, despite him dragging me down gradually with him. So I told him that this was it and he agreed.
“Oh how the nights are long
But life is longer still
Oh how the nights are long
But the sun’s coming over the hill.
I can’t say there’s many things I wouldn’t change
There are better days gone than those that remain
But I can find joy in the sound of the rain
You have to find joy where you can.”
So three funerals in 3 days, Gaggy, Dad’s cremation then his memorial. What do we do now? I came back for five weeks with the intention of spending time with Dad, he died 3 days after I got back, so then time was focused on talking to undertakers (the most unintentionally hilarious one), booking churches, ordering flowers, picking music. My brother made an urn. And it all happened yesterday, so what do we fill our days with now?
My friends have booked me a train ticket to Newcastle for tomorrow, then I’m going to Birmingham on Monday to see some cousins and Grandad after his heart attack after that who knows?
I’ve seen some people that I’ve not seen for years and it’s made me think about things. I’ve made some predictions about my life that people think I’ll probably change my mind about but I know now that it’s likely the way things would pan out. But that’s ok, I’m letting people know how I feel about them. Which means that I can make some decisions about who I want to be and what I want to do. Sometimes we hold onto the past without realising, but at somepoint you have to draw a line and make a change. So I have two and a half weeks before I go back to work out what that change will be.
Today was the day my Grandmother died. Very nearly 100 it wasn’t really worth her hanging on for much longer, especially after her husband died 38 years ago.
She had 4 children, one of whom died yesterday, 15 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
I saw her today, she looked very old and small but not in pain or sad. She loved all her children very much but had a special connection with my dad so it seems quite fitting that she died almost exactly 24 hours after he did.
Some short memories:
Today was the day my father died.
When I went to see him on Monday he wasn’t very recognisable as my dad – he hadn’t been completely recognisable as the man I grew up with since he shaved off his beard 9 years ago – but the person lying in the hospital bed riddled with illness didn’t even seem like the person my dad had become. But that person was still my Dad, so I held his hand, talked to him, stroked his hair, tried to give him a bit of water and sat with him.
The hospice has a room where you can paint, so I made a picture of an acacia tree and a mountain with wax and water colours. I talked to my brothers and sister, distracted my nephew, played with my niece. Yesterday was my niece’s birthday, so I told Dad that he could go whenever he felt like it, he didn’t have to hold off for the sake of us, but maybe not on her birthday. So he waited a few more hours.
Some short memories:
“I feel a shadow passing over me, it could stay for ever more
Like a wave I’m breaking far at sea, there’s no one to hear the roar
And the days are drifting into seasons, they’re the hardest I have known
A million spaces in the earth to fill but, no going home, there’s no going home
I can dream before the break of day that I’m back with you again
Then the morning blows it all away and leaves an echo of your name
Still a thousand miles lies between us where we’re waking up alone
And what if I could cross a hundred borders?
There’s no going home, there’s no going home.
When it thunders from the empty skies I shall be there
No one to hold you when the storm birds fly is there no one left to care?
I search the rumours with my hollow plans and all I want is what’s mine
Lost and lonely in a foreign land I’m left too far behind the lines
I want to tear down these walls between us but I can’t do it on my own
A million spaces in the earth to fill and there a generation waiting still
We’ve got year after year to kill but no going home
No going home, there’s no going home.”
At 1am on the 26th of August, flying somewhere over Egypt I couldn’t sleep. I’d said goodbye to my relatives, waited for hours through a storm to pass so that we could set off and my travel sickness pills had worn out. So I couldn’t sleep. I had watched the film – Best Exotic Marigold Hotel if you remember – and there was nothing else on BA’s system that I hadn’t seen or didn’t have on my hard drive, so I turned to my ipod.
I started singing along to the Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts version of Exile from Steve Knightley. Obviously I was singing along in my head, I’m not a complete arse. At that point I kept repeating ‘no going home’, partially because it’s catchy, also because I wasn’t going home. Not for at least two years, and though the lyrics can be read as depressing, I listened to them as full of hope and adventure.
Now, a month later, I’m re-packing my suitcase and heading back again. Dad’s not doing too well and if I leave it much longer, then I might be too late. So better to go now whilst I can talk to him and sort out some bits and pieces than get back justt in time for a funeral.
In the last few weeks since people found out I’ve had some really lovely messages, so thank you if you were one of those. Some close friends haven’t managed to say anything, but what is there to say? Whenever I’ve had friends with sick or dying close relatives, I’ve not known what to say, mainly things along the lines of ‘It’s all a bit shit really isn’t it’ and then going on normally with people. And now that I’m in that situation, I’ve not got much more to say. It’s been commented on that I’m taking it all pretty well, but what more can I do? I’m disconnected at the moment, so can’t be of practical use, I have a job to do and children to teach, I’m now running the junior choir, teaching year 7 and 8 singing lessons and have started a staff singing group. I’m helping out with the West Side Story rehearsals, not to mention planning lessons and marking books. Today we made art works inspired by Rwandan Poo Paintings. They are cool, look them up.
When I go home, I’ll be visiting sick relatives (more than just Dad now, but he is in the worst shape) copying choir music, buying small instruments and chorizo to bring back. I’ll try and update this a little more regularly if you would like to keep reading. In the mean time. get on youtube and listen to Kate and Kathryn sing this song. It’s beautiful.
There are things that I really hate doing sometimes. I hate washing up if it’s hot outside. I hate running. I hate feeling like I’m not in control. I hate having to walk dogs – it really stresses me out after a bad experience when I was little, I hate writing job applications. And I really hate asking people for money that they owe me. I’m now in my last week in England for a while and I still have lots to do. I’ve got a shopping list of about 20 things I still need to get but I’m running low on cash.
My ex boyfriend has had plenty of warning of when I would need the money by and he’s been off work (his choice, not sickness) and so hasn’t really got it to give to me. I’m getting paid a little from my old job, but not until I’ve gone. I’m getting some money from the school, but not until I’m there. I don’t want to borrow more money from friends or family that I’m not going to be in a position to pay back for a while when he knew he had to get this money to me.
It’s making my last week really stressful. I’ve got family to visit, packing to do. I’m not sure if I’ve got to much stuff for my weight allowance, I’m coming to terms with the idea that I’ve seen my grandmother for the last time (she’s 99 and ¾, so that’s not just being pessimistic, it’s a very strong likelihood), that I’m going to miss a big chunk of my nieces’ and nephews’ lives, that my dad needs more support than he is willing to admit and I’m leaving my siblings to sort that out without me, that I may not have the opportunity to go to my best friend’s wedding, that I’m heading to somewhere that is completely alien with no one I know and now I feel guilty because I’ve told my ex boyfriend’s mum that he owes me lots of money and would she be able to help out?
I know that he’s been trying to pay me the money and he has given me some of it, but I had budgeted for him giving me the rest, as he said he would. And now that’s gone wrong and I’m not in control of what I need to be. As I mentioned before I hate that. His mum is probably going to help out and then I don’t have to worry about it any more, but I still feel guilty, like I’ve betrayed him by telling her.
I also feel guilty that I’m storing lots of stuff at my mum’s house and so it’s a bit chaotic for her at the moment. I know she doesn’t really mind too much and she now has access to a substantial DVD collection, but when you move 9 years of your life into boxes in cupboards, you can’t help but feel that you are infringing on someone else’s life.
There have been some positives in this past week – I’ve spent time with one neice and nephew and am going to see the others on Tuesday, I’ve had a good day with the ancient grandmother – she recognised me, looked highly irritated when I suggested she was 120, told her everybody’s news and she told me she loved me before I left. I’ve started the ball rolling for the support for dad (with the help of some of his very lovely friends) and he’s already sounding better than he did before and apparently feeling so. I’ve spent a lovely day with the best friend who I’ve not seen for a stupid amount of time and it was like no time has passed. I’ve even given her some centre piece ideas for the wedding and have called upon a standby date for the wedding in case I can get back over for it. I’ve been to my little brother’s housewarming bbq, made some chocolate orange brownies, seen a shooting star and looked after some chickens. I’ve also been in touch with three of the other teachers who will be in Tanzania with me, so hopefully that will ease the way.
Next week I’ll see more relatives, hopefully some school friends and finish packing. Then seven days from now, I’ll be heading to Heathrow, freaking out a fair bit no doubt, taking travel sickness tablets and wondering what on earth I’ve let myself in for.