Saturday, November 17, 2018

Last Love of My Life

I know him but I’ve built a picture in my head shrouded in self-deception. It's a partial truth, a partial lie. Pieces I've chosen to remember, some I've relegated to forgetting. Denial is a strong emotion when you’re in love. I thought I was in love. I think for a while I was, but unreciprocated kindness soon falls foul. Emotional abuse can only be sustained for so long, even with one as co-dependent as I.  

I know how he eats noodles and Burritos and sucks a popsicle stick. I know how he moves on his feet, in a chair or swings a baseball bat. I know how he rumbles his dog, my dog, and pets his cats.  I know how he folds his socks, his shirts. I've watched him towel down after a shower with no regard for his nakedness. I know how he looks when he comes and falls asleep after sex. I know every inch of his body, every hair on his head - pony-tailed, braided, combed smooth - even the grey ones I've plucked out while he winced.  I know how he washes dishes, drives, walks, talks feels. I know how he's nervous in the passenger seat and keeps one hand on the hand break. And once, during a time of duress, just held my hand on 395. I know how he once held a cigarette a little two low, between fingers, below the first knuckles, and how he spits once he's exhaled the smoke or how he flicks the glowing tip to extinguish the embers.

Yes I know how he feels to touch and hold. His skin sallow and smooth. His scars, his aches. The patch on the side of his left calf that hair won't cover.  I know how he smiles when skin's touched with tongue, nose, breasts and how he flinches his left leg when tickled.  I’ve felt his hands through my hair his fingers caress my breasts, the press of his mouth and tongue. The smack of a casual kiss, the firm shoulder rub, the gentle embrace, the patronising pat - I know him - all too well - the curve of his neck, back and thighs. The breadth of his shoulders, the firmness of his biceps the slender lines of almost feminine hands and fingers. His, 'meeting you for the first time' face, his 'disapproving face' and the myriad of expressions that make him almost mercurial, looking different in every photograph and situation. I also know his selfishness, his moodiness, his casual whims that translate to psychological torture. He is a manipulator of great finesse.
I know his cruelty when he ignores me. I know the 'distance' he keeps when we're in public. I know not to touch unless we're alone, not to stroke unless there's nobody around, not to argue for fear he'll hang up in narcissistic petulance. How to lie about our intimacy.

I know his likes, dislikes. I know his arrogance, his intelligence. I know his moods and his petulance, his creativity and intellect, his memory and recall, his articulation and argument only falling slightly short of genius. I know he likes cheescake and brownies. I  know his fears and tribulations. I've seen him at his lowest, I've seen him high and happy. I've seen him shit in a hole, vomit in a bucket.  I've heard him sing, yell, whisper, moan - I've even seen him dance. I've rarely (actually never) heard him say sorry,  I love you or thank you. I've rarely heard him say 'I'm wrong' or 'My behaviour is poor'. I've heard him call himself a failure and I've bolstered him up at times when he was desperate. I've lent him money, support and affection. For a short while I gave him my body, and he gave me his, without reservation, without inhibition. Yet I feel like I'm being manipulated, unworthy of his affections. I know he'll move on if I delete him from my life and add me to  his list of crazy women.

I don’t know why he deserts me when I disagree with him. I don’t know why he’s so rude when confronted with the truth. Narcissim? Selfishness and self absorption? I can only guess. I do know that he’s blunt. I do know that I'm jealous.  He'll have a 'plan' in his head, a punishment plan. Leave me waiting, wanting, bleating like a lamb. Me!  Full of life experience reduced to tears and knots. Ringing ears and a palpitating heart while he remains cool and quiet and unperturbed by the pain of others. A lamb that keeps bleating until he finally shuts me up and demands space. A pebble in his shoe, a thorn in his side....he does not care yet I allow him to use me.
He waxes on about loyalty but shows little. He writes beautifully about love but is incapable of it.  He is of rare intellect yet has low emotional intelligence. He has a wonderful talent but after a life of enablement, is unable or unwilling to fend for himself.  He is the only man I know who can fake an orgasm.

I fear for him, I fear for us, I fear for his future. Women are attracted to him like a jar of flies but repelled in an instant. His sweetness on the surface, his temper unpredictable, his selfishness legendary, his insecurities so large that he will push away the very ones he wants to control, the very ones he wants to love. The women he chooses are all deemed 'crazy', he never makes the first move unless he's drunk, or if sober, preambled by panic attacks of low confidence, and they seem to slip through his fingers with incredible ease.
Such a shame, such potential all doomed to a lifetime of self-denial all for the want of letting go, being vulnerable, showing kindness - love.

Yes I know him, he's my sweetest friend. I have difficulty letting him go.  I am a jealous friend, but a friend. He feels nothing for me but resentment. I look at how to leave but can't.  I love him, intensely. I am a co-dependent, emotional, irrational, venomous, toxic, filled with bitterness and vitriol and love and compassion, and probably insane but, I know him. 

He laments that he's never had that 'true love' and is envious that, perhaps I have. To be honest, until you let it all go, you become vulnerable, speak the truth, admit your failures and will never find the person that truly understands you. I think that's something that me and this strange bedfellow have in common. If it weren't for a 21 year age gap . . . this post would be redundant. It's here because he demanded it and because I hurt him badly yesterday and complied with his wishes.  He is the last love of my life and that, I will take to the grave. 

He wanted me to listen to a particular piece of music to write this but . . memories of my mother's piano flooded back. Even as a six year old, but I bowed to his will. And now, I'm angry, lost, depressed, weak, embarrassed, distressed, vulnerable. Controlled.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Nelllie

Continued from Muse 8

It was a small crowd that ventured into the chapel. She hadn't established many friends, some had passed, some had lost contact. It had been years since she'd heard from either of her brothers. The select and solemn group included close friends, her sister and family and of course, her own children and grandchildren. Each filed in quietly greeting each other ignoring the time-pressured funeral director peering from behind the crematorium curtain, eager for his cue to begin the ceremony. 

All took their seats as he began the non-denominational service, welcoming all and activating a data projector which showed slides of her rather ordinary life and some extraordinary travel to those who cared to look.  She had been explicit during her life that she didn't want a funeral. Her son and daughter had arranged it more to provide closure for themselves. She'd never know, the old atheist didn't believe in such things.

She didn't want a eulogy from people who had not expressed their affection for her during her lifetime. In fact, she had been so adamant that she'd written her own as part of a writing competition, never really expecting anyone to see or read it other than her fellow writers. Her daughter stood and walked up to the small podium, glanced briefly at the coffin on it's scissor lift and thought, 'How did my mother fit in there, it looks so small and fragile?' 

She began to read the words her mother wrote.

"I didn’t do much with my life that would put me in the history books. I was good, empathic, raised two children pretty much alone. I guess they were my main achievement. I was sometimes happy, often sad, always lonely. Years of moves and relocations saw friends come and go. Desperate times saw me widowed and orphaned too young.  Retrenchments and financial strain seemed to take too much cerebral space that should have been assigned to love and grace, charity and hope.  But by and large, I was fairly happy.
 My childhood was incredibly happy. The first 11 years of my life spent in country England when it was safe to ride a tricycle to the local building site and marvel at Irish labourers fiddling with solder - they shared their chips with me and had handkerchiefs on their heads with knots tied on each corner. I was even happier when each birthday, high day and holiday, someone paid for a horse riding lesson or better still a day trek at the local riding school. On those days, we  rode and froze before returning and chowing on beans on toast and jacket potatoes.   
I was happy when I went to my Nana's each Saturday. She owned a pub in Manchester so while she and my mother drank tea and gossiped, we kids ran riot in the supply room in the basement, pinching corners of jelly and drinking little bottles of coke and mini packets of chips in the days before they were pre-salted. We dressed up in swags of feathery, sparkly clothes and buckets of cheap jewels. If I ever stayed over, she would saunter out of bed at 2.00pm and talk some restaurant into staying open for very posh late lunch. I had my first prawn cocktail when I was 7!
 I was pretty happy when I first arrived in Australia although it was very, very different. Big. The fields were bigger, the trees were bigger, the cars were bigger - even that expanse of blue sky looked bigger. It took us a long time to settle and we moved from Melbourne to Sydney - 4 primary schools and 3 high schools later we stayed put in the North West of  Sydney. I never had the urge to move anywhere else after that.
Of course I was happy falling in love, getting married, delivering two perfect children. My pigeon pair. Then nine years of blissful and uneventful marriage sustained that euphoric state. It wasn't without it's moments but in retrospect, I was very happy with my lovely husband, my tiny house, my lovely children and massive mortgage. Left a widow too young, alone and in the depths of grief, my children made me happy. 
I was pretty happy at work too. I had a great bunch of colleagues in a creative environment and we socialized and worked together. I still keep in touch with them and our quarterly lunches at each other's houses are really worth looking forward to. A couple have since moved overseas but the core sticks together. They were halcyon days filled with art and music, differing opinions and weird clothes. After that, it was an assortment of jobs and careers. Some were wonderful, many were not but earning an income was an evil necessity so I did what I had to do. 
I was happy camping when the children were younger. I had a little trailer tent which I could put up myself in minutes but as they grew older the trips became few and far between so I sold it, something I regret now. We went from beach to bush, caving, swimming, walking - no TV, no mobiles.
I was very happy when my younger brother and his family moved in next door after our Dad died but it was short-lived. The gloss soon disappeared as his anger and abuse increased, we no longer speak. My other brother turned out to be a vegetarian narcissistic hedonist by his own admission, we rarely speak. 
I was always happy travelling. Lucky enough to enjoy Fiji, Tahiti, England, Scotland, Wales, Channel Islands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria. I even found a travel companion in my twilight years that made me incredibly happy as we explored, Australia and America together.  Those times made me extremely happy, until my arthritis became so painful that I had to let him go and resigned myself to travelling vicariously.
I was happy on Saturday mornings having coffee at home with my sister and catching up, making sure the horses were groomed and fed. I was always happy smelling like hay and horses, always.  I was happy catching up with friends. They are few and far between and some have relocated great distances but reunions are filled with joy, gossip and laughter, they have been my rocks in times of dire need and sadness. 
In the end, I was happy with the little things. That time in the evening just before the sun goes down and it's cooling off and the birds are settling and we sit out in the garden or dangle our legs in the pool. Those times when we dangled legs in the pool and bathed in the very summery fragrance of jasmine and gardenia. The times we had family dinners, movie nights, veranda fights and conversations, bear hugs from my son and snuggles with my daughter. 
I didn’t achieve much throughout my life, my glass seemed always half empty. But as I ponder and recall the little things, I know I was a good person, a great mother, a loyal friend and an empathic being. I guess that too, made me happy. 
Some great part of me too, hopes I may have shared that joy with someone else, perhaps made a difference to someone else...made them happy."

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 9 "Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Father

Continued from Muse 7

One of the last conversations I had with my father was while I was massaging his frail hands. He was in the late stages of metastatic liver cancer and fading fast. We discussed what tales those square "Irish Mitts" could tell about his 73 years on this earth.

As tiny hands many years go, they held the handle bars of a bicycle when he would reluctantly deliver bread from the family bakery. During the Manchester blitz, that bicycle manouvred it's way through the rubble in as a small boy searched for wartime treasure. They held pieces of shrapnel, traded like swap cards as childhood trophies during the Blitz.

They wielded a mighty lacrosse stick during his years at Hume Grammar School. I remember his bruises and bashed shins after a game he was far too old to play but loved it and the 'old boys' club.

Those crusty phalanges endured four years of Salford University, no mean feat for a man from a working class background. They turned the pages of chemistry and textile texts, performed scientific experiments, dug up corn and wheat in the pursuit of High Amylayse starch, a product that is in just about everything but one that he developed. Their solid fingers, scribing pages in black fountain pen to prove that he could be something, could be someone, a phoenix from the ashes and more than a baker's son.

These tired, and rough old hands once clasped the hands of another, his one and only love, his wife.  For the first two years of their marriage, those hands held her close through  of tuburculosis contracted only a year before penicillin put a stop to its awful black death. She was a nurse, and contracted it looking after children. He cared not. He caressed her through surgery and those mighty hands brought her through the abyss and into safety. Until she died, his hands wrapped around her waist while she was washing dishes, dried her tears of lament at being so separated from her own family and rubbed her feet after long days delivering babies in maternity hospitals.

They have wrapped his four children and seven grandchildren in their embrace and occasionally left their imprint on a few deserving backsides. 

They rested assertively on boardroom tables, laboured in five gardens, pulled thousands of weeds, repaired metres of fence and pruned tonnes of hedgerows.

They lead reluctant ponies along kilometres of roadside and applauded furiously at hundreds of soccer games.

They have slapped the kitchen table in heated discussion and firmly shaken the hands of friends and acquaintances. They made toboggans and assembled bicycles, go-carts and all manner of machinery to entertain.

Dad's hands had masterfully guided his favourite Waterman Pen through thousands of Herald crosswords and fumbled clumsily with a computer keyboard. They have firmly grasped many a glass of scotch and wine, even whilst he dozed in front of the TV they never fell from his vice like grip.

They have gently folded around a golf stick whose head and shaft has driven more than one hole in one and clutched the odd trophy. 

They reached long and often into the lolly tin, plucking a handful for his grandchildren, and long and often into his deep pockets to subsidize his own children's mad exploits.

With these same hands, he consoled us through our personal trials, applauded our achievements, celebrated our milestones and softly pushed us forward. They were the hands of a gentle giant, a loving husband, dad and grandpa and I will forever miss their touch.

R.I. P 
Charles Dunn 1936 - 2006
A Gentle Man

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 8 "Sticks Shafts and Tender Hands"

Eulogies 101 - Mother

Continued from Muse 6

Making a mess was counter-intuitive to her constitution. She was tidy, OCD tidy.  Her small villa impeccable, sheets changed weekly, the bathrooms carrying the acrid stench of bleach on spotless white porcelain. Towels folded exactly, lengthways in half, then in thirds and neatly piled on the shelf ready for use. Her kitchen benchtops of black granite gleaming, their tiny shards of silver polished daily with a microfibre cloth and Windex. Taps gleaming and the stainless steel appliances bore no fingerprints or smudges once so evident when the house was full. But now, the house was empty. Husband gone, children moved out, she was alone. 

Housework had become a joy, a burner of time and a distraction from loneliness. She wet-wiped skirting boards and removed every speck of dust. She vacuumed daily with a 'pet hair' Dyson even though it had been years since a pet had graced her pristine environment.  She damp mopped her unscratched timber floors weekly or after a spill. Her crippling arthritis meant her hands were less steady, causing spills and cleanses, rinse, repeat. Her windows clear of bugs or fingerprints. The glass-paned bi-fold doors so clean, someone could walk through them, barely noticing the barrier save the small white rectangles painted across the centre to warn the unsuspecting.

The garden was small and it's L shaped lawn careened around the oiled veranda in a perfect 90 degree angle. The Moraya hedges dutifully clipped with sharpened blades on a fortnightly basis to keep their rectangular shape and neat trim. The couch lawn perfectly watered, lush and green, yet no deck chair left indents in its velvet surface. No puppy excavated graves for unchewed bones. No children ran beneath her sprinklers leaving muddy footprints. She maintained it for herself, since no guests visited. Many a balmy night, she'd sit in her director's chair admiring it's verdancy and lamenting it's lack of use. What's the point of a garden empty of joy? No-one ever answered.

When all was to her satisfaction, she'd clean her car. A modest Toyota Corolla long due for replacement but these days, she didn't drive often. Least of all at night. The glare and failing eyesight had shattered her confidence and where would she go anyway? The upholstery hoovered, the interior glass clear of smudge, the dash and wheel gleaming after their coating of Armor All. It smelled and for all intents and purposes looked like a brand new car.  It's exterior relieved of the small amount of dust it ever collected. She never drove in bad weather.

She'd taken to blogging briefly, hoping that her clever words might have encouraged new relationships, a friend or two. Indeed, for a few years it appeared to do so until her life experiences waned and she found less and less to write about that might have been of interest to others. Her tone became sarcastic, cutting, sardonic and bitter. She hadn't had a holiday for years, barely left the confines of home, had no anecdotes of grandchildren - no grandchildren. She launched into politics and social injustice on a site where her readers were more interested in vegan living and how to make cheesecakes.  It bored her readers and they left. It began to bore her and she left.

She adopted social media to vent her spleen but spleen-venting had become the norm, everyone singing the same tune, using the same words, protesting the same issues. No longer did she stand out as a voice in the wilderness, just began to drown in the droning of complaint another whinger in the cacophony of discontent. She deactivated her account. To be honest, it was only there so that her kids would know she was still alive. If she didn't post for more than two days, they'd call. Otherwise, 'crickets'.

She studied the knife block, withdrew a filleting knife from it's sturdy grasp and ran it lightly across the base of her palm. It needed sharpening. Massaging it against a dampened carborundum, she restored it to it's former glory. She prepared meals for one. Tiny fine china bowls laid out with specific ingredients; finely sliced shallots and chili, dried cardamon and crushed garlic. Thinly sliced capsicum, celery and zucchini, diligently measured to reflect the preciseness of each recipe. She took a photograph and uploaded it to Instagram, knowing full-well that nobody she cared about would like it. Forcing herself to actually prepare a meal, provided some stimulation but eating the fruits of her labor was difficult. Her appetite for food, life, was waning.

She ventured into the bathroom and surveyed a little used cupboard looking for a razor blade. Safety razors, a spatula for smearing wax on a body that no-one touched. A make-up case filled with lipsticks and foundation that she had no reason to use, two tubes of long-dried mascara, a product that couldn't enhance her now diminutive lashes, a a variety of lotions that had failed to revive her youthful complexion.  She raised her head and talked to herself in the wall-width mirror.

"You idiot, nobody uses proper razor blades any more...unless..."

The sewing basket had been given to her by her grand-mother eons ago. A small wicker half-basket with a fabric drawstring cover. She hadn't touched it since the days of darning socks or taking up school children's hems. This new disposable society had no call for the skills of a seamstress. These days, you either take alterations to the Chinese lady up the street who will fix a zip or a hem for $10 or just go to Best and Less and buy another. She remembered instructions that her grandma had given, many years ago when using an old treadle sewing machine.

"To prevent unrolling from the spool, be sure you tuck the loose end of thread into the spool notch under each threading. If the notch has been knocked off, slit another one with a razor blade...."

It was the only time as a child, she was permitted to handle anything sharp.

She loosened the thread around the basked, tipped the contents onto a perfectly polished rosewood dining table and began fingering through the contents. A stitch ripper, spools from a long-gone manual sewing machine. A plethora of bobbins and threads. An old tobacco tin containing buttons. A pack of razor blades. The green Gillette 7-O'clock package faded, each blade wrapped in it's own protective sheath of greaseproof paper. Six blades in the pack, only one was missing.

She liked the modern baths. Hers was deep enough but the plug hole still small, it took time for water to disappear down the drain. She could submerge herself in one and feel the slow withdrawal of the 'tide line' from her body as the water edged it's way into the drain. It was a strangely titillating feeling having your body, once embraced by heat and bubbles, slowly revealed by the retreating water. This was going to be the way.

True to form, her daughter had missed her online presence, IM'd, messaged, DM'd, PM'd, Instagrammed and on the fourth day rang the doorbell. She gingerly rotated the brass door knob and released the latch from its unlocked position.  A quick survey of the living room and a call for 'mum' had elicited no response, just the sound of a slow running tap. 

A prettily ribboned envelope and a large pink concertina file had been strategically placed upon the coffee table. As she read, the blood drained from her face, tears welled in her eyes. A letter crafted with such erudite vernacular, a piece of poetry hand-written with care, outlined the placement of Wills, insurances and investments and their resting place within the pink concertina file.  

It's closing paragraph and carefully crafted words providing consolation that this was a choice, a choice denied by modern medicine but a choice nonetheless that her mother had a right to make. 

She dialled 000 without checking the source of the slowly flowing water.

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 7 "Clever Words and Cunning Blades"

Eulogies 101 - Brother

Continued from Muse 5

I received an email from my brother once. He moved into our parents' adjacent home on the same property after my father died. The two houses, mine and his were on the same property with a shared recreation room in-between. We shared five acres (that my son mowed), an oversized swimming pool (which I maintained), large outdoor covered patio and party room with a wet bar. The perfect entertainment space between the two houses.  He could have talked but, he sent an email.

It was a wonderful place for 'gatherings'. There was a pool table, foozeball, drum kit and a stocked bar and a large fridge. The floors were carpeted with a stainmaster carpet and the walls plain, apart from remnants of my father's memorabilia. If someone broke a glass or spilled a drink, nobody lost their shit over it. If bottles and mess were left until the hangovers healed, nobody gave a shit about it. That all changed when my brother decided to ‘refurbish’ the oft use party room, provide a lock and dictate the rules of use. This was the final straw in a string of minor misdemeanours on his part that distanced us. 

I wrote this, over four years ago. Of course, I never sent it to him. We had the odd discussion but the relationship by now had broken down and was beyond reparable. We just accepted the animosity between us as a natural repercussion of what had probably always been a troublesome relationship.

“It's impossible to talk to you when you're yelling irrationally at me. 

Here are a few things I need to 'discuss' if you can remain calm and objective, I'm happy to talk to you but I'm not standing there while persistently abuse me and tell me to 'fuck off'.

The Party Room looks better now that the drum kits and gym equipment have been removed and the pictures are hung. We both know however that this is motivated by your 'event' on January 2nd which you didn't even have the courtesy to mention and has only been done to impress your friends, not for any altruistic reasons to improve our shared space.

I wasn't at all happy that you went ahead and redecorated without consulting or outlining your plans. It would have been polite to discuss it with me first.  You have removed every vestige of the past apart from a couple of large Foster's beer cans on one of the bar fridges. Even the "Grandpa's Folly" sign was unceremoniously removed. Now we are left with a room that is soulless, beige and festooned with uncomfortable furniture. The configuration is still impractical for large gatherings. 

The drum kit will go back in there when your party is over. We are happy to remove it if ever you want the room for a party but it's an expensive kit and that's where it belongs.  That’s where it will bloody well stay!

Just because you have put your belongings into that room does not mean you now own it. This is a shared facility. All are welcome to use it. If you're worried about breakages or damage to anything, please remove the items about which you are concerned. All care will be taken but no responsibility.

Any past mess was not just ours and it is generally cleared within a day. I agree, beer bottles tend to remain until the hangovers have healed and when we have our weekly clean up but since nobody enters the room during the week I have never had an issue with that. You had gym equipment, a drum kit and framed pictures leaning against the wall for months.  It has been as much a repository for your junk as a fun room for my kids. Quit your moaning and gas lighting and remove your own shit.

The fridge hadn't been cleaned since last Christmas. Since it hasn’t been turned on, it’s expected that there will be some mould, so keep your knickers on. The original spillage within was not ours. It is switched off after use because I'm conscious of the electricity use and the doors left open to help it dry out. I would have cleaned it before the next party. You just beat me to it. Don't get on your high horse about a bit of mould! It takes 10 minutes and a sponge soaked in bleach to clean.

Nobody asked you to paint or refurbish. Nobody asked you to rip up the carpet or buy new furniture for this shared space. We had it just as we liked it before you moved in. Scrappy as it was, it was Grandpa's Folly and it suited us. Nobody had to be 'precious' using it.  We had a perfectly functioning barbecue and an outside table. It is shared space. All can use it. Any talk of locks on doors is simply not acceptable; it is not your room exclusively. I'm sick of being made to feel like an interloper in my own home and being pushed towards the northern boundary. Do what you like in your own house but don't extend your realm beyond what is yours. The rest is 'ours'. You may have bought 18% of our shared space, but for all I care, it's the 18% in the back paddock that you own!

The pool room, swimming pool and outside patio are for everyone and totally maintained my little family. .  I agree that they should be used with respect and tidied afterward. You are absent during most of your children's forays.  Just because they haven't been living here for some time doesn't mean they've not had indiscretions in the past.  I've spent a lot of time tidying up after both. I'm not opening old wounds but I want you to know that this cuts both ways. Of course you haven't been here to see the drug use, the sexual activity, the disrespect of our property, the noise until 5am. 

The last time you had the soccer team over, a pool light was broken and the fence collapsed. I have not said a word. The garage lights still don't work and my car's tail light which you broke has never been paid for.  Living in close quarters with people requires a little give and take and tolerance.

You said you don't like talking via email and that you're 'happy' to talk in person but you are unapproachable most of the time. Gruff, rude and abusive. Talk to me. I would also prefer a lower tone of voice. That sort of unnecessary verbal abuse is very disappointing. I am not going to walk on eggshells just because you can't have a simple and rational discussion.  I sincerely hope you don't speak to any other member of your family the way you speak to me and mine.  This is twice now that you've raised your voice in anger against us and I just want you to know that it doesn't work, nor does it become you when others are within earshot. It's embarrassing. It's immature and just makes you look foolish and intolerant.

Finally, I have lobbied long and hard over the past six years on all our behalf to enable the sale of our property since it was rezoned - first to fight a railway line being driven through the back, now to try to reduce the council levies on our property. This is what's making our property unattractive to developers. The up-front costs are enormous.  I've met with developers, approached them individually, registered with real estate agents and spent precious time doing all I can to get a good deal here – for everyone. Despite being frantic at work, I'm still part of a lobby group, liaise frequently with council and am actively involved in trying to sell the block.

We will not rip you off. But we will ask that you don't expect to 'make' a lot of money out of this sale. That would be a lovely bonus but is by no means a certainty nor was it even six years ago. I'd like nothing more than a big fat cheque and happy families but in reality it's not going to happen. We are not a happy family and why? Fiscal over-expectations. You are the only one who has them.

Well you probably threw this in the bin but it was cathartic writing it. And for the record, I am very sorry that you're 'done with me' over money but at this point, I'm not quite ready to 'fuck off'.   I'm even sorrier that you've done this at Christmas time.

The first Christmas when everyone's here and I've worked very hard to make things fun and happy. What happened to you? You've become morose and angry and insular . . . such a shame. Although frankly. I'm over it. You're a selfish bastard who can't see anyone else's point of view. Your family is flawless and everyone else’s deeply flawed. It must be wonderful to be you. 

The main problem I have mate, is that you don't consult. You just go ahead like a bull at a gate making 'improvements' and rules without as much as a 'may I' that's rude. In 25 years of living harmoniously with Dad, I've never lived with anyone so resistant to consultation.  You're a grumpy bastard. I hear you fighting with your wife, yelling and ranting, using words that no-one needs to hear. Your daughters love you but have moved as far away from you as possible and your son is a lazy leech.  And you wonder why we harbour animosity towards you. We don't hate you or your family. We don't spit vitriol at you. You’re just a mean spirited person who has pushed us to our limits by railroading without asking. You are rude, inconsiderate and selfish. Since you told me that I was 'dead' to you some time ago, I think I've been extremely amenable.

Animosity accepted, May we never meet again."

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 6 "Animosity Accepted"

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Ian

Continued from Muse 4

I'd lost contact with him long ago. After the death of my own husband, the sadness compelled me to try to reconnect. Not for any nefarious or devious expectation of a rendezvous or rekindled romance, but just to let him know he'd been in my thoughts.  Loss tends to make one nostalgic and I wondered how he was, what he was doing. I didn't know his whereabouts but had piles of aerogram letters tied with red satin ribbon from years gone by. The address on them being his familial home, gave me hope that his aging mother might still live there. She did.  I wrote to her. She remembered me and responded with cautious grace, saying that he was happy, married, had two little girls and was still living in Manchester. I was pleased.

She gave me his address and I penned a platonic note. We had a quiet and friendly exchange, just the once, and agreed there was little profit in maintaining contact now that we had spent so much time apart and his life was swimming along nicely. He was sorry for my loss, I was happy for his gain.

It came as a surprise when decades later, another letter arrived from the same woman bearing the very sad news that he had passed. He was 66. The letter came after his funeral but I felt a need to let her know that he had also been in my thoughts through all these years. 

A long, long time ago, in a country far, far away, a lonely mother missed her only daughter so much that she paid for the family to fly back to England for a six week Christmas holiday. I was one of them, her 16 year old Granddaughter. It was then that I met him. Once again, I rifled through the letters from yesterday and penned a heartfelt response.

"I met Ian whilst on  holiday with my family and staying at my Nana's pub, The Lion's Head in Altringham, Manchester. My Nana, comparable only to Auntie Mame  loved being surrounded by parties and people and the establishment was frequented by young people even though technically it was a "Private Hotel" not a public bar. She was never cautioned since half of Manchester's constabulary also frequented the pub when off duty.  It was lively and due to the presence of police, stayed open way beyond the crazy British Licensing laws allowed. I spent evenings drinking fluffy ducks and eating cheese and biscuits and trying to decipher dialects and accents with limited success. 
To celebrate our arrival in town she hosted a fancy dress party. After being suitably 'styled' at a ridiculously expensive hire salon, I chose a pink and gold Harem outfit. My waist then was thinner and having come from the Australian summer, my tan was healthy.  
The party was a blast, the music contemporary, the patrons young and there I met Ian. His brother Neil was one of the regulars at the Lion's Head and brought him along. Someone with whom I would have a six-year long-distance relationship. 
That winter was the best in my life. Young love and I were allowed out late. We toured the Lake District and most of Cheshire, I went to discos even though I was under age, we lay on tiny boats and dragged our fingers off the bow while travelling through the glittering Blue John Mines. We watched the Muppet Show together, kissed in his little Morris Minor with blue stars painted on the roof . . .the source of a great pickup line..."Do you want to see the stars on my roof?" Worked like a charm. 
We watched Manchester United beat Manchester city, much to Ian's chagrin. Every moment with him was absolutely magic. At the time, he was 9 years my senior and my father was adamant that he had to have me returned safely before midnight. You should have seen Ian's face after receiving a stern lecture about curfews.  He gave me a couple of records to keep him front of mind. 
Once back in Australia, I reminded myself daily of him through Art Garfunkels' 'Breakaway' and Carly Simon's 'No Secrets'. We exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts each year. We dated other people, worked, indulged in our own hobbies and interests but we remained close correspondents. If only we had the Internet back then, things might have worked out very differently. Letters took 10 days to deliver and the wait for each one as painful as the  joy of it's receipt.
I returned to England again after a painful relationship breakup when I was 21 he had remained single and was happy to catch up. It was as if we'd had no time apart. We had another wonderful three months of romance and travel. Everything was perfect. We made a loose pact to meet in Canada the following year. It was his plan to join his brother there and start a new life. In the interim, he gave me a silver ingot on a chain which I wore for years . . . and which I still occasionally wear. 
However, the rendezvous never took place. I fell in love with someone else. I cruelly invited him to the wedding and the letters stopped. No explanation, nothing. Only then, did I realise that I may have broken a heart. Dislodged that arrow from Cupid's bow and for that, I am very sorry. 
I just wanted you to know that the pile of air letters tied with a red satin ribbon are lovingly kept. I often wondered how he was and with the advent of social media, thought I might find him but I never did. I wondered what he was doing, whether he'd travelled, would he have looked me up? Either way, I hope his life was happy, I hope he was greatly loved, I hope his children are wonderful and I wish his wife the best, it's a terrible thing to lose a husband. He will always be remembered by me."

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 5 "The Lion's Head and the Bow"

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Olaf

Continued from Muse 3

They rarely holidayed together. Their interests were so different. In the beginning, it was his 'difference' that set him apart. He was like nobody she had ever met. Brave, exciting, arrogant. His weather beaten tanned body strong and able, his rugged face obscured by the beard of a woodsman, his eyes piercing blue and fierce with the lust for adventure. She knew he was wild, she knew he was an adventurer and that drew her immediately from her safe life.

She was high school teacher straight out of college, he a reluctant Librarian at the same school but that's where any commonality ceased. He was an adventurer, a trekker, an explorer of remote places. She liked her creature comforts and after years of moving with her family due to her father's work, wanted stability, children and picket fence security.  

Occasionally, they'd vacation in mutually adored places, the Cook Islands or American Samoa but for the most part, they vacationed separately, she visiting friends in New Zealand or Queensland, he taking off for the Himalayas or Andes with little more than a tent and a sleeping bag, and a trusty propane stove.

He was the type to mow his lawn in a sarong, his Scandinavian gruffness easily mistaken for rudeness. He was abrupt and broody. She was a country child then a city woman with intelligence and good manners, genteel and happy. They never married. It bothered her that he wandered off on a whim or that he might take off for good one day due to boredom or the pressures of domestic life.  It tore at her every time she dropped him off at the airport and hugged him goodbye, often wishing he'd go somewhere safer, less remote.  It never bothered him a jot and he'd disengage from her embrace a little too quickly, a little too eagerly. She knew things weren't as they should be but never had the courage to challenge him or indeed to even ask him if he was happy.

He moved through the automatic doors long before she'd even put on her seat belt, eager to be free of the trappings of suburban life, suburban wife.  She wiped the welling in her eyes with the back of her hand and put on a brave face as she slipped sadly away from the kerb, ignoring the chattering of her toddlers, restrained in the back seat. She thought briefly that perhaps Olaf felt restrained but shed the thought as the influx of city traffic distracted her.

He'd made the trip many times alone and with the company of others. This time, he took a bevy of students, eager mountaineers all excited about their adventure. The flights were gruelling, three of them in all and as is always the case in South America, local planes were overbooked and late. Their arrival in Lima allowed them a couple of days respite and time to provision before packing up once again and heading south via the Cajatambo bus on a partially paved road. The 11 hours together allowing them to get to know each other.  His group of students did not like him. They found him gruff and controlling, rude and domineering. He found them trivial and chattering, unwilling to listen or absorb things around them.  They were noisy and disrespectful and he let them know it. They on the other hand knew that the coming weeks were going to require their patience, either that or him being pushed off the edge of a precipice.

The group of 8 prepared with small hikes out of Huaraz to acclimatise to the altitude. Some feeling the sickness but after a couple of days, all were excited and prepared to venture out on one the world's most beautiful treks. Their journey would take them from Matacancha to Pallca among the majestic peaks and stunning vistas.

Olaf was not a patient man and the persistent chatter of his young cohorts annoyed him when all he wanted to absorb was the majesty of the mountains, the depths of the valleys, the abiding silence, quiet as the grave. The rowdy group of fellow Australians were prone to breaking into what could only loosely be called song to vent their exuberance.

"Rocks without mouths sing the best songs..." he'd chided the group when he could stand the cacophony no more. 

"Listen to the mountains, they have their own music and don't need to be corrupted by your caterwauling!"

Silenced by his ill humour, they put metaphoric tails between their legs and complied, but quietly complained about the temperament of their guide and jokingly plotted his demise and disappearance.

It's an unforgiving circuit, the landscape rugged and cursed with unpredictable weather. None of these challenges fazed the group as they trailed along the old Inca road over high pass after high pass, through an Andean wilderness where condors soar high along the ridges and peaks in search of carrion, and wild horses graze in small herds. 

It was on their sixth day that Olaf was uncharacteristically not the first to rise and heat a billy for morning tea. It was on their sixth day that there was no fire even lit. It was on their sixth day that they found him, sleeping peacefully, fitfully, eternally in his tent. It was six days later that his body was recovered by the Peruvian authorities and six weeks after that, when he was finally released, returned home and laid to rest.

It took time for it to sink in. The past weeks had been a flurry of administration, legal representation and scraping the funds to return her partner to Australia under the most stressful and desperate of circumstances.

Her heart doubted and was suspicious but nothing could be proven.  She almost felt shame that he had died by leaving a propane heater on in his tent. She couldn't understand it. He was a seasoned camper, an expert mountaineer yet he'd made the most novice of mistakes. Perhaps he was tired, perhaps he just nodded off. Perhaps someone lit it after he'd fallen asleep.  Perhaps it was intentional, perhaps the differences between them had grown insurmountable and he'd taken his own life.  The autopsy results were certain, he'd died of carbon monoxide poisoning but nobody knew exactly how. She will never know exactly why.

RIP Olaf Arud
"Forever Listening to the Mountains"
1945 - 1995

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 4 "Rocks Without Mouths Sing the Best Songs"