Good Grief……..

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Alright, I’m not really sure there is such a thing as “good” grief… but I’ve been told how healthy it is for the girls to grieve their Dad…. in whatever way it comes out. I have waited for the “real” text book grief to begin….. and although I thought we had well and truly begun with Poppy, how wrong I could have been. Ruby has grieved like a teenager…… she is more likely to talk to instagram than me ( I have noticed some angry messages recently about her hating the hospital for overlooking Trent’s clots, which I had to remove for legal reasons. But her little Daddy quotes that she has found on the internet are heart breaking….) The last few months I have been feeling rather smothered by Pops, but having just turned eight I have also had to give her some leeway because she is extraordinarily anxious about me going out and not returning. Her Dad tucking her into bed one night and then dying so suddenly… I cannot imagine what that was like for a six and ten year old kid. I have taken her to a psychologist since September last year and we haven’t even touched on Trent yet….. the last seven months have literally been all about how to live with a sister with additional needs, that abuses and manipulates you daily. The poor kid has way too much on her plate. Not that Ruby doesn’t…. but damn it’s tough whichever way you look at it. Losing a Dad or a hubby in a normal, everyday neurotypical family I can only imagine would be ridiculously challenging…… but to lose one when one child has a disorder that prevents her from feeling her emotions in the way the rest of us do, and then one child who just like her Daddy is so deep and emotional anyway….. well it just adds to the difficulties I think. I am certainly not saying that things are harder for us than other families facing the same challenges, but it kind of means it’s even less predictable in how the getting through it will occur. A few months ago when the separation anxiety began, it was kind of nice to feel such love. Ruby has never been all that affectionate, so to have one child that is…. well it’s lovely. But it quickly became the desperate kind of affection that interrupts everything else that is going on around you… and then the night time visits became more frequent…. then when she was in my bed she’d remove the cushions I put down the middle of the bed so I wouldn’t wake her with my tossing and turning…. until the other day I asked her why she kept removing them, and she told me she was scared to have cushions between us because she couldn’t feel me next to her. I think if she could unzip my skin, she would climb inside me and never leave again. On Friday when she was told I’d be out Saturday night watching .hinge (the band that was releasing a CD the first night I ever met Trenton, and the same band that was playing the very first night we got together a year later….) she started fretting that I was leaving her.. so for that entire day and night and morning leading up, she wanted to know how many “movies” I’d be out for…. her way of keeping time. She either wanted Grandma to sleep with her, but in the end she decided on a slumber party with Swe Zin, (Mum and Dad’s Burmese exchange student) in the bungalow in Mum’s backyard….. I had a text at one thirty am from Swe Zin saying she was still counting on that goodnight kiss and couldn’t sleep until I was home safe and sound…….. So I jumped in a cab and was home within the hour. What a strange turn of events…. should have been me worrying about “her” out partying, not the other way around. Each Monday she asks daily what night Pop (my Dad) will come up to have them so I can enjoy a night out. She asks almost hourly, and also asks where I’ll go and what time I’ll be back and who I’m going with. This trip I have planned with one of my besties cannot be helping at all. In six weeks I am off to Europe and the UK for three and a half weeks…. something I need more than life itself, and something my parents actually want for me. My Mum suggested it shortly after Trenton died 20 months ago tomorrow. And I was going last year, but I feared that they would not be ready to cope just yet. What an idiot I was…. it’s only gotten much harder now. When I stared reading messages off the Young Widows Australia site at the beginning of my widowhood, I kept feeling like the negativity from the general Widow population seemed to prove it only got harder and harder. I thought “this is not the road I choose to take…. I have been a positive person my whole life…. this will not be us.” Well sometimes we don’t get to choose the road, the road chooses us. It has gotten harder and harder, and you feel emptier and emptier, and more lonely as time moves on. You do get better at not showing it however. It’s the kind of loneliness that no amount of alcohol, valium, deep and meaningful’s with friends or even trips to Europe or holidays will fill. It’s the realisation that the void in there will remain, no matter what else fulfillment comes your way. Maybe the last part of the grieving process is to accept the void, and know it’ll always remain. I’m not there yet though, so I’ll see. All I know is that two hours tonight was spent consoling a snotty, howling, punching everything she could get her hands on Poppy, which is most unusual for her……. and she wanted to go into my room and just cuddle Daddy like she always did when times were shit. She reminded me that she could sneak in at any time of the night or day when he was napping and she could shimmy her way into the bed without waking him and sleep until he woke to her in his arms. He adored it. So maybe he did semi wake but pretended to not, so she would keep doing it. He adored that kid. Her diary entries are becoming more angry…. she said the other day in her Daddy Diary, that she bets that anyone who ever lost anyone would probably want to punch baddies in the face. I think she’s right. I think a punching bag is in order…… the anxiety levels in this house are out of this world. She also said “I’ve had two birthdays without Daddy now….. he only knew me when I was six……that sucks.” God this is the hardest task I’ve ever been given to tackle….. how and when will life ever be okay again? x

Growing up without a Dad…..

I grew up in a household that I can only describe as a fairly “normal” Australian family to be a part of. A Mum, a Dad, two older sisters and two dachshunds. We had an Auntie Thelma who was 24 years older than my Mum, who had a daughter around the same age….. and then she went on to have two boys who were really my mum’s nephews, but they kind of all grew up together as siblings. Like I said, “fairly Normal.” They were a “good Catholic Family” from Moonee Ponds. Mum’s Dad had died when she was only nineteen….. So I never got to meet him. I think Dad’s Dad died when I was a baby, so again, I never got to meet him properly either. Dad had one brother, who for most of my life that I can remember lived with Dad’s Mum Nana Val. So I had Thelma’s husband who was of course my Uncle, but more like a Pop or Grandad, and then I had my Dad…. who filled many male shoes in my life. Dad worked very hard….. always. For as long as I remember he worked for Qantas…. before that it was called Australian Airlines, before that it was TAA! I’m pretty sure he nearly hit forty years there when he retired a few years ago. He worked crazy shift work hours for the entire time, and juggled us three girls while Mum put herself through a Catholic Teaching Degree between working for a bank and Travelodge at the airport. They worked for everything they ever got in life, and they earned every last bit of it. I remember that Dad had a VW Combi and Mum had a VW Buggy. My sisters and I as we got older used to ask them to drop us at least a block or two away from wherever we were going as they both had such loud and obvious engine noises. The kids at school would yell “Ya Mum needs a new Muffler!!!!” as she drove off down the street in her “clown car!” It’s so funny now what used to worry us so much back then….. it was always about what the other kids thought. I guess that hasn’t changed in schools…. but we were so caught up in what was cool, the latest skates, clothes, what kind of music player we owned…. that we never stopped to think about how hard they worked to give us the option. I see that in my kids all the time….. you think they’re completely self absorbed…. and they are, because they don’t see out of the little bubble which is their world. We feed them, clothe them, clean them, give them money, buy them things, bail them out of trouble….. and protect them from the “other” side of happiness. My parents really did an amazing job of this with me. Until I was thirteen or fourteen I was a happy little content kid in my happy little bubble….. Then I got what we call “hormones.” Have you ever said that word slowly and really thought about how ironic it is?? It turned a lovely little girl into the devil incarnate….. and it nearly killed my parents. I started wanting to do what my older sisters had well and truly done…. smoking, drinking, sneaking out of the house to see live bands. Staying at mates houses, but really drinking in public parks and then walking the streets back to their houses and vomiting in their bins/toilets/gardens….. I really did prove to Mum and Dad that some kids really can be as sweet as pie one day, and shit in your face the next. In year nine at the ripe old age of fourteen going on fifteen (already onto High school number three)…. I thought it was about time to move out of my “Oh so complicated ” household. I moved in with a mates Dad, brother and herself, and started my independent life of working at La Porchetta at night, and going to High School during the day. Or sometimes going…..! I got myself a long term boyfriend who was really my best mate….. and in fact he stuck with me for three years, (three of my craziest and out of control) and was a really good guy, luckily! I managed to survive the next tumultuous couple of years before I “forgave” my parents for just not “getting me” and moved back home. I felt like they were lucky I came back…… yet I was most certainly the lucky one. I moved to my fourth High School which did thankfully end up being fourth time lucky… and I started to piece my life back together with music. I made some of my closest friends at Footscray City. It was the most relaxed and creative school I’d even known…. Free dress to express the inner self, music wasn’t singing in a Choir but it was rock bands…. Creative writing was a subject and you could literally express yourself in any way you felt you could get your message across…… It was wonderful. I had found my place in life. Mum and Dad just kept on supporting me…. no matter what trouble I seemed to always find myself in….. and on my eighteenth birthday they turned up to my house (Yup, I had moved out at seventeen with the next boyfriend) with a Combi Van, complete with the biggest purple bow wrapped around it you’ve ever seen. Could I get any luckier? Although I seemed to always choose the difficult path in life, it was the way I learned and it wasn’t about to change. It still hasn’t. Throughout my years of smoking too much, boozing too much, in and out of jobs, apprenticeships and many other “this is it” ideas…. Dad just kept his foot in my life. I remember he would turn up at nine or ten on a Saturday or Sunday morning, walk in with bags of food shopping, step over bodies, ash trays, beer bottles and God only knows what else, he would clear a space in the kitchen, put the food away and make himself a green tea! We would sit and chat and I never felt judged by him. He might ask if I was looking after myself, if I was happy, but he wouldn’t tell me I was a pig, or a disgrace to the family. He was always the epitome of the kind of Dad anyone would want to be. He still is. I know that Trenton adored him, (as he did his own) and strived to be more like the two of them the whole time he was a parent. He had brilliant qualities from the two of them…. along with his own quirky ones! Trent and I spoke a lot about life…… it was probably a weekly ritual, our D & M’s always ended up being about our incredible families and we wondered how he would cope when any of our parents died. We literally couldn’t comprehend it. We wondered how our lives would have been had our parents not been so there for us. I mean we both knew plenty of people who had not been so lucky…. some of them were incredible…. some not so much. So the importance to us of being there for our beautiful girls was priceless.. I bet if he had one major regret of being taken from this Earth way too soon, it would be not being able to be there for those girls through some of the toughest years of their lives. And that’s where I struggle the most. My girls lost one of their favourite people on Earth. One that “would” have been there like mine and his, through thick and thin, through good and bad. He was nothing if not determined to drag those kids through teenage-hood, so we could go ahead and start enjoying the next phase of young adult-hood. I have no idea on this planet how I will do this with them, but no him. My Dad started coming up every Tuesday after Trent died so that I could go out and do something unrelated to my life. It started out as Pottery classes. It quickly moved to the pub instead! But once a week without fail he would come and let me out of my private hell, to just be Emma, a woman in severe pain and grief. Because at all other times when he wasn’t here and I wasn’t out, I was the mother of six and ten year old girls who had just experienced having their Dad ripped from their lives, sadly right in front of their very eyes. It’s a tough job to hold down, and not lose your mind completely. He still comes every Thursday, limping around in agony as he waits for his double knee replacement in June. He never complains, he never loses it at the girls, he tries to get them to help me more, and he gives them cuddles that would melt your heart. He brings this giant teddy bear kind of love into the house that Trenton had in abundance….. and it’s helping them in a simple way that I can’t. I wish they’d gotten to keep theirs for longer than they had him…… even though he left a Trenton sized impressions in their hearts. He will never be forgotten. xxxxxxx

I should NOT have been a Nurse…….

O’kay, so there were five brief (very brief) minutes in my life were my Mum had convinced me that my constant need to help people should be converted into a Nursing Traineeship. Mind you this was after she’d convinced me that my love for the outdoors should be converted into a Diploma of Horticulture, and also my love of colour and retro design should be converted into a painting and decorating apprenticeship. All things believe it or not that I started, and of course inevitably failed in. The horticulture one is a no brainer, anyone that knows me knows that I kill everything that needs watering apart from my children, and it turns out that I did not want to “wear” overalls to work, but rather look at “men” in overalls at work….. hence the painting and decorating failure. But nursing…. how on Earth my Mum convinced me that I would be awesome at it I’ll never know. I am one of those people that faints or vomits at the sight of blood, and would not be fantastic in an emergency situation with shit and blood and guts everywhere…. I didn’t even cope when Poppy had to get a small pucker hole glued up in hospital on the bridge of her nose at aged three that she’d received by stacking a three wheeler at kinder and head butting the bolt sticking out of the bikes bell! I called Trent whilst on the way to the Angliss Hospital and told him I’d drive slowly so that he could beat me there all the way from the other side of town so that I didn’t even have to look at it! (The kinder teacher had kindly popped a band-aid over the hole probably for Poppy’s sake… but I was totally grateful myself!) I sat behind my giant warm and “attentive to Poppy’s every need” husband and talked to her through his back for the two hours we spent in emergency waiting for a Dr to decide if it was glue or stitches, and then proceeded to nearly faint causing the Dr’s to remove Poppy from the trolley bed and put me on it to fan me till my colour came back! Once she’d been glued and I burst into tears at the sheer uselessness of my parenting that day, she also burst into tears too and wanted me to come around from my hidey hole to give her a cuddle! I did of course….. but with my eyes slightly squinted so I couldn’t see the damage that she’d done to herself. So after my six week pre-Nursing traineeship course, and a week and a half of hands on work in a nursing home (that had me crying my way home daily at the horrific way these elderly people had been treated and spoken over) I decided that I was proud of myself yet again for trying something new, but that once again this was not the career for me. Likewise when the kids or Trenton got sick I found myself being short tempered and irritated by the extra work load that I was given instead of being the kind and sympathetic person I should have been to them all! Hence the mega blue I had today with my eldest…… I literally can’t stand it when she’s unwell as she moans and groans, and puts on these amazing Neighbours style performances that I swear would have her in the running for a nomination for an Emmy award. She even said to me today that although Poppy and I had copped this tummy bug too, that hers was worse because she had a lower pain threshold than us!!!!!! What the?? I tried to explain to her that even though she was more verbal with it, that it didn’t necessarily mean that she was in more pain, but rather it meant that she was being more of a pain in the arse. That clearly didn’t go down too well so the day went downhill fast from there. Poppy who had been sick since Sat had been as grumpy as anyone on the planet, so between the “sickest person on Earth” Ruby, and the “moodiest person on Earth” Poppy….. well there was nothing left but for me to be a short tempered cow. And short tempered I was. So it was a long drawn out, abusive, draining and pointless day where no one got anywhere with their point. And of course in true “foot in mouth” Emma fashion, I responded to one of Ruby’s abusive insights into my atrocious parenting when she yelled at me ” you didn’t even give me a nice phone like the other mothers do with internet on it……” I screamed back in response (oh so maturely), “Yeah well don’t you think that if I could just stop being a parent for one minute that I’d be drinking and backpacking my way around Europe right now avoiding my problems and pretending my best mate and lover hadn’t just died…..” This did not help get the convo back on track and after she’d snuck off and called my sister in law and Mum to tell them that I’d wished my kids were never born….. well lets just say the day could only go uphill from there. As it has. Once the kids were down and I’d had a good offload with the Mother (yes, and a few cans) suddenly I feel I can tackle the next load of shit the world has to throw at me….. It seems at the moment there are peaks and lows, peaks and lows…… and not much in between. I’m starting to realise that not only are the girls grieving more now than they were in the past 19 months…. but it’s starting to seep out of me unwillingly every day, more and more….. until I fear that I will be nothing but a pool of sadness and sorrow on the ground, and of no use to anyone. What is getting me through each day, each hour, each minute…. is my pending trip to Europe with one of my oldest mates in May. Suddenly the guilt of leaving the kids for three and a half weeks is being outweighed by my utter need to be completely “unattached” from my children briefly who are slowly suffocating me. How horrendously selfish that sounds, yet it is the simple truth. My every spare second is looking at places to stay, eat at, drink at, visit and discover on this trip of a lifetime. (Thanks to my parents offering to move in and live my life for me whilst I’m gone…….) I do wonder how I’ll get back on that plane on June the 5th and knowingly come back to it all. (No….. no hidden message here, just the anticipation of going back to my reality once it’s over is terrifying……) I will try and breathe in every second of this amazing experience, and instead of dread the return trip, I want to hang out for it to share my stories and presents and photos with my beautiful girls….. and the rest of the wonderful friends and family that are still actually holding me together like some crazy kind of glue. Thank God for them. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Mourning a future that never was……

You know that old American story of Ma and Pa rocking away on their porch or verandah in their seventies and eighties, chatting about the “days of old” and how different the world used to be “back in our day…..” Damn I wanted that cheesy ending in my life. Trent and I used to say when we moved away from our first home, that we’d have a garage or a rumpus room with a pool table, a bar fridge, a dart board and when we were really doing well, a beer tap set up coming out the front of the fridge. Yup. We were “those kind of people.” I’m fairly sure the term “Bogan” pops into your heads when you speak of couples like that, but if that’s what a Bogan does, then I’m proud to be one. I could have happily spent the rest of my days working, raising the kids, having a yearly holiday somewhere nice, and spending weekends with the fam eating off the BBQ and playing pool with mates after a few bevvies on the deck. It’s a pretty simple thing…. that a lot of us want, but I wonder how may get it? I loved my time out with the girls, and Trent loved his time out with the boys, but this only made our time together more wonderful. We never smothered each other….. I never required him to come home from a party with me if he was drinking and having a ball and I had to take the kids home to bed. I was happy for him to spend one night a week with his crew in Cranny, drinking and jamming and smoking to his hearts content….. I would have a night a week to catch up with the gals, drink, play pool or just see a chick flick. He even went to Thailand for ten days with his bestie, and six months later I did the same with one of mine. You can’t get a more healthy and fair relationship than that. From day dot we split the feeds, the bedtime runs, the nappy changes, the dishes, cooking and housework if we were both working….. we shared our money from the moment we shared a house, there was nothing of his that wasn’t mine, and nothing of mine that wasn’t his. I can’t imagine ever having a relationship again that is any other way……. which just might mean I never have another. As awful as it is, I wish all the time that any of my other crappy ex partners was the one that had to die. I want to mourn the man that was, but be able to move on with my life. But how you do that when the man you lost was more than you could ever have hoped for? There will be no other like him, and I can honestly say that I am not trying to immortalise him as some God that he bloody well wasn’t just to have you all see that he was incredible. I don’t need to…… If you ever had the pleasure of meeting the man, he spoke for himself. Every moment that I experience with the kids that puts a smile on my face, I still immediately go to turn towards him and share that pure look of bliss and happiness. If he’s not there I grab my phone to text him…….. When the hell does that stop? It’s already been nineteen months. On Friday Rubes did her first ever TV commercial….. I was so proud my head could have exploded… and I got the urge so many times that day to text him an update, or send him a picture of how beautiful she looked. Then on Sunday at Poppy’s birthday celebration I watched her run crazily from ride to ride to ride without her Dad in tow, which was the norm at Luna Park…… he adored that place as much as the kids. In fact his last outing ever was there for Ruby’s 9th birthday. We pushed him around in a wheelchair all night in the rain…… even though he couldn’t use crutches because of the sheer pain he was in from the surgery on his ankle nearly three weeks before, he refused to miss her birthday and came anyway. It was Saturday the 20th of July 2013….. and I will never forget that night. It poured, the kids got drenched, we had to park him under the only shelter near the entrance to the Scenic railway, and we’d take it in turns to hang with him…… I bought him a hot chocolate at one point and we sat and chatted about how ridiculous it was that he was there unable to join in on the fun….. and how silly it was that he’d broken his ankle pissed as a fart in the first place. The kids kept going and sitting on his lap for cuddles as they knew how much he wanted to join in. God I wish I’d known then that he would die three days later…… God knows what we would have said….. I just know I wish we’d had the chance. When I read back through our bazillion emails to each other over the years, there is enough cheesy, beautiful messages from him to last me a lifetime. It doesn’t make it easier, but I’m glad he was so open with his emotions. So much so that it was him that dragged my emotions out when we first met. I was in self protection mode for Ruby and myself, and I wouldn’t budge on that….. he just told me how he felt and kept on telling me until I couldn’t help but say it back. Cause I damn well meant it. The big multi roomed house with a view, the caravan with the nice interior, a seven seated car and overseas trips…… these were on the top of our “things to do before we die” list. Unfortunately I got them all in the space of six months, instead of forty years, simply because he died. What a fucking sick joke…. to be given everything you ever wished for together, with the only catch being “you can’t have it together.” I’ll forever mourn our incredible past. It was the best nine or so years of my life. Easily. I got to raise two beautiful girls with him….. I got to buy my first house with him, we shared the experience of our first dachshund together, he supported me through my going back to study a Diploma in Community Services, and we experienced our most pure and honest of relationships together. The past will always be in my memory bank…. those things can never be taken from me, ever. But what that negligent hospital has done, is take what was potentially an incredible future that we totally deserved to have together as a family, away from us. What price can you put on your baby not having her Daddy there to walk her down the aisle? Or see her graduate high school? Or do an embarrassing speech at her 21st? Or scare the shit out of her potential boyfriends? What Price can you put on taking away the ability for a kid to have a normal and healthy childhood, and instead fill it with therapy sessions, and grief groups, and teasing, and anxiety about everything to sadness and the general daily feeling that there’s something enormous missing from the picture. The loss of a future together, is the greatest loss of all. Second only to losing your life at 37. Just when it was starting to get really good. x