Thursday, March 16, 2017

there is love

This post is half a year old, written before my dad died and when we had a view of his prognosis that was more optimistic.  Yet I still wanted to publish it, because I like to honour my son's evolution, and mark where he learns and grows...

Finn, you still seem so little. But big things abound. Your hero’s journey enters its dark night; you rush on with footballs and pause to lay car-tracks. 

It’s Father’s day and your Grandpa is dying; for my Dad now there is a timeline and a prognosis. Six months, twelve months, maybe more but who knows? We all love him so, and your love for him is so big it spills out in tears and fear.  But off we go for hugs and snags and play. You have some words like cancer and chemo, but we don’t use them this day; time enough for that when hospital begins.  I talk to you about it, that there are weeds in the garden of my big Father’s body. That there is a treatment like weedkiller that will make him feel bad because it kills good things in his body-garden too. That it is not his fault, and it it is not contagious.

You sense my worry and feel your worry, despite our shelter that curves over you like a bull-nosed veranda.

Coming home from the visit we all just needed rest. It had been a big day with Na and Pa, and I felt tetchy and tired.  And then bad things happened around a good little girl, and just like that you fostered her and cared. All your tired green shoots of love and the gruff stuff of big brothering, wrapped around a little girl; and you gave her the gift of normalcy.

YELL> THUMP> BANG! Bad monsters. Ugly hard sounds of shatter from next door. Screams.
When the police came because neighbor J had called them I got them chairs to sit in our front yard. J could wait for her daughter to be dropped home there, and talk to the police about how her ex-partner had become violent on her and her little home next door.

Finn, you were so curious about the police being out in our yard with her.  You peered at them out of the front window. You were worried about the daughter, A, a sweetly smart little redhead of three years that you’d been friends with for her whole life.  When she came home, she came straight in with us for a play, as J was still making her statement. You were so kind with her. She was worried, intuitive, wanting her Mum but also wanting your assurances and company. 

But why were the police there?
Why? Because it was a safe space for J. Because she had just been physically attacked, because I heard it, for yet another time. Because she knew she could bang on our door for help, as she had done before.  Because we can welcome her lovely girl for a play with a boy who who adores her, and he can be her sheltering veranda, a little space that’s warm and safe.  

She’s a strawberry of a girl, she admires you and plays to your level and calls you 'Faann', and in turn you get to be a big brother. You and she played, and peeped at the police. I told you they were helping A’s mum find ‘stolen house keys’.  It helped A understand why she wasn’t in her usual home next door, which had been trashed by the ex. Finn, I think you knew that it was more than that, yet you played, you made fun, and you shared your eve and your telly and your parents and your pizza. 

Later on I told you the truth. That sometimes men think its OK to hit and kick and throw things, when its never OK, no matter how bad a tantrum is going on. 

So on one of our own hard days I was reminded of my privilege: a ‘throw me in the air’ Dad, a safe childhood and safe home. And of my NORMS that aren’t privilege, that should be the given: I’ve never been hit, kicked or choked by the one I call my love.

But back to you, my Finn. 
You can be mighty, you can be naughty, you can buzz like a bee, you can drive my heart wild with it, but today you fostered. You gave of your good life to a little girl who was your friend, and you did it with grace and empathy.  I saw your care and I fell even more deeply in proud-Mama-love with you.  

My sweet sun, you are as juicy with love as an orange-half. Let it flow, little one, it's your superpower.

* J and her daughter moved away a month later, to a big house with the Sister/Aunt.  We've lost touch but I like to think they are safe and thriving.  Finn misses A, which is OK.  One day some random chance will have them meet!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Dad died. Here is why I loved him and thought him my sun.

I love you Dad for so many reasons, but mostly because you took me seriously. I wasn’t a girlie girl, I was a tomboy, and you let me be that, and you enjoyed it too.  From the moment we moved to Vermont I was always down in your tool-shed alongside you. So you taught me- how to use tools, clean them, and put them away.

You showed me how to make a box. We had to measure up, with a ruler. I think that was the only time I saw you measure with anything other than your hands and a pencil! I had to saw the wood, make it all fit, glue it and nail it. You said if I could make a box I could make anything.  Then you gave me scrap wood to extend a tree house in the paddock next door. I made it awesome and spent many times there, bombing Dean and his mates with pinecones.

Because of you I know how to hang wallpaper and that it only sticks of you swear at it and stomp on it.  I read a famous five on my bed as you hung the wattle-flower wallpaper. I know you hung it the right way round, despite the ongoing tease from us all that it was upside down. You did good, Dad, and the swearing kept it firmly stuck for years.
You taught me how to change a car tire, clean battery points, top up my oil and water, and we even re-sprayed my first car together, a hideous shade of safety yellow so everyone could see me and my Volvo coming.  

One night outside KATEES nightclub Jenny Aitken and I changed a tire while drunken guys catcalled. I felt so proud. Thanks for that Dad.
When I was little and asked for a toolkit for Christmas, you didn’t laugh, or encourage me to get a doll. Somehow you found one- a miniature set in a wooden carry box. And they were real tools, with weight and purpose and red handles- a hammer, saw, screwdriver and more, all to fit my small hand. 

 I used some of the nails from it to hammer extra planks onto my cubby walls. The planks turned out to be walnut, and destined for the kitchen as shelves.  You were so angry when you realized what I’d done. But you also praised my straight nailing!
Other parts of being your tomboy girl were riding the old postie motorbike around the paddock, feeding apples to the horses next door, and climbing. I was about nine when I climbed to the top of the pine tree in our yard. Then I looked down and freaked!  And yelled out a VERY bad swear word little girls shouldn’t say.  You didn’t rescue me. You came partway up and talked me down.  I could feel proud, even as I got a bum-smack for the swearing.

Thanks Dad, for teaching me to shake hands properly.  You taught Dean and me that your handshake is your word, so when you give it you must see the thing through and do it right.  Because you hated   ‘gonna-do-ers’ I grew up believing in doing, in taking action on dreams to make them real.  It’s a good life lesson, thanks Dad.
Some other life lessons I got from you Dad: the world is not straight, so measure it by eye and hand. Cracks will always come back. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fix them each time they do. Be useful. Don’t wallow. When you feel blue go for a drive out into the country, or find something to fix. Climb the tree, don’t be scared. Someone will be there to talk you back down.

Dad, all these things you left me with help me feel sound, and useful, and like I’m meant to be here, and that’s such a lovely thing you gave to me.  You used to thrown me in the air until the sky touched my head, and you made me feel so loved.

 I need to give you something back and so it’s this.  You are in the warmth. There are droplets drying from your skin because you have just swum. The heat is rising, and the sun is straight above you. You have no work to do, nothing to fix.  You are drifting in an out of a dream, sitting in your chair, basking like a lizard in the sun. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Happy Birthday my Big Boy!

Dear Finn,

You are seven, you are my big boy, you are loved.  You just had your birthday and we’ve celebrated by road-tripping, first to Murchison then looping around beautiful coastlines.   In Murchison you played hard with Gilbert and Hermione, nestled in a bean bag with Spencer the red-haired cat, slept once again in your bubble-van bedroom, in the part that curves over you like a pale gold cave and has all the little windows.  You picked up eggs from Bipp’s hutch, you bounced on a net-less trampoline, you ate rye bread without noticing it was ‘brown’ and you picked up an acorn from the road and admired its tender green smell.  I love to watch you in flow in the country; you have it in you gut deep, just like me.  Murchison is our good family tradition, many years now doing the Easter egg hunt or the New Year’s Eve party, the winter bonfire and the long and lovely meals together with your ‘country cousins’.  You know you have big mob out in the world, your non-blood family who have laid their tracks beyond the Melbourne where they were first my friends.  Now they are your friends, lighthouses dotted around the state, beacons of love for you. 
                And now you have just covered more country, with me, on our first Mum and Son road trip.  The map showed you how far we drove. Way past Geelong, which you know so well from car-shows with your Dad, across a place called Winchelsea, and into Colac where we stopped at the RSL for crunchy salty chips and you kept swapping your raspberry for my coke!  Down we wiggled, through a place called Simpson, and then there we were at the house in Coorimungle.  Two days of ‘Aunty’ Tracy and her husband Luke, and five working dogs. Oh heaven. You befriended the littlest of their border collies, Uda, and tried to contain your excitement and learn some dog handling techniques from Luke who is an expert trainer and handler.  We ate junk, then apples, and broke rules then you’d re-find the ones that actually serve you, hopping off your device to go outside and run with the dogs.  You flopped on a couch with Uda alongside you, got filthy, had your first outdoor loo-poo and your first experience sleeping with me in a big double bed where we woke to the perfection of sunrise seen from a hilltop: orange bands deepening into violet-brown  beneath sea-coloured sky. 
                At Port Campbell you didn’t care when your toy boat didn’t start up; you ran into the waves and chased their frills over and over, soaking your sneakers which we had to pop into the dryer later on.  At the Twelve Apostles your clever Tracy explained plants to you, and different scat that we found, and how the fat penguins enjoyed their protected beach. Not every boy has the Park Ranger’s coordinator as their guide! In Timboon the tatey cakes were ‘so crunchy, Mum.’ And you crunched through two, your appetite made sharp by the cool apple-crispness of the air.  You walked barefoot through Timboon, your shoes a soggy heap in the car. I teased you that people would think I was a bad Mum. ‘We’re in the country Mum; it doesn’t matter.’
                You always amaze me, my gorgeous boy, but I have learned new things about you: your generosity of spirit, your spontaneity, your ease and confidence around new people, and how readily you can flow into new views and terrains.  Just when I’d worry you might get bored you’d find a beauty and exclaim in your piping voice, ‘Mum!’  (The silkiness of Uda’s coat, the orange and brown birds on the water tank, a sky with an ocean- tide of curling spumey clouds.)

 I tumble into yet a deeper level of loving you.  Finn, you are seven.  You are my son. You are loved.