Do not underestimate the selfishness of your family, despite tragedy.
Good… bad… I’m the guy with the ashes.
Do not underestimate the selfishness of your family, despite tragedy.
Good… bad… I’m the guy with the ashes.
Been exactly one month since mum passed away. Seems like so much longer.
Ash scared the crap outta me today, she brought me coffee in bed and woke me up. Guess that’s payback for all the times I kissed her goodbye in bed when we were in Melbourne 😛
Had a tasty low-key lunch with Ash’s family. Then I went to visit Amanda, that went well. Jill (Tess and Amanda’s Mother in Law, was married to Glen) was there. I think Jill’s ok. We had champagne. It was good to see Amanda letting loose. It’s been a cunty christmas for us all. 2016 seems determined to take out as many people as it can, but in reality, it’s probably just time and age. Mum went too soon though, age 69. I remember the anti-smoking ads on Australian TV, tried to tell you if you stop smoking, the effects reverse within a year. Mum had given up smoking for about 9 years, then this. They can shove that message where it fits. Mum lamented that she should have kept on smoking.
Getting through things as best I can.
Well, the last few months have been difficult, to say the least.
I had settled into my job, I had started my business, was just about to get it out there, and mum gets diagnosed with an aggressive, metastatic lung cancer. So, my partner and I quit our jobs to move back to QLD so I could care for her.
She wanted to stay home for as long as possible, and I had arrived at the right time. It was before dawn, on Monday the 3rd of October when I arrived at Roma Street train station, Brisbane Queensland. I’d left Melbourne, Victoria Saturday evening. It was a long trip, but I knew it was probably the last time I’d be making that trip. I’d done the long haul several times to visit mum in the four-ish years I’d been living in Melbourne, May 2016 being the last time I visited. I think she knew then, she was becoming short of breath, couldn’t get around as easily.
I caught an early train to Nambour, and two big bags of clothing in hand, arrived on Mum’s doorstep. I was shocked to see the condition she was in, so frail. She had 24/7 oxygen by means of nasal cannula. The small machine she was hooked up to made constant Darth Vadar like sounds, took a few weeks to get used to. At that point she could still shuffle about by herself.
And so my caring duties began. She had already had one chemo session, that went alright. The second one was rough. Really rough. And the medication she was on to combat the chemo side effects were just as bad. She couldn’t lie down flat, that would send her into a panic because she felt she couldn’t breath properly. She already suffered from quite a bit of anxiety. The first CT scan she had she fought the hospital staff, but they got it done. The second scan she went in for, I was with her for that. She did much better.
The results of that scan showed that the cancer had spread to her back. She already had it in her right lung, there was a tumour pressing on her trachea. It had already spread to her liver, rib and adrenal gland. The doctor was surprised that she had no pain, but prescribed her liquid morphine anyway. She took it for awhile, but stopped because it made her fuzzy in the head, and constipated her really badly.
Mum was resistant to things that were supposed to help, I think partly due to her nature and partly due to the illness. She’d only take less effective laxatives, mainly because they were easier to take than the movicol she was advised to take. She wouldn’t use the shower commode on wheels, though she would use the toilet chair and bucket my friend gave us. She wouldn’t have showers in the shower chair, nor baths on the bath board, she would allow Bluecare to come and give her ‘bird baths’ sitting on the shower chair in the bathroom. She refused the in home hospital bed, wanted to stick with her decades old, really sinky bed. She wouldn’t take the nutrient loaded liquid meals the nutritionist gave her, she eventually would only eat a teaspoon of lactose free strawberry yoghurt. She just couldn’t eat or drink anything. I had to maintain a balance of what mum wanted, and what she needed.
She declined steadily. Everyday seemed like there was one less thing she was able to do herself. She went from being able to shuffle about, to shuffling about with great trouble, to needing the wheelchair, being able to shuffle about in the chair herself, to needing to be wheeled around. She would eat and drink less and less.
After the second round of chemo, she had an appointment with the Oncologist to see how she was going. He would have liked to have put her on a more aggressive chemo regime, but all treatment had to be stopped. It was doing nothing but causing side effects. It was far too late. So all we could do was make her as comfortable as possible, until the end.
While all of this was going on, my two half sisters were losing their father. He passed away weeks before mum did. They lost both of their parents, within weeks of each other, weeks before Christmas. Mum had left my father when I was 2, so I had lost him a long time ago.
The last time I put mum to bed, I knew it was for the last time. I knew it. The next morning I was surprised that she had made it through the night. My half sister from Melbourne had come down and was visiting that day. The other one was also helping out, it was really hot, the usual QLD weather. So it happened that the three of us were there, together.
Tess and I were trying to make mum comfortable in her bed, but it was hard because it was so soft, and she refused to sit in her chair in the lounge. Tess had been a nurse years back, the same as mum. So I was glad to have her help. Amanda had gone out to get an air cooler, as she refused to use the air conditioner my friend had given us. Amanda had only just gotten home, mum became unconcious. I instructed Amanda to call an ambulance, while Tess and I tried to keep mum’s airways open, holding her head in the right position. She was still breathing. The ambos arrived, and asked to see mum’s End of Life Directive. (Mum had that drawn up earlier. It tells the hospital/medical staff what she wants done in the event that she is in a vegetative state, unlikely to recover) Mum had it set up that she was to receive no treatment to extend life, except for painkillers. The ambos were convinced that their treatment was going against her wishes, though continued treatment. She came to with their oxygen mask, and was responsive. The decision was made to take her to hospital, I went with her.
There was some confusion about the Health Directive (It IS a large wad of paper) We worked it out later that the ambos had skipped to the vegetative state part, and skipped over the part that she was to receive all treatment otherwise. As her Enduring Power of Attorney, I was happy with how things went, and explained that to the other two. I don’t think we did anything contrary to mum’s wishes. There was just no way she could stay in that hot-box, not doing anything would not have ensured her comfort.
She was admitted to emergency. Everyone else eventually caught up with us, along with my partner. We waited while palliative care arrangements were made. We’d been in contact with Dove Cottage throughout this, mum thought she might eventually need to go into care, and that was the place to go. Though she had changed her mind, and wanted to stay at home, that just was not possible. So we had to see if/when a spot for her would be available. Until then, she could stay in hospital.
While she was concious in emergency, she seemed to agree with what was happening, though she could only nod slightly and murmur. They gave her some morphine, and she went to sleep. Eventually they took her to a ward, in a private room.
There wasn’t anything more we could do, so we spent some time with her and then made our ways home.
I went home and got drunk. Seemed the thing to do.
Next morning on the 25th of November, I think it was about 5am, I got a call from the hospital saying that mum had passed away within the last half an hour.
My partner and I got up and ready, then went to see her. The other two were already there. It was over. She passed away peacefully, she never woke up. We spent about 5 hours with her, seemed like a long time. We each had a moment alone with her to say goodbye. I thanked her for everything.
Being the executor of her will, I’m handling those things now. Mum was cremated on the 29th of November, I’m taking care of her until the family can come together again and scatter her ashes. She wanted to be scattered over the water, and so I thought we could do that at our favourite fishing spot, at dusk. She passed away while the sun was coming up, so I thought it would be nice to say our final goodbye when it’s going down.
It’s incredibly surreal to hold the ashes of the person who gave birth to you.
I’m working on getting back into Southern Star Woodworks, I’ll be able to reopen for business in just a couple of weeks. I’ve got lots of plans. If I keep busy, maybe things will be easier.
I never thought I’d own a business, but here I am… owning a business.
Yes, it makes me sound like I am busy.
I’ve always liked creating things, and I never thought I’d be truely happy working for someone else, so it was high time that I mixed it up a bit. My current job is a good place to start, everyone else is in a band and has their own thing, they get to go off on tours and such, I get to do my woodwork. It doesn’t have that sense that the staff have to sacrifice themselves for the good of the establishment, which is so often present in hospitality.
I’ll keep working on it, not long to go until I’ll be able to start getting the word out.
Just returned from a holiday to the sunny state of Queensland. I went to visit mum! We usually try to visit our parents around christmas time, but I didn’t go last year, and couldn’t go early this year because of job juggling. But, I got there eventually.
It’s good to see that mum is doing well. She’s 69 and living by herself, all she wants is to potter around, and do her own thing with the fish and the birds and whatever else turns up. And she does.
Big difference in the way that people behave between Queensland and Victoria. In VIC, people are always in a hurry, they don’t talk to each other, they’ll be face-down in a screen and all over the shop when walking on the footpath. I’ve literally seen a guy almost knock a small woman over, didn’t even look up from his device, just kept on going. VIC really rustles my anxiety disorder jimmies.
But in QLD, it’s like time slows down. Everyone is in shorts and t-shirts, even in winter. People will say hello when you’re walking down the street. I was walking back from a friends house, this line of youths on skateboards came cruising down the footpath, so I got the fuck out of their way. One of them said “Thank you!” to me as he passed by! Just amazing.
I went by train and not plane. Which means it’s a very long trip. Started around 7pm Sun here, got to Sydney around 6am Mon. Waited 7 hours at Sydney Central Station, from about 1:30pm to 5:00am arriving at Brisbane Roma ST. Then another 2 hours on train to get to mum’s place. These are the lengths I will go to, to avoid flying, I dislike it so much.
The pleasant thing is that the train folk are mostly older people, who are nice. I got the overnight sleeping berths this time (Do NOT do this trip without the sleeping births) From Syd to Bris I had it all to myself! And on the return trip I was bunked with this fellow who grows his own coffee beans, makes his own jam etc. Older farmer type, this fellow. Used to work on the rails in Sydney in the 80’s, he was flabbergasted at all the changes that had been made since.
We’re trying to move back to QLD. We had to move to VIC because my SO was made redundant (Thank you, Campbell Newman.) and so she found a job in VIC related to her degree and off we went.
So perhaps a Ritual of Compassion would be in order, among other things! :p
While I was over there, mum and I went to the Salvo’s (The Salvation Army. Their motto is “Blood and Fire”. What does that remind you of?) to have a look around. We love op shopping! (Thrift stores for the Americans) The op shop saturation where mum lives is fantastic. I managed to pick up a small cast iron pot for $4! A BARGAIN AT IT’S CRAZIEST! Think of how much that would have cost new, and also to ship. It will replace the cauldron (Which is far too witchy for me, but you use what you can at the time)
I’ll make a wooden coaster for it to sit on, so my silver snakeskin-esque altar cloth doesn’t get scorched.
It’s great to be home though. It’s true, there’s no place like home. I missed my SO, my cat, my tools and wood.
Something happened to me late last year that give me the kick up the arse that I needed.
My cat (Nacho most Favoured) had been stalking a mouse for ages.
I’d come home from work to see that he’d cornered it under the vacuum cleaner. I
secured the cat in another room, caught the poor groggy rodent and placed it lovingly in an old fish tank with bedding, food and water. The next morning, I was delighted to see that it had survived the night. I nursed it back to health over the next few days.
I would have liked to have kept it, but my SO thought otherwise. Her reasoning was that if it was small and furry and she couldn’t pick it up and pat it, we couldn’t have it as a pet. And besides, a wild mouse probably wouldn’t like being couped up anyway.
So, it was decided that we’d release it somewhere away from the house, hopefully it’d find its way into someone elses house and remain unnoticed and comfortable.
There is a quiet park in the area, so we walked there and tried to find the best spot to release it. Behind a large tree, up against a fence from a large old house.
It hesitated once it was out, and scampered away. Though it didn’t scamper quite fast enough, because a magpie swooped down and snapped it right up.
I’d never heard a mouse scream before, but they do.
I was absolutely devastated. I’d nursed this goddamn mouse back to health and this is how it ended. I came up with a list of ‘should have dones’ but it was too far late.
When I’m upset, I usually try to reason my way through it. This has happened, because of this reason, and this is what I’m going to do. So I grabbed a beer and a camping chair, ensconced myself in the garden out the back and had a good long think.
Nature is beautiful, but also extremely cruel. This incident is pretty idicative of how certain things have been running in my life for awhile now. It really brought me back to the cold, hard truth.
I do my utmost to do a good job, and in the end, I still get fucked for it. Why?
Because I’ve allowed it to happen.
So, it was time for me to be cruel. The time for cooperation was over!
I performed a Ritual of Compassion just after new year, specifically for new job opportunities for the both of us. I have my new job now, and I put my notice into the old one. (Neither legally required nor deserved mind you, I did it so no one could say I just up and left, which is what most people do in hospitality here.) My SO has an interview for hers soon. It is astounding just how things have fallen into place so far. Don’t underestimate the power of Greater Magic.
So many lessons learned. A good way to start the new year.
Recently, I’ve caught Nacho skulking about the pantry again.
There is another…