grief

She came to me last night and asked me to take her shopping. I drove her home and she put on her shiny cream heels, her glamorous fawn coat, her dark red lipstick. She was so young and strong, beautiful and content. I took her to the David Jones, and she lingered over some hand-carved ornaments. She noticed their beauty and she ran a finger over the part where polished wood met an interesting natural edge. She wandered around the coats and jackets, feeling the weights of the fabrics, the luxurious piles, so soft! And then I was all alone, holding her bags and her things.

She is gone.

It’s not like I think of her every moment of the day. And some days I don’t at all. But sometimes I wake up and have another cry. And then I get on with it again.

Jo Spark

You took me under your wing a bit at boarding school. Took me out to stay with your Mum at Gatton on weekends and we played tennis at the university, reassembled Nolan’s Trial jigsaw puzzle and tried for hours and hours to ride your Mum’s Penny Farthings. Laughs! And remember your stepdad teaching us to change a tyre by putting your car up on blocks and taking the wheels off? The first, second, third, fourth (and last) tyre I ever ‘changed!’ Ah.

At uni you introduced me to Akiko. So that the two of us odd balls could keep ourselves occupied while you studied. It was a perfect match. You were a very good and kind girl, Jo. A sensible girl. But I do have a vague memory involving Teacher’s Whiskey… and another time you came with me on a Straddie camping trip. And befriended a couple of 15 year old boys – nice boys who sat on the cliffs with us one evening and apologised for their dad’s pervy nocs and asked you whether girls liked boys who didn’t drink. You said something kind and wise for sure.

Then you went to London and I moved up and down the East Coast. After a few years, you came back and visited me at Newcastle and I was embarrassed about my life of babies and welfare so it was awkward. But I remember first that you were calm and kind as always, and second that you were having the age old difficulty transitioning from a London to a Brisbane life.

When I heard you were so very ill I was so scared, I was paralysed. Cathie gave me your number. Dave made me call even though I didn’t know what to say. But you were perfect Jo. You were calm and kind, sitting with your feet in the bath, splashing your baby girl, breathless but with such love in your voice for your kids, your partner, your brother, your stepmother, your friends, your past, and hopeful for the future. I didn’t have to say anything but tell you I love you and wish you well. Jo, I hope you had at least one friend to share the crap with too. No, I know that you did.

After that conversation I prayed hard to all the gods I don’t believe in that I could give you a year of my life. A good strong vibrant healthy year. Not because I am a good person but because you deserved at least that. And though I hadn’t seen you for years, I could – and still do – trace the impact of your kindnesses, your infinite patience on my life in all directions.

A Christmas and a half later I got another call from Cathie – operation, complication, didn’t wake up, funeral. And such deep deep sorrow.

Jo, in your presence my words stopped jamming up then running together and tripping over themselves and coming out stupid, though when they did you still listened so carefully. In your presence, I was first able to slow down and just breathe.

Thank you Jo.

the ritual insult at my house 6:30pm while waiting for dinner

For one of my day jobs I have been doing a little research on the ritual insult – and now I am hearing them everywhere. An example from tonight’s dinner table…

daughter 1: So at school last week we talked about the appendix and I put up my hand and said I don’t have one and then at school this week we talked about wisdom teeth and I put up my hand and said I don’t have any.

daughter 2: So I guess at school next week you’ll be talking about brains.

Its a ritual insult because you can only trade them if you are in the ‘in group.’ If someone else said this to d1, d2 would laugh – and then kick them in the shin.

Sometimes its a bit scary as a parent hearing this stuff. I go straight to thinking about depression and young people committing suicide and bullying and other dark stuff and then I wake up to them shouting in unison at each other shut up you’re ugly and I hate you! and laughing themselves silly. So I generally get up from the table, remove the silverware (just in case that eye does get lost*) and leave them to it.

*It really is all fun and games until someone loses an eye

when I accepted it really is just over for her and there is nothing I can do about it and that I was going to be ok and probably was ok already

When my partner and I got back together after years happily apart most of my family had the shits and one of my sisters just dumped me. I kidded myself for a bit that she would get over it and then got mad and sad when she didn’t. And mad at myself for caring about it anyway. And sad with my family because they wanted us to get over it but I didn’t know how. And sometimes scared because I was going to see her at some family thing and when I did see her I always felt like I was going to be sick. This went on for years, about five years actually. And one day after practicing nonviolent communication for quite a while I actually thought to use it and I asked myself – what is it that I want from her anyway? And the answer was so clear and beautiful – love and acceptance and a little fun. And in that very same moment I knew I had all these things already – with my partner and my daughters, with my workmates and with my friends and I just felt all warm and loved up just walking to work in the morning sunshine on a daggy concrete path, with a straggly jasmine vine climbing over a crumbly wall alongside