When I tell people my mum has dementia they invariably say,
“Does she still know who you are?”
She does when I hug her and hold her close and tell her I love her. Her brain may not remember my name but her body can feel that she loves me. I know it.
The gift of dementia is that I have had four years to say goodbye to my beautiful mama. Four years to create new memories and remember some of her old ones. To hear the same stories again and again so the family history is firmly locked in my brain until it is my turn to fade away.
Four years to hold her hands and tell her that she is still a devoted mother. Four years of visits to calm the madness rush of single mother life in my head while I put her hand in mine. Four years of quiet afternoons to sit with her in silence while I rub hand cream into her old dry hands. Four years of cups of tea and bickies. Four years of running away from the nursing home in tears with a broken heart while remembering all the small ways she loved me. Four years to be reminded how she cared for our dogs, yelled at me over homework, washed our clothes, fed us endless dinners and sang in the kitchen.
Mumma loved her career before kids but she loved us more. Her four kids and seven grandchildren were her life’s work. Having our family was the greatest joy of her life.
Four years of stories shared with whoever else came to visit. Four years being able to take in her I am your mother and I’m not going anywhere fierceness, and four years to realise that I don’t care any more about our differences, fights over my clothing and hairdos and politics, I feel grateful that she cared enough to argue with me.
Four years to look at old photos and realise what she built for us. Four years to be reminded that she introduced me to Stevie Wonder and Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and taught me how to sing.
My mum interviewed Squizzy Taylor and met Frank Sinatra and talked to colourful Sydney racing identities and was invited to all the best parties when she wrote the social pages. And still my dad, my brothers and sister and I and our kids were the best part of her life. Not all kids get to have a mumma like mine.
Some families have their loved ones snatched away in an instant, but I’ve had time to be with her and hug her tight and tell her how much she means to me.
In the past year she has wet her pants and worn her clothes backwards and spilt dinners and tea all over herself. She has let her hair go and not worried about matching her top with her skirt. All the petty little problems of life have slipped away and all that remains is that my mum’s face lights up when my kids and I walk in the room. That is love.
I know my dad is coming to get her soon, they will get to be together again and I have to remember that on the days that I’m missing her so much that I can’t breathe.
My mum was from a family of godbotherers, devout Anglicans who often quoted the bible. This is the only verse I remember from years of reluctant Sunday school attendance (Corinthians)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
My dad would have been 92 this week, but his body didn’t want to stay around that long. He was a devoted da and a workaholic. He taught me:
*To do what I love for a living (he wrote/edited over 100 books)
*Travel opens your mind
*A sense of humour will help you in the darkest days of your life
*A good swim in the ocean can clear your mind
*Hard work is good for the soul
*A tough childhood doesn’t define the rest of your life
*Even if you haven’t had your own dad, you can achieve a lot
*Dancing a slow tango in the kitchen is magical
*Kids raised by single mums are tough
*A full fridge means you are doing really well
*Stray dogs are worth rescuing
*Some days we must get up and go to work even when we think we can’t
*Singing love songs is great for families
*Lovingly made freshly squeezed orange juice is better than an expensive restaurant breakfast
*Taking your kids back to your old childhood haunts opens their eyes
*Listening to the stories people tell you will help you learn about the world
*Love is a verb
*Singing to your kids at bedtime may soothe them or freak them out
*Saying yes to new opportunities is scary but worth it
*Never let the truth get in the way of a good story
16 years without him have gone by in a flash. I would sacrifice a few of my toes to see one of his cheeky smiles, hear his laugh and have a hug.
My dad was the Prince of Kings Cross
Thia week Australia celebrated a victorious YES vote for marriage equality. After all the hate that was unleashed on the LGBTQIA community, it was beautiful to see my queer friends celebrating with their allies.
The religious hypocrites in the Anglican church spent $1million on an advertising campaign for the NO vote. ONE MILLION DOLLARS as homeless elderly people live under bridges and in cars.
I’m happy that most Australians stood up and fought for our friends so that we are all equal under the law. My gay friends have been bashed, spat at, ridiculed and put down by family and so-called friends and strangers. I’m writing this for all the times they’ve heard, “I don’t mind gays, but,” for all the times they’ve heard someone use the statement, “That’s so gay,” in a derogatory way. It breaks my heart to think of the pain they’ve experienced during this hateful campaign that could have been avoided if PM Turnbull had any courage.
All the gay parents I know have had to choose their path carefully, to consider what parenting really meant. I know happy, healthy kids who have two mums and two dads, and they’re thriving. My kids have one parent available to them 24/7 and they’ve had trying times. Heterosexual parenting is more likely to expose kids to harm.
These are the politicians who didn’t have the courage to vote yes or no. Remember their names at the next Federal election:
As Ellen de Generes said, “Here are the values I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
Back in my day….
No one was allowed on a bus with a pram unless it was folded when I had babies. There were no special pram parking spots on buses or trains. But back then women didn’t think that spending two grand on a pram was a good idea because people actually believed they could one day own a home within four hours of Sydney, so they put the money towards their mortgage instead. Now everyone under the age of 50 in NSW is stuffing their faces with expensive avocadoes and craft cheeses because the idea of actually buying a car or a house in Broken Hill and commuting on overcrowded public transport and congested motorways is too much.
Rage is all the rage in our part of the world. Segue rage, bike rage, parking rage, WestConnex is raping my suburb rage, Saturday night there’s nowhere to go out and my rent is so high I can’t afford a social life anyway rage is all part of living in Sydney.
And the Bernard Salt groupies who voted for the anti-science numbskull pollies currently in power continue to negatively gear, tut tut and invoice government departments for their opinion. Sigh. Anyone else looking forward to the Sydney property crash?
Dear 11-year-old child,
I know you’re really busy saving the world by watching people playing Minecraft on Youtube all day, but I’d like to ask a favour. Could you please catch and keep the following Pokemon people/creature/alien/thingies/whateverthehelltheyare?
Cleandyourbedroom a saurus
Oddishwasher won’t empty itself
Clefairy liquid over the sink and wash the dishes
Remove the Vileplume from your sister’s walk on floor-drobe
Meowth and change the kitty litter while you’re at it
Machop up some veggies for dinner
Rapidash to the bathroom to hang up your sisters’ wet towels
Slowpoke the dunny brush around the toilet
Weedle your way out of whinging about housework no more
Thank you great light of my life
This week marks 14 years since I lost my dad (down the back of the couch, it was a big lounge suite). My dad was hard-working, larger-than-life, full of energy and a bit of a nut with a great sense of humour. I miss him every day.
I’m now at the age where too regularly my friends are losing their dads. Great dads who worked hard and weren’t around that much when we were young because they had to feed us and pay the bills and blokes of that generation were taught to get on with it and not complain. Lovely men who then became gorgeous grandpas who made up for the time they’d missed with their kids by sharing their attention and dad jokes with our kids. Now they’re old and frail and leaving us. As a single mum I could really do with my dad around some days, but life goes on with him in our hearts.
Farewell grand dads and grandpas. We miss you so.
Gen X are overwhelmed, no wonder the divorce rate is so high
Another day, another break up of a ‘star’ marriage, be it Johnny Whatsit or a ‘celebrity’ personal trainer; these are the ‘men’ who walk away from their children and run to someone else who may be younger, or prettier and aren’t burdened with looking after his children. Meanwhile who takes the kids to school, helps with their homework, washes their sports uniforms? While the little boys are taking selfies with their girlfriends on red carpets and jetting off on fun holidays, the women who are left behind are the ones dedicating themselves to child rearing. What does it do to a teenage girl to see Daddy running off with someone young enough to be her elder sister? Yawn.
Are these the role models we want for our boys? Males who’ve been in relationships that lasted less time than a bottle of Morning Fresh detergent (that stuff lasts ages). Guys who can’t hang around when the going gets tough in a marriage? Ask anyone who has been married for a long time and they’ll tell you that the going gets tough at some point in a long term relationship. Good blokes can you have a word with your mates? Please tell them that kids need their dads. I don’t want to male bash, I know some fabulous fathers, but I’m not meeting a lot of deadbeat mummies. 32% of babies in the United States are born to single mothers, and in 2006 mothers headed 87% of one-parent families with children under 15 years in Australia.
Parenting isn’t glamorous, it isn’t fun a lot of the time, it’s about making tough decisions and showing kids there are boundaries to their behaviour. To do that you have to be in the same space as children. Being there for a kid means physically showing up, cleaning up their vomit in the middle of the night, sitting through school concerts even when you’re bored, showing kids that as a parent you want to be in their lives for all the important moments. Any monkey can take their children to a cafe. Fathers who think that going to a trendy hairdresser is more important than being with their kids are not attractive. Yes, the rules of the game are being redefined but parenting isn’t something you can opt in and out of and decide to sit out on the bench for a few years, you’re either there or you’re not. Kids are tough bosses, they notice when you don’t show up for parenting duty. I meet many teenagers with mental health issues, and troubled adolescents are being admitted to hospitals in greater numbers than ever before; I truly believe that family breakdown plays a part. A lot of these kids crave time with absent parents. As a survivor of domestic violence I’m not advocating staying in an abusive relationship forever, but I really don’t think modern men are trying hard enough to keep it together for the kids or themselves.
Divorce is painful for kids. So if your relationship is faltering from the burdens of modern life, not enough time or money or extended family to give you a break from the relentless pressure of work, child rearing, nursing ageing parents and paying the bills, get thee to a good counsellor.
All the research apparently says that kids from broken families do fine eventually. But there are a lot of tears, heartache and wasted energy between now and the mysterious destination called eventually.