Cutting And Growing.

[my photo: Remnants of Summer grapes lingered into Winter.]

Pruning the grapevines, through sunset, into dark. Finishing because there’s no more light to distinguish the dark grey vine bark from the shadows.

It all connects me back to my dad. The way he made use of that time of the day.

Pruning for fruit growth next year. Pruning for shape, for future direction.

Working on something right now, that you will only see the desired results for in six months’ time, or longer.

Yes there is a result right now. Clearing off the wood that has gone to sleep. Neatening the plant back to it’s strongest branches.

But it’s really all about that planning ahead. Where do you want it to be, next year, the year after that? Shaping with a future direction in mind. Not a specific goal so much as, assisting it into a better framework of future.

And isn’t that what we want with our own life? Making little adjustments now, a trim here, leave that little growth there to strengthen and bloom. I like to think that is what I only ever try to do with myself.

Yet in total honesty, mistakes are made. We cut off too much over here, we let that dead wood linger over there, we become “straggly” and misshapen. And then it takes some hard decisions, some drastic changes, to put ourselves back on the track that we really want.

Hey, that’s okay.

We all need to learn how best to care for ourselves.

And at some point, many of us will be very happy with what we see has, and continues to, grow.

But it is not “All or Nothing”. There is space to be happy with the growth over here, while still working out how best to deal with that branch over there.

Seasons come and go.

They always have and will continue to do so, for everyone. What remains important is this living thing that you look after.

Your core, what and who you choose to be.

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Need some pruning advice, or have a thought to contribute? Leave a few words below.

Reminders and Grief.

It is now two years since my Dad died. The grief has been hitting hard. Just thinking about Christmas, thinking about the family time to come, his birthday, triggers. The annual family gathering for his brothers and sister and their families, once again a beautiful time all together, but the biggest reminder that he is gone.

And yesterday, my highschool friend and work colleague, lost his long term Tai Kwon Do training partner to cancer. Wasted away in a hospital bed as his internal organs shut down. Reminiscent of my own Dad’s failing body. My friend talks about death and repeats the words of his own religious father.

“Bury your dead. And take care of the living.”

A reminder, to focus on the life around you. These are the people that deserve your time, your love. Share your energy with them while you are able to. 

For me, this is a positive focus reminder. Yet I also know that this won’t lessen the feelings I have. Love for my Dad. Despite the life we had. Despite all that happened. Despite the hard, unreasonable person he was at times. He still loved me. His partner tells me he was always so thankful that I had visited. 

Even though he wasn’t particularly good at expressing it. He made an effort. A few words. Remembering birthdays. Always welcoming, supportive, interested.

The love of a father. The love that I missed whilst a child. The love I still look for. Crave. Does any of this help me today? Help me with my own wants/needs? Help me with my grief? 

Only in expressing all this, will there be some benefit. Sharing my story, my words, is the only way I know to let this out. May that be enough.

Learning and Remembering.

I feel good today, proud of myself. And my Dad would have been proud of me as well. So today I was wearing the 35 year old t-shirt that I silk-screen-printed for him during a primary school camp. At the time I also made a much smaller blue one for myself. That wore thin years ago and was recently sewn into a patchwork quilt by my Mum. This t-shirt in the photo was given back to me by Dad a few years ago, in a very simple but touching gesture. He no longer fitted into it and was wondering if I would like it “back”. 

When I wear this shirt, I think of better times. Of childhood fun camps, of a good Dad before he was knocked off his motorbike by a drunk driver, suffering brain & body damage in the process that eventually led to the break up of our family.

Today I finally received the opportunity to take my firearms licence training course. Firearm safety is taken very seriously in Australia. So there is a day of training in all aspects of shooting. How guns work, Personal safety, Ethical hunting, Legal requirements, General shooting knowledge. There are two theory tests during the day and then two practical tests. I might say I passed with flying colours.

I listened intently and soaked up all the new information, and asked question about unclear areas, just like I used to in school. So I scored 25/25 on both theory tests, very happy about that. Then later in the day we had the practical tests.

First was firing a .22 rimfire rifle at a target 50m away. The goal was to have a cluster of 10 shots within a circle the same diameter as the black centre. Due to these guns being used constantly for training, the sights may not be accurate and may be misaligned high, low, left, right, or a combination of those. So all that is expected is a close grouping anywhere on the target. Other than one of my first two shots out to the right, I grouped the other nine within a half diameter of the circle. I call that very good consistency. Keep in mind that the last time I fired a rifle I was about 10 during one of our family camping trips into the outback. 

Second range test was firing a shotgun at 20m. Something I have never done before! First I had to pick up the shotgun, close the breach and take a firing stance. Perhaps I was practically applying all that I read and heard today, and perhaps distant memories of my father instructing my older brothers came back to me, but I took a perfect stance, leaning towards my front leg and keeping my outer elbow up for stability. 

Then a single cartridge is loaded, to get the hang of firing. I aimed the barrel at the first of five metal “rabbits”, and fired. The recoil ammount surprised me, but my aim was true and down went the first target. Not bad for a beginner! 

Next the two side-by side chambers are both loaded for the second and third shots. I decide to just keep working along the line of targets from left to right. Second and third targets go down cleanly. The instructor mentions that the centre target is a little stiffer than the others and needs to be hit dead-centre to knock it over. I saw plenty of other people miss or only edge some of the targets. 

Once more the gun is loaded with two more cartridges and I prepare to fire in my own time. Number four and number five targets go down. A perfect score! The passing requirement was to knock over three of the five targets.

So now I know what the recoil kick of a shotgun feels like. I’m sure that my shoulder won’t be bruised tomorrow, all the body support of the gun was correct.

Getting home after six hours of training, I felt very tired. All that concentration and focus I put into the day certainly paid off.

Know that an Australian license holder goes through very thorough training. There are strong deterrents in fines of up to $75,000 and 5 years in jail for any firearm offences or hunting offences. And if accused the onus is on you to prove your innocence. Conviction of any firearm or hunting offences will also likely result in permanent revoking of your shooting license and confiscation of all your firearms. Because human life is so valuable, the legal deterrents are very strong.

No doubt some of you have different opinions of shooting or different experiences with firearms depending on which country you are in. I am against animal cruelty. Most of the hunting in Australia is of feral animals. Rabbits, foxes, wild cats, goats, and pigs have all been introduced during white settlement and pose serious threat to all of our native wildlife and plants. My intention is to have my license purely to inherit a few firearms from my Dad’s collection. With as much of their history and sentimental value to my father as I can understand.

I wish he was still around. I know he would have been proud of me. He would have humbly congratulated me and given some gentle reminders about safety and skill. I won’t go around bragging, this will stay here on a somewhat-private wordpress post. That is how my Dad would have wanted it and I understand why.

I wish we could have gone shooting together, now that I understand how significant that activity was to him. All I have now are the memories. But going through this process has given me a better appreciation of him, and that is more valuable than anything else right now.

Silver Linings – Day 16.

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“Quiz Night”

After yesterday, managing 2/3 of a day in the office was an achievement. But the real silver lining was going out to the pub tonight to meet some friends at a regular quiz night. Good people to laugh with, collaborate with, brainstorm with, good friends.

When I went to the bar for a drink, I saw a bottle of Cooper’s Stout in the fridge. And my first thought was that it was always my Dad’s favourite drink, especially when mixed 50/50 with lemonade and called a Portagaff.

So I thought, in honour of my Dad tonight, being at a pub with friends, I will have one. Not sure if I have tried this drink for at least 15 years and don’t recall particularly enjoying it previously. But tonight it was good. The sugar in the lemonade is probably going to bite me tomorrow or on the weekend. But tonight I enjoyed it, I remembered him, and all was good in the world.

Grateful for friends to have fun and a laugh with. Grateful for energetic days. Grateful for local drinks and memories to hold onto.

What is a drink of significance or memories to you?

Regarding Grief.

I think I would cope better
If I felt more
If grief was sobbing tears,
stabs of pain,
or wrenching emotional pangs

Physical symptoms
Allow me to “be present”
acknowledge and experience them
While this mental induced
exhaustion and lethargy
is more of a hurdle
that gets higher
every time I approach it

Is the race over yet?
I’m ready to get back into life
Or am I still racing away
from something?

Marathon
hurdles
hundred metre sprint
and long jump
All rolled into one
one long event
No-one to pass the baton onto

The crowd cheered at the start
And will be there at the end
But along this bumpy section
this long and lonely road
Out in the rain
and the blistering heat
Only the keenest followers
lend their brief moments of support

The ends come
Grieving for what has passed
for a present without
and for a future
that will always be changed
This valid loss of mine
Permanent loss
means my life has forever altered
and I may need some time
getting to know myself
as a different person now

Now
Present
The gift of life
includes this grief
There will be something that I learn
perhaps my own strength
And whether I choose to talk
or write about it
Or find other ways or creativities
to express and process
this distress
Nothing will depress
the cause of my duress
It started with
and will always be remembered as
Love

.

[ Thoughts after a rough week of exhaustion and reading this link sent by my friend Charlie ]

My Dad.

What I saw, what I experienced, what I remember. There were other darker times, but to me they were caused by his motorbike accident induced physical battering and brain damage. Here is the true man that I recall.

Physically active, healthy and strong.
Strong energy of person, bold.
Comfortable to sit with himself.
Caring, patient, considerate.
Dedicated.
Humble.
Loving.

As I remember him being laid to rest with his parents one year ago, in this way I honour his memory and acknowledge his life within my own.

(1 January 2015)

Hi Dad (365 days).

Hi Dad,

It’s been a year now. 365 days since I last saw you. There was a phone call, I slept through the first ring, but a minute later I registered something was up for my phone to be ringing in the middle of the night. I saw who it was calling, I answered, and I knew it was bad. Pulled on some clothes and shoes, jumped in my car and drove around. I was only 4 minutes away, so no time to think other than “get there, see what you can do” and “be ready for anything”. I pulled into the driveway. An ambulance out front, the front door open. And there you were, laying on the floor in the passageway of the house I grew up in.

(I’m still growing up – still learning, still growing – I think you’d appreciate that. I never had the courage to tell you something like that before, but I do now.)

Laying there surround by medical staff, trying to revive you. What was it, about 1 or 2 AM? So I stayed clear while they did their job. Sat in the kitchen while M cried. Looked after her as best I could. One of the medical staff spoke to us in the kitchen, said they were doing all they could. Soon afterwards, came the expected news. Forty minutes working on you and no response at all. It was time for them to stop and call the police because that was protocol.

The officers who attended were very good. Explaining the process, what they had to do and why. We needed a funeral home to come and take you away for now, but who? You were so organised in many ways, but this came along a bit quick for you to be ready. If you’d had a funeral home chosen already, it would have been much easier for us there, that night. Suddenly, seemingly important decisions needed to be made on the spot. Well we did the best we could, as ill-prepared as we were, M and me.

The funeral home staff took a while to arrive, but really that’s understandable. A couple of people would have received their own phone calls in the middle of the night, have to get up, scrub up, and dress up, and arrive to deal with you.

While waiting, we dressed you. Changed you out of your pyjamas and put some comfortable clothes on you. It was relatively easy. I was surprised at how light you were, so easy to move around. And so at peace. The memory of your face then is already fading, but I will always remember how it felt. Taking care of you one last time, while you rested, comfortable at last.

They staff that arrived were great. Communication, understanding, sincerity, care, consideration. They showed you every respect and showed us every care. We wrapped you in white, so that we could lift you onto the gurney. And then you left.

I saw you again, later, but it wasn’t the same. You weren’t there any more. The life and spirit had all passed. You were made up so well, so natural, so neat in your suit, you looked good, but you weren’t there any more. I could tell, and I felt a little sad for it.

I visited your final resting place just over a week ago. There with your mum, and your dad alongside. That was what you wanted, I’m glad you had made that known. I didn’t know what to expect, I hadn’t seen the new memorial stone for you yet. I thought I might get a little teary. Thought I might want to talk out loud to you. Get angry or something. But there was nothing obvious wanting to come out. It’s just life. This happened and I was there to help you in the end. I just deal with it. Just do what needs to be done and keep going. I don’t really know any other way. Is there any other way? Maybe not when I’m me.

Oh the grief has been sneaky. It’s been bad. It has just disabled me at times this year. It has left me conscious but unable to think, unable to process a thought or make even the smallest decision sometimes. Grief has trapped me in bed, unable to get up all day. Unable to function, unable to look after myself. Unable to feel anything more than fear and oppression. Grief has dragged along depression and switched my brain around so that I disbelieved anything people said to me, so that I felt isolated from everyone, hated myself and couldn’t bear another day of it all.

It’s been a tough year. I don’t blame you. I don’t blame anyone (anymore). It’s just who I am at this time and how it’s effected me and how I’ve needed to process it. And it’s probably not over yet, may never be, but I’m learning how to deal with it. Relearning how to be me, rebuilding from the ground up. Not patching little holes of pain, but learning how to really live all that is life – the easy and the difficult times. All the emotions. All the feelings. The highs and lows and the quiet times between. It all means something and I’m learning that, bit by bit, with some great help.

I don’t wish that we’d had more time. I just wish that I hadn’t lived under so much fear that I hesitated to talk to you about my thoughts, about all these questions I had and about all that you might have been able to share with me. That’s my only regret. I wasn’t brave enough with you. But It’s taught me bravery. I’ve become much braver, I’ve become more of the person I always wanted to be. And I can thank you for that.

I know I’m a day or two late, writing this.

(Wasn’t I always a little late getting things done for you? But you never rushed or pushed me, you just let me know how much you appreciated the assistance.)

The last three days I’ve been celebrating Christmas, with family and friends. Celebrating life and being thankful for those people around me.

So today was the day to write this. Today I was ready, finally. To think about it all, to mark the occasion, to talk about and honour you. To say “hey, I missed you this year Dad, but I thought about you, as I always have, and I’ll keep you alive in my heart.”
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I Need To Talk.

[ I sent out these words to my family (and closest friends) today. (Minor privacy edits). Taking one step forward, out of the shadows. ]

.

I’m writing to you all because it is difficult to talk directly about that which I barely understand. And you should know, because I don’t want my family uninformed through poor choices on my part.

I’m really struggling. I would ask for help, but I don’t know specifically what would help me. Feel free to offer suggestions from a loving heart.

The last 18 months or 2 years has been particularly rough. Initially I have been on about half pay at work just to catch up with managing finances, then with lingering health problems I have consistently been barely managing half-time productive hours. So my pay has been well under minimum wage for some time. This puts financial pressure on my wife and I and puts pressure on our relationship. We have been getting by, thankfully she has a good income. But we have been feeling the pressure for some time, as we only “tread water” in terms of money.

A few months ago, we were trying to sort out some financial planning for the future, and I basically had an anxiety attack. I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t make decisions, I couldn’t function at work at all and I felt exhausted when home. I went to my GP to get a referral to a Centre for Treatment of Anxiety and Depression and he put me on some anti-depressants to help the mood disorder. Just adjusting to that new drug in my system has been physically harrowing and quite unsettling, but hopefully it is helping more than hindering me now.

This has all been triggered by a host of factors. Last year’s struggle with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) diagnosis and the resulting extended illness. Dad’s hospitalisation and how I dealt with that personally while trying to spend as much time with him as possible and taking him to all his medical appointments. Then his death. And all the other personal matters that end up stressing one out. All these weakening me, leaving me susceptible to constant viral infections or just lethargy. Basically, my body never had much chance to recover and build up again.

Run down, run out. All that is still going on. Just this last week I have had days where I hardly got out of bed. I didn’t want to eat or drink, I didn’t feel depressed, I had no obvious symptoms other than complete exhaustion. And some days I would manage to get into work for a few hours and end up completely exhausted again the next day.

Grief, the most likely explanation for this recent situation. Talking with a writer friend who has much experience with her personal grieving over losing her adult child and then husband. Everyone will experience grief differently and for me it is triggering exhaustion and a numb mind.

Have been very unhappy with my local GP after last year’s IBS issues (He should have sent me to a gastroenterologist straight away). So have sought out a more holistic GP that will treat me as a whole person, not just treat each symptom individually as the local doctor did. Is not easy to find and is not cheap, around $80 out of pocket per visit – financial pressures loom again.

CTAD currently has a 5 weeks waiting list (I guess my situation is not acute enough to get more urgent assistance). I also have a general psychology referral from my GP. Will use this mental health plan once I find someone with experience in Anxiety and Grief. Getting health assistance costs money. Or I could just stop working altogether and get more rest and time to help myself, but then we would probably not manage financially anyway.

Needless to say, my situation impacts significantly on my wife as well.

I’ve always enjoyed being happy. I’ve always liked to smile. And those old habits tend to mask what is going on underneath when I am in public. So while I have never revealed much about myself, there has been a lot going on inside me for most of my life. And it’s got to a point where I can’t manage on my own anymore.
I see the unfinished extension, the unfinished renovations, the yard outside, housework and I just rarely have any energy to make any headway. That is an indication outside of me. And inside me there is more going on too, but this is all I have the energy to share at the moment.

Love to you all.

Missing Feelings.

It’s hitting me now, I miss my Dad
Scared to let go of anything
Associated with memories of him
Susceptible to regret, loss, fear
Low health heightens sad feelings

.

[ It’s been six months since he passed away. And now 29 years after we moved into Mum’s house, she is downsizing and my second home will be demolished. Helping Mum sort and pack for the move into a smaller house, coming across old memories, having to let go, is reminding me of what has been and what is yet to come dealing with Dad’s life and death. ]

Empty Shoes.

Walk in your shoes
Get to know you
They are a size big or two
Always bigger than me were you

I look up to you
Even more, now that I miss you
The stories I hear now
Tell me so much I never knew

I always knew the similarities
Matching pieces of personality
Some used to upset me
But now I hold them dearly

What you did that upset many
I understand I can see your view
Don’t agree with it
But in so much your heart was true
And this is what I remember
Of you
.

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[This was inspired by looking through my father’s shoe collection – many old, some unworn, mostly practical work boots – more reminiscing and seeing photographs of a happy young man. (Photograph by me of a couple of the items). The poem’s structure is a bit rough, but I can’t change it without, you know, changing it. And it’s like my memories of him, good or bad, they are all I have now, so I will learn to love them all.]

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