Losing a parent

Lately I seem to have come into contact with several people who have a parent that has died or is dying, seemingly before their time. I guess there is no such thing as dying before your time, but as a child you grow up just assuming that your parents will die of old age when you are middle aged yourself. That seems to be becoming less and less common these days.

The idea of losing mum or dad any time soon is just incomprehendable to me. I have lost people close to me, but this is in a whole different ball park. I remember earlier this year when Les was killed, I was shocked at how much it affected me. It seemed significantly more painful than the loss of my grandparents. Even though he was a pet, it was more acutely painful than any loss I had suffered, because he was so much a part of my day to day life.

As are my parents.

Mum and dad live a couple of kms up the road and I see them at least once a week and talk to them pretty much every day. They are fantastic. My biggest supporters and close friends. Never in the 3 years that we have lived so close have they shown up unannounced. They respect our privacy but are always there if we need them.

I have noticed that the dynamic of our relationship is changing slightly as they get older. There are times when I feel really protective of them. That is a reminder of their mortality and it upsets me. Last year dad had a cancer scare and my life stopped for a couple of days. The fear that I felt was greater than any emotion I had experienced before or have since.

My father lost his father while he was at university. One of my vivid childhood memories is of the first time I saw dad cry. He was telling me that he regretted that his father never got to meet me. Back then the concept scared me.

But no way near as much as it does now.

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There’s nothing hot about it

I have known for several years now that when it comes to making decisions about things in the house, I should make them myself. Shaun always has the best of intentions, but he just can’t visualise things. Without fail, he seems to make the ‘interesting’ choice.

Yesterday was one of those occasions.

When we moved in, our house needed very little done to it. Heating was really the only issue. It is a pretty warm house, but there are tiled floors in the main living space which get a bit cold during winter. The last owners had portable oil heaters. They did the job but they were ugly as sin. I prefer to avoid ugly if at all possible.

So I decided on wall mounted gas heaters. There is a type called a ‘cozy panel’ , which is a narrow panel that is mounted on the wall and flued in (to stop the release of moisture into the air when the gas burns). I was keen on getting a couple of those stuck up in inconspicuous places. I talked to Shaun about it and he got a heating guy to come around and discuss it while I was at work. He told me that the guy advised him that cozy panels won’t be efficient in a house as large as ours. What we need is a couple of energy saver heaters. I asked what they were.

The description I got from Shaun was that energy savers were slightly larger than cozy panels, but effectively the same thing. The main difference was that they have a fan in them to distribute the heat more efficiently. Sounded perfect. We could even get them in white for the white room and titanium for the dark room. I was sold. It was an expensive sell however. $5k. Ouch. Still – it was a good long term solution that would be energy efficient.

So I got home last night and the guys were still there. The first thing I noticed was the white heater in the dark room. Hmmmmmm. Apparently there was some confusion and the type of heater that comes in titanium was a floor heater, not wall mounted. Bugger. Still, it looks fine.

What doesn’t look fine however, is the contraption the size of a small cow that is standing in the corner of my dining room. Holy mother of god! It’s large enough to partially eclipse the sun! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Slightly larger than a cozy panel? Slightly larger than 10 taped together, perhaps. I was too scared to turn the thing on in case it blew my legs off.

So another valuable lesson learned. I have to sign off on all house purchases from now on.

Domestic violence

Last week an unfortunate thing happened. It all has to do with trust. Both implicit trust and the complete lack of it.

If Shaun goes to bed before I do, he lets the cats get in bed with him until I come in and put them out. If I don’t, they wake up in the night and fight until they wake us. He always wants them to stay, because it’s me that ends up having to get up. So he hides them and pretends to be asleep when I ask if they’re in the bed. Sometimes he curls around them and covers them with his arms. Sometimes he makes a tent with his knees.

On the night in question, he had Julio squished between his shins. The cats are in on the game, so they always lie incredibly still. I asked if there were cats in the bed. He said no. I looked under the covers but Julio was so far down in the dark that I couldn’t see him.

While I was brushing my teeth I thought I saw something move. I asked again. Shaun said it was his foot. I said that it looked suspiciously like the shape of a cats head. He denied it. I poked it and he reacted. I asked him if he cared if I punched it. He said no. I told him that I was going to punch it hard, so if it was a cat he’d better come clean. He asked me why I didn’t trust him.

So I thumped it and all hell broke loose.

There was howling and Julio came flying out and cowered under the bed. I felt terrible. I was mad at Shaun and I was mad at myself. The stinkest thing about it is that now whenever I approach Julio from above to pat him, he cowers.

Damn me and my fists. Damn Shaun and his lie! I punched the wrong guy.

Human relations

It’s ok not to like everyone in the world.

It’s a simple fact. We’re not all the same, we don’t all like the same things or act in the same ways or appreciate the same traits in others. That’s life. What defines people in my opinion, is not how you treat those you like, but how you treat those you don’t.

I’ve been called to task on this a couple of times lately. The first was in a group situation. I have what can only be described as a dominant personality. I am constantly seeking attention and am generally the leader. I am aware of it, it’s just how I am. Sometimes it is a good thing. There are never awkward silences and if someone has to step up and do something, I do it. Other times it is less of a good thing. If someone else in the group challenges me or my concept of right, things can be difficult. There can’t be two alphas.

I am part of a personal development group at the moment. There are two people in there that I just don’t connect with. From the moment they spoke they made me uncomfortable. I have been thinking on why. It’s because they tried to lay down guidelines for the group. They were making rules for me. They were outspoken, which is good, but there was a danger of the group dynamic being set in such a way that everyone else was uncomfortable with, but were too afraid to say. So I said. And it created an unspoken conflict.

Last week we talked about it. They said that I made them uncomfortable. No one likes being challenged. At the end of the discussion we had established that we were probably never going to be friends, but that we had a healthy respect for each person’s way of thinking.

And that’s what life’s about.

The other situation is more personal and I have learned some valuable lessons from it. I accepted a long time ago that it is human nature to talk about people when they are not there. There’s nothing wrong with that. It helps us to gain other perspectives and to vent in safe situations. It can stop feelings being hurt.

A while back I was feeling pissed and intolerant and I moaned about someone to someone else. It was stink, but if they had never had known it would have served to have calmed me down in a way that wasn’t detrimental to them.

If they had never known.

Unfortunately, the person I bitched to decided to pass it on. Publicly. He went on and on and on about it, like it was some sort of crime that I had committed. I apologised to the person in question straight away, but I felt terrible. I’d behaved badly. It was a wake up call. You have to be prepared to be held accountable for your actions. Sure it’s human to bitch, but at what cost? Someone else’s pain?

The irony in this case is that as a result of all of this I have realised that I had misjudged the person I talked about. My opinion has turned around as the result of someone else’s cruelty, and I have gained a friend.

Lesson learned.

Bloody hell

This morning I went and had a blood test. Although I am pretty used to them these days, I still always mention that I am bad with needles. It’s just safer that way. The nurses usually then distract me with ridiculous small talk.

It’s actually not the needle as such that is the problem. It’s more the blood. Well, the whole medical experience I guess. I have always fainted at the sight of blood and puked in hospitals. When I get injured I go into shock and try and rip all my clothes off. I’m not sure why, but I can’t help it. Saying “I’m bad with needles” just seems like a fairly obvious sign that they need to be generally discreet.

This morning the nurse was named Ruza and she had a fascinating hairstyle. That alone ought to have distracted me. I gave my needle spiel. She nodded but apparently she thought that was my attempt at small talk because I may as well have told her I was wearing pink underwear. She gave me two tubes to sqeeze, put the tourniquet on and started tapping my veins. Then for some reason that escapes me, she put the little kidney container with the needle and tubes in it onto the cushion that my arm was resting on, right at the edge of my line of vision (my eyes were fixed firmly on the wall).

After scrubbing my entire arm with the alcohol wipe, Ruza announced that she was “going to start the bleeding now.” Holy what? Jay-sus! It was around that time that my hyperventilating started. I heard all the clicking noises which I assume are her attaching the tube to the needle and then I heard the blood squirting out and hitting the back of the tube. I tried not to think about it, but that’s like trying not to think of an elephant when someone tells you not to.

The lovely Ruza then announced that the bleeding was almost over. She removed the needle and put it in the dish on my knee. I was just holding it together by this stage. I was staving off the main warning sign of a faint – pins and needles in my face. Danger. She clearly didn’t notice my distress because she told me that I needed to confirm my name and DOB. They usually get me to do that off the card. Not Ruza. She wanted me to check the label on the tube of blood. She must be some kind of blood test devil.

I spent the next several minutes sitting in the room with my head between my knees. She’s lucky I hadn’t eaten or I would have emptied my stomach in her blood test hell.

Love deficit

Almost 5 years ago, my brother broke up with a girl. She was an unusual person. Significantly older than him. A buddhist vegan. In the 3 years they were together I only met her a handful of times. She didn’t want to break up. Not at all. She dragged it out over several months.

A couple of weeks after the breakup she called to tell him that she was pregnant. She decided to terminate the pregnancy, much to his relief. Then another month on, she called again to say that she had changed her mind and that she was going to have the child after all. My brother was devastated  – they hadn’t talked without fighting in ages, but that aside, he wasn’t ready for kids. It seemed so incredibly unfair that she had all the rights and he had none. The decisions were all hers, and her choice to have the child was going to affect Dave profoundly for the rest of his life.

Once the child was born things changed. It was no longer ‘a baby’, it was Dave’s son. My nephew. He was gorgeous. But she wasn’t. She was unbelievably awful. Her possessiveness of the child was scary. He would sleep in her bed with her. He was her ‘best friend’.

She started witholding him from our family. She wouldn’t let my mother see him at all. She said that mum once tried to ‘snatch’ him from her while she was holding him. She says mum was cold to her because she wasn’t up to her standards. She says a whole lot of unbelievably cruel things that simply aren’t true. I don’t know whether she believes them in some twisted way, or if she is just bitter about the fact that Dave didn’t want to remain in a relationship with her.

It’s breaking my mother’s heart. He is her first grandchild and not only is she not allowed to see him, but she is being personally attacked by his mother. Things have gotten so bad in the past that mum has spent $1k flying down country to see him, hired a car, driven to their house at the agreed time, only to find that no one is home. That is beyond cruel.

The motivation for this post is a letter she sent to mum the other night, telling her that her son has 4 grandparents (she has since married) and that there is no room in his life for her interfering (or for the rest of us apparently). He has a new father, David is just David.

Good on you lady. Deprive your kid of our love. You clearly fill his love quota.

The mother of all bitches

I think I ate something bad on Sunday. Either that or I was temporarily possessed by a demon. Something sure as hell went wrong, because I turned into the mother of all bitches. I could almost burn holes in the walls with my eyes for an hour or so there. Animals and small children were fleeing from me.

The day started off well. I got up really early and finished all my work for the weekend. I skipped outside all excited that I didn’t have to feel guilty about doing whatever the hell I wanted for the rest of the day. Shaun even commented on how upbeat I was.

A new mall has opened over on the north shore and one of my friends has a store there. I wanted to go and see it so I suggested to Shaun that we go and check it out. We jumped in the car and headed out there. Straight away I was on edge. I was sure Shaun was driving badly. I didn’t say anything, but it was bugging me. He was riding people’s bumpers in the rain. Then he asked me where the mall was. I told him it was on Don McKinnon Drive and asked him if he knew it. He said “I know of a Don McKinnon Drive in Albany but that won’t be it.” What the hell? Perhaps they have another one a block over, because that wouldn’t be confusing at all. He decided to read the map book whilst driving on the motorway. Cunning.

We arrived at the mall and holy mother of christ was that a mistake! They have pulled off quite a feat there. They had somehow managed to round up every imbecile in all of Auckland and get them there just as we arrived. I felt the same irritation that I feel when I go shopping in small towns and everyone walks in slow motion. I won’t be going back to that mall. Ever.

We got home and I started tidying up the house because people were coming over for lunch. I was emptying the dishwasher and Shaun was helping. I was aware that I was edgy, so I told him that I’d do it myself. I was careful to keep my tone pleasant. He decided to wipe the bench instead. I told him that it might be safer if he went and read the paper because I was feeling exceptionally irritable. I was very proud of myself for managing to avert a disaster. I could feel my irrational anger building for no reason at all.

The cat jumped up onto the bench. I pushed him off. He jumped back on so I pulled his tail. I briefly considered plucking out his coat, but it’s still pretty cold. I went to put the rubbish out but Shaun had filled the bin with sticks. That made me wild so I stormed in with the rubbish and put it in front of him on the coffee table. He pushed it on to the floor, and for the first time in our 6 year relationship I shouted at him.

I couldn’t believe I was doing it. I knew it was all me. I just couldn’t control myself. I went into our bedroom, shut the door and started throwing washing around. It was extremely therapeutic.

Until Shaun came in and asked if I wanted help folding the washing.