Right from birth, Karen had never understood her creative, dreamy daughter, Matilda. A marine biologist, her entire world was classified into the natural order of things while Matilda didn’t fit into any category, and she couldn’t get a diagnosis!
“Matilda!” she screamed after stepping on a wet painting.
Battling long covid, now more than ever she questioned:“Why couldn’t I have a normal child?”
Karen fell into her chair, immediately leaping to her feet. The neck of Matilda’s violin had snapped like a dead man hanging from a noose, and Karen had become “The Scream”.
I was delighted to see this week’s prompt as I play the violin, although I stop well short of calling myself a violinist these days. Practice had dropped off before my lessons stopped during covid, but I’ve been picking it up a bit again lately and am practicing Peter Allen’s hit: “I Still Call Australia Home”. My mother used to play it on the piano and I’m wanting to play it with her and I really do love the words of the song.
When I was growing up, Mum would occasionally lose patience with the eccentricity of the rest of us and ask: “Why can’t this family be normal?” Mum played things pretty much by the book but the rest of us didn’t even know where to find it. As it turned out, in my mid-20’s I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and had a shunt inserted to sort things out. Being creative, I wasn’t exactly “fixed” but I was a new improved version of myself and at least I wasn’t falling over all the time.
It wouldn’t surprise me if my husband had told me not to leave my violin on a chair in case someone sat on it; and I’m probably lucky my violin’s still in one piece.
I often wonder where these photo prompts were taken and try to bring that into the story somehow. That said, I am often stumped. However, this week I have an advantage because I took the photo. It was taken in Rose Bay, on Sydney Harbour and there were a few alleyways of shops to explore and I think Rochelle would like it there as I spotted a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and there’s an significant Jewish community there. Unfortunately, I was too late in the day for the bagel but I hope to head back soon. I am yet to post about my trip to Rose Bay. I lived there in a flat with my parents for the first couple of years of my life. If you feel like a virtual trip, click here: Rose Bay
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields at Addicted to Purple.
How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks. For those of you on the Northern side of the equator, I hope you’re not counting your Spring chickens before they hatch! I’m not quite ready to give up on Summer yet.
The big news here last week was that Miss turned 17 on Friday. Naturally, we had to roll out the red carpet or at least get her presents wrapped and bake a cake. I asked her what she wanted for a cake and she chose Key Lime Pie, and I suspect I’ve actually eaten most of it. I managed to get her an eclectic assortment of things along with her main gift which was active wear from Eckt. She lives in dance and gym wear so it made good sense. Of course, so many memories flood your mind on birthdays…the ghosts of cakes and parties past and memories of that very special baby when they first entered the world with nothing but a cry and how you loved them more than life itself.
The other news was that I went down to Sydney for an appointment with my lung specialist on Tuesday, which went reasonably well and on the way home we visited my Mum and Dad. We haven’t seen much of them since covid and they’re still being very cautious and largely keep to themselves. There’s Romeo’s Pies near the hospital and Mum has a really special connection with the ladies who work there. When I last bought pies for her the, they drew bright happy faces on the boxes and were so friendly. They just adore my mum.
So I thought I’d get them more pies and hopefully more lovely messages while I was there. Well, they didn’t disappoint and they were soooo lovely. It’s a shame mum wasn’t there to hear them herself but they wrote on the box again for her. How precious is that!!! They were such an inspiration to me and a reminder that kindness isn’t rocket science.
Meanwhile, I’m back to posting the photos I took while we were house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour. I realized I’d got badly derailed doing what was supposed to be background research on Watson’s Bay and a few weeks I think had gone by and I realized I’d dug myself quite the rabbit warren and disappeared completely. So, I put that on hold and wrote up about walking down to MacCallum Pool via Cremorne Reserve. Of course, I couldn’t resist looking for some background stories there either and I found quite a few interesting goings on at the pool which I’m yet to post. So many stories, so little time!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a photo taken around sunset yesterday locally at Hardy’s Bay. Obviously, it’s very muted especially compared to the very dramatic sunsets I photographed in Sydney. The sun is currently setting behind the hills on the left and there wasn’t much colour to be seen. At the same time, this softer sunset was peaceful and relaxing in a Monet kind of way.
After going for a short walk along the jetty, we ran into some friends who were having a pizza picnic on the foreshore and we joined them for a few hours. I was fully engaged in conversation and oblivious to the lights illuminating the darkness behind me looking stunning. How could I miss them? Humph! I miss a lot of things.
Anyway, it’s time for me to get to bed now. It’s already Monday.
Well, I hope you’ve had a great weekend and I look forward to catching up on your news.
For those of you who have been following my travels in Sydney, you’ll know that I’ve been home for a few weeks now and am well and truly backtracking with these posts. Well, today’s post takes us back to the 15th January, 2022 and “yesterday” Geoff and I caught the ferry over to Manly which is located near Sydney Harbour’s Northern Headland (known simply as “North Head”) and “today” we’re off to Watson’s Bay, over near South Head on the opposite side of the harbour and while yesterday there was just Geoff and myself, Miss joined us for this adventure While our son, J.P. was back home.
In many ways, Sydney is a fragmented city divided by the harbour. To a certain extent where ever we live, we tend to live within the bounds of our geography. Back home, we live on a peninsula and what they say about “insular peninsula” is certainly true of us, although Geoff works in Sydney. Moreover, in addition to geographical constraints, there’s also time and possibly health considerations. Staying put can be very comfortable.
Obviously, what the Sydney Harbour divided, has been connected via the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Harbour Tunnel. However, while the Bridge might stand as a magnificent welcoming structure, it represents pure terror for an anxious driver or out-of-towner and you hear the phrase often enough: “I’m not going over the Bridge”.I remember the first time I drove white-knuckled with my dad’s encouragement: “Does your licence state you can’t drive over the Bridge?” Of course, it didn’t and with fear and trepidation I set out and was mighty jubilant when I arrived safely on the other side in Glebe. I thought it was ridiculous that one of my mother’s friends wouldn’t drive past Chatswood and yet now I understand completely. Once you get out of the swing of city driving and specially the high pressure traffic on the Bridge during the day and needing to be in the right lane because Good Samaritans who’ll let you in are few and far between and you could end up anywhere. You also have to watch out that you don’t stray into one of the feeder lanes onto the Bridge either. Then again, you could spend your entire life parked safely in your couch at home and bypass seizing the day entirely. Indeed, perhaps it’s worth getting lost a few times on the likes of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to gain your wings.
All of that is just a very long winded way of saying that Sydneysiders usually don’t hop around the harbour like we were doing especially by car and the idea of going to Manly for the day one day and spending the next day in Watson’s Bay is rather extraordinary. That is, unless of course you’re on the ferries in which case all of Sydney Harbour is your oyster. I loved ferries before but I love and appreciate them even more now!
Of course, someone else from Sydney might disagree with all of this, but that’s okay. I don’t claim to speak for all of Sydney.
Anyway, as you can see ferry ride to Watson’s Bay was spectacular and I was almost flying along in the breeze with my camera zooming away on overdrive. Indeed, now that I’m back home, I’m missing the ferries dearly and looking forward to going back in April. Indeed, I’m reminded of Louis Armstrong’s unforgettable line: Oh what a wonderful world!
Arriving in Watson’s Bay felt like arriving in another world. The weather was beautiful and the beach was lined with tanned sunbakers soaking up the rays like mobile phones plugged into the charger invigorating their souls without any consideration to the possible consequences. However what struck me most when we first arrived in Watson’s Bay was a massive Moreton Bay Fig tree on the shoreline and of course the famous Doyle’s fish and chip shops.
So please join me in my next post as we explore Watson’s Bay itself.
Have you been to Sydney or Watson’s Bay? Any stories? I’d love to hear from you!
After arriving home from Balmoral, I had a nap which almost felt like going into a deep coma or sinking like a stone to the very bottom of Sydney Harbour. My sinuses also felt like they were in a vice and all of this felt like nothing I’d experienced before. For those of you who have had covid, perhaps you also know that sinking feeling that you’ve succumbed to the plague and are concerned and perhaps even curious about what’s going to happen next.
That was Saturday night.
Sunday disappeared, all except that all important RAT test.
With Geoff and Mister already positive back home and despite isolating before we left, we couldn’t avoid all being in the car together driving home from the Gold Coast which was about a ten hour drive in an enclosed car. Geoff wore a mask, but the rest of us knew we were probably done for and our time had come.
Still there was hope.
I’ve heard of multiple families where a few people got it but not the whole family. I could be lucky, even though I’m immuno-suppressed and at higher risk but stranger things have happened and covid doesn’t like to be predictable.
Anyway, much to my horror two red lines appeared and I was done for (Golly, it was like doing a pregnancy test!) With my autoimmune disease, damaged lungs and being immuno-suppressed, this is what we’d been dreading and why I’d self-isolated much longer than the official lockdowns. However, it all got too much and I not only needed to be around a wider circle of people, the lack of interaction wasn’t good for my neurological or mental health. At the same time, although I was out and about a little, I generally wasn’t in crowds and was still being careful. However, that all changed on New Year’s Eve when we went to Surfers Paradise to see the midnight fireworks. The beach in front of us was packed, but more importantly we were jammed into the tram on the way home like sardines, and it was like the perfect covid breeding ground. Geoff succumbed two days later and also developed a chest infection.
Two days later Mr succumbed.
Two days later Miss and I each had a PCR test and they were both negative, but I had it the next day, but Miss was still negative.
The next day I rang our local doctor back home who sent me through a script for the antivirals. It was a bit awkward going through all of this away from home and our local pharmacy as I could ave rung them and they would’ve dropped them round. As it was, I found Cremorne Pharmacy on Google and Miss picked them up. I felt like an intrepid adventurer sorting this out. Holidays aren’t just about fun and relaxing. Being is a different environemnt also fires up the brain cells (and hopefully doesn’t blow them up!)
So, for those of you who have had covid, how did you pass the time? Did you have a book you read? Watched movies? Boardgames? After all, having covid and being part of history isn’t the same as catching your garden variety cold!
As for me, I decided to read Julia Morris’s book: Julia Morris Makes it EASY. This crackpot spoof on being a celebrity was hilarious and just the thing to read when you’re down with the plague. My only complaint is that for some reason I didn’t get to finish it in the three weeks we were there. However, Julia Morris will be forever bound with my covid experience.
One last word on my covid experience. Due to my vulnerable status, I was referred to the Covid Care Team at Gosford Hospital, the local hospital back at home. I didn’t hear boo from them and thought they’d forgotten me until around midday on day 5, Geoff was ringing me frantically on the phone. You haven’t answered your phone and the care team is about to send the police around for a welfare check. I was doing fine, but it was all because I’m a covid infected night owl who was sleeping the morning away. By the time I rang them, I was at day 5 and out of isolation although much to my disappointment, she didn’t think I should go to Church until after Day 10. She even said: “they may not want you there”. Sob! However, after being so careful about avoiding covid myself, I did the right thing and went on a ferry ride instead almost flying in the wind on the deck outside and out of harm’s way.
A second last word on covid, I’ve had more than my share of respiratory bugs through the years, and a chest infection which turned to pneumonia was the worst of the lot so far. As I said, covid didn’t go to my lungs, and posed no risk to me. That said, I’ve had two vaccinations and two boosters and was on the antivirals. So I think it’s worth vulnerable people to be vigilant with preventative measures but not just because of covid. A friend of mine also dobbed in Influenza A as being far worse than catching covid as an elderly person with heart issues. So for me, I’m still taking precautions to avoid catching stuff and being careful and I’m thrilled to have come out the other side of covid fairly well.
Mum and Dad are still living in the family home. That’s what Dad keeps telling mum. “There’s your tree, Margaret”, he patiently repeats pointing to the towering gum tree in the neighbour’s garden. Or, he reminds her of the huge Steinway grand piano in their loungeroom. They’re anchor points in an otherwise surreal world fueled by vascular dementia, and I make a note to ask her what she sees when she looks out her window next time. Where on earth does she think she is?
At this stage of the dementia journey, I’m more curious than alarmed. She’s still intelligent. Knows who she is and who we are. It’s only Dad who transmogrifies into an incredible cast of characters, including her mother who she mostly knows is dead but keeps turning up then inexplicably disappearing into thin air.
Yet surprisingly, she has new-found serenity. “Darling, I was watching the clouds today and enjoying the sunshine. There are so many beautiful flowers I’d never noticed in our garden before.”
So much doesn’t matter anymore. I’m relieved she’s no longer persecuted by “the Jones’s”, although she keeps asking me if I’ve been practicing my singing. I can’t quite bring myself to tell her that my throat doesn’t work anymore and that’s why I play the violin. Yet, I don’t want to disappoint and I cherish every time she plays “Happy Birthday”, which she still plays with her unique flourish. This is when she’s most herself.
“Strange things are happening around here, darling,” she says. “But don’t worry. We’ll work it all out one day.”
I am not so sure, but I’m borrowing her new-found optimism, praying a miracle will stem the tide.
Goodness knows where those fractured neural pathways are taking her, but this home is where her heart is and she’s happy there. So although we’re no longer looking out through the same window, we’ll keep holding her hand and stay with her for the journey.
My apologies for significantly going over the word limit this week. Perhaps, I could plead dyscalculia. However, the photo this week with it’s mirrored reflections reminded me of some of the visual confusion my mother has been experiencing lately and her corresponding diagnosis of dementia. I felt it was more important for this story to be told than to stick to the word limit this week. So many of us have a loved one who is experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s or has been there. People’s comments can be cruel and disrespectful and going down this path is no reflection of how intelligent or accomplished they might’ve been.
I’ve had two grandparents go through Alzheimer’s and that was very different to mum. My grandparents were always old, and just got older. Forgetting things just seemed par for the course until it took over. On the other hand, our parents ideally have always been our strength physically, emotionally and intellectually and then they’re not and we start trading places, it’s so much harder (at least, for me.)
Anyway, my apologies to Rochelle for exceeding the word limit, but I know she supports a good cause, although she keeps her efforts within the word limit.
Do you have any comments or insights into dementia or Alzheimer’s? Please share in the comments below.
An evangelical minimalist, Sylvia Nolan is known as “KCD” – a brutal clutter-busting force preaching “keep, chuck, donate” to millions on TV. Meanwhile, her nemesis Junkyard Jenny draws crowds of hoarders on a rival network.
No one knew Junkyard Jenny was her Mom.
As much as Sylvia had tried to convert her mother through subtlety or force, Jenny was unrepentant:
“Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure and my trip to Tahiti.”
Last week, Mom had a heart attack and died in the shop leaving Sylvia with a million decisions to make…keep, chuck, donate.
What are your thoughts on the great minimalist-hoarder divide? I must confess that I’m more down the hoarder end of the spectrum but I do like my mother’s view on this that you just need a bigger house. Meanwhile, my dad says staying put in the one house for 20 years in our case and 40 years in theirs is also fatal. I used to be able to fit all my stuff into one or two car loads back in the day. Hard to believe now!
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. Unfortunately, my parents have colds so we couldn’t go round to see them. However, we were able to focus on Geoff and went to Church as a family for the first time in about 18 months (due to covid) and out for dinner to a fabulous local Indian restaurant. We couldn’t finish it off, and brought the leftovers home so the east will continue tonight albeit more of a nibble. Indeed, I’m about to head out to buy some more chicken to cook up with my leftover sauce.
Did you celebrate Father’s Day where you are? I also understand that it’s a day of reflection and grief for many so if that’s you, I send you a hug and my thoughts.
As you may recall, Geoff and I went to Bathurst what is like three weeks ago now, and I’m still in the very early stages of writing up about our trip here on the blog. I’m also wanting to write some freelance articles as well, but decided to write these posts for the blog first and use them as a launching pad.
However, my third post about a trio of marble sculptures in Machattie Park has become very complicated taking me down numerous deep and meandering research burrows without really feeling confident about the basic facts like who made the sculptures, and how they came to reside in a fernery in a park in Bathurst 200 km WNW of Sydney. My quest has taken me back to the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 where a swag of nations set up camp and showed of their national achievements. In addition to the main exhibition hall in the Garden Palace a separate art gallery was built and two out of three of these sculptures were displayed there and bought by the Art Gallery of NSW who went on to loan them to the city of Bathurst to put in their you beaut park with the band rotunda and massive fountain. By the way, the sculptor was Giovanni Fontana who was a well-known Italian sculptor at the time, who was commissioned to produce a number of public sculptures in Sydney. So far, I’ve been able to trace back the providence of two out of three of the statues but the third one is eluding me and I’ve lost myself down so many rabbit burrows as I said just trying to put the basics together, that I’ve ended up terribly lost and confused to the point of losing what I actually know. Have you ever experienced that?
Meanwhile, the other big news around here, is that Miss sprained her ankle last Friday night at dance. When it happened, they all heard a loud snap and they were really concerned she’d broken it. I missed a call from an unknown number just as I was meeting up with friends, and that turned out to be her dance teacher. They rang Geoff instead who was at home and so he drew the short straw of taking her to Gosford Hospital for hours on end while we waited and prayed for a verdict and I was going through all her dance commitments in my head and wondering how bad this was going to be and the implications of it all. I was also rather concerned about how she was responding to all of this psychologically. For a mere mortal, a sprained ankle is a painful inconvenience but for a ballerina, it can so easily feel like the end of the world. However, fortunately the timing is fairly good and she doesn’t have anything big right away. Her dance teacher has also referred her to special physio, which is probably going hurt us more in terms of the bank account, but you do what you’ve got to do.
“Why did you do it?” The judge asked Jane Sutton, a 16 year old student from Queen’s College. Academic, popular, beautiful, rich and from an impeccable family… why did she go on a staggering shoplifting spree totalling over $20,000 on a fake credit card? “You didn’t need any of this stuff! You had it all.”
Jane didn’t want to speak or acknowledge her crimes in any way. Indeed, she was on suicide watch, and no one would’ve blamed her for taking her life. They would’ve done it too if they’re been this stupid and brought such unfathomable shame and disgrace, not only on her own name, but also her family. Her mother was the Australian CEO of the Red Cross and her father was the Bishop of Sydney, although they were both feeling pressured to resign. After causing so much trauma to those she loved and loved her more than life itself, she couldn’t bear to admit why she did it.
She was bored.
Geoff and I were in Carcoar, near Bathurst last week and marvelled at this gorgeously quaint village time forgot. Such a shame the courthouse wasn’t open while we were there. It really is a step back in time.
This has been a contribution to Stream of Consciousness Saturday hosted by Linda G. Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “board/bored.” Use one, or use them both for bonus points. Enjoy!
“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
Honore de Balzac
“Having kids — the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings — is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”
“All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
“We are born of love; Love is our mother.”
“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find.”
“Women, who struggle and suffer pain to ensure the continuation of the human race, make much tougher and more courageous soldiers than all those big-mouthed freedom-fighting heroes put together.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Just wanted to honour Mother’s Day today with some photos of me with my Mum, my grandmothers and with our kids. Relationships tend to be much more complex than Hallmark sentiments, and our relationships with our mother’s are often fraught and go through the wringer….as do our relationships with our children. A mother gives birth to us, but this may not be the person who raises us and we know to be mother. There are also so many mothers who have lost their babies, and today brings an unfathomable and often very private grief. Many have lost their mums, and many way too soon before they had a chance to grow up. I’m sorry. I had friends who passed away last year, and left their kids behind, which goes against every instinct you’ve got as a mum. However, they had no say in that. It is what it is. Isn’t that the phrase we apply to unfathomable, inexplicable pain?!!
For me, I’ll be grateful for the good today. I thank my mother for being my Mum, and I’m sorry and regret I didn’t always know or understand how much she loved me, or that she understood me better than I ever gave her credit for. However, I am lucky that it’s not too late, and I can’t help wondering whether there is even that opportunity to make amends, and that they might just hear us from heaven. We don’t know.
Lastly, let Holocaust survivor, Eddie Jaku, have the last words. I read his book: The Happiest Man On Earth last week:
“I try to teach this to every young person I meet. Your mother does everything for you. Let you know you appreciate her, let her know that you love her. Why argue with the people you love? Go out on the street, stop a person littering and argue with them. There are a million better people to argue with than your mum.”