Tag Archives: grief

Sickies…Dogs Don’t Lie.

As a parent, I’m always wary when the kids bung on one of their dying swan “can I stay home from school” routines. These performances can be worthy of an Academy Award. Yet, all too often when I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt, they resurrect like Lazarus and “party like it’s 1999”.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo in peak performance appropriating another dog’s ball.

On the other hand, our dog’s never chucked a sickie in his life. He’s either chasing his ball with mad obsessive focus and eating like a hollow-legged teen. Or, he’s seriously ill. Moreover, when it comes to jumping in the car and going to the beach, he at the door in a flash. Never tells me to “wait”. Indeed, he’d be out the door already if he could open it himself.

However, Bilbo is no longer a pup. He’s now 77 in dog years, and he’d be forgiven for requesting a Dawson Chair, a Zimmer frame and signing up for the pension. However, being a Border Collie to the core, he tells me there’s life in the old dog yet.

Unfortunately, Bilbo is gravely ill. Last week, he started getting sluggish, and my radar kicked in. We noticed he coughed up a blood cyst, but as he was still eating, we didn’t rush him off to the vet. However, last night he went off his food and when that continued this morning, we knew it was time.  By this point, we were obviously expecting one of those conversations you don’t want to have with the vet. Not only in terms of what might be wrong with him, and there might be nothing they can do. There’s also that other conversation. That is, that there is treatment, but what is it going to cost? It’s hard to put a measurement on love that knows no bounds. Yet, the bank balance doesn’t understand that, and shows no mercy. It’s a callous brute without compassion.

However, all those thoughts could wait. We still had a few hours before we could get into the vet.

Since the dogs were already in the car, I decided to take them to the beach. Not the best move, in hindsight as the vet has ordered him to rest. However, I’m not a vet. I’m his Mum and knowing how much he loves the beach and what it’s means to us, I wanted him to be in his favourite place…his heaven on earth.

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However, if I needed confirmation that Bilbo wasn’t well, this was it. He laboured down the beach so slowly, that he was his own ghost. I threw his ball, and he didn’t blink. He just let it roll into the water. I tried a few more times with the same result, retrieving the ball myself. As much as I’ve thought his obsession with the tennis ball was extreme, seriously annoying and beyond the realms of addiction, this was worse. It felt like an echoing emptyness, if that makes any sense.

Yet, like a noble warrior, he ultimately did have a few laboured efforts.

Bilbo and Maya

You have to feel for the old dog unable to chase his ball, when some young whippersnapper races off with it.

Meanwhile, his young mates chased the ball like maniacs, legs whirling furiously through the sand.

By this point, you’d expect that some kind of emotion would set in, but I was blank. Couldn’t feel anything. It’s a day we’ve known is coming, and I don’t know how to react. I don’t feel I can cry anymore. That there aren’t any tears. That too much has happened and I’ve become a rock. A rock with some kind of senses, but nothing like who I was.

Or, perhaps, I’ve simply grown up. Become resiliant.

This would be a good thing because this time we lose a dog, I have to be the strong one. I have to be the rock supporting the kids. Mum can’t go to pieces. Can’t be the mess. I need to put on the big high heels and answer their questions, hug and comfort them and wipe away their tears, especially as they don’t even remember life without Bilbo. Miss was about 10 months old and crawling when Bilbo arrived and Mr was 3 years old. I still remember how Mr missed our previous dog (a huge Old English Sheepdog called Rufus) and didn’t like the new puppy because he wanted a big dog. Mr had been able to sit on Rufus and use him as a horse. He was a very big dog indeed.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

So, Bilbo has been part of our family during a very special ten years of our lives.

Yet, it’s not time to get all misty eyed yet. At this point, we’re still at the beach. It’s 18°C and a gloriously sunny Winter’s day and the beach is magic.

Mid-morning, we return to the vet. He quickly points out that Bilbo’s gums and tongue are an exceptionally pale shade of pink and I’m quite shocked. He took some blood and we were sent out to wait. My husband ducked off to pick our daughter up from dancing. I wasn’t sure she should be there, but figured that the vet’s better versed at this than us. That if there is bad news, the vet no doubt knows what to say.

Bilbo + Amelia

11 years is a long time in human years too!

The news from the vet wasn’t good, but it wasn’t all bad. At this point, it seems that Bilbo could have an unpronouncable auto-immune disease. I can’t remember what the vet called it, and meant to write it down. His red blood cell count is down to 2.86 (should be 5.65-8.87) and his haemoglobin is 5.3 when it should be 13.1 – 20.5). He has just enough platelets to hope the treatment could work. His white cell count is high and he seems to be fighting back. He was given an injection of prednisone and is on tablets. I take him back on Monday morning for a CT of his spleen and a followup.

Meanwhile, I started my own, additional treatment. We bought him some fresh mince to see if that might stimulate his appetite and we had a rather hungry dog. He’s eaten 500g of mince tonight, minus a few donations to Lady, our other dog. It’s not going to cure him, but it might give him a fighting chance. Get him over the hump. It’s also much cheaper than a blood transfusion!!

Of course, I’m hopeful that he’s going to be okay. That there isn’t going to be something else going on and he’ll respond to treatment. He’s been in good health, so surely that must help… That “he’ll be right, mate.”

….

Well, it’s now Sunday afternoon. Bilbo’s still with us and lying on my lap quite happy to be a lap top dog. He’s eating the mince, but not so keen on his kibble. He’s perked up a fair bit. Yet, his beathing is very rapid, and I guess that’s the big concern and we still need to take that CT of his spleen.

So, I am feeling optimistic. No doubt, it’s the sort of optimism based on wishful thinking. An optimism which could seriously backfire and hurt like hell.

Yet, like the kids who don’t know life without Bilbo, I can’t imagine it either and am still hopeful that the vet might find that magic pill which will give him eternal life.

Meanwhile, Bilbo’s been instructed to “Stay. Don’t go near the Rainbow Bridge. Why don’t you watch a bit of TV….”

Yet, although he’s always been an incredibly obedient and faithful dog, there will  come a time when that last journey will come.

All the same, can I put in a request?

Not yet…

Thank you in advance for your concern. It is much appreciated!!

xx Rowena

 

 

Missing…Kings Cross, Sydney: Friday Fictioneers.

“Double expresso to go, please Tom.”

“Night shift, huh?”

“Should’ve stayed in Byron Bay.”

Night shifts at St Vincent’s were pure Adrenalin, but Saturday nights were insane. Yet, I couldn’t walk away. This was medicine. Real medicine.

“M…m..my daughter…Have you s..s..seen my d..d..daughter?”

The faces on the photos kept changing, but the anguish was always the same.

I refused to look at the photos anymore. Tried to zone her voice out. You could drown in Emergency,  if you didn’t hold a piece of yourself back.

“Sh…sh…she has carpe diem tattooed on her ankle with a p…p…purple b…b…butterfly.”

I couldn’t speak.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Butolt.

Last Friday afternoon, we took our son to Emergency at our local hospital for what seems to be migraine auras without the headache. We were very stressed and were naturally concerned he might have a brain tumour or some form of serious neurological problem. However, we were told it wasn’t acute and so we found ourselves down at the waterfront having dinner at what we would call a street cafe, but it looks very similar to a diner.

St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst is right in the thick of things near Kings Cross in Sydney’s red light district. Thought you might appreciate reading about  a typical Saturday night in their Emergency Department.

I Also wanted to share a bit of real-life excitement here on the home front. Last Monday morning, we were expecting a visit from the host of our local breakfast show, Rabbit, who was popping around with a prize. Well, the prize turned out to be a surprise visit from his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. They filmed it and posted a clip on their Facebook page. I thought you might enjoy hearing me, although my mother said they could’ve captured more of my serious side.Here’s the link

xx Rowena

U – Ulverstone: Tasmanian Light Horse Memorial.


Welcome to Day 18 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may already know, we’re Travelling Alphabetically around Tasmania. Much of the details and the photographs in this series, came from trip to Tasmania in January. This was a family holiday to show their kids where Daddy came from, but it also came to connect us with Geoff’s late father and his family ties throughout Northern Tasmania. Due to the alphabetical nature of this challenge, we have skipped some of Tasmania’s better known places and landmarks, and gone where the alphabet takes us.

Map Ulverstone to Devonport

That is how we’ve ended up in U for Ulverstone today.  Ulverstone is on the mouth of the Leven River, on Bass Strait 21 kilometres (13 mi) west of Devonport and 12 kilometres (7 mi) east of Penguin. Penguin, by the way, is where Geoff’s Dad was born and raised and it’s also where his mother died when he was only nine years old.

For those of you who might not be aware, being the 25th of April, today is ANZAC Day.  Rather than explaining what ANZAC Day here, defer to the Australian War Memorial: https://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac-tradition/

So, we will be attending the dawn service in Ulverstone at the Cenotaph.

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It is quite apt that we’ve come to Ulverstone on ANZAC Day, as it is the site of the Tasmanian Light Horse Memorial. This acknowledges Ulverstone’s pivotal role in the formation of the Light Horse in Tasmania.

In 1899, Colonel Legge, the Commander of the Tasmanian Colonial Military Forces requested that the Tasmanian Government should raise a Reconnaissance Regiment to support two Tasmanian Ranger Infantry Units. The Tasmanian Government  granted the request and Colonel Legge selected the district of Ulverstone to form the mounted unit. This district was selected because Colonel Legge noted that the farmers were prosperous and there were many fine young men in the area and the horses were of a high standard. http://www.lighthorse.org.au/resources/units-in-service/22nd-light-horse

With the advent of World War One the 12 LHR was renamed the 26th Australian Light Horse Regiment (26 LHR). This unit provided officers, men and equipment to form a Tasmanian Squadron for service in World War One.”C” Squadron was posted to the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment (3LHR) that was being raised in South Australia. This first AIF unit served for seven months at Gallipoli before joining the Australian Mounted Division in Palestine where they served with honour until 1918. The 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment, including the Tasmanian “C” Squadron cleared and held the hills to the right of the line during the last great cavalry charge at Beersheba.

Major James Norbert Griffin

Uncle Jim

Geoff’s Great Uncle, Major James Griffin, served in this C Squadron  3rd Regiment Light Horse, enlisting on the18th August, 1914. He was 24 years and 9 months old and a farmer from Dunorlan, near Deloraine. Later, his brother Daniel also joined the Light Horse. Both of these men returned, but so many did not. Such as Gunner Robert Ralph French, his Great Uncle of his Mum’s side, but still known throughout the family as “Nanna’s brother”. In WWII, two of Nanna’s sons served, thankfully both returned home but her nephew was Killed in Action.

Lest we forget.

My thoughts and prayers today are for those who have lost someone close to them through war. Or, have also survived the aftermath of these horrors, after service people returned home with severe PTSD. Geoff’s aunt talked to me about how women were encouraged to help the men settle in back home and in a sense “re-civilise” them, which was mighty unfair leaving women and children at serious risk of emotional and physical harm, something which really has been swept under the carpet and is only starting to be addressed with our current generation of service people and much more needs to be done.

Lest we forget!

Blessings,

Rowena

A link to a previous ANZAC Day post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/our-anzac-pilgrimage/

A Pathway to Heaven.

Brian put on his very best thinking cap and mustered all his concentration. As golden rays of sunlight beamed through the clouds, he could see heaven. Surely, if he looked hard enough, he would find Mother.

Moreover, in his nine year old mind, it wasn’t a huge leap of faith to believe an angel might bring her back. That just like Lazarus, Mother would miraculously rise from the dead.

His faith was bigger than a mustard seed.

Yet, Mother never came back. The gates of heaven stayed shut.

That’s when Brian stopped looking at the clouds.

There were no dreams.

Rowena Newton

This has been another contribution to the Friday Fictioneers . This week’s photo prompt comes from our host, © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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The inspiration for this story, comes from my late Father-in-Law whose mother died when he was nine years old. He grew up in Penguin, Tasmania and we spent a few days there while we were in Tassie recently. We visited his old school (which now opens on Sundays for a market) and I looked through the windows to the clouds and thought of him grieving through class and missing his Mum.

After his mother died, family took in his sister and his Dad went away to work, leaving the two boys to fend for themselves. At 12, Brian left home to join the railways, despite being a bright pupil.

Brian died when my husband was 16. So, we’ve never met and we know very little about him and while I’ve used a real name and situation, it’s a purely fictional account of his response.

 

 

When the Mask Cracks…Friday Fictioneers.

“My life is an empty chair,” Madeleine lamented into her glass of red wine.  “And I’m drowning in my own tears.  Drowning! Hello!  Can you hear me? Why can’t anyone hear me? I’m trapped so deeply inside myself, there’s no way out.”

Madeleine hurled the glass across the stage. Wine dripped down the wall like blood, cascading over broken splinters of glass.

The theatre erupted in applause… her finest performance.

“I should be happy. C’mon Madz.  Change gears. Think positive…I’m a happy little Vegemite as bright as bright can be…

Brakes screeched.

All she could see was that empty chair.

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This has been a contribution to the Friday Fictioneers. Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for the last month, we’ve spent three weeks travelling around Tasmania. We had such a fantastic time and the photographic opportunities were mind-blowing. I’m still trying to catch up on writing about the trip, but I’d love you to pop over and enjoy some vicarious travel.

xx Rowena

The Inner Tree, Port Arthur.

“The Tree and the Reed”

Well, little one,” said a Tree to a Reed that was growing at its foot, “why do you not plant your feet deeply in the ground, and raise your head boldly in the air as I do?””I am contented with my lot,” said the Reed. “I may not be so grand, but I think I am safer.””Safe!” sneered the Tree. “Who shall pluck me up by the roots or bow my head to the ground?” But it soon had to repent of its boasting, for a hurricane arose which tore it up from its roots, and cast it a useless log on the ground, while the little Reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.Obscurity often brings safety.”
Aesop

There was such a mixture of grief and intrigue when I spotted this chopped down tree at Port Arthur. After walking through the bush admiring and photographing the soaring blue gums and almost feeling one with them, I was grieved to see something so beautiful destroyed.

“If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.”

Khalil Gibran

Yet, fortunately it’s not often that I get to see inside a tree. Despite loving trees, I still have that child-like fascination with counting the rings and peering inside this hidden, inner zone. Is this where trees store up all their secrets? Where they write down all the stories they hear whispered by the wind? Part of me, believes it is and I wish I could translate them all.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Penguin…On the Road Around Tasmania.

 

After so many early starts what with driving to Melbourne and boarding the Spirit of Tasmania, we slept in past midday on our first full day in Tasmania and decided to have an easy day and stay local. We are staying with friends in bushland outside Devonport most of the time. Therefore, a 30 minute drive to nearby Penguin made sense.

Yet, for us, Penguin is so much more than a tourist destination, or random spot on the map.

Geoff’s father was born and raised in Penguin. He was born in the late 20s and much of his childhood was during the Depression. Obviously, times for most were incredibly tough. However,their struggles were seriously compounded when his mother died when he was only 9. That’s dreadful for any kid but his father was often away for work, leaving the two boys to pretty much fend for themselves. I can’t even begin to understand what this was like, but my father-in-law was always a cautious man. Not that I ever met him. He passed away when my husband was 16.

geoff-on-the-rocks-penguin

Geoff retracing his father’s footsteps.

So, our trip to Penguin was much more of a pilgrimage. It was a heartfelt effort to do the very best we could to put ourselves into his father’s shoes and walk with him for a bit.

Of course, this “we” also included our kids. This young boy grieving for his dead mother, was their grandfather. While they’ll never be able to know him, go fishing, do the things you do with grandparents, we at least wanted them to have a sense of him. For them to know, that he was just as real as you and I and should never be left out of our story simply because he left too soon.

Not unsurprisingly, when it came to retracing the family’s steps, we had so little to go on. An address where they used to live up the West end of town, which we found out is called Mission Hill. They farmed up there and that’s apparently where Geoff’s uncle was bitten by a deadly snake and his Dad had to get him to safety. I don’t know if his views on snakes were defined by that moment. However, I’ve been told that he was renowned for saying: “the only good snake is a dead snake!”

Unfortunately, the houses on Mission Hill have been cleared and new housing has taken its place.

penuin-figurines

Penguin had a drive to collect 2000 penguins.

However, we stopped in at the Visitors’ Centre asking about where they lived after leaving the farm, when times got really tough after Geoff’s grandmother’s death. Apparently, they lived above a bakery. Fortunately, there was only one option there and we were put onto HG Brown’s old bakery. Apparently, it was rebuilt in 1912 after a fire destroyed the bakery in 1911. A homeware’s shop is now located on the ground floor. They were lovely letting us take photos and as I was sticking my camera lens down the side of the building, the guy living upstairs introduced himself and I asked if we could have a look. He agreed and I can’t tell you what that meant to us. We were so stoked. Overjoyed to actually get inside where Geoff’s Dad had once lived. Indeed, our son said it was one of the best things he’d done on our first days here.

browns-bakery-penguin

I had quite a heavy heart walking around Penguin. We crossed what has become a rather omnipresent railway track and went onto the beach. Our son climbed a huge rock projecting out of the sand and then we headed over to the rocky point.

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This is when I switched gears entirely and turned on my photographic eyes and started viewing the rocks in 6 x 4. All my senses switched on and I was on full alert. There were these rugged, black,  basalt boulders protruding out of the sand, many painted with bright orange algae. It was so WOW!!! The shots were fantastic!

penguin-lolly-shop

Penguin’s Lolly Shop.

At some point through all of this, we took the kids to the Penguin lolly shop. It was like they’d been lured away by the pied piper. It was a great place where they could fill a plastic cup up with lollies… the sensational Jersey Caramels being their faves.

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Given our late start, it wasn’t long before we were thinking about dinner. We ended up buying fish and chips. They were really good, although I was struck by the colour. The batter was bright orange and I’ve never seen batter that colour before. We have since had discussions about what makes it orange, considering such things as the type of flour, perhaps a different type of beer. I later found out that many of the fish and chip places around here add orange food colouring to the batter. They also mentioned they can accidentally add too much food and it goes a really bright orange. We avoid colours so wasn’t real happy about that but I survive. Didn’t get too OTT.

As we went to go home, we realized that we’d almost left Penguin without taking our obligatory photo with the fake Penguin. I swear this Penguin looks like he’s had way too much caffeine, drugs or something. Definitely looks odd!

I’d definitely recommend a day in Penguin with its friendly locals, great food and stunning coastal scenery.

Tomorrow, we head for Penguin’s Ferndene and a drive West to Wynyard.

xx  Rowena

PS While we’ve been enjoying lovely mild Summer temperatures down here, Sydney is sweltering at around 40ºC. Our houseminders have been taking particularly good care of our dogs and we’re so grateful!