Archive for the ‘FATHER’ Category

I was talking with friends at Toastmasters this week. We find solace as women, in sharing stories with one another; it helps us to find our peace with the way things are. I and two other Toastmasters are in the same situation at present. We’re wondering what to do with all of our parents’ beloved possessions.

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If it was up to my nephews, they’d “back a truck up to grandpa’s section and just throw everything in.” But, it’s different for me and my women friends.

Our parents’ things, their worldly treasures have emotional resonance.

We value their collections, their chosen artworks, however, we can’t keep all of our parents’ possessions. It would be impossible. So we’re left to walk the tightrope of this critical decision making on what to throw and what to keep.

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One friend was saying her mother had collected the old fashioned bread plates and had a hundred and twenty of the pottery bread bases hanging on the walls in her house. Now, the family is stuck with what to do with them.

My other friend has an elderly mother who is currently downsizing, while she herself is retiring to a small town. Her mother had a treasured full dinner set with gold trim, which she’d bought when she first arrived in New Zealand, in the 60’s. My friend can’t take the big dinner set with her into retirement. She’s going to offer them to her daughter but her daughter is into minimal living. So the freighted question has to follow? Re-cycle, re-use or reduce?

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It’s such a hard call, because it feels like you’re parting with your parents in a very real way, dispersing their belongings, which they had gathered over a lifetime, while they raised you. I want to keep everything!

But, then I would be repeating the same cycle of having loads and loads of possessions I neither use nor look at.

I think I’m with my friend’s daughter. I prefer the idea of minimalism.

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If there’s one thing that dad’s death has brought home for me, it’s that we have far too much “stuff” generally. My parents, god bless them, liked collecting cool things too, shells, rocks, driftwood, amber (kauri gum). Yet, the boxes upon boxes of these treasures were accompanied by hordes of acquisitions over the years, which they had stored in the garage and forgotten about.

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I think it was after emptying the tenth or twelfth trailer full of rubbish from my parent’s property and seeing all the old crockery, and broken appliances, and junk going into that landfill, that I felt, this is wrong. Over consumption is killing our environment.

It made me want to do better, to yearn for simplicity in my own life at home.

After coming home from the first working bee with my siblings at my parent’s house, I started spring-cleaning my house. I gave away boxes of unnecessary bits and bobs to charity. Because I had seen firsthand that we’re weighted down with belongings we never look at and never use.

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At the same time, I feel a great need to simplify primarily by consuming less.

I need to be far more discerning in my shopping choices, from now on. I want to buy quality brand products when I do need to buy things, and buy as little things we don’t need, as possible. That’s the goal, anyway.

Wish me luck!

How about you, have you felt the need to simplify?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

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Because my siblings and I have been clearing out my parents’ home recently, we’ve pored through literally hundreds of old photos. I was thrilled to find photos of the very early days of our family homestead, the house I still live in today, which none of us had ever seen before. And, the idea came to me, to do a photo montage of the journey this old house and yard has taken to the gorgeous beauty it is today.

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It all started with a patch of dirt with promise.

In 1962, my parents were set to immigrate to New Zealand with their two young daughters. Dad came to New Zealand first, to build his young family a house in a newly opened suburb, with the help of two professional builders.

Dad building the house

By the time mum and my sisters took the six week journey from the U.K by boat in 1963, a nice tidy three bedroom wooden house was waiting for them.

The new Lockwood house was home.

The finished house

Back

The finished house, front

Front

I was born in 1964, my brother two years later. We lived a semi-rural lifestyle with a menagerie of pets, and enjoyed an idyllic, safe, free childhood in this house.

The garden, back

In the backyard, my parents had planted a hedge of bentamy trees along the fenceline, and a liquid amber sapling in front of the canary aviary.

The house took a lot of wear and tear.

The house, 1980's

In the 1980’s the house was painted brown, and apart from the extensive vegetable garden, there was not a lot of garden, just three fish ponds and two bird aviaries.

A triumphant return.

The house, 1990'sThe house, front

My parents offered me the house for rent in the 1990’s, and I returned after a long absence. The exterior wall colour had changed to white. Otherwise, the homestead had remained unchanged inside or out since the 1960’s.

In the backyard, we found a jungle.

The garden, back, 1990's

The bentamy had been left to multiply untended for the whole six years their house had been rented out and had grown ten, twelve feet high, and engulfed the aviary completely. The neighbours behind us complained their garden received no sun in winter or summer.

The back garden clean up

The back garden clean up crew

My parents and brother pitched in to help with the enormous job of trimming the hedge. The arborist carted away a ton of wood on his truck.

reclaiming the aviary

We found the old aviary had survived underneath the bentamy, and we turned it into a garden shed.

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We left some foliage for privacy and planted a line of native trees called pittosporums along the fenceline. Within a few years, we’d take out the bentamy stumps altogether and let the natives take over.

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My husband and I began updating the interior of the house with a new kitchen, taking out the old fireplace, and putting in new LED lights. We added verandahs front and back as well as French doors.

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I had the roof fixed, the “hips” replaced, and I had the house painted a new colour called “Parchment” with white trim.

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I went on a planting spree and planted flowers, trees, and shrubs everywhere.

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I fenced the entire property and added three lockable gates.

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The liquid amber had bloomed into a fantastic venerable tree. As the oldest of its kind in the district, it’s leaves are the last in the neighbourhood to change colour in autumn and the first to get green buds back again in spring. It truly is the jewel of the garden.

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In 2014, I knocked down the old aviary/shed and built a brand new sleep out in its place.

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The maintenance on the house and property is nearly a full time job, yet, with a lot of hard work, I’ve managed to reclaim this place and create a magical garden getaway in the heart of the urban landscape. The house my father built was a haven for us growing up and is now a base for my kids and nephew and I that has heart, history and a family legacy rooted in its foundations.

I love our home.

Where do you live and why? Tell me where you grew up…

papa bear and me

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” — Leonardo da Vinci.

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A good plan isn’t one where someone wins; it’s where nobody thinks they’ve lost. ~ Terry Pratchett

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Towards the end of his life, my father, though still living independently in his own home, became less and less able to keep up the maintenance on his home and property. Yet, he retained a fierce pride in his ability to do it all and a stubborn insistence that things were the way he wanted them.

Since my father’s heart attack and subsequent death four weeks ago, his house has become the property and responsibility of the family.

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An enormous effort has gotten underway, sorting and clearing dad’s home and belongings. The family has done a few weekend working bees to support the work being done by those members who are living there.

In the process, we’ve bonded.

We’ve taken lots of tea and break times, as dad firmly believed in.

We’ve made twelve trips to the dump, disposing of garbage, and a number of trips to the charity shops to recycle.

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We’ve inhaled dust and gotten congested.

We’ve made and eaten lots of food.

We’ve pored over a lifetime of photos.

We’ve plied our way through the closets, cupboards, drawers and boxes and sheds full of our parents’ long acquired belongings.

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We’ve begun to suspect our parents may have been hoarders. They have multiples of everything, in excess. For instance, my brother sorted dad’s fishing gear. He found countless boxes and bags of weights, hooks, fishing wire, and knives. He gained 37 hand reels, alone.

In the kitchen, we discovered our parents had amassed a vast liquor cabinet, with not one but six bottles of gin, and so on, a pretty good feat for a couple of non-drinkers.

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It’s a difficult process deciding what to keep and what to throw. We can’t keep every utensil and every objet d’ art that made up the substance of our parents’ lives.

By necessity a great amount of stuff has to be given away or thrown out as rubbish. We have to clear the way in order to be able to get down to the structural, electrical, plumbing, and various maintenance jobs, which need doing to bring the building up to spec. That’s before repainting, or renovating, or redecorating, or anything like that can take place. So, there are many different phases and layers to the process of resolution.

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At the same time, everything has to happen gently and with great care and sensitivity for everyone’s feelings. All the emotions are close to the surface at a time of loss like this, and so issues can be easily triggered. We’ve laughed, we’ve bickered, we’ve cried, we’ve talked.

Yet, I think the thing that has come through strongest for me, has been a sense of pulling together and the true value of family. When you weather something as life-changing as the loss of a family patriarch, you lean on one another and discover that by sharing the load you somehow get through it.

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You come out of the experience stronger and more connected through the shared grief.

You feel immeasurably comforted.

As we deal with the physical, material tasks to be done, and work side-by-side at the family working bees, we attend to the practical tasks and mend our broken hearts.

I miss dad. I miss mum. I always will. That’s okay. That’s love.

My family are teaching me that I can live with heartache…and carry on.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Never apologize for showing your feelings. When you do, you are apologizing for the truth.” José N. Harris

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I remember how sad it was when mum died in 2015, but, now, with dad’s passing, it’s a whole other thing. I feel as if my world has turned upside down, and nothing will ever be the same again.

While I still had one parent alive, there was still that level of compassionate protection against the barbs of the world. There was still that parental feeling of someone being there who truly cares about you more than any other person. There was still that wise older person to turn to for advice.

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But, with both of my parents gone, the feeling of support has been severed completely. It’s like going into free fall. I don’t know where earth is.

The only remedy for me in the last two weeks has been working in the garden. I’ve spent the weeks, weeding and digging, and planting trees and flowers. I have needed to walk on the grass barefoot and get my feet back on the ground and plant new things, to remind myself of life on-going and eternal.

Yesterday, I asked my friend about this strange feeling I have of being at sea, disconnected and discombobulated, and she said she still feels the same way about the loss of her parents seven years later. I get the sense this might be something you learn to live with. “But with the years, it hurts less,” said my friend.

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I’m glad to hear that.

Losing the second parent is a broad type of grief that is multi-fold. There is a real loss, an empty feeling. There is a feeling of absence in the upper tier of our family. There is a sense of connections lost with the past. There is no longer a shoulder to cry on.

There is no one to sit and tell the family stories. That’s a hard one. I console myself I’ll have to start telling the family stories for my own children and grandchildren.

Now, I’m the parent. I have to answer my own and my children’s questions.

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So, there is this feeling of roles having changed, and the season of all our lives has irrevocably moved on. One world has sloughed away and a new world has taken its place.

And, it’s a strange and sober world without my mother and father.

I hadn’t realized that they buffered me while alive; they stood between me and heaven. With dad gone now, too, heaven draws a little closer. It’s my turn to stand on the top rung. It’s my turn to walk the walk of the kamatua, the “elder” level of this family. It’s my turn to start the walk of the grandmother, the crone.

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My parents got to live long healthy lives into their eighties. With both of them gone, I’m reminded of my own mortality. As the priest Father Tony Delsink, said in his sermon at dad’s Committal Service, “When someone close to us dies, it’s a wakeup call.”

I keep trying to explain it to friends, but nothing ever quite nails the way I’m feeling: I miss dad, I have new responsibilities, and I’m suddenly old. At the same time, I’m truly deeply appreciating every moment, loving my kids and nature and life, because I have this fresh new awareness of how short life is. How precious.

As a writer, I seek to write and see the feelings transform into words that bloom. That is part of the process of grieving for me. This is my third blog post in as many weeks on the subject of the death of my parents. I think about them and our history together, the times we shared, and the implications of this new loss to our family.

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The changes that are taking place in our family are really profound. There’s a seriousness that has entered my life with my second parent passing away.

My siblings and I get to make big decisions about what to do with my father’s estate, his belongings, the bills, and so on. There are heart rending jobs to do, like washing my dad’s clothes, selling his car, and dismantling some of his beloved, well-overstuffed, cobwebby garage workshop, the inevitable cleaning out of his drawers and cupboards. I’m sure there’ll be other poignant moments too, as we gather to work on dad’s property in the months ahead. The gradual, loving dismantling of a well-lived life.

Then once the work is done, we’ll each get down to the real work, of going on with our lives without him.

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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600 BC, Lao Tzu ~ “The muddiest water is cleared as it is stilled.”

 

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After we first got over the shock of my father’s death last week, we four siblings began to think about writing our eulogies.

I remember the first night, I couldn’t come up with a single word. I had about five scrunched up notes in my bag and nothing but crossed out lines on a pad. By the fourth and last night before the service, I really still only had the bare bones. My elder sister, who speaks for a living in her job gave me a few tips and suddenly, at the eleventh hour, I was able to write my eulogy.

Here’s the speech I gave at the Committal Service for my father last week…

 

Dad, My Hero

 

I’m Yvette, “daughter number three,” and I’m here to fill you in on some of the details of my father’s life, who he was, and how he came to be here.

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Dad was born 5 July, 1932, in Hastings, England, the only and treasured child of Nan and Jim. Nan was a magistrate and County Borough Organiser for the Women’s Voluntary Service, Jim was the manager of the Hastings Power Station.

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At the age of eight, when WWII broke out, Jim was needed in Hastings to run the power station, and dad spent years separated from his parents as he was evacuated to St. Albans.

As a young man, fresh out of school, he went to the University College School of Navigation in Southampton.

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Dad joined the merchant navy in 1949 and worked for them for ten years, working his way up to the rank of 1st Mate, navigator.

During that time, dad met mum. After their first meeting, his mother, Nan, said, “Why don’t you go out with a nice young girl like that?” and dad said, “She’s not my type.” Luckily, Shirley was his type, and they were wed in 1955. They had two daughters, Gina and Jag.

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Dad joined the Union Company in 1961. When he and mum decided to emigrate, he brought a new ship called the Nakuta out to New Zealand, in 1962. Mum followed with my sisters a year later.

My brother, Alan and I were born here in New Zealand.

Dad couldn’t leave mum alone in a strange country with young children so he left the sea in 1964. In 1966, he joined the NZ Post, working his way up to the position of senior supervisor.

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After nearly 30 years, dad finally retired to his beloved Tairua, living full time in the house he had built with the help of his family, which was his pride and joy. Dad lived here for twenty plus years and would say, “This is all the view I get to look at each day!”

Looking back, I realize how fortunate we were to have such a wonderful father. He was attentive, caring, disciplined, loyal, hard-working, kind, generous and good. He created a spirit in us, a fellowship of strength.

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Growing up, I felt secure and stable, because dad gave us that foundation, and I’ll always be grateful for that. He never had a bad word to say about anyone, and I learnt a lot from his example.

Dad was neither racist nor sexist. He believed all people are equal.

Perhaps because he’d been raised by such an extraordinary woman, he had a reverence for women. The only woman my father looked at was my mother. He didn’t look at women as objects of desire; he treated them as people worthy of respect and admiration.

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I never had the sense that dad expected any less of his daughters than he did of his son. He always said to me, Girls can do anything! And he wasn’t just paying lip service to the ideal. He believed it, therefore so did I.

At the age of seven, I had a formative experience with my father, which I’ve never told anyone until today. It was something special between him and me.

One day, dad took me for a drive. He said there’s something very important we need to do. We drove up to a car yard and dad said, “I need your help. We need to buy the family a new car and I want you to help me decide which car we should buy.”

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I took this very seriously because my father was a man of his word.

I walked around the cars. One by one, I looked inside and out, studied the angles. I was seven, I knew nothing about cars. Yet, dad never gave a word of advice or questioned me, he let me continue to prattle about how this car was too small, and this wouldn’t work as it had only two doors and listened carefully to my reasoning.

Eventually, I chose a ghastly green coloured Milford Marina. Dad said, “Good choice.” And he came back five minutes later with the deeds and the keys. It turned out, he’d been to the car yard the week before and bought it, but I didn’t find that out till later.

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All I knew was, I’d been empowered to believe in my own decision making, in my self-belief, my ability to think.

Thank you, dad, for your stellar example, for your open-minded leadership of this family, for your loyal love, your unwavering support. You were steadfast, ever present and dependable. You were our rock, and in my heart you ever will be.

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When you died, a blanket of cloud covered the mountain behind your house. It seemed fitting. The head of our family was gone and the landscape reflected the sad passing.

Thank you for everything.

I love you.

I’ll miss you, dad my hero.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Sometimes it’s better to light a flame thrower than curse the darkness. ~ Terry Pratchett

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On Monday morning, I got the phone call most people dread, and heard the words no one wants to hear, “Dad’s died.” The bottom fell out of my day and my world.

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After my father’s miraculous recovery from double pneumonia last year, we had gotten another precious seven months with him. I wonder if it took a toll on his heart. Last weekend, dad suffered a massive heart attack, and he died three days later in hospital, surrounded by family loving him to the end.

At first, I went into a state of shock. Nothing seemed real, and everything seemed to happen around me without touching my bubble.

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I threw the boys and bags into the car and we headed for dad’s seaside town, as I wanted to ready the house and prepare for my sisters and brother to return (they’d been the amazing support team for dad through his final hours in hospital).

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Driving along, I searched the landscape for some sort of message or reflection of dad passing into the realm of spirit. Then, as we arrived in his town, we saw an unusual sight; the peak of the mountain where my father lived was obscured by a cloud. The headless mountain seemed to echo my feelings at the idea of our family continuing without dad at the helm. When my siblings arrived, we agreed, it was as if the mountain were “flying at half mast.”

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At dad’s house, we could hardly see the surroundings for the white-out. The entire place remained cocooned in this soft white cloudy mist for two days, as the rest of the family arrived in dribs and drabs, and the crying began anew.

We spent a lot of time sitting talking, sharing Grandpa stories and making the necessary arrangements, trying to get our heads around our new reality. Dad ‘had had 85 years of excellent health’ and ‘a life well lived,’ he’d left ‘a good family’ and an even better reputation as people told us, kindly. Yet, nothing could ease the pain of the loss.

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The service was held at dad’s beloved church, which he’d raised funds to build for the community over many years and had helped to run and maintain. People turned out for his Committal Service saying, their town would ‘never be the same again,’ and that everyone was scrambling to find volunteers willing to take over his many roles in the community, and how much they’d miss him. Boy, so will we.

All in all, we were happy we gave dad a fitting send off. The whole family contributed at the service. At the cemetery, extended family sang ‘Let not your heart be troubled’ (John Ch 14:1-6).

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After baking in the sun at the church and the interment, and attending the reception at lunchtime, we headed back to dad’s place to change out of our hot mourning attire. We went to the beach for the afternoon, and I can’t even tell you how refreshing and good it was to bathe in the sea and let the salt water wash the remaining residue of the emotional preceding days away.

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Those of us who could, elected to stay and hang out together another day and night at Grandpa’s house. There were more conversations to be had, there were more tears to shed, and we needed extra time to continue to come to terms with the enormous loss. The patriarch is gone. It’s inconceivable and yet it is real. The whole notion of dad’s absence still messes with my head.

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This morning, before we left, we trekked to the top of the mountain.

Every scene takes on more poignancy when you’re in the throes of grieving. Every situation, every conversation seems heightened to new degrees of sensitivity. Even the light streaming through the trees as we descended seemed to be imbued with special cast and resonance, as if the environment was trying to speak to us.

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We made the drive back to the city around noon. I’m home, and yet, everything feels different, my foundations have changed.

Looking back on the last week, I think the family worked together and we did well with a difficult situation.

Despite terrible initial writer’s block, in which it took me the whole four days after my father’s death to come up with the words for his eulogy, I gave it my best.

The speech I gave at the service will appear as Part Two, next week.

Joy will return one day, but for now, life as I knew it has disintegrated, and pieces of my heart have dispersed with my father.

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.’ ~ E.B.White

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Having just returned from the first half of our school holiday break, we can report that Grandpa is doing well. We drove down there, having heard he had ‘a sniffle and a cough.’ The constant worry about my father went into overdrive. I was thinking, he hasn’t recovered from double pneumonia long enough to get sick again.

In reality, he has a bit of a drippy nose and does cough now and then. Apart from that, dad seems completely healthy and well and normal. 85-year-old normal though. He is, after all, a year older now. We celebrated his birthday while he was in hospital and at death’s door.

Since released a couple of months ago, dad has been noticeably quieter, slower, and less inclined to search for the right answer in the crossword.

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Yet, that hasn’t stopped him getting back into bowls and all the other clubs he belongs to, as well as going to church twice a week. Dad drives himself everywhere, even over the mountains to buy groceries once a fortnight. My brother and I relaxed a little. The whole family has been checking on visiting dad regularly since July, monitoring his progress back to health. I felt reassured, heartened to see that he has made a marvellous recovery and is doing well.

Prior to dad contracting pneumonia, my brother and I had been taking our boys to visit with him in every holiday break. It is healthy for all of us to return and touch base with our heritage. What could be better for the boys right now, than time with their grandpa?

Our boys have grown up a lot in the last two years since we started our trips. Yet, they’re still young enough – that delightful in-between – when they still want to play ball at the park, and build “houses” for crabs on the shoreline at the beach. So, we spend part of each day at the parks, the beaches, and fishing off the wharves. Breakfast, lunch and dinner and the evenings are spent with grandpa. We help each other figure out crossword puzzles. We play two rounds of cribbage each night, and grandpa can still be relied upon to keep perfect score.

But, where once he would entertain us with stories in the evenings, those days are long gone. He doesn’t reach for his handwritten book of old time song lyrics or limericks and jokes and regale us with the best of the best anymore.

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Sometimes, dad wants to watch a certain show on television. But, then he returns to what he’s doing. He withdraws, somewhere. Even his eyes look faraway. I notice it’s hard to get him into a conversation of any length. He’s more interested in the newspaper or the crossword or his jigsaw puzzle.

When we left today, I told him that another one of his daughters would be there in a couple of days.

Dad responded gruffly, “I haven’t been alone more than three days since I was released.”

“We care about you,” I said.

I didn’t tell him, ‘we’re worried you’re not looking after yourself. We’re trying to take care of you in such a way, by doing little things here and there each time we visit, that we take some of the strain off you and in that way, we enable you to stay in your own home for as long as possible.’

Dad knows the writing is on the wall. Losing the dignity of independence is a rough road for anyone. That’s where family comes in.

We try to cushion him, and we’re doing our utmost to help him stay where he’s happiest.

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Each time one of us comes away from Grandpa, the rest of the family gather round wanting to know, whether in person or by ether, how was he? What was your sense? We try to get a gauge on how dad’s doing and what the appropriate response should be.

This time, the answer is, “Grandpa has a sniffle. Otherwise, he’s doing great.” He is complaining of being smothered by family! But, still, I didn’t hear him say no when I offered to make him a hot lemon and honey drink at night. I suspect he secretly likes all the attention.

We’ve returned to the city. My brother and I agree, we feel good, reassured about our father’s health and wellbeing, and yet, already, we’re planning the next check visit. You know how it is. Any time spent with him is precious and it sets our minds and hearts at ease.

How do you support your parents’ wellbeing into graceful old age?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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This week, I took the boys down country to visit their grandfather. Dad has been recovering from double pneumonia. “I’m a medical miracle,” he told us proudly when we arrived. He is a miracle, getting over his life-threatening bout of illness at the rate of someone half his age. And, he was released home after a mere ten days instead of the usual month.

The last time we were there, dad was transitioning home from the hospital. He was still weak, only able to sit in a chair and doze, and he needed to use a walking frame to move.

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This time, he had colour in his cheeks, the normal tone had returned to his skin, and dad was walking unaided. My sister who had been nursing him reports he is now able to do everything for himself. “I’ve been driving for three weeks,” was the second thing he said.

They made them tough in the old days.

It’s great. Although there are worrying signs as well. It is not a simple matter to get over being gravely sick when you’re eighty-five. While he’s come a long way, there’s still a long way to go. Having lost a lot of weight, there is physical rebuilding which needs to take place. Until then, he needs to rest more often. He tires easily.

The pneumonia has left its mark.

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Thankfully, dad has such fire, such spirit. There’s no keeping a good man down, as they say, and it’s so true in his case. It doesn’t matter how far he sinks down, he comes back swinging. Yes, there are a few more issues, however, at the same time, he is doing marvellously. He’s busy doing his crosswords again, although he now sometimes gets the answers wrong. We grab the paper and correct them when he isn’t looking! Playing cards, where dad used to be a whiz at scoring, he now sometimes adds incorrectly. We laugh it off and make it fun.

The thing is the constancy has gone.

Some days, dad’s back on form and gets everything right. He’s so bright and bushy-tailed; he’ll come down to see his grandson fish off the wharf. Or he’ll spend the whole morning playing bowls and spend the afternoon working in the garden. Other days, he forgets the little details of his life which used to be automatic, like locking the door at night, or what he has with his vinegar in the morning (honey). And he’s so weary, he’ll barely leave the house, or take his evening walk.

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It’s hard to see this happening to a beloved parent. The fact of the matter is our parents do age ahead of us and aging is not the easiest process for a lot of people.

It’s our job as the children to take care of our parents into their dotage. The wheel turns and those who cared for us now need to be cared for. Yet, when a parent is still mentally sound and is physically strong; there is a fine line to tread between being supportive and intrusive. While our aim is to assist dad to stay in his home, we have to be careful not to impose our will over his. So one visits, cleans, gardens, does small maintenance jobs and meantime keeps an ever-watchful eye on them. All the family who have visited have done their bit. This is where the family support network plays a key role. It helps to share the load with someone.

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My sister and I holed up together in her room at the end of each long day, after the kids had gone to bed, and talked into the wee hours. We found that simply talking it over helped ease the burden. We let off steam that way, came up with strategies and plans for going forward.

We’re agreed we need to continue to share the visiting among us as a family and have enlisted dad’s neighbours to keep a weather eye upon him when we can’t be there.

In seeking common ground between us as siblings, we laid a platform to better assist dad to a happy, safe lifestyle, and hopefully, this will enable further constructive conversations in the future.

My youngest son said, “I like the way grandpa talks. He makes everything sound important.” Yes. Me, too. With a bit of help, grandpa will be able to continue to live in his wood cabin by the sea and keep telling his stories for a long time yet. It is a miracle!

What do you do to support aging parents while treating them with respect?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it!” ~ E. Williams

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I think my father’s recent illness and brush with death has been a shock for everyone in the family. You are immediately reduced. Humbled by the experience. You know what’s important and what isn’t. Time seems to elongate and become meaningless. I felt how precious this person was to me. Here was my father, who was always hale and hearty, now gasping for air; his deep brown eyes faded to murky blue. He, who had nurtured me and supported me, now needed my support. I remember the feeling of desperate gratitude I had that first time I saw him in hospital, when I grabbed for his hand and it was still warm.

When my father slipped into delirium, he no longer knew who we were. I sat by dad’s bedside holding his hand, talking to him, while he recounted random sequences of numbers. It was terrifying.

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The family rallied, my sisters flew in from London and Austin. We kept a family vigil at his bedside, offering him constant drinks (which seemed to restore some of his cognitive powers), and we continued to have conversations with him and ask him questions. We kept him talking. My eldest sister had supplied us with information on how to help patients out of delirium. So we asked him questions: what his name was what day it was, how many children he had, where he was born and so on, to keep his mind active and the cogs spinning.

Within ten days, my father had made what the doctors termed a miraculous recovery. His lungs were clear in the x-rays, which they said would have been difficult for a twenty-five year old to achieve.

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The doctors were so pleased, that two weeks after being admitted to hospital with double pneumonia, my father was released home with a “fancy” walking frame and into the care of our family and local nurses.

We had gone in to dad’s home in between whiles and cleaned it from the rafters to the floorboards. Once we got him home, we showed him how to dry his home out in winter and we bought him a dehumidifier. We’ve helped him see he needs to light his fire during the day as well as at night to be warm in winter.

Dad admitted he’d given himself a fright. It’s hard to see his inner struggle as he works to come to terms with the fact that this has aged him greatly. A few days after returning home, the keys to the church were collected off him by another member of the congregation. The job of counting the collection money each week was also taken off dad’s shoulders and given to another member of the church. As he is unable to do these jobs at present it makes sense to delegate them.

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We keep telling him it’s temporary, when in reality, none of us know what the outcome will be. Yet, I think for a man of my father’s generation it’s particularly difficult when you have such a sense of pride. It’s hard for him to lose the ballast of that sense of “usefulness.”

We are aiming to help dad transition fully back to the independent life he once had, if possible. But he went a long way down and he still has way to come back up again. He lost a lot of weight and his appetite is greatly reduced therefore he needs to rebuild body mass, muscle and strength. Dad’s doing as well as can be expected for an 85-year-old who has been seriously ill. He’s still a bit wobbly. We’ve noticed he is bit more forgetful.

001 (2)As a family we want to keep dad in his own home as long as possible. Home is where he wants to be, where he can still make the fire each day, tend the garden and feed his wild birds.

Even so, my sisters, who have been nursing him, tell me dad is ‘down,’ the opposite of his normal happy self. My two younger sons and I will relieve them soon and take our shift to stay with him. The boys will cheer him up with their rambunctiousness.

Whatever happens, our family will move heaven and earth to make sure dad stays where he wants to be, in his own home until the end.

It’s our turn to look after you now, dad, as you’ve always looked after all of us….

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

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Humankind have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries, according to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever:

Gollner tells us the twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. In medieval times, they thought the answer lay in the moss that grew on hanged men’s skulls. And, David Copperfield has an archipelago in the Bahamas, where the magician claims to have found “a liquid that reverses genes.”

Why are people fascinated by immortality? Is it because we’re afraid of death?

Watching my father go through a life-threatening illness in the past fortnight has instigated many thoughts on mortality for me. It’s been an interesting ride. Everyone knows their parents will die, as we all will die and so will everything alive at this moment. However, mental knowledge is a very different animal to seeing and experiencing it for yourself.015I understood to some extent what people have felt in the past about wanting to cling to life as long as possible.

In the 1300’s Nicolas Flamel created a “sorcerer’s stone” which was said to make the drinker immortal. In the 1500s Ponce de León, discoverer of Florida, is rumoured to also have set out in search of Bimini, a legendary island in the Bahamas. Long sea voyages of discovery in those days cost vast fortunes to finance. Why did he go? Because the fabled ‘Fountain of Youth’ was said to be on Bimini. It was believed the Fountain of Youth ‘gave everlasting life to all who drank from it.’

 

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We can laugh at those from the past. Yet, when you think about it, as author Adam Gollner pointed out, we each take a modern version of magical elixir every day in order to prolong and hopefully preserve our lives. ‘We’ve tried elixirs, hormones, prayers, pills, spells, stem cells.’

I myself take vitamins and pills. It’s no wonder the health supplement industry is one of the biggest growth areas today.

Why are we afraid of death?

I guess we fear dissolution. When I thought I was witnessing my father dying, I faced my own mortality. I saw it and felt it all around me. It felt confronting and a little scary.

Yet, there is freedom in surrender.

I said to myself, ‘death is an inevitable thing.’ I felt the comfort of being present with it in a quiet way. I released into the emotion of love for my father and love for my own life. That brought me into feeling a lot more appreciation of this wonderful moment right now.

I remember an old friend of the family said to me once, ‘Acceptance is the hardest word in the English language.’

Ever since, I’ve come to realize how wise that statement was. In the middle of being there for my father through his scrape with death, I wept and wept. I struggled to accept that this could be our final goodbye. It was only when I was able to accept his mortality and therefore, my own that I found the relief of coming back to ground zero. I felt that was the gem amidst the grief.

Since then my father has made a miraculous recovery. He has successfully made the transition home, where he is now doing well, recovering rapidly.

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In the wake of ten days fear and worry and tears at my father’s bedside, I feel I understand my own drive for a longer life. I empathise with my ancestors’ quest for immortality, and yet, at the same time, I have a new feeling of acceptance for death. Happily, these things have gone hand-in-hand because, while exhausted, I feel great serenity. I have a sense that I can cope.

In ancient times, our forebears went to extremes. I was quite shocked reading in Gollner’s book that members of the Tang dynasty poisoned themselves taking untested potions. Apparently, people trekked into the Himalayas seeking the restorative powers of drinking pure llama urine, bathed in the blood of murdered virgins, and concocted saline solutions with the ash of dead bodies and myrrh.

Even in our modern, technologically advanced era people are still obsessed with anti-aging. Plastic surgery has never been more popular. There’s research being done into cryogenics and prolonging life.

Yet, when you come right down to it, acceptance is a far easier option. It costs less. It’s less stressful, which leads to inner beauty, to having a happier life and greater equilibrium while you’re here. Win, win.

My father’s health scare was a reminder to me that life is short and time is fleeting. I made a mental note: must gather together with loved ones and have more parties!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The only secret people keep is immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

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