Archive for the ‘FATHER’ Category

This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.

Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.

In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.

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The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?

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This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.

This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.

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In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.

Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.

I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.

I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.

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He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!

Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.

Yet, still I worry.

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The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.

Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

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After the loss of my mother, last year, I realized I needed to organize regular, quality-length time for my younger two boys with their grandfather.

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Time is short, and we need to make the most of the opportunity, while dad’s still alive, for him to get to know them, and for the kids to get to know their grandfather. This is a chance to deepen those precious relationships.

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To this end, I arranged with my brother, we would bring our boys to visit dad in every holiday break. Our boys could then maintain their relationships with one another, as well. Five or so times, my brother and I have travelled from opposite ends of the country, to bring our kids together with their grandfather. And, it’s turning into a lovely tradition.

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These holidays, we headed down to visit my father in the Coromandel, despite the dire forecast of thunderstorms, heavy rain and 110 knot winds. Yet, I’d checked the road conditions, and I knew all the roads were still open.

We didn’t want to miss out on time with dad, and we had also arranged a charter fishing trip on a boat for the boys.

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It rained on and off most days. However, the storm passed us by without even touching us.

The kids weren’t worried and they just got on and enjoyed themselves.

They reminded me how to look at the bright side. When it rained, they played indoors, when the sun came out, they raced outside again. Sometimes, they went out, rain or no!

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The very first day, our combined trio of boys made friends with the local kids. The gang was inseparable from then on.

I was reminded of how well kids make friends. They see others their size-ish and they gravitate towards one another. It seems all it takes is a look. Then, they play together and are instantly bonded. No questions asked.

What a pity we can’t put all the kids in charge of the world, huh?

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Dad, my brother and I took turns keeping an eye on what was going on with this new tribe.

The kids would come from the houses which face down onto a reserve, and gather on the communal grassed playing area and playground below Grandpa’s house.

They played together with great gusto and spirit. They played most of the time. The digital games and phones lay indoors, forgotten.

I love that about going away for the holidays – the strictures of city life fall away. People and shared experiences become more important.

When we weren’t out with the boys ourselves, I’d often be indoors, watching with the binoculars. Sometimes the kids were playing soccer, or ball tiggy, or softball. Sometimes they were on the swings and slides in the playground. You could hear the shrieks of laughter and hoots.

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Sometimes, mysteriously, they camped for long periods, the whole tribe sitting and talking beneath a tree or in the shade of the climbing wall.

It seemed never a cross word passed between them.

There were no falling-outs. Throughout our stay, they gathered to play and traipsed back and forth as a gang. At meal times, the crew dispersed. A preternatural quiet would descend.

Yet, I noticed, all it took was for one of them to appear on the reserve or in the playground, and in a very short time; they’d have rejoined forces. The whoops and voices would ring again. The kids seemed like magnets for each other.

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Our boys’ new mates even accompanied us on a family walk to the peak behind my father’s house.

Meantime, because of the weather warnings, the fishing charter was cancelled.

Not to be put off, we rearranged it with the skipper, for the following day.

Luckily, the weather improved enough for the fishing trip to kick off, as planned.

The boys were thrilled. My youngest called it ‘a big adventure,’ being a night trip. The boat was due to leave harbour at 5 p.m. and return at ten in the evening.

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Though they did encounter a rough off-shore wind that night, the trip was a success and, they each managed to catch some fish. Whew!

Being my son’s first proper trip, I was relieved to hear, upon their return, he’d caught ‘the first and biggest fish.’ Keeping everything on an even keel, my nephew then outdid him by landing an even bigger snapper.

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Both boys came home exhausted, proud warriors. It was lovely. You never know, we may have new fishermen in the family.

It was a fitting end to the trip. For dinner, I had fresh snapper fried with a little pepper, salt and olive oil, eaten with a simple green salad tossed with avocado. Perfect.

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I consider this holiday to have been a lesson in how a shining attitude (as demonstrated so ably by the boys), can transform a sodden four days, into a fun-filled adventure to be remembered forever.

How awesome is that?

I nominate children to rule the world!

Remember, whenever you reach the lip of a steep slope, (this sign graces the reserve near my dad’s house)… Please run down the hill screaming! (by Order of Life’s Too Short).

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. ~ John Lennon

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July 8th. It was the end of the second term and time for our return visit to Grandpa.

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Being winter, I had the car packed with extra bedding, extra warm clothes, and extra everything. We left town at 10 a.m. The boys watched movies on my laptop in the backseat. We were due to meet my father in his favourite coffee shop for lunch, and by the time we neared the turnoff from the highway, we were making good time.

Then, we neared the bottom of the hill, a literal fifteen-minute drive left to Grandpa’s small town.

That was when we saw orange cones across the road ahead of us. Ominously, a council worker stood re-directing traffic.

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“The road’s closed,” said the earnest-looking young Maori man.

“Why?”

“Flooding. No one can get through. There’s been heavy rain and there’s a ‘King tide.’ The tide won’t drop till about 5 p.m.”

“What can we do?”

“Prestcott’s Garage is open. You can go along there and wait with the others, if you want.”

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We opted to go through the barrier, and drive a few hundred yards to the old-timey gas station. It was midday.

We sat waiting in our car, along with about a dozen other similarly-trapped people, stuck in limbo, in the pouring rain.

The laptop then ran out of battery power. The boys started complaining. It was one of those times when you, as the adult, wished there was someone you could complain to!

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We trailed about outside, and were very fortunate that after half an hour, it stopped raining. The kids were able to see it as an adventure then, rather than a punishment.

For the next two and a half hours, we played with a ball, and we took walks around about to look at the flooded fields.

I’d seen the low-lying countryside with lots of big puddles before, but nothing like this. There were cars stuck on the other sides of the roads in all directions, too, we were told. A tree was down across the road, also, for which a special kind of tractor was sent. A car was submerged and a truck had landed in the ditch. A local farmer had had to “teach her heifers to swim.”

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We were wet, cold and tired. Yet, we bided our time and watched the occasional emergency vehicle dash past.

I had spontaneous conversations with all kinds of interesting folk. There was the 95-year-old who had travelled down with his 70-year-old wife, to view a property in the area, and had only been intending a day trip, to travel straight back to the city afterwards. There was a young businessman with neat coiffed hair and immaculately-pressed shirt and slacks, on his way to meet friends. The truck-driver who told me, he would attempt driving through anyway, but he was worried because if he didn’t make it, ‘the insurance won’t cover you if you’ve travelled on a closed road.’ An elderly blue-eyed gentleman blustered, ‘We only just moved here from Auckland. I’m beginning to wish we never had!’

We stood around, talking and commiserating.

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Finally, an authoritative-looking man came from the direction of the flood, and announced, “There’ll be nothing getting through for the next two days. The bridge has moved.”

I phoned dad. He said, “But, couldn’t you come around the long way?” A trip around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula would take another three hours. Yet, we had no choice!

I had never driven the journey in question before, and upon querying others at the station, was told, ‘just follow your nose to the turn off.’ At 3 p.m. we set off back the way we’d come, over the Coromandel Ranges, chased by the pouring rain and howling gale.

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The road lived up to the terrible reputation Kiwi roads have gained overseas. After an hour of hair-raising twists and turns winding up the coast, we headed into the mountains; a route of 25 – 35 km tight twists and turns. This particular trek includes the only “15 km” hairpin bend I’ve ever taken. As the gathering dusk turned to evening, I prayed we would make it to our destination.

Additional to this litany of woes, was the fact I was stuck wearing my dark prescription glasses. My glasses for night time driving were somewhere in amongst our luggage. I was trying to see where the road was going, as it bent and twisted in front of me like a pile of wet spaghetti in the pitch dark!

Another two hours later, we limped into my father’s small town. 6.15 p.m. The first day of our mid-winter break had been an instrument of torture!

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Later, my brother arrived with news the bridge hadn’t moved after all. Someone had gotten the wrong message through to the crowd of us waiting at the garage. 95% of the people waiting had turned around and returned home, while a few of us hardier types had weathered the trip the long way round. Either way, it had been, as a burly blond guy at the scene had said, ‘A bloody mess!’

My father said he was going to talk to the Mayor. The fact that all roads into the Coromandel had been reduced to a single lane for a whole day, and yet, there were no road signs out on the highways, to warn travellers, was “pathetic,” he said. The fact there was no clear authority in charge, once there were holiday goers stuck in limbo, was “hopeless management.” These were serious issues which needed to be addressed by the Mayor and the council, dad said. My thoughts exactly. Bravo!

Thanks, dad. You’re my hero! 

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Talk to you later.

(p.s. The rest of the holiday was great!)

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. And it rarely happens unless the writer brings the hero to the point of despair. ~ PJ Reece

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What is it about wanting to win father’s approval that never leaves us?

I have been dwelling on this thought this week. Primarily because I gave a speech at Toastmasters, and the no-nonsense evaluation set me back on my heels for a minute – taking me straight back to childhood and getting criticism from dad.

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My fellow Toastmaster gave a fair critique, a good critique aimed at pushing me to the next level of speaking. He spoke the truth even though it was difficult. I admire him for that.

Yet, what no one knew was that inside I crumbled out of all proportion. I knew I was being pathetic, so I hid it well until after I got home that day, until after I’d put the kids to bed. Then, I sat and ate chocolate and moped like a proper baby. I felt so sorry for myself. It felt like wounding, pain inside.

I felt devastated over a single evaluation? I took a minute and examined my reaction. I asked myself questions, why do you feel this way? Why?

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Finally, it came down to this; I realized that I’d internalized my father’s demands for perfection in my work. In an earlier post, The Influence of Fathers, I related how my childhood strivings to get approval from my father had shaped in me the exact traits I needed as a writer:

‘The last project I did at junior school, before I moved on, and past the need to show my father everything I produced, was a book review. I produced, ‘A Commune on the Pearl River Delta,’ in a round format, with tissue paper glued in between each page. There were in all a dozen round pages with words and images, carefully nestled between tissue paper, crafted in dense colour pencil and pen. The review begins with the “tour guide,” Mr. John Know-it-all, introducing himself to the reader, and then, John leads the way through the book and the region it depicts.

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It was a work of art. A triumph. The first time I ever got A++ What did my father say when I presented it to him? “China is spelt with a capital C.”

It makes sense to think that by utilising what we’ve been given in each of our unique circumstances, we’re uniquely prepared to move forward to better things. My ability for perseverance came from my childhood strivings. Stick-ability, patience and focus are the very assets a writer needs.’

At the same time, there is a legacy to this situation I still have to deal with. A little bit of emotional fall-out.

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I realized, through this somewhat discomfiting experience, this week, that yes, I had internalized my father’s demands for perfection in my work. When I write a speech, it is like presenting my project to father all over again, will he give me a thumbs-up this time, or will he point out the date is wrong?

When my friend at Toastmasters gave me the somewhat harsh evaluation, I reverted to that kid who showed her prized work to her father, only to have her mistakes pointed out. I didn’t care whether he was right or not, I just wanted a pat on the head.

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The great thing was, as soon as I saw that this was the case, and I was repeating that old childhood pattern, it felt different. I was already one step removed from it. I think I read about this technique of asking yourself ‘why?’ in a magazine somewhere, and for some reason, the idea stuck. I’ve used it ever since, and it’s an effective way for figuring the motivations behind why we do things.

It is a good thing to build one’s repertoire of understanding oneself. As was said in times of old, ‘Know thyself.’

Where the need for father’s approval is concerned, I forgive myself for repeating a pattern from childhood. Okay, maybe I’ve used my father’s drive for perfection, and the need to prove myself to him, to overdo things a bit, thus far. I forgive myself. It’s okay. I’m human. I can do better tomorrow, and the next day. That, too, is human.

I find myself intrigued by the depth of this question all over again, What is it about wanting to win father’s approval that never leaves us? Is your father a powerful figure in your life?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I believe now from my own experience, that motherhood and fatherhood and birth and children are actually as valid a path to enlightenment as any other, and in my opinion at least, far superior to most.  ~ Hellena Post

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Ever since mum died, my brother and I have met up at our father’s home with our kids every school holidays. We travel from different parts of the country to meet in the lovely seaside township where dad has retired. With me, my thirteen-year-old, Sam (who has Down Syndrome), and my ten-year-old, Nat. My brother, Al, brings his eleven-year-old, Riki. We regularly reunite to spend quality time with grandpa.

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I noticed during this holiday Sam literally followed his uncle around. And, it made me think about the need our young people have for positive role models. Young boys can be like homing missiles, sometimes, seeking those role models, to look up to and show them the way.

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My boys are lucky. My brother and I are lucky. The amazing side benefit of gathering to visit grandpa is that it regularly brings three generations of the males in our family together. We have each other, and the older family members can guide the younger.

In the greater communities and society, however, the dearth of fathers in the home is a sad reality.

There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong. – Christian Guy

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In 2013, in a research project on male role models, a post was published. More children growing up without male role models says new report, shared details of the report released by the Centre for Social Justice which claimed the increasing rate of lone parent families was creating ‘men deserts.’

The Centre’s director, Christian Guy, said, ‘For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.’

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What can we do?

*Appreciate the importance of positive male role models in our own families.

The happy side effect of gathering around Grandpa has been gathering the guys for a few days, every couple of months, to fish and golf and play cards. And, they’re all benefiting from time together.

*Initiate/participate in ideas like the brother/buddy systems.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned he’s involved with an initiative run by his church where the older guys are paired with fatherless boys, to do activities and spend time with them. This sort of thing has such positive effects  in our communities!

*Encourage and vocalise the idea that we need more male teachers for our upcoming boys.

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In the “Conclusions and Reflections” of the report published in 2001, Social Learning Theory and the Influence of Male Role Models on African American Children, Rhonda Wells-Wilbon and Spencer Holland stated, ‘The role and contribution of males in the classroom cannot be ignored. At minimum, they make the classrooms more manageable so teachers can teach. At their highest level, they instil positive values, pride, and the desire to want to do the right thing even in absence of the role model.

‘While school is considered the place where children learn the skills to be productive participants in the workforce, reading, writing and math alone are not sufficient for preparing the next generation.’

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Therefore, changes need to be put into place within the education system to encourage more young men to take up teacher training, to fill the current deficit.

The teacher, Erin Lees said, ‘If father is not there, the child looks to fill up with other male role models.’

According to Wells-Wilbon and Holland, ‘Mentoring programs and other volunteer programs that bring men into the classroom, and that are well structured for consistency and modelling positive behaviour can be a valuable resource.

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‘In this study, there seems to be a relationship between structuring a program that focuses on values and important life skills as well as tutoring and academic support. Children like adults learn and function best when they have a strong foundation of values and feel valued as important people.

Modelling and teaching important life skills is the foundation for building academic achievers.’

With such positive thinking, there is hope for the future.

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On the last day of our holiday, we took our late afternoon walk with Grandpa. At the end of the trail, I asked my thirteen-year-old Sam to bunch up with Uncle and Grandpa for a photo. Any doubts lingering as to the value of male mentors in a boy’s life can be answered right there.

Have you any stories to share about effective mentorship?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. ~ E. B. White

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A few weeks ago, I took part in a blog event, invited by friend, author and illustrator, Teresa Robeson, to show a retrospective of my art. In the process, I discovered old school projects. I was astonished to see the leaps I had taken in the presentation and effort that went into my projects over a number of years at school. The revelation gave some insight like a bird’s eye view on my younger years. I saw how I am who I am and how I am today because of striving to earn the approval of my father.

Take a moment to think about it, how did your father shape your life as a creative person?

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Growing up, I learned to work hard to win dad’s praise. On my school assignments I put in enormous effort, seeking to receive a pat on the back. Will he say, well done? I’d wonder. Dad would say, “There’s a spelling mistake.”

The praise flows from my father now that I’m grown. He’s a wonderful man. When I was growing up however, he felt his role was to teach, therefore, he had to point out whatever was incorrect so that I would learn.

And, I did! Sometimes, when I’d worked really hard on a piece and dad found flaws, I was disappointed, yes. But, it only served to fuel the desire to work longer to get to that “well done” moment. I used each failure in a positive way, to spur me to try harder on the next project.

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I began to think more deeply about answering the questions on school assignments. I began to pay more attention to my artwork and upgrading the layout.

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Each project gained an A grade from my teacher, but dad would always find a flaw, no matter how small. I started writing original thoughts, and working harder on the illustrations. My school work and grades improved.

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Every beautiful essay I showed my father was picked apart. He didn’t mean to be unkind. Dad would have been wounded if he’d known how much it humbled me.

Nevertheless, each homework assignment, I put in more effort. I was learning major lessons in concentration.

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The last project I did at junior school, before I moved on, and past the need to show my father everything I produced, was a book review.

I produced my review of, ‘A Commune on the Pearl River Delta,’ in a round format, with tissue paper glued in between each page. There were in all a dozen round pages with words and images, crafted in dense colour pencil and pen. It begins with the “tour guide,” Mr. John Know-it-all, introducing himself to the reader, and then, John leads the way through the review as if through the Pearl River Delta itself.

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It was a work of art. A triumph. The first time I ever got A++ What did my father say when I presented it to him? “China is spelt with a capital C.”

When my son was born, thirteen years ago, my parents came to meet their grandchild. I recall my father shaking my husband’s hand. Dad said, “Welcome to fatherhood!” It was such a poignant, sweet moment, like a passing of the baton, and a reassurance that the path ahead was worth walking. Dad has cherished his role as father. He was so happy for us to be starting a journey together as a family.

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When I think back on my own childhood with my father, I could look at his withholding of praise as a negative. No, I don’t see it that way at all. I look at what it produced. By the time I started at high school, I was a creative ideas machine. I could crank out essays and artwork at the drop of a hat. I was always willing to put in the extra work. I’m still like that today. I believe my ability for perseverance came from my childhood strivings, therefore are directly attributable to my father’s influence.

Take a moment to think about it, how do the qualities which define you today relate directly to your father? It’s wonderful when you start to identify them.

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They say that we get the parents we need. They also say there are no mistakes. It makes sense to think that by viewing what we’ve been given in each of our unique circumstances, as being exactly the springboard we needed in our lives, that we enable ourselves to move forward to better things.

This week, my youngest son said to me confidently, “We get 25% from our fathers and 75% from our mothers.” Cute but wrong. We get DNA 50/50 from our parents. Our fathers are just as important as our mothers, and just as influential. How we use the paternal influence as we go forward, however, is up to us.

What do you think has been your father’s greatest influence on you? His legacy?

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“When a child is born, a father is born.”― Frederick Buechner

“What we think, we become.” – Buddha

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In the balmy, festive last days before Christmas, 2015, a friend I’d known for 30 years died of liver cancer. We had visited Lyall/Ella and I remember sitting with her. She said, “My liver’s shot, everything’s shot.” I said, “I’m so sorry.” Ella said, “It only hurts when I cry.” I said, “Then, I’ll cry for you.” And we had a hug and bit of a weep together.

She died two days later.

When I returned to the city, I went to visit with her wife. We sat with Ella’s ashes, looking at old photos between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Therefore, this year began on a sombre note and a special light had gone back to the cosmos.

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Today is St. Patrick’s Day in New Zealand. March 17th is also the birthday of my brother’s first wife, the irreplaceable Tanya, mother of Anthony and Daniel. Tanya died fourteen years ago, in the hospital after becoming suddenly paralysed and ending up in Intensive Care.

Every year, when St. Paddy’s day comes around, I think of Tanya. I missed her a lot today. I think it was finding the right pictures to go with my blog post and remembering her so clearly that I wept for her again. The hardest thing about getting older is losing people. It’s really tough. However I think the acceptance comes around more quickly as well.

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On June 25 of this year, my family will be gathering for the first year anniversary of our family matriarch’s passing. We are going to do the unveiling of Ma’s tombstone, and we’ll probably, let’s face it, drink quite a lot. We will definitely eat a lot and we’ll remember Ma, in all her glory, we’ll repeat the stories. We’ll talk about what was funny, and what we miss the most. We may even dance “The Gnu!”

I rationalise that it is because of these circumstances that I’ve been feeling weepy lately. I’ve been letting a little rain fall to release the sadness. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the love for those we’ve loved and lost. All this has brought me to thinking about loss. About how it has the power to absolutely stop us and the world in its tracks.

My brother tells me that when he rang to give me the news of Ma’s death, I swore like a sailor repeatedly throughout the next five minutes of our conversation, yet I have no memory of it.

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In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying, postulated a series of emotional stages experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death.

The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The model was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients, according to Wikipedia.

‘Although in later years, Kübler-Ross claimed these stages do not necessarily come in order, nor are all stages experienced by all patients.

She stated, however, that a person always experiences at least two of the stages.

Often, people experience several stages in a “roller coaster” effect—switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through it.[3] Women are more likely than men to experience all five stages.[3]

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I’ve definitely gone through the stages of denial and bargaining. After that, I think I skipped a couple of stages and jumped straight to acceptance. I really do feel a great soothing sense of peace in my soul around my mother’s passing and I think the whole family would agree.

Mum had become very fearful about dying in her later years, afraid she would suffer, and she was forcibly resistant to the idea of going into care. After suffering five strokes in the five years before her death, however her quality of life was going downhill and her mind wasn’t what it once had been.

Yet, despite all her anxiety, and her frailty, she managed to stay in her own home with dad looking after her right to the end. Ma really did “pass away peacefully in her sleep.” Her ending was such a comfort for us all, especially my father. Though it was hard for him, he knew it really was for the best. We can remember her the right way. So I do feel a great sense of acceptance and that helps.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.

Who are you missing today?

 

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~  Seuss

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~ Mae West

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My family and I are taking turns at the weekends to go and stay with my father. Dad lives in a fairly isolated spot on the Coromandel of New Zealand. It’s been just over two months now since Ma died. As one of the younger and wiser members of the family said, “We don’t know how much longer Grandpa’s got; we want to spend time with him. He’s a pretty amazing guy.”

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I’ve literally just walked in through the door, having returned from my visit with Dad. I realized that instead of putting my jacket away, I was carrying the jacket around with me as I unloaded the car, and unpacked my bags. I remembered that it was originally one of Dad’s old coats – Ma didn’t like it so she gave it to me, she liked snugly-fitting jackets on men, and this is made of thick corduroy, lined with quilting. It’s a sturdy all-weather coat. I love it. I’d taken it on the trip with me and worn it home, and was reluctant to put it in the closet.  I realized I was a bit teary-eyed and was wondering if I’d ever see my father again.

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Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape. ~Anonymous

Will that be the last time Dad regales me with his jokes? “Do not argue with an idiot. He’ll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.”

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Dads are…special.

And I was thinking of one particular moment…Dad had shown me a pamphlet from stonemasons, showing various shapes and styles of headstones, and we discussed the kind he’d chosen for Ma’s burial plot. We are going to have a family gathering and commemoration on the anniversary of her death, June 25, 2016, for the “unveiling” of the headstone.

I asked, “Have you planned what the dedication will say?”

Dad said, “No. It’ll only be written on half the stone of course, because I’ll be buried there, one day.” He looked down at the pamphlet and then away out of the window.

Normally, I can pride myself on figuring out something to say, even if it’s the wrong thing. But I just sat there this time, looking at him, helpless, unable to summon a single thought.

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Dads are…special.

We had a lovely time together. We ate lunch in “his” cafe. We took a nice hearty walk around the top of the mountain behind his house. We ate together, played cards, and sat talking over many cups of tea and sweet things to eat.

And of course he has his little rituals. Dad likes to show me when he feeds the birds in his garden – a little ritual he does for the local wildlife every afternoon at three on the dot – for the waxeyes, gold finches, tui, blackbirds, sparrows and thrushes, he puts out (very carefully) sliced banana, apple, pear, grapes, halved mandarins, and a big spoonful of firm dripping fat.

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The deafening chorus of the flocks as they started to gather in the trees before the feast suddenly went quiet the instant Dad appeared at the front door. They waited in respectful silence while Dad performed all the different steps. Not a peep. Once he was gone, the birds swooped in and cleaned every speck up in about ten minutes flat.

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On my stay, Dad and I watched television. We sat side by side, companionably, comfortably occupied each doing our own thing for an hour or two here and there as well. He was doing his cryptic crossword. I was doing a pencil sketch, which would form the basis for a pen & ink illustration, to go in my book, upcoming release, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ and it was really nice.

I drove home thinking, will there be another time?

Will there be another chance to listen to his jokes, “The shinbone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room!”, or another chance to hear him count his blessings, “I am SO blessed to have all my family coming to see me,” another chance to play Cribbage and hear all his funny, little, old English sayings that get attributed to counting every hand: “Five’s alive,” “Eight’s in state,” etc, and the always funny, “One for his knob”?

Another chance to laugh at Dad’s cute protestations, with raised eyebrows, when I started to streak away from him on the peg board in Cribbage, “You’re not going to beat your poor old dad, are you?” he asked with hand clutched to his heart. Ha ha. I think we all got our funny bone in this family from Dad. He’s a fun guy to be around.

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I’ve returned from a very pleasant time and yet I feel sad….

This has only started to happen since Ma died. I didn’t used to come home swamped in pathos and nostalgia. But now, I am. I’ve stared at the unflinching reality of my mother leaving her body. Now, I’m staring at my still hale and healthy, 83 year old independent father and I can’t help but be fully in touch with the impending reality that looms.

Ma was also 83.

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Dads are…special.

 

So I hug my coat, and I write blog posts to my friends and online family. I will turn to my artwork, next, as a source of solace. Whew. I have set myself the challenge of finishing another pen & ink illustration for my book this afternoon, and then hopefully, I’ll get to write.

How do you deal with the challenges in life? Do you have a creative outlet?

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dads in this neck of the woods, for tomorrow! You are loved!

Talk to you soon,

Yvette K. Carol

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‘You have to accept whatever comes with the best you have to give.’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

It was the great writer, Terry Pratchett who wrote, “Our ability to make other worlds made us human.”

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And it was another famous Terry, my father, who came along with me to Toastmasters this week and taught me how to give a speech. Dad’s what I call ‘a natural orator’. He doesn’t have to try hard to speak in public the way I do! When I get called upon, I waffle and panic, whereas my father is ever smooth and unflappable.

Invited to speak for a minute, my father knew to go straight for the jugular.

Asked to speak on his past, he started out with a killer first line. “My childhood was dictated by Hitler.”

Way to bring the audience to a standstill, Dad! People strained to hear what happened next.

We, as a species, are wired for ‘story’.

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Mankind first developed ways of communicating 150,000 years ago, and ancient peoples found explanations for everything that happened in their natural world. Those ideas found their expression via tales of the imagination.

Suddenly, the world was a story.

Homo Sapiens became Homo Narrans, “Story-telling man”; the rest was literally history,” said Terry Pratchett.

The story-tellers’ ability to spin tales sent the human race on a path that led us to our modern existence.

Before you can change the world, you have to be able to dream up a picture of a new, better world. Who better to manufacture dreams than the story-tellers?

 

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My father told myself and the other Toastmasters about the time that he was seven when war was declared. Hitler was sending planes to bomb England, and all the women and children had to be evacuated from the cities.

Dad was sent away from his parents in Hastings. As an only child, this was ‘hard on him and his parents’.

His mother, ‘Nan’, stayed elsewhere. She was Head County Borough Organizer of the Women’s Voluntary Service and they were busy working the equivalent of full-time jobs, weaving camouflage nets for tanks and military equipment and helping in other practical ways. Dad’s father wasn’t called up for service because he ran the power plant that supplied electricity to the whole district.

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Dad went on and told us that instead of being sent to a ‘billet’ (to live with a family in the country), he was given the opportunity to go to St. Albans. At that time you had to be eight to get into the well-regarded grade school, he was only seven. Nan went with him for the entry level test.

“Spell cat,” they said.

Dad slowly spelled, “K. A. T.”

“Yet, I went to St. Albans!” He told us, and everyone laughed. Dad got a good round of applause as he returned to his chair.

Want to know more? Of course you do! Young Terrence wasn’t to return to live with his parents for another five or six years until after the war ended. Dad still, to this day, doesn’t know how his mother got him into the exclusive school that sheltered him throughout the war. But he had a good education and endured no hardship there. Though by all accounts he missed his parents terribly, and they, him.

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As I say, asked to speak ‘on-the-fly’, Dad reached for his personal stories. He wove a tale about his childhood in an imaginative way that included us, the audience, and took us there. We escaped the room in the memorial hall and the winter day and went ‘somewhere else’ with him.

 That’s the essential trait of a good story-teller. What is a story other than a window to another place?

The ability to spin a good yarn has long been a respected talent. It was humankind’s ability to conjure other realms through story-telling which has given us our fiction, and our mythology.

In 587 B.C. the alphabet reached the Jews, and their writings would become the best-selling book of all time, the bible. In another two thousand years, the first printing press would be created by Guttenberg and then the power of words would spread over the whole world.

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Between the first human civilizations and the year 2000, they say nearly five ‘exabytes’ of information were created. Now the same amount of information gets churned out every couple of days. Probably more.

Whenever my family gathers together, we play cards, and we sit around my father in the evenings. We listen to Grandpa’s stories; we absorb his unique contact with the past and our family’s history. We listen to his memories, his jokes and his old-time songs, the lyrics which he reads from a notebook, all written painstakingly by hand in his peculiar style of capital letters. We sit to be entertained and to share our family’s past in such a way that the tales bond us together as a group and ensures we won’t forget who we are or where we came from.

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Story comes through as important rituals in many cultures.

Consider the age-old Maori tradition of the ‘Mihi’, when two factions meet, they stop and each person has the floor and the chance to give their Mihi and in that way say who they were and where they came from. This personal story sharing had a peace-serving function, creating ties with other territories through the discovery of shared friends and relatives.

That’s the real power of story. We need each other to survive. Stories weave us together.

Even today, humans are still very much Homo Narrans, “Story-telling Man”. In the global community, a story is still a powerful form of currency today. Still valued. Still responsible for our humanity.

And my father, who after his impromptu tales this week was warmly praised for his ability to ‘tell a story’, will always be welcome back at my Toastmasters club!

Dad is a Story-teller.

I am too.

How about you? What story-telling traditions abound in your family? 

 

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Tell me what you think in the comments…

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Yvette K. Carol

“Lots of animals are bright, but as far as we can tell they’ve never come up with any ideas about who makes the thunder.” Terry Pratchett.