The last goodbye

Today is Dad’s funeral. I feel heart-sick and soul-lost, even though I know where, and with whom, I am.

I went to visit him yesterday at the funeral home, with a stained-glass windowed room and a cd playing pretty, flowery, instrumental music that I didn’t think I’d ever appreciate as much as I did. I processed my feelings in the only way I knew how: I wrote. This is it.

He doesn’t look like Dad any more, although looking at old photos that I do remember and seeing a face I don’t remember, I wonder if he ever did look like my dad. I don’t know.

He’s not there, anyhow.

I don’t know why I’m crying. Maybe it’s because he looks so old and small and frail and broken and used. Seventy eight years that body did him. That’s more than most cars get. More than fridges and washing machines. Not that they had them seventy eight years ago, not when Dad was a baby.

His lips look wrong, and he’s fuller in the face than he was even a week ago, when I last saw him alive. I think that’s probably fluid or some such thing. I don’t think it’s the undertaker’s fault.

It doesn’t look like Dad. He looks like the wax models we saw at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood, some of them just not quite, in the subtlest way, who they should be.

He’s not Dad. He’s not there any more.

God his nose is big.

The top of his head is blotchy and freckled and age-spotted from years of sun and baldness, and funnily enough that’s the thing that’s most familiar to me, that head he rubbed so much. They shaved him smooth on the face. It looks kind of weird too, even though he’s never had a  beard, and once when I was little he threatened to grow one and I screamed and cried because I knew that my daddy with a beard wouldn’t be my daddy any more, and he didn’t.

And now he isn’t. So many times this week I’ve questioned how well I really knew him. I don’t know. Maybe I never will. What I do know is this: I don’t want to wipe those tears and pack up these feelings and walk out like this has never happened. I don’t want to say goodbye. I feel like I’ve been still waiting for a chance to say a proper “hello”.

Hello Dad.

I hope you’re well now. You’d be pleased to know they’ve got your neck straight now, and I polished your shoes before I gave them to the funeral home. I can’t remember if I gave them your belt, but you’re not going anywhere so your trousers won’t fall down.

Your coffin is nice, it’s a dark wood with nice silver handles. Well, I can tell by the corner that it’s laminate, and the handles are probably plastic, but it looks nice, and it still cost the earth. We didn’t go for the cheapest one there because it was a bit ugly really, and you deserved better than ugly. We chose you some nice flowers for tomorrow too, some blue things, and some lilies. Your lid will be on then, but I’ll know you’re in there.

I bought myself some new shoes for tomorrow too, red ones. They’re really nice. You’d like them. And Christmas was nice, but I missed you. I bought you a calendar, and some new socks – good ones. I opened a pair of the nicest colour and gave them to the funeral home with your other things. I hope you like them.

Well, that’s that I guess. I guess I’ll see you in Heaven, but I can’t think about that right now.

I’ll see you tomorrow, for the funeral.

Thanks for being my dad and all. You did all right. Thanks for teaching me how to follow my dreams.

I’m going to get a coffee.

Love always,

Megan xxx

USA trip Nov 2012 041

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R.I.P. James Cameron

I’m not going to blog today.

Yesterday we found Dad dead in his bed. We didn’t really realise how sick he’d been. Neither did he. He’d only been living here in Tassie for a few months, after 25 years on the other side of the country.

I miss him already, and feel the guilt for all the times I didn’t call, or didn’t make more effort. I didn’t know our time was nearly up.

Dad

This is an old pic, taken the last time he came down on holiday, back when he had energy, and loved to play games. I wish he’d moved back then.

I wish he didn’t have to go.

I pray he’s free now, and he’s got his neck straight. It always bothered him, that.

Miss you Dad. Love you.

Megan.

The Card of Uncommon Prayer

"I am your Father, Luke."

“I am your Father, Luke.”

This is my son, the Ginger Ninja. It’s an old photo, as you can see by the date (and anybody who knows our family knows he’s now six-and-a-half. But he asks me about once a month when I’m going to blog about him (!!), so today, while I’m still silent under the heartbreak of the shooting in Connecticut, and still in shock from the ferocity of the response against suggestions of gun control and still grieving for the pain in a country I’ve come to love like I love my own, I thought I’d tell you a funny story.

My son, when he was two, took Darth Vader everywhere. He took Darth Vader to bed, in the car, to church…wherever he went, Darth Vader went too. Nice chap, really. He lost his light sabre pretty early on in life, and was a dab hand with the old paints and play dough. He made quite a fine cake decoration as well. He started life as a keyring decoration from the petrol station, and was quite the find for only $2, which is good, because we ended up with about four of him (ever hunted the house for a small toy when your child is screaming in the car for it, and won’t leave for church without it? I found a spare the other day, in the back of my underpants drawer).

One day, when the Ginger Ninja was about four, we took him to Kmart to spend his birthday money, and the first thing he saw that he wanted – the only thing he saw that he wanted – was a singing Darth Vader birthday card. Yes, the card sang. You opened it up and it sang the Star Wars theme. Needless to say, we heard that song an awful lot. An AWFUL lot.

I tucked him into bed a few months after this, having read stories and cleaned teeth, and he says to me “We’ll do singing prayers tonight, Mummy!”

Singing prayers? Am I to put on my best High Church voice and find my old Book of Common Prayer? Should I call for back-up? Is there a priest in the house? My Ginger Ninja, if nothing else, is known for being very pedantic about how things need to be. I envisioned tears and tantrums if Singing Prayers didn’t go according to plan, and I held my breath and waited for his explanation. There wasn’t one.

Instead, he leaned over and picked up his Darth Vader card from the shelf on the side of his bed. He wriggled a little, sat up straighter, and with a deep breath in closed his eyes and opened his card. We sat in silence, he with his eyes shut and a beatified smile on his face, as the tinny tune rang out of the creased and well-loved card. At the end he opened his eyes, looked at me and said decisively, “Amen”, then lay down to sleep.

Amen, son. Sometimes music is all the words you need.

Words with friends

For a long time leading up to my trip people asked me why I was going to the USA, and, quite often, I didn’t have an answer that could sum it up exactly. I told people whichever version seemed most appropriate at the time, but the truth is I went because it was the Right Thing To Do. But the one big thing I learned from my time away, possibly the real reason I went in the first place, was this: I discovered I am not alone.

The reason I love to travel is the same reasons that I love to read, and for the same reasons that I write: to learn in the most intrinsic way possible that the stuff that runs deep inside me runs deep inside other people as well.

I am not alone.

I met writers! I met people who have been writing for years and have published multiple books, and people who have been writing for years and are about to publish their first, and people who have just begun the journey. We drank coffee and unpacked language and forged friendships and laughed until our sides ached. I shared bits of my writer-soul that I’d never shared before, and found people who understood, and it was magical. It was like coming home to family I hadn’t known I had and discovering that my funny-shaped nose is (figuratively, okay?) just like theirs, and for the first time in just about forever I felt deeply, deeply understood.

Want to meet one?

This is Bonnie Grove

Bonnie Grove

Bonnie Grove. Writer extraordinaire and generally all round nice person.

Bonnie is a wife and mother and a Canadian (which, let’s face it, automatically makes her interesting). And she manages to tap into that place inside all of us that deals with grief and fear and tremendous loss, and creates characters rich and real that face the brink and then navigate their way back out again. Her novel*, Talking to the Dead, is available REALLY cheaply as an ebook until December 17th, which is one good reason I’m telling you about her now. And, because I love my blog readers so much (and because I’m just a little bit crazy) I’m offering you a chance to win a paperback copy as well. Just leave a comment below before Monday and I’ll draw a name randomly. Be warned though…it’s highly unlikely to be with you before Christmas. The following are excerpts from an interview with Bonnie about the book, and about how she came to write it. You can read the whole interview on her blog, Novel Matters.

About Talking to the Dead

Twenty-something Kate Davis can’t seem to get this grieving widow thing right. She’s supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she’s camped out on her living room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep—because her husband Kevin keeps talking to her.

Is she losing her mind?

Kate’s attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an “eclectically spiritual” counselor, then a shrink with a bad toupee, an exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warmhearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate’s fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past…and Kevin begins to shout.   Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on, in this tender, quirky novel about embracing life.

Says Bonnie: “I used to work with at risk families (families that experience a host of social and economic disadvantages) and it dawned on me that I couldn’t judge what a person was trying to accomplish simply by watching their behavior. That, often, what I thought they were doing and what it was they were actually trying to do were very different things. In other words, that behavior doesn’t always match up with intention. So, if behavior isn’t an indication of intention, then what is the best way to truly understand a person?”

“I recently wrote a list of images and ideas that reoccur in each of my novels. It was a long list that included things like forests, narrow paths, isolation, and mental illness. Cheerful, eh?

At this point, I can’t pretend I’m not working out my issues via story. The plot in Talking to the Dead is fiction, and I’m not Kate Davis, but if there is such a thing as an emotional biography, I think that is what I write.

The other item found in each of my novels? Humour. The day we can’t have a laugh in the middle of it all is the day we’ve just given up.”

 What Megan thinks:

This book is well worth a read. Be warned – it’s not an easy book, nor is it an easy book to put down. But if you read this blog because you like real stories about honest humanity then you may just love this. I did. And you may just feel, too, that you are not alone. I did.

Where are people getting Talking to the Dead?

Until December 17th, you can download the e-book version of Talking to the Dead for only $2.99 for Kindle, Nook or Sony e-reader. And don’t forget, if you want a paperback copy leave me a comment below before  Sunday Midnight (Aussie time) and you’ll be in the draw to win one.

It’s nearly the weekend, how about you pull up a good book and a good coffee, and call up a good friend and be not-alone too.And while you’re at it, tell them Megan says they should read this book 🙂

Talking to the Dead

Talking to the Dead ebook on sale for only $2.99 until Dec 17th.

*Novel means FICTION. It’s a made-up story, not a how-to book on seances. Thought I’d reiterate that. You never know…

I love an Aussie Summer

This week I don’t care if it’s nearly Christmas. I have to shop and I have to plan, and much as I love my family and much as I love celebrating the birth of Jesus, this week my mind has been thoroughly transfixed by the closeness of the glowing orb in the sky.

I’d forgotten how much I love Summer!

Beach picnic

Day at the beach

How can you not love Summer when you live in a city where there are more beaches than there are highways, and most of them are so close you could be there before the kids stopped arguing as to which one had the better waves?

Sandcastles

The sand-turtle-dinosaur

We even found this little guy. A rare species indeed.

An Aussie back yard Summer

An Aussie back yard Summer

…to top it all of with this. The grass so dry and prickly you need thongs on to play soccer in the back yard, and the sprinkler attachment from the hose eaten sometime over winter by the lawnmower, and a zillion favourite childhood memories of paddling pools and icypoles in plastic packets dripping syrup down your t-shirt and nothing else to do but laugh and play.

What about you? What are your best summer memories? Are you looking forward, like I am, to a long hot January? Apologies, of course, to all you Northern Hemisphere folks. This is what Christmas is like down under!

 

Something to eat?

Saturday was hot. A scorcher, one of those days when the sky is ripped open by the sun and a blanket falls on the earth and threatens to suffocate you every time you walk out the door. We pulled out the paddling pool and stretched it over the bleached brown and stalky grass of the back garden and let the hose run until there was water enough in there to wet the bottom half of you if you lay down and nip your ankles if you stood up, and the kids laughed and careened and jumped and threw the glorious stuff over themselves and, and over me. They came inside and dried off, then later, when the neighbours came over they went out and splashed and laughed and did the whole thing over again until the day cooled and we realised it was dinner time, and none of us cared.

Because it was Saturday, and because it had been so hot, and because we’d all laughed until our sides ached there was really only one thing to do for dinner, and we did it. I slipped on my thongs and walked down the road to the corner shop and came home with five dim sims, five potato cakes, five fish bites, two pieces of flake, a couple of pineapple fritters and two dollar’s chips, all wrapped up in white paper, and we opened it up on the lounge room floor and squeezed some tomato sauce around and ate it in front of the telly.

It was good, and I smiled and double-dipped my potato cake and thought to myself, This…THIS is Australia.

I’m far from the first person to realise the association of food with culture. We had lunch with our beautiful Russian friend a few weeks ago and she’d baked Russian delicacies for us all morning, and expressed with so much more than her words how her love of cooking came from her love of her family, and how food represented time together and family meals and recipes passed on from generations, and it happy-sadded me. I was happy because those things are important and need to be kept and valued, and sad because somehow in white suburban Australia we’d missed the importance of this, and embraced chicken nuggets and frozen peas.

However, it wasn’t until I was in the US that I realised that there WAS a food culture deep inside me that was all-Australian. There were no corner shops with dim sims and potato cakes or flake so battered you can barely find the fish inside it. There were no jars of vegemite in people’s pantries (unless I brought them), and when I asked for fish and chips from the menu at a restaurant the waitress asked me how I wanted my potato (CHIPS, woman! Is it not obvious?)…chips (crisps), fries (chips), or baked (what the…?) I ordered a lemon, lime and bitters and she had no idea what I meant, so I ordered a lemonade and she brought me a lemon juice and sugar drink. It was very nice, but there were no bubbles. Things are just different. There are burgers and Mexican food, and more burgers and more Mexican food, with a good amount of pizza thrown in for good measure. Trying to find a salad roll at an airport is like trying to find a kangaroo bounding down the main streets of Sydney.*

It wasn’t bad – well, no worse than ridiculous deep-friend batter masquerading as fish – but it wasn’t MY food. It wasn’t home. I wasn’t homesick, but, in a strange-sense of the word, I was food-sick.

And then my darling Michigan friend found me some Weetbix. Well, Weetabix, the Canadian version (tastes the same. God bless the Canadians!), and she made me a vegemite sandwich, and suddenly everything was okay again, and I felt normal. I’d found myself, centred myself, in food.

And this is why on Saturday walking home with my corner shop takeaway dinner after a scorching December day I felt blissfully and completely at home, and totally and absolutely Australian.

How about you? Have you ever noticed strong associations with food and culture, or mourned the lack of food culture in your childhood? I’d love to hear your stories.

*Actually I found the best salad roll in the entire USA at Dallas airport on my way home, which made me supremely happy. I made the comment to a friend that this may be because Dallas is almost Salad spelled backwards, although this was laughed down. I still believe though.

Always remember the power of dreaming.

passport stamp

I don’t know how many people out there are like me. I watched the  movie “While You Were Sleeping” at the movies back in 1995 and burst into tears when Sandra Bullock confessed that what she wanted most in life was a stamp in her passport. Dreams are funny things like that.

I got mine!

And yes, it makes me very happy indeed. And it makes me happier still to know that dreams, even silly ones, even dormant ones that we’re forced to forget because of life and circumstances, forced to put on those topmost shelves, they don’t get forgotten.

Keep dreaming my friends! The wait is worth it.