Lessons.

Today was a day in which I learned, or was reminded of, several important things. It was intended to be a quiet day sorting out the van and disposing of things that are no longer needful, or that do not bring me joy. I am decluttering with a ruthlessness that would make David finally proud of me.

Having swum ninety minutes every day this week I thought I’d take a break, but then, in a fit of energy, and procrastination, I rationalised that I may not be able to swim for a while after the surgery tomorrow. So I should definitely go today. The truth is, I am becoming a swim junkie. I need my fix of weightless, fluid, pain-free motion with good music, the cool silky feel of water flowing over my skin.

Also I had spotted in the Target catalogue, a cheap, small microwave oven that looked as if it might fit into the space created for one in the caravan, a space currently filled with sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration. I decided I need a microwave, now that I am on mains power semi permanently.

I measured the space and recorded the dimensions on my phone. Then went for a swim. I forgot my walking stick. Emerging from the pool and feeling the return of gravity, I regretted my decision not to go back for it. I decided I need three. One always in the car, one in the bike trailer, and one at home. It is getting hard to do without it.

After my swim, I showered, changed and headed for Target. I stopped into the bargain shop first to pick up an extra walking stick.

In Target I found the oven I was interested in, pulled out my tape measure, and checked the dimensions of the front of the oven. It would fit. I picked up a boxed oven from the shelf below the display and headed for the checkout. By the time I got there, I knew I had made a serious mistake. The shooting pains in my legs and the grinding sounds from my knees told me both they and my back were buggered from this weightlifting exercise. It was only a small oven!

I left it by the checkout and went in search of a trolley. I had not limped far at all before I needed a rest. I leaned on my stick in the forward leaning pose that seems to give me relief. A young woman, who had been at the checkout behind me, came up to me, pointed at a bench and told me to sit there while she found me a trolley. She then headed down to Woolworths at the other end of the mall, returning with a trolley.

What a sweetheart. Her name is Tara. I felt so old. Especially when she patted me on the shoulder and told me that like me, her grandma was always trying to do more than she was now capable of. Hey, I’m father material, not grandad. But of course, I was her age when my grandad was my age.

Such people are the treasures of humanity as much as any great Nobel laureate.

Once I had a trolley to lean on, I was fine. I collected the oven and transferred it to the cruiser. Back at the caravan I unboxed it and carefully, if painfully, carried it inside. Of course it did not fit into the space available. Only the face had the right dimensions, and even then, only just. A short existential crisis until I realised I could remove the top of the cupboard, insert the oven and put the top back. A quick gathering of tools and the step-stool I call the standy on-thing.

First, I put insect screen over the ventilation hole through the wall of the caravan. That should keep out the ants and insects that might otherwise colonise the back of the oven.

It did fit though the cupboard top does not quite go back as snugly as before. I then reheated some cold coffee in a mug. No more reheating in a saucepan on the gas stove and forgetting it.

But I now need to find somewhere to put all the sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration.

I wondered at the marvellous technology before me that cost only $68. I remembered my first microwave and how expensive it was. This thing cost little more than a packet of 40 cigarettes, or an hour of my wages, back when I was earning them.

That made me think of all the man hours and material that went into manufacturing it. If the retail price is so low, how much do those who do the real work get? Then I felt guilty. This is why the world is in crisis.

But coffee. And reheated chicken, turkey and chorizo in mushroom sauce.

On This Day

Today is the anniversary of the second of the two most important days of my life. Two events that both completely changed my view of the world and my place in it.

This is the anniversary of when I fell completely, and utterly, in love. Once again.

The first thing I learned when my second daughter was born was that there is always room in the heart for one more. I loved my first daughter, now a cute and precocious two year old, so much that sometimes during the time of expectancy I had been genuinely concerned I might not be able to love this newcomer as well. It was a fear that vanished without trace on her arrival.

That arrival was just as fraught with difficulty as was her sister’s before. Distressed foetal syndrome and a caesarean. But this time I was allowed to be present. Watching a caesarean is fascinating and frightening. I concentrated on holding June’s hand and being reassuring.

The surgeon jokingly warned me that if I fainted, he would just stand on me and carry on with his work. June was conscious. She’d had an epidural. The previous time she had been under general anaesthetic, so this must have been even more frightening for her than for me.

When the hospital staff held up the still and silent chocolate-blue child my heart stopped. I’ve never, ever, been more frightened. In fact I realised at that moment, I had never really been frightened before at all. I cannot express the dread I felt just then.

Suddenly she let out a cry and miraculously turned pink right then and there in front of me. I treasure that memory as I do the one where I was introduced to her sister, so tiny in an incubator, tubes up her nose, two years before.

I shall never stop loving June for what she went through to bring those two into the world. If ever frustration or resentment arises when I think of how things eventually turned out, I remind myself of this.

I shall never stop loving those two girls, for the meaning they brought into my existence. Flawed as it must have been, parenthood is the one thing that really gave my life any significance.

These wonderful young women that June and I made.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Getting Better is Not as Easy as You May Think

The first step towards getting well is admitting you have a problem. Since I recognised my condition, I have striven to overcome it with alcohol, drugs, and mindless activity. But I must always be alert, because the golden retriever of cheerfulness can sneak up on one at any time and inevitably leads to serious disruptions of normality.

It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder…..

https://jme.bmj.com/content/medethics/18/2/94.full.pdf

HCP

Yesterday, my favourite young nurse, with whom I am completely in love, helped me complete my health care plan for the coming year. I’m in love not because she is beautiful, although she is, but because she understands me. If only I was forty years younger.

That smile.

We see each other only once or twice a year, and since my last visit much has changed. I can tell when people are gushing and cooing because it is their job to be encouraging, and when they mean it. Her genuine pleasure at my progress was touching. Her understanding of my mental state and my pragmatic approach to it tells me she has a black dog too.

It was she who introduced me to the MyFitnessPal app, which helped me get my main issue under control. I thanked her for that. Now at last we can turn to the matter of the legs and feet, and the pain. Not just to manage it, but to do something about it. That was not really an option until I shed some weight.

She laughed when I told her about the Really Really Fat Persons Support Group, she told me I was her favourite patient. I bet she says that to all the boys.

By pure coincidence, while I was waiting at the surgery, I received a call from Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, asking me to do another blood and urine test. They had already supplied me with the necessary form, which I carried with my medical summary in my man-bag. The pathology lab is right there at the surgery so it was a simple matter after my appointment to drop in, bleed and pee in a cup.

I then checked out the op-shops in Woodford for clothes. But I think I’m too fussy. I’ll try Caboolture later. On the way home I drove straight past Beefy’s for the second time this week. That’s willpower.

I felt so positive that rather than stop off at the pool for a swim on my way back, I drove all the way home, had a light lunch, hopped on the bike,’ and pedalled back to the aquatic centre. That’s dedication.

After the swim I rode home and immediately took a nap until 8 pm. That’s old age.

Aberdeen

I’ve been a wanderer all of my life, and many’s the sight I’ve seen…

There is no Aberdeen to which I long to return. My whole life has been spent moving on. There has never been anywhere for me to return to, because it was no longer there after I left.

I can remember two homes in England before I was five. We had five more homes in four towns in New Zealand before I was eleven.

The most stable period of my youth was my teenage years in West Auckland. After that I moved around a lot again, until I acquired a family and had a second, relatively stable, period with them in only three locations. And that didn’t last either. Not nearly as long as I wanted. It was not my choice. Which does not mean it was not my fault. I don’t know.

What I do know is there is nowhere to which I can return. No family seat, no family. Just scattered relatives. A few friends.

In the small hours I wonder “What if?” There is no answer except the soft early call of the magpie who roosts in the trees behind my caravan.

I ponder the events that led me here. Living with anyone is difficult. When does the effort become too much? Is the person wiser who decides “enough” or the one who keeps trying? Who is at fault, when someone calls enough? Perhaps the fault must always be borne by both.

I am trying to be more zen in my introspection and self-appraisal. I accept what is, but still can’t help wondering what if? I am the sum of my memories. I owe it to myself and the world to ensure my memories are honest and clear.

I was not a good son, I was not a good brother, I proved to be a poor husband, Twice. I truly don’t know any more what kind of father I was. I want to write accurately about my memories. Of what made me what I am. That will not always put me in a good light, but it also may not please those who get to see themselves as I saw them. They may see my perception of causality as blame. But one does not blame the sun for sunburn. It is what happens.

Well. Wow. I didn’t know that was where I was going when I started this post.

Buoyancy

I’m not doing nearly as well as I expected, despite some positive signs. In the pool yesterday, I spotted something someone had dropped in the deep end and dived to retrieve it. Successfully. That may not seem much of an accomplishment but not so long ago I was so buoyant with adiposity that I could not sink no matter how I tried. Though I could float on my back and snooze without fear of drowning, I could not reach the bottom of the pool no matter how hard I tried. Now, I can swim down.

This positive sign perhaps explains why my weight loss graph has plateaued in the last couple of weeks. I’m developing muscle, which is denser than fat. I am still incrementally tightening the drawstring in my waistband, so something positive is happening.

The best time of day is when I am weightless in the pool. I am virtually pain and discomfort free . I feel as fit as I was when I made my marathon swim around Mayor Island over 47 years ago. But climbing out and returning to the gravity of the world leaves me limping and hobbling like the old man I have become. Riding the bicycle is my second pleasure. Seated, so my knees bear no weight, and with my feet positioned properly on the pedals, the discomfort in my knees is minimal, and the ache in the muscles of my calves and thighs is an acceptable sign of effort being rewarded. Climbing off the bike at the end of my journey is a painful return to reality. I have to take care not to fall over. I believe it is time to talk to the doc about new knees, and get onto that waiting list.

My mental buoyancy is better. Despite occasional bouts of loneliness when I am acutely aware that I am far away from my family and closest friends, I am coming to embrace solitude, and the self-awareness that comes with it. I have left so much behind. Lost so much. I am not, and never was, the person I wanted to be. Perhaps I am where I am now because it is where I deserve to be. That is not self-pity, it is self-appraisal.

Part of me wants to return to New Zealand, but why? My family don’t need me. I actually have fewer friends there than I do in Western Australia – and the weather is worse. I’d be financially worse off. Plus there is the inertia that seems to come with old age. I find it difficult to even contemplate moving on from the camp I am in.

One of my neighbours has a sign on his cabin “Der Komandant, Stalag Luft 13”. The old chap has a sense of humour like mine. Despite the title he has given himself, he knows he is a prisoner, like the rest of us.

Arrrr

In the laundry yesterday I met a man with one leg, and a Cornish accent. His prosthetic was a pretty good approximation of the peg leg of yore. He would make an excellent pirate, I thought. In his eighties with white hair and beard, he towered over me, at least 6’4”. I considered offering him my pirate flag to fly from his caravan, but in keeping with my resolution to think before I speak I forebore to do so. He might have taken it amiss.

Besides, I like my flag and may not find another.

We exchanged stories. He is a retired policeman from the UK. He has been a Grey nomad here in Australia for eleven years. He has seen all the places I’ve been and more. I thought he seemed quite interesting, and when I learned he was travelling with his wife I considered inviting them both over for a meal and a drink.

Then he said something racist, and I was glad I hadn’t. Again I thought before I spoke, and by the time I had gathered my wits for an appropriate but non-confrontational response he revealed that he and his good lady would be moving on later this week, heading south.

When the dryer announced it was finished with my washing, I unloaded it, shook his hand and wished him safe travels.

That was my social life for the week.