Friday, August 29, 2008

she is

On my way home from the nursing home today, I stopped at traffic lights. As I waited, I pressed the buttons on my phone, sending my friend a text message. The last word of the 3-word message kept coming up wrong - at least it was not what I was intending to say. Although I kept pressing 'options', somehow each 'wrong' message struck me as incredibly true and right.

My message said this:

'She is good'


'She is home'

then, finally, what I was trying to say all along

'She is gone'.

Mama, my darling Mama, may you fly free and rest easy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

a close shave

I'm often running late. Not more than five minutes usually, but just a wee bit late. If I set my mind to it, I can be perfectly on time, of course. It's sheer laziness when I time things too finely, not allowing for lost hats, the applying of sunscreen, or the kids' last-minute toilet stops.

My running-latedness extends to school drop-off, too. I'd say fifty percent of the time I'm just 2 or 3 minutes late dropping off Ben (he starts earlier than his sister). Usually there are other kids still arriving, and the teacher is still chatting to parents or children. I tell myself it's not such a big deal.

My children, however, are not impressed when we are running late. They hate being bustled along, and they hate the thought of not being punctual. (Bloody neurotic kids - where do they get that from? Don't answer that please it was a rhetorical question) Laura once asked me plaintively, "Why are we always late for school?". I snapped, "We are not always late for school! And anyway, if you stopped dancing around in your underpants instead of getting dressed, we'd probably be on time!". Suitably chastened (or perhaps just frightened into submission), Laura gave up her protest as we pulled up to the school. Three minutes late.

The truth is that it's usually my fault when we're late. I get wrapped up reading blogs, or I take too long to make the lunches (do these kids of mine really appreciate my fancy salad wraps? I sincerely doubt it), or I just can't get my hair to look fit for public viewing. So I try to admit this to the kids, and apologise.

Last Friday, we were properly late. I'd taken extra time to wash my hair, and to shave my legs (lest I turn into some sort of hairy wildebeest). We arrived to find the class seated, and the roll being taken. I kissed Ben and told him to have a good day. He scuttled in, anxious to be marked as present.

I was chatting quietly with another mother when the teacher aide burst out of the classroom. She was breathless and laughing.

"Ben just told us it wasn't his fault he was late - it was because his mum had to shave her legs".

I think I may have been taught a lesson.

Shave your legs in utmost secrecy.


Last-minute addition: Feeling somewhat shamed by all these very punctual commenters, I must add that I am never late for work (in fact I always get there early to check results etc), and I am never late if meeting someone out somewhere. So obviously I am capable of being efficient, if I only shave early enough!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

hearing right

I've been trying to become a better listener.

I read in a book recently that to listen to someone fully and attentively is to give the other person one of the most precious gifts in the world. Reading those words struck a chord. I thought yes. Oh yes.

My closest friends are all incredible listeners. When I have a problem, they focus. They hear me out; they take time to comprehend. They let me express my fears. And this time and kindness that they give to me is of untold value. I believe that without their friendship, I would find life wearying and difficult.

My children seem to talk to me an awful lot, as I suppose all children do. They tell me what they've read, they ask me how to spell words as they write, they ask obscure questions which stump me and secretly frustrate me. Sometimes the flow of endless chatter feels like a tidal wave of words, and I want to shout "STOP! Stop this infernal talking!" Yet at the same time I am delighted that I am still privy to their worries, their queries and their day-to-day stories. And I want to be someone to whom they can speak, knowing that I will give them my full attention whenever possible. I want them to say, when they are grown, that they always knew they could talk to their mum.

At work, I listen to people all day. I hear their problems, I ask questions and hear their answers to my probing. There is a lot of conversing involved. Because a lot of talking occurs, I sometimes kid myself that I'm a brilliant listener. I begin to believe that I am well on the way to winning the inaugural Australian GP Listening Trophy 2008. Then I catch myself wondering what I'll cook for dinner, or I hear myself butt into the patient's story with a premature question, or I ask something my patient has already told me. Occasionally I ask the same question three times. Oh yes sirree, there is plenty of room for improvement here.

I suspect I am even worse at home. After all, I have already, in my delusional mind, won the listening trophy at work, and by the time I've lugged that sucker home, I'm exhausted. Fatty tells me about his footy team's injuries and I make vague 'hmmmm' noises, as if that should suffice. Laura tells me her dream from the previous night blow by blow and I fight desperately to retain enough detail to sound like I was paying attention. Benjamin explains his drawing of underground worms to me at length, and I stare and exclaim at the wonderful squiggly creatures while my mind is figuring out when Laura's jazz ballet fees are due.

So lately I've been trying to pay more attention, and by doing this, to pay more respect - to the people I love, and to the patients who entrust me with their medical care. It's hard work, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

(No-one's awarded me any trophies yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

seeing the world

The beagle and I went walking today. It was late in the afternoon, a clear day, with just the slightest chill beginning to touch the air.

Only minutes into the walk, we encountered a white-haired older woman, walking her beagle. The two dogs snarled half-heartedly at each other, then subsided as they realised their owners were stopping to chat. The lady and I discussed beagles and their insatiable greed. The woman suddenly asked, "Is this Millie, from Smith Street?". When I replied in the affirmative, she smiled indulgently. "Oh, Ruby and Millie always growl at each other", she laughed. The two dogs stood staring off in opposite directions, like bored teenagers. The woman and I bade each other farewell. I was amused to realise that we knew our respective dogs' names, but not each others'.

I took a route past my friend Belly's house. I knew she and her family were out, but I walked past anyway. I felt a pang of loneliness. The dog and I passed by.

Up a steep road went Millie and I, to my very favourite street. It is a crescent at the top of a hill, and from there I can look out in all directions. The sun was glowing orange in the distance, turning the sky along the horizon a soft tangerine. I felt that surge of happiness that I always feel at the sight of natural beauty.

Down through suburbia the dog and I plunged. We passed a man and his son, kicking a football to each other across a quiet street. The boy, perhaps five or six, watched Millie and I intently as we strolled past. He piped up, "Dad, I wish I had a soccer dog!".
"One that likes to play soccer", he added, in explanation.
"Me, too", his father replied good-naturedly.
I grinned to myself as I strode along.

Closer to home, Millie and I passed a slim, athletic-looking couple. From a distance, I thought they were in their twenties. As we passed, I realised they were in their fifties. Their faces were a little lined, their hair was greying, but I could tell they had been a handsome couple in their youth. They were still a good-looking couple now. I wondered if they were ever sad; wondered if they ever missed the recognition that used to be given to them because of their younger glory. They nodded hello to me and kept talking amiably to each other. They didn't look sad at all.

Our street was bathed in every shade of yellow as the dog and I reached home.