Sunday, July 30, 2006

tenuous connections

I used to visit her every day. She made me smile, giggle and laugh out loud. She had a knack with words that fascinated me. She was soft and sweet; she was sharp and sassy. And underneath her jokes and banter, there was always her raw and brutal grief, a grief that I wished with all my heart I could wipe away.

This woman was not an actual friend of mine. The 'visits' I speak of were visits to her blog. Yet I had read enough of her humour, and taken in enough of her pain, that I felt I was beginning to know her. Then, just over a month ago, she fell silent. Every day I check to see if she has written. Every day I see the same words, dated several weeks back.

Whenever she was going to be away, or knew she would be busy with her family, my fellow blogger would mention it in her posts in advance. She posted almost every day. Her last post was chatty, cheeky, light-hearted even. Now I wonder if she was actually fighting off a terrible despair, even as she typed those teasing words.

Where are you, my friend? Are you overwhelmed by your loss? Are you struggling with a new difficulty? I hope more than anything that you have someone to hold your hand and stroke your forehead. I worry that something awful may have happened to you, and I shake that thought away.

Wherever you are, please know that you are remembered, with compassion and fondness, with respect and admiration, and with a big smirk at the thought of all your cheesy puns. Please take care. You are one of a kind.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

thinking back

Before we went to Canada, I wondered if perhaps we'd bitten off more than we could chew (so to speak). I know that these days, hip and happening parents go trekking in the Himalayas with their 3 week old babies, but I have never been hip and happening. I thought Fatty and I were adventurous whenever we ventured out of the house with our first child. I thought we were extremely bold when we took our infant son and two-year-old daughter on a domestic flight to visit their grandparents. So to take a trip overseas - let's just say it was a big step for Fatty and me.

It's been a real confidence boost to see that, with some careful planning, and a lot of plain good luck, too - we managed it. We managed it, and we really enjoyed it (So there is life after children!).

One of the best things about the holiday, for me, was working together with Fatty. We are very different sorts of people, who often go about things in quite different ways, yet we worked in parallel to make the holiday run smoothly. Sometimes, tangled up in the details of day-to-day living, I fret over our disparities. I forget that we're a good team. We complement each other - yin and yang.

It was good to spend time with our kids, too. They were amazingly tolerant of all the tedious things about travel, and they were full of joy and vigour when it came to sightseeing. We talked, and walked, we ate and laughed. We had running jokes that continued the entire trip. We were just a regular, happy family on holidays, but I felt like the queen of the world. I woke up smiling every day.

Now life has returned to its usual pattern, but I am renewed. It's been brilliant to travel in Canada. Best of all, I did it with my sweeties.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

back in the saddle again

As I dressed for work yesterday, I gave myself a little pep talk:

"Come on, it'll be good to see everyone there."

"I'm sure your brain hasn't really atrophied during your four weeks off work."

"It'll probably be an easy morning; stop getting your knickers in a knot!"

Armed with a suitably perky smile, I strode into work, greeting various other staff members, and replying that yes indeedy, my holiday HAD been good. Very good. Too good!

The morning was running pretty well, and I was beginning to relax, when I called in 'Jenny'. She looked uncomfortable yet sheepish at the same time, as she explained she'd had this chest and left shoulder pain since yesterday afternoon. "I'm sure it's just a pulled muscle, but, you know, dad was only 62 when he died of a heart attack".

Right. "Let's just go get you on some oxygen," I suggest firmly, leading her to a treatment room. In many ways, a patient having angina or a heart attack is a straightforward scenario to manage (unless they go into an life-threatening arrhythmia or actually arrest in the surgery- which luckily is not too often). You have a certain formula to follow - check this, give that. Of course, as a suburban GP, there is one vital action to be taken - something a good doctor learns early, something that requires great wisdom and intellect. Want to know this most important step? Oh, alright, I'll share the secret. In an emergency, the most crucial job is .... asking the receptionist to call an ambulance. Pronto!

The ambulance arrived, with two burly paramedics. I had been about to insert an IV, but seeing as the paramedics can do IV's standing on their heads, and considering I only insert an IV about once a year (if that), I let them take over. Unfortunately, Jenny had tiny veins, and when one of the ambulancemen tried to put in a drip in Jenny's hand, it went right through the vein.

Now usually I am not especially confident as a doctor, and I would never put myself forward to take over a situation. But it just happens that the one procedural skill I have always been good at is inserting IVs. Even as an intern, I would be called to do the difficult drips. Once, a third-year resident saw me passing near the emergency department, and despite that fact I was on a day off, and was wearing a checked flannel shirt, called me to try to insert a drip in the arm of a large Fijian lady who'd already been 'stabbed' by various doctors half a dozen times (I don't know what the poor lady thought of the lady lumberjack who was poking her with a needle, but I got the drip in!) So it was very unlike me, but when the paramedic started talking about trying another vein in a position where the drip will often block up or fall out, I tentatively approached. "What about this vein here? I could have a try, if you like", I offered. "Sure doc", one of the ambulancemen replied. Now I really felt under pressure. Trying to get a wide needle into a small vein - was I going to stuff this up, and feel like a real goose?

No! I didn't stuff it up! Hooray and hallelujah!

It's amazing what a buzz I got from such a simple task. I can't explain why I should feel so pleased about such a silly thing. I suppose when skills don't get used, you wonder if you still have the skills at all. But it's OK. I can still whack an IV in.

And all of you who have nodded off can now wake up. This post is over!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

holiday happy-snaps

Hello! I've missed you all! (The occasional post from far away is just not the same)

We arrived home yesterday afternoon, and are all in pretty good shape today. I have phoned my friends, chatted to my mum, slept in my own bed (ahhhh), and patted the dog. All is right with the world!

I thought I would post some trip photos (Lake Louise, Butchart gardens in Victoria, sea otter from Vancouver aquarium)... hope you like them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"You make me feel so young..."

Whenever I hear the smooth notes of a Frank Sinatra song, I am taken back, way back, transported to the time when I was six or seven, to when I was small and my parents were still happy together. Perhaps there were stirrings of dissatisfaction and dissent between my mother and father, but my six-year-old self had not noticed anything amiss. I knew I was loved, I knew my parents loved each other, and my world was composed of the three of us.

Every night, both parents would kiss me goodnight. I would lie in bed, with the golden light from the living room spilling down the hall and glowing softly in my room - not enough to keep me awake, but enough to chase away my fears. With my door ajar, I could hear the rise and fall of my parents voices as they talked. The words were indecipherable, but the murmur of their conversation was a sound that I loved. If my parents laughed about something together, I felt that my life, at that moment, was utterly perfect. It was one of my favourite times of the day.

Sometimes, Mum or Dad would ask me if I wanted some music to listen to as I fell asleep. They had given me a recording of 'The Nutcracker Suite', and I remember listening to its familiar refrains as I drifted off to sleep. But mostly, I would be serenaded into the Land of Nod by the music my father loved .... Ivan Rebroff, the music to Dr Zhivago, but mostly, more than any other, Frank Sinatra. And if you have to listen to the same man singing, night after night, I can assure you that Ol' Blue Eyes was an excellent choice. His honeyed voice, his perfect pitch, his corny songs of love - they still appeal to me now. It's not that I don't love many other types of music - rock, pop, blues, classical, country/rock. Yet Sinatra's music still draws me in, holds me, soothes me, reminds me of when my world was much smaller. It reminds me of the warm yellow walls in my room, the kiss of my mother, the chuckle of my father, and the simplicity of a six-year-old.

Though my life has changed a lot over the past 30-odd years, and though my parents' marriage did not survive, one thing has remained constant. I know that both my parents love me dearly. And that knowledge I have carried with me like a talisman throughout my life. That, and the uncanny ability to sing the lyrics of any Frank Sinatra song you may care to name .....

"You make me feel so young
You make me feel like spring has sprung!"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mum, it's your birthday!!!

Now I know you don't all know my Mum, but take it from me - she is a divine creature. So please join with me in wishing the sweet Jellyma a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!

Happy Birthday Mum. I'm sorry I'm not around to celebrate with you, but I will make it up to you when we return.

Hip hip....hooray!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rocky Mountain Highway

Everyone, everyone, I am so excited! Just now, I was peacefully eating some dinner with my family, at a restaurant in the Rocky Mountains, when a large elk sauntered past our hotel!!! I kid you not! I asked the waitress if this was unusual, and she tucked her hair behind her ear and calmly replied, "Well, it happens. We are right in the middle of a National Park, so ya. They walk through here sometimes." Incredible!

Other things that have amazed or intrigued me:
- the majesty of the mountains (compared to these, Australian mountains are just hills. Bumps.)
- the ginormous portion sizes. I tell you, it's just as well we've been piggybacking our kids on trails and walks every day, or we'd be very FAT by now. Of course, I realise there is always the option of not eating everything on your plate. But that's hard if the food's good!
- cute squirrels which seem to be everywhere, leading me to suspect they could possibly be regarded as vermin here. I am sincerely hoping that is the case (or at least that they are as plentiful as they seem) because I unfortunately squashed one yesterday. Sorry squirrel.

I am having trouble getting time to comment on all your blogs, but I am still reading when I can. Best wishes to you all,

the travelling Jelly