Monday, 5 November 2018

Eulogy

I wrote this, and a close friend read it for me, at Mr Duncan's funeral.




I first met Mr Duncan when he shared his umbrella with me standing in line for the London Summer Proms.  That was Mr Duncan in a nutshell - thoughtful, kind, generous.  

We’d see each other socially at company events, but our friendship deepened when he was planning the trip of a lifetime - driving his Land Rover around the world, starting in Perth.


We stayed in touch as he travelled, messaging every few days as he related his exploits: escaping flash flooding in the Kimberleys, being best man at his friend’s wedding, learning to surf at Coolangatta and driving long distances to detour around bush-fires in Victoria.

One day Mr Duncan said ‘you’re more than welcome to join me at the ends of the earth if you want a break from London’. 

Famous last words.

So I found a cheap flight and joined Mr Duncan for what was intended to be a two week trip into the Australian Outback.  We ended up spending the next ten months travelling in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Cambodia and driving home overland from South Africa.

What we each recognised in the other was a love of adventure, and a partner in crime who could be relied upon.  Mr Duncan learned to dive in Thailand, trekked to see the gorillas in Rwanda and scared the living daylights out of me, driving down the ridiculously steep and snowy Sani Pass out of Lesotho.

We woke to elephants eating leaves from the tree we were camping under, white water rafted down the Nile, slept under the stars in the crater of an extinct volcano in Namibia and splurged on a luxury safari trip to the Okovango Delta.  

Together we dealt with flat tyres and busted shock absorbers in the middle-of-nowhere Tanzania, being held up by tribe members with AK47s in the badlands between Kenya and Ethiopia, and multiple attempted shakedowns by local officials everywhere.  

Hakuna Matata.

When we reached Khartoum, I flew back to the UK for Christmas.  It took Mr Duncan another six weeks to drive back to London.  By the time he was home we realised how much we missed each other and agreed to start “dating”.  

A little over a year later we’d moved in together and were trying for a baby.  Mr Duncan was confident he would be the father of a little girl.  This led to a conversation about where we’d want to raise our family and Australia offered the open spaces and outdoor lifestyle we wanted, along with satisfying work opportunities for us both.

Two weeks after Mr Duncan’s visa was granted and our flights were booked, I discovered I was pregnant with Pickle.  And thus started our most important and unpredictable adventure yet - parenthood.

Mr Duncan was an amazing Dad.  

He was hands-on from the start and it was his desire to be more present for his daughter that led to his working from home.

With Pickle, Mr Duncan's sense of adventure took a different path.  He always found the time to help her to explore the world around her and explain the little mysteries she uncovered.

He delighted in his daughter, as she did in him and they shared a very close relationship full of all sorts of Daddy-and-Pickle-only games and secrets.  

I miss Mr Duncan more than I can comprehend,
-his gentle strength,
-his depth of knowledge,
-his thoughtful opinion,
-his technical acumen,
-his sparkling wit

... and his unwavering faith in me.

I am heartbroken for Pickle, that she will grow up without him by her side. 

But I will remember Mr Duncan as someone who embraced life to it’s fullest and can only hope I raise Pickle to feel the same sense of optimism and adventure in life as her Dad.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Annie

Near the end of last year, when she was three and a half, Pickle was having great success with cosmic ordering.  She wanted a pink, two wheel bike, with a basket on the front and training wheels.  Lo, the next day, the people around the corner put one that met her specification outside their house with a sign saying 'free' just as I was driving by.   She wanted a surfboard, with a legstrap - our neighbours got a new board for their daughter, would Pickle like the old one?  It was even her favourite colour pink! Yes please.

Pickle started preschool at the beginning of this year.  Whenever she was asked to draw a picture of her family it always included her Dad, me, herself and her little sister Annie.  The teachers thought she had a little sister and asked me about her.  But no, Annie only existed in Pickle's imagination. 

(Despite hoping for a sibling, I've had two miscarriages since her birth, and none in the past year. Our plan hasn't changed since we decided to try to have a family.  Keep healthy and keep enjoying each other without contraception, if it happens, it happens). 

Pickle asked me many times when she could have her little sister and I explained about how it wasn't that easy.  It's not like buying something in a shop.  It's more like gardening.  The Dad needed to plant a seed in the Mum and hopefully that seed might grow into a baby inside Mum and after lots of waiting that baby might be born.  But we couldn't choose if the baby would be a boy or a girl, and we couldn't make the seed grow into a baby.  We could just do our best and hope.

I also mentioned a seed was more likely to be planted if she stopped coming into our room at night and keeping us awake all night with her kicks and sleep talking.   I heard a good description of sleeping with a small person recently - they only do crucifix or swastika shapes and alternate between them.  In the last few months Mr Duncan and I were even taking turns sleeping in the spare room a couple of nights a week each so everyone got better rest.

When her Dad went to the UK for a month for work recently, Pickle slept all night in her own bed for the first time since she was 2.5 (and started having night terrors).  She breezed into our bedroom in the morning to wake me up. 

"So. Mum. I slept in my own bed ALL night.  Can I have my little sister Annie now?"  

I praised her for staying in her room all night and reminded her that Dad needed to be here to plant the seed.  That was nearly three months ago and her all-night trick has yet to be repeated.

Mr Duncan died six weeks and one day ago - less than four weeks after he came home from his work trip. 

Tonight, at dinner, Pickle said 

"So I guess we wont be having little sister Annie any more" (in a pretty upbeat manner).

 I asked her what made her say that (I find I get much better answers from 'what' questions than 'why' or 'how').

"Because Dad isn't here to plant the seed" (duh Mum).


I replied "Hmm, you're right (taking a deep breath and trying not to crack up and cry). No he isn't.  What do you think about that?"

She was quiet for a bit and answered uncertainly.

"Maybe.. one day.. we could have a new Dad?

I asked "would you like that?" but she had gone somewhere else in her mind, gazed out the window and never replied.

Thing is, I don't want a new Dad for her.  He is her Dad.  And he was amazing at it.

It's a big thing for me. 

My Dad has always been and continues to be a crap parent (he sent 'condolences' by text message ffs).  Fortunately I realised he was just too self involved in my teens, so it hasn't fucked me up too badly as an adult because I can manage my expectations.  Low.  Very low.

But I was 100% clear with Mr Duncan that were we to have any children, he'd have to actually be a parent.  Not technically, because of sperm, but practically, on a minute by minute basis.  That if I died, Pickle should never have to wonder who would look after her if I wasn't around.  There should be no question!  It would be her Dad, who had always looked after her.  So he had to be on board before we even started trying. 

And once she came into the world, he showed me how fully he was on-board. 

How could I possibly meet someone else that I wanted to be in a relationship with, that could Dad as well as Mr Duncan did with Pickle?

But I think it's the first time she's shown me that she misses him.

I know she's worried about me.   And, having two sisters of my own, I feel terrible that she doesn't have a little sister Annie to share it all with.




Sunday, 14 October 2018

I don't even know where to start...

I don't even know where to start...

More than two years later I find myself returning here, to this blog, where I felt so much safety and comfort while I was in pain...  and I'm thankful that here is still available to return to.

For the past couple of years I had little time between parenting and running my own biz to share my thoughts and feelings, but in addition to having less time, my life and heart were full.  I had less need.

That changed four weeks ago when the rug was pulled out from underneath my feet - Mr Duncan died unexpectedly at the age of 41. 

You don't fight so hard to have a child for that child to be deprived of her father at 4 years old!  I mean fine, sometimes relationships break down, but I was always confident that Mr Duncan would be a present dad, irrespective of our relationship status.  And he was a very present and loving father.  But even if we broke up, he would always be her dad, whether or not he was my husband.

And yet now he is her dad, but not present.  Except in our memories.

Pickle will now always be an only child.  I know the odds of her having a sibling were very low, but we've had a couple of positive pregnancy tests and subsequent early losses since she was born.  We weren't counting on it, but there was always a slight possibility of a sibling... until two weeks ago when my period finally came... late.  I know it was extremely unlikely, but now it's impossible.  And somehow,  the grief I already felt for Poppy and Pipkin, is joined by grief for their Dad, and grief for Pickle's never-going-to-exist potential sibling.  And grief for Pickle.





Now Pickle is the only child of a widowed and grieving mother.  People have been saying to her stupid shit like "take good care of your mummy" -  I practically snarl at them that its not her responsibility.  She's four.  She just lost her dad ffs.

I've written before about how I had a lot of responsibility as a child and how it's shaped my personality - not necessarily for the better.  I don't want that for her.  I just want Pickle to enjoy her childhood like a normal kid.  But now... how is that even possible?  I see her carefully watching my every move.  She tries to comfort me.  I forgot my watch the other day, she said 'That's okay mummy, you can look at the time on your phone".  She's also smart enough to try to parlay my weaknesses to her advantage.  Sometimes I feel so tired that I give in to her suggestions for the ipad simply so I can nap for an hour.

How unfair that at the same time you lose one of your parents,  the other parent starts acting extremely weird?  For the first week my phone did not stop.  There is a crapload of stuff that needs to be sorted out when someone dies.  Not just a funeral which is enough work.  Lots of stupid legal and financial and immigration stuff.  And my background is in project management so I used the adrenaline I was feeling to go into project management mode.  Yes I was sad.  But this was distracting and made me feel less helpless.  I feel lucky that a friend tentatively suggested Pickle had never seen me in professional mode and that it might be like she'd lost her dad AND her mum, because her mum wasn't acting anything like the mum she knew.  So I decided to become the mum and appointed a project manager friend to do all the organising.

And how weird is it that you're arranging an event, like a wedding or a big party, trying to honour your dead person's self and respect their families needs at the same time you're wondering how the hell you will be able parent successfully or make your next mortgage payment without the other member of your team!

Coping with death is stressful, whether it was expected or not.  I don't have a cause of death or death certificate, so I cannot start life insurance claims.  In the meantime I need to pay for a funeral and all normal living expenses while I can barely think in a straight line.  I've found myself doing stupid absent minded stuff like putting milk in the dishwasher instead of the fridge and last night I burned soup.  I need to be careful I don't end up burning down the whole house!

Anyway.  So I'm back.  Not sure for how long, maybe only this post, but I do know that this blog really helped me when I was struggling after losing Poppy and Pipkin.  I hope it will be able to help me again now.  And in helping me, help Pickle.





Thursday, 12 May 2016

Seachange

I just dropped Pickle at her orientation for occasional care - a two hour session in preparation for one day in care a week.  I'm sitting in the library next door thinking what should I do with my time?  I have a long list of things that need doing, but the thing that crosses my mind most days, that I never seem to get to, is my blog. 

I thought I’d be able to update it at least every month – which is how often I update the blog I maintain for Pickle and her Grandparents, but something always seems to take precedence.  And then I thought I’d have time to do a ‘what happened in the last year’ post last month, but ended up being even more overscheduled than usual.  I cannot believe its been over a year since I last wrote, nor how much has changed since then.

Last January, when Pickle was nearly 8 months old we took a ‘holiday’ to Auckland to see family.  It was the usual pressured trip with lots of running around to try and spend time with everyone.  The last three days we drove to Tauranga to spend time with a family friend and have a couple of days relaxation by the beach.

We had originally decided to move to Melbourne and got the visa before I became pregnant with Pickle and our choice of Melbourne was mainly for the job market. When he announced we were moving to Australia, Mr Duncan’s employers declined his resignation and asked if he could just work for them from there.  And with Pickle coming along, I never started looking for clients in Melbourne and started slowly working on some small online businesses.

When we returned from our trip to New Zealand, Mr Duncan and I started discussing the idea of moving out of the city.  The housing market in Melbourne is extremely expensive and given we didn’t need to be close for work reasons maybe we should consider a seachange.  

I remember Bits And Peaces making a similar change, for similar reasons and it seemed to offer so much – more time for both parents to spend with the baby, more affordable housing, more stopping and smelling the roses…

So the end of last April, Pickle, Mr Duncan and I flew to Brisbane, rented a car and did an 800km road trip along the coast south to Coffs Harbour and back – checking out all the little towns that met our criteria of near the sea, with good schools, a good library, hospital and some level of tertiary education in town.

We found one village that really felt right and after re-examining similar places and property prices closer to Melbourne decided to bite the bullet and move again.  At the end of June Mr Duncan and all our stuff drove North for two days to move into a rental we took sight unseen over the internet.  Pickle and I flew up.

Its been nearly a year and we definitely are enjoying a slower pace of life with lots of building sandcastles and swimming in the sea.  Pickle is thriving and we've settled into a routine centred around the beach, local shops, playground and library.  We only get out the car for the weekly swimming lesson.

What else has happened?
  • We went to the UK for a month for Mr Duncan’s work and to see Pickle's grandparents.  This was an exhausting trip, totally not worth it and I don’t want to travel long-haul with Pickle again until she’s at least five - although it was nice to briefly meet up with some old friends.  We all got badly sick with flu from the return flights and spent a month recovering.
  • Not long after we returned from the UK, our landlords announced they wanted to move back into their house so we had to find a new place to live and move house again just before Christmas.  The property market is more expensive than our research had suggested and there is little supply so its taking us a lot longer to find a house to buy than we expected.  I’m simultaneously not looking forward to and looking forward to our next move.  At least the next move will be to our own house and we can stay in it for decades.
  • Mr Duncan’s parents came out to visit for a month in March.  I thought this would give me some respite – some time to update my blog maybe?  No.  Although they wanted to spend time with Pickle every day, they weren’t willing to do it without myself or Mr Duncan present – so we just ended up really overscheduled trying to fit in all the social stuff.
  • My Mum is coming to visit for a week next Tuesday to celebrate Pickle’s second birthday (and my fortysomethingth).  I just hope this trip goes more smoothly than the last one.  


Pickle updates
The speed at which these small people learn and grow is mindblowing.

  • Pickle started walking at 14 months, 2 days.  It was kind of unexpected as she hadn’t really been practicing walking.  She just stood up one day and took 14 steps across the back yard.  By the end of the week she’d stopped crawling completely.
  • We did baby sign language with Pickle from the start, and she was pretty good at letting her needs be known with her hands – “more milk” “up Mummy”, “finished”.  But in the past couple of months her speech has jumped from one-two word sentences to ten word sentences and decrees.  ‘Pickle wants Pickle’s daddy come home to Pickles house where he lives’ is one recent statement that sticks in my mind. 
  • And in news it feels hard to write down, Mr Duncan and I decided at the beginning of the year to see if we are lucky enough to give Pickle a brother or sister so have been working on clean eating, stress reduction etc.  I’m back on pre-conception supplements and seeing an acupuncturist.  I know our chances are not high, but they’re not impossible either.  Or thats what I keep telling myself.



Thursday, 2 April 2015

Ghost town

Marcy completely called it.  Yes it has also been a ghost town around here. Parenting an infant takes a lot of time and energy and I have been using what little time I have to myself to do stuff (or sleep) rather than write about stuff.

My IF feed has really slowed.  The fact is that most* of the IF bloggers I started to follow around the time of Poppy's loss have become mothers (congrats!) and I imagine are having the same time/priority conflicts as me.  I miss reading your words, but for me at least, along with less time, I have a diminished need to process my thoughts.

It annoys me about myself a bit, because that is why I found such comfort in this community in the first place - parenthood was so 'normal' and being excluded from it was so isolating.  And now I'm not excluded from it I have less to say (and less time to say it).

So that doesn't make me a very good contributor to the community.  Although I imagine many who are still working on it stopped reading a long time ago.  Like when I got pregnant.  Fair enough.

I still love to read about how things are going for others in the community, but make fewer comments... I'm still managing to find snatches of time to read because there are fewer posts...

Yeah I don't really know where I'm going with this.

*From a completely non-scientific sample of 'IF bloggers trying to conceive that I added to my reader' about the time that I started this blog, only 11.53% are still working on it.

---------

Here are pics of some of the things I've been spending my time/energy on when not tending to Pickle/trying to catch up on sleep.

Tending my bag-garden.  Rats from the building site next door (shudder) demolished all the tomatoes but I got some great bell and chilli peppers and loads of parsley, oregano, mint, spring onions and eggplants.
Making baby sleep sacks.  The green one with the middle zip is made from one of Pickle's old swaddling cloths.  The white one is lightweight fleece.  Pickle has nearly grown out of both of them now so I need to get to work on some more.



Upcycling onesies.  Pickle has long legs and is slender so her feet would start to get snug while the rest of the onesie fit.  I just sewed a bit of T-shirt collar on the bottom of the top for length rather than hemming.  I can't tell you how much easier it is to button up a top instead of pulling it over a small wriggly person's head.  



Making T-shirt yarn (hence the spare collar material for the onesies).  I'm in the middle of making a rug for Pickle's room.


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