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Author: Justin (Page 1 of 25)

June 21

It’s the day of my friend’s funeral.

I’ve been thinking of his ten-year-old son, the same age as my own Elderbeast. I’ve been thinking about his ex-wife, and of her having to explain to her son what happened. (I’ve had some daunting conversations with my kinderbeasts in recent months, but nothing on this scale.) I think of his parents, attending their child’s funeral; something no parent should ever have to do.

I reflect that, thankfully, I haven’t been to many funerals. The last one, two decades ago, was for my own mother. The day passed in a blur, even though I remember almost every detail. Back then, I held it together until they carried the coffin in. I wonder if I’ll hold it together or not today. It’s not my own grief that typically gets me; it’s witnessing the grieving of others.

And, once again, I think of my friend’s family.

The service is well attended. There are a handful of people from work. I see my friend’s son and his mother; we hug and say hello briefly. I’m not able to say much more. There are many people I don’t know. I’m glad that so many people have come to remember him, but sad that he perhaps forgot how loved he was in life. Or maybe we forgot.

The service is perfect. It reminds us to celebrate his life, not to regret that we couldn’t prevent his passing. I take a lot of comfort from everything that’s said. I’m surprised when my tears come at the end, but in the end they’re tears that mourn the friend I had the joy of knowing.

I’ll leave you with a poem that was read during the service, which says everything that could possibly be said.

Safe Harbour
by Jennifer Hickok

The storm has been raging for so long now
Pouring rain, crashing thunder, howling wind
Beating down on this lonely ship
Searching for a place to call home

There was a time; it seems so long ago
The sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky
Looking up from the bow into forever
A gentle breeze, cotton candy clouds

But the storm slowly moved in
A few scattered showers and thunderstorms
Days of downpour, flashes of lightning
With shelter so hard to find

Rainbows still shone, beacons of hope
In the unlikeliest places
Vibrant against a backdrop of gray
A glimpse at the best of times

As the years passed by
The storms changed, getting worse
Getting better, and fading away
But they’d left their mark

A vessel is forever changed
When touched that way
And although you can rebuild
The damage has been done

Horrible storms had been forecast
For the not so distant future
But they wouldn’t hit this ship
Not again, no more damage would be done

The ship will be protected now
Lost no more, tossed about no longer
Safe in a harbor to forever call home

June 15

I take the morning off work to go and get some of the settlement papers signed (Application For Consent Orders, if you want to be precise about it). As I’m no longer retaining my lawyer, I need to go and get the papers signed and witnessed. Luckily there’s a resident Justice Of The Peace at a nearby shopping centre. I know this because Rachel went to the same place to do her part of the signing (and witnessing).

I drop the Elderbeast off at his PEAC class and head to Garden City, wishing that the headache I’d woken up with would buggar off. I’m tired and meh, so my first stop is the grab some coffee and eggs at my favourite breakfast place in the centre. I’m expecting a call at 9:30–I’ve signed the Elderbeast up for a Mindfulness course, and the tutor wants to chat to me about him first–but the call never comes. I wonder around outside the Civic Centre, where the Justice Of The Peace operates, generally looking suspicious, and finally head in at 9:55am when they put the sign outside announcing that the JP is available. It only takes a couple of minutes but I’m glad I was first in as there are six people waiting outside when I leave.

I have some time to kill before I need to collect the Elderbeast, and then remember that Rachel’s mother works in the centre so I drop in to say hello. In almost no time I have to go and pick up the Elderbeast. We stop by the supermarket along the way, where I pick up a heavily discounted yoghurt and an equally heavily discounted chicken sandwich for my lunch. Win!

At the end of the day I decide I need some wine, even though it’s not yet Friday. I’m sharing with Beryl, who doesn’t drink Merlot, but fortunately there’s a bottle of Shiraz that’s been languishing on the shelf. It turns out to be a good one, and there’s barely a glass left in the bottle by the time we’re done.

June 14

I finally catch up with my friend at work. We chat about the mutual friend we’ve lost. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we would end the work week chatting over a beer on a Friday afternoon. We share the same sense of shock over the news, but are equally unsurprised that it ended this way.

June 13

It’s a sombre Tuesday. I wake up having dreamt about the Kinderbesten going missing while I’m on holiday. A nightmare in all senses of the word. I’m relieved when I wake up and, for once, real life is emphatically better than the dream.

Nevertheless, much of the morning is spent pondering the death of my friend. I message a work colleague who, I’m ashamed to realise, I’ve not caught up with for a couple of months. The news reminds me that we should catch up and chat, especially as I suspect he will also be mourning. However, he’s off on a school excursion for the day.

The hardest part is having to tell Rachel. I spend some time trying to figure out the best way to break such terrible news, but quickly decide that simply getting on and doing it is for the best. I message her as I walk back to the office with my coffee, and then forward the same email I received.

The rest of my day is filled with meetings, and the arrival of a new work PC … which sits on my desk and leaves me vaguely intimidated for the afternoon.

 

June 12

Today I find out that a friend of mine has died over the weekend. They say he “passed away”, but given a long history of severe depression you don’t need many pieces to put together what really happened.

I hadn’t talked to him in a couple of years, and only sporadically in the few years prior to that. But go back a few more years and I have a friend that I used to work with, that I used to see almost every weekend, and that I was close enough to that our families spent a couple of Christmas Days together. My heart is torn apart thinking about the loss of that friend, but he was taken long before this weekend.

I watched as mental illness took away his competence, then his joy. I watched as it tore him away from his family. I watched the empty space where my friend used to be.

When something like this happens, the typical question we ask ourselves is: could I have done more? Absolutely, yes. When there’s death involved there’s always something else we could have done. When there’s no alternative, no opportunity to turn back the clock, we obsess over the things we might have done differently. There’s always something.

Ask me if I was shocked about this news, and the answer is yes. Ask me if I was surprised, and you’ll get a different answer. I could have done more, but I suspect the only difference I would have made would have been to assuage my guilt a little more. My friend, at least what remained of him, spent years getting the best care he could probably have gotten. But it wasn’t enough.

I don’t know what his last day was like, and I doubt I ever will. But I like to think that the end came not after a moment of desperation and despair, but after a moment of peace. I like to think that there was a moment where he simply decided enough was enough, and made a choice.

We’re supposed to end pieces like this by reminding everyone that help and counselling are available. They are. But all I want say is this: if you think someone you know is having a bad time, let them know you’re there. Just say ‘hello, I’m here’. You never know, just reminding someone at the right moment that they’re not alone in the world might be the thing that makes all the difference.

June 11

I wake up with a headache, which is a bit of a downer, but I definitely enjoyed the wine that caused it, so I have zero regrets. I’ve arranged to meet one of my Facebook friends for breakfast; our first in-person meeting, and I’m very excited–both for the rare chance to meet someone new, and to try out a new breakfast place. The morning doesn’t quite shift my headache, but it’s a splendid time nonetheless.

I make plans to head home straight afterwards, but a plan to buy some nurofen, and some better-tasting panadol than the clone stuff I have in the cupboard, somehow turns into a mini shopping spree. I walk into JB Hifi, and come out with $50 of blurays (seven films though!). I go into Target, remember that they have a new range of kids Doctor Who t-shirts, which I can fit into, and come out with a shiny new Dalek t-shirt. I browse posters for the kinderbesten, but don’t like the prices (so I order some online for them instead). And, of course, I also get my drugs.

I get home with grand plans to make a Heston Blumenthal roast chicken, and have been brining my chicken in preparation. I pop it in the oven, ready for three-plus hours of slow roasting … and then the power goes out. I quickly transfer it to the hob, sling in some stock and vegetables, and leave it on a low heat instead. Meanwhile I finally go and build the shelves that I actually went to IKEA for in the first place: GNEDBYs, half price in the sale, and ideal for my very slowly expanding collection of blu-rays. As I’m building, the power comes back on. I stick on Rogue One to watch as I work: I have just enough time for it before the kinderbesten return.

When I finally retrieve the chicken from the pot it is so tasty that I consider cooking it that way every time. I then use the leftovers to make some stock and set out to see how many meals I can get out of this one bird.

Sunday ends, as is the tradition, with Doctor Who in the company of my two wonderful kinderbesten.

June 10

It’s Saturday. I don’t have the kinderbesten, and I have big plans for the day.

I get up at 7am, well in time to make it to IKEA for 8am opening. I plan to be in and out before it gets hideous. It’s all going extremely well until I miss the exit off the freeway. I’m so used to seeing IKEA looming, in all its blue and yellow glory, that I haven’t even bothered to remember the name of the exit. With some malarkey from Google Maps (mostly due to me misunderstanding which dot on the map actually represents my location) I get to IKEA just after 8am. I consider it a victory.

I go straight to the cafe to claim my $2 breakfast, which actually costs $4.50 because I have coffee too. I have a bit of a browse, almost challenging myself to be tempted by something that’s not on my list. But nothing really jumps out at me. Then, in the kitchen section, I grab a rogue item: three corkboard mats. I’ve finally broken. I’ve strayed from the list. I start to feel the stress building and I decide to get the rest of the things on my list and clear out.

I plan to drop by a friend’s house on the way home. I manage to take the wrong turn out of IKEA. But then I traverse the rest of the route with almost complete success … until I manage to completely drive past her road. Then I spend a ridiculous ten minutes trying to persuade Google Maps to tell me where I am, and where the right road is, and where I can actually park. It all comes together in the end, but a ten-minute journey has taken me half an hour. Totally worth it though: I get to see my friend, and I get to play with kittens.

But then I have to leave as I’ve arranged for Rachel’s Dad to come over and help me replace some taps (I could *probably* do them myself, but I could also almost certainly screw them up myself too). The taps prove far more challenging than they have any right to be, but we claim victory in the end. While that’s all going on, I rebuild my coffee station. It’s basically an IKEA desk that has been placed in an alcove, with a fridge beneath it, and holds all the tea and coffee paraphernalia. I’ve had visions of replacing it with some old IKEA desk components and some fresh wall shelves for years, but haven’t gotten around to it. Until now! It takes a couple of hours, but the result not only doesn’t fall down, but is almost every bit as glorious an improvement as I could have hoped. Instead of a grubby, white desk surface I now have lovely pine-effect shelves. Plus more storage space. And I even bought some LED lights from IKEA to light it up. Unfortunately they’re brighter than a million suns, so I decide to leave them for the time being.

I’ve decided that it’s time for me to spend an evening completely on my own, something that would have filled me with abject fear and trepidation less than a month ago. However, I’ve been feeling so much better over the last few weeks that I finding myself looking forward to it now.

I start off by cooking myself a steak, and it turns out so damn good that I feel tangible guilt at eating it all myself. But I do it anyway. I then build the new lamp I picked up at IKEA today. It’s meant to provide a minimal amount of background lighting for the main room, but again it’s way bright than expected. However, I find a good spot for it behind the sofas where, so long as you don’t stare directly at it, it manages to provide some pleasant ambient lighting.

Then I settle down to watch Arrival, which I bought months ago and was incredibly excited about watching and then … didn’t. It turns out to be not quite the film I was expecting, but equally even more amazing than expected. I go to bed moved and inspired and–for only the third time in however many years–in a completely empty house.

June 9

The school week end with Dress Like A Pirate day, and both of the kinderbesten look fantastic. As I have to get to a meeting for 9am, I commission the Elderbeast to do the big brother thing (as opposed to the Big Brother thing) and take charge of getting the Kinderbeast to his class.

I have many meetings at work, alleviated briefly by a colleague bringing in a quantity of Krispy Kremes, but it’s overall a good day. I am hyped that I’ve managed the full five days, and I am also–against all expectations–deliriously excited about my second childfree weekend.

I get home and see Rachel’s car is missing from the drive. I briefly wonder if she’s already taken the kids before I’ve had a chance to say goodbye, but of course she’s merely popped down to the shops. In the end it takes a remarkably long time for everyone to get packed up and out of the house.

I’m planning an early morning trip to IKEA tomorrow, so I head straight to Coles to do my week’s shopping. On a Friday night! Because I can! Without the fussy kinderbesten to feed I’m free to have something a bit special for dinner, so I grab some salmon steaks. I accompany them with a glass of red wine. Also because I can!

Then Seb arrives for Fridate and the weekend is officially started. He helps me move the sofas around in the front room, because I feel like a change. We try at least 16 different arrangements, mostly adjusting the angle of the sofas by a few degrees here and there, until we finally stumble across an arrangement that works–and it really works.

Our hard work for the night concluded, we settle down for our Friday night horror movie. This week: The Howling.

Awesome.

June 8

I continue to feel dead tired at work, but I’ve been holding out for Thursday and Friday to arrive: I have dinner with friends tonight, and then Fridate tomorrow, both of which have made the week worth persisting with. I’m also particularly upbeat about the prospect of achieving another five-day week: something which has been a challenge of late, but is starting to feel like less and less of an endurance test.

On the way home I grab some babysitting wine for Beryl along with some desert to take with me (chocolate orange cheesecake, if you were wondering). I go home to get showered, then back out to Macca’s to collect the standard “Daddy’s not cooking dinner tonight” takeout. Along the way the Elderbeast somehow negotiates his way from a small frozen Coke to a large one. One day he will make a great lawyer.

I then spend my evening in the company of two wonderful people, both perfect hosts, who give me lots and lots of good advice for tackling the Elderbeast’s behaviour and providing him with the support he needs. I drive home afterwards, tired but delighted to have such great people in my life, and optimistic that I can find a way to help the Elderbeast before things get too much worse.

I get home and the Elderbeast is still up: apparently he has, in the nicest way, refused to go to bed until I get home. I wonder if there’s an element of anxiety at the root of that, or if it was just a tactical play so he could sit up and watch TV. Eithet way, it’s nice that I get to see him and say goodnight properly.

June 7

I begin Wednesday with another lie in. I just keep hitting that snooze button. I’m not counting , but I’m sure it must be a new record. I finally get up and post my June 1 diary. It’s time to get back into the world, as it were. I’ve been feeling generally in balance for the last week or so, and it’s time to bring my small number of social media brethren into the loop and move forward with the New Normal.

The Elderbeast has somehow appeared in my bed overnight, but this hasn’t improved his mood any. He refuses to get up, refuses to get dressed, and is generally evil for the duration of the morning. My patience and/or stubbornness prevail and I eventually get him out of the door.

By comparison, the work day is relatively easygoing. I’m truly feeling like I’m back in the swing of it: I’m able to engage in my job again, instead of it just feeling like something I need to endure until it’s time to go home again and not have to pretend to be a Professional Human any more. It helps that I get many wonderful and lovely responses to my diary post. People are shocked and surprised by what has happened, but they’re full of support for me and the kids. It is, as always, the people around me who have helped me get through this whole thing.

And, because it seems like something I really should have done before now, I finally [Facebook] unfriend the person who is now living with my wife. It doesn’t feel like a victory as such, but it does feel a necessary part of the process of sorting through and tidying the remaining pieces of my life.

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