Written Off

Officially written off. That’s our car. By the time the remaining of the loan is paid out, we’ll have little to have as deposit for another car. 

Fortunately, we’re still in possession of my Pa’s 24 year old Magna. It’s a tank, gas guzzling and clunky, but it’s well looked after and should do a few more years while we save for another car.

The job he’s got is pretty much written off also. It has been troublesome from the beginning within the organisation, which is poorly structured and stinky in culture. There is no guarantee that if we move up there with him that the job will last, and I’m hesitant to throw away my job security just so my husband can say he’s gainfully employed. I may only have a part time job, but it’s a sure bet, and a well-balanced position.

Being away from our daughter is taking its toll. He’s missed her 5th birthday, first day of school, first school award and so many play dates this year. 

He’s missed the first human looking scan of our baby and being present as my belly grows. He’s missed being that smudge more connected to the pregnancy by engaging with us in the day to day. Now baby is halfway through incubation the fun part for Dads begin- the midnight kick in the back when we’re snuggling in bed, and the last couple of scans that ignite anticipation.

Our daughter cries at least twice a week because she’s had to deal with a lot of change at a young age. She’s resilient but Daddy lives in a different town, she’s going to be a big sister after 5.5 years and a school girl now. Emotionally she’s had to grow quickly, but I see how it’s wearing her in places.

His absence has little impact on me emotionally,  apart from the domestic workload and being the exclusive parent day to day. I’ve always been rather self-sufficient. Sometimes though, it would be nice to not be the one to always hang out the washing or be the main source of comfort for our girl.

Life is drama. That’s a reality. It’s often out of control and grappling with the uncertainty is trying at the best of times. Now, it is necessary to decide on the non-negotiables. 

After nearly losing him last week, and not gaining anything tangible from his absence, it’s time to cease this experiment. He’s hopefully putting in his notice on Monday and coming home the following week.

This comes with a new set of challenges. There are always consequences to decisions. We take comfort in not being separated being the best decision for us.

The Wedding Dress

Earlier this month, in the middle of the week, we were about to walk run out the door to get to work when I commented on the date. He looked at me blankly. I casually remarked that we had been married nine years. I was stoic in my reply. We looked at each other for a moment, sighed, and kept on moving hustling the child out the door (we may only have one child but, oh, the time it takes to get to the car). There was never any mention of the milestone again until today.

Today, I started to pack our belongings, to get a head start on the impending move. I opened the drawer in my great grandmother’s wardrobe where the photos, baby blankets, favourite childhood books and stuffed toys are. I dragged out the vacuum sealed bag with my wedding dress in it. Suddenly, I was overcome with emotions I had cradled since our wedding.

This last few years have been challenging to understate considerably. It seems at times that carrying this vow, this ring, this dress has been a kind of epic journey like a certain Tolkien tale. So many times, I’ve had to choose to continue through my own Dead Marshes, desperately trying to ignore the Candles of Corpses. I often brace myself for the next part of the journey.

Finally though, this nebulas emotional skeleton grabbed me with both of its gnarly hands and decided it was time to fight. It wanted to drag me under, to the same fate as his parents. Anger welled up, my chest heaving as the mass of emotion malignantly expanded more quickly than I thought possible.

I. HATE. MY .WEDDING. DRESS.

I picked it. Out of pressure. Mum and Dad loved it (they were paying for the wedding) and really, with the event only 6 weeks aways I didn’t have a lot of time for looking. That was how a lot of the wedding went actually. I picked lots of things to spite the matron of honour. She had tried to hijack the wedding so many times I just made decisions to annoy her. My husband was overwhelmed with a promotion at work and had left me to make most of the decisions. The decision I did charge him with was the venue. I had told him I wanted a beach wedding. He picked a church (a crappy looking one at that) and had arranged the minister before consulting me. My father almost died in a motorcycle accident just weeks before the ‘happy day.’

Basically,  the wedding dress had become the ultimate symbol of how tragic the wedding plans were and subsequently an omen for the next few years to come. I may go into a bit of detail later about just how horrible things were when we first got married, but for now, back to the dress… I had planned on keeping it, have it redesigned for our tenth anniversary. Now, I am not so sure.

I pulled it out of the vacuum seal bag today and desperately wanted to take a pair of scissors to it and shred it and pour all the frustrations and trauma from the first years of our married life into destroying this object that ultimate contains no value judgements or moral quality at all. I felt like I was losing my mind. I burst into tears and kind of shocked my husband a little.

I’m not really one to cry these days. We’ve been through so many ridiculous situations that I just don’t let out the tears so much anymore. I think that is my problem. Even though we have been purging our physical items, have made deliberate and effective changes to the way our life flows and regularly reassess whether things are working or not, I’m still largely defragging my mind, spirit and body.

For me, I’m beginning to wonder if the whole process of minimalism has been to get me to where the external is no longer crowding out my self. I am beginning to hear me for the first time in, well, to be honest; since I was four. That’s an incredibly significant thing… the wedding dress… not so much. I still hate it.

Maybe this part of the journey is to the top of the mountain, where I’ll symbolically throw it into the only place it can be destroyed… the past.

60 years… a Legacy part II: Great-grandchildren, the art of being resolute and LOVE.

Here is part two. There are now 8 great-grandaughters )one more on the way) and 4 great great sons. All the grand children are married except two (out of seven- one divorced, one living it up completely and rightly so).

So far there are 6 great-grandchildren, 4 boys and 2 girls. All of them absolutely charming and completely individual. One of the youngest, a son, has a unique challenge. We were enjoying each other’s company immensely but the unnameable disability and unknown mortality of this gorgeous little man was one of the rare bitter moments spent together. Our love for each other and our God is strong (however distant some of us may think we are from Him).

There were silent heart songs to Heavenly Father that He would bring fullness of health to this little man… our faith remains constant regardless of the future… giving up on hope and the goodness of God never an option.

I have to admit I had two prayers that day… we don’t have a child ourselves, not by our choice. We’re still pressing forward, knowing that God is faithful, but occasionally feeling particularly fleshy… determined… 3 years and counting.

My Dad read out some of the letters from various important people- the local MP, the Premier, the Queen etc… then he read aloud some important family history – most of which none of us previously knew. On our Pa’s side we have heritage that goes back several hundred years in Germany. Our family were vital in providing food to the peoples of Germany and have been known to be of most resolute character. Our family ended up on the Darling Downs. My great, great, great grandfather Joseph was so determined to have his voice heard in an important local meeting that when he got chucked out for being rowdy he crawled back in through the window to continue his rant… he later went on to be the last mayor of Drayton.

On Nan’s side is Scotland… the Scott clan interestingly enough. We have known lots of our Scottish heritage for many years. Any child after the first born can be named or bestow their 2nd and subsequent children with “Scott.” We were Borderers, staunch supporters of Robert the Bruce and in the 17th century married into the Douglas clan. Nan’s family used to own most of what is now the Drayton cemetery. The pencil pines lining the old driveway that went up to the front of the long gone family roost are still there… one pine for each of the children. Our clan motto “AMO” means “I LOVE!”

I began to think that 60 years is a long time and both Nan and Pa are in their 80’s. I began to wonder and hope that they would both make it to 70 years. My heart is quietly optimistic that they and our special little cousin will be alive and well in 2020. All those ‘future’ thoughts temporarily over ran my mind as we stacked up the plates and packed up the nappy bags.

It was a short time together, the rain threatening to strand us all indefinitely. The kisses and hugs and struggling of seat belts click- clacking around squirming over-tired babes… the slam of car doors and engines starting up made me realise…

For all the madness of this life and something that I believe we all attribute to Nan and Pa and their 60 years together… their legacy that they leave to us… is… regardless of what is thrown at us there will always be… the art of being Resolute and Love.

60 years… a legacy part I: The grandchildren.

Yesterday, my Dad’s side of the family came together to celebrate my Nan and Pa’s wedding anniversary… 60 years on 30 December, 2010. Altogether there were 4 generations present and almost 85 years of family memories stored in our hearts and minds. It was a bittersweet day…

For most us the memories have centred around a little house in Newtown, Toowoomba- Nan and Pa’s place. A place with a wood burning cooker in its heart, a greenhouse full of many hidden treasures of gnomes and other garden ornaments; and a vege patch where sometimes the only plants that would grow were weeds among the limp, strangled bodies of the drought afflicted taters and beans.

Then there are the ham and salad sandwiches and carrot cake that only Nan could make taste as good as they do. The tomatoes and cucumber faithfully supplied by Pa and his vege patch. Between the two of them with Pa’s taters and beans, Nan could make meat and 3 veg taste better than any fine meal in any posh restaurant. The reputation of their now long gone bakery still lives on in the home cooked meals and hard worked for veges.

Every time we visit Nan there is something newly created in ribbon embroidery or hand painted milk cans and hand saws. Pa’s shed still cluttered with all kinds of old time tools and gadgets. The treasures we have to remember them by.

This was something I wrote back at the beginning of 2011. We had just spent the day with my grandparents, Dad’s parents. They were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Here are the thoughts I wrote down:

We will never forget the bee stung feet in spring, being sent out to fill the water jug from the big old water tank and Nan occasionally rousing on grandchildren for pulling on the beautiful gold tassle attached to her golden flocked chaise. Then there’s the Christmas lanterns that Nan has been putting up since my Dad was a little one (he’s 11 years younger than his brother)… those shiny strands tearing off one by one, year by year… oh… the 2nd drawer of the tall boy squeaking as it opened to release the crackling of the lolly bags Nan stashed for our visits… that dowdy red stool we all used to fight over whenever all of us packed around their antique dining table… it all seems a bit more like a dream as every years floats by.

Pa taught me my first sentence… every time he had trouble with something like getting my seatbelt on he’d say “For Pete’s sake!”

We’ve all grown up now… out of 7 grandchildren to 2 sons, most of us are married… it’s just the youngest from each son’s family that are still to wed. Except for the odd, wonky stitch our spouses have sewn themselves neatly into the family quilt like they were always meant to be there.  The colours, patterns and stitches of the new patches match and mingle regardless of their family of origin… the dropped and misshapen stitches bringing a pleasant diversity to the craftwork.

All of these are memories of laughter and normal family madness… that recent history continues in the great grandchildren…