Archive for March, 2013


Leaving

You kissed me three times
When leaving,
After
The last time we met.

You had done that once before.

I was left happy, elated.
But real life soon brought me down to earth.

This time, however,
Felt different.

The First Kiss
Was soft and warm, but polite.
On the lips, as always.

The Second Kiss
Weakened me.
I trembled.

And there was a Third.
And it was many things at once:
Welcome
Beloved
Dangerous

I saw your face
Like one
Leaping from the precipice.

You Sleep

You, asleep.

Deep, slow breaths
(you told me once that I breathe so slowly when asleep that you worry)

Your face
Half a lifetime etched there, 
Relaxed now.

Do your dreams make sense of this dream-like life you now lead?

I know you do not dream the old, terrible dreams
Because I have sat with you through many a night.

One thing remains from the old life:

When I come close:
You stir,
Smile,
And tell me you love me.

Five Years

Monday morning
I’m awake early, a lot on today.

You’re taking me to work, but you don’t wake.

I shake you
Shout at you
Throw water on you
But you don’t wake!

There’s a promise that was made, and repeated often.

So I call The Girlie

Her response:
“I didn’t make any fucking promises”

The ambulance comes.
Four of them to take you.

Take you, and me, us
Into that netherworld.

A world of:
The kids and me
Ushered into a special waiting room at the hospital
So we know it’s bad.
They’re cutting off your clothes, intubating you.

A doctor crying while he gives the bad news
(It’s a stroke)
And me, saying:
“That’s okay. Five years is all it will take.”

Monitors
A medical retrieval
(a nurse saying: “I really wish I’d known him”)

ICU (Level 6)
That waiting room

Strangers, suddenly our best friends.

And the news filters out.
Family, friends
All coming
To comfort, to cry.
We don’t know if you’ll live

Central line.
Ventilator.
Family conference.
We’ll go on, because if any man can make it, this one will.

Look how he responds when I sing lullabies, sedatives turned off.

There’s a whole new universe to navigate.
You are at the centre.
Suddenly I know how to suction a trachy.
Every 15 minutes, because the nurses can’t cover it,
And the Ethics Committee is trying to shut you down (too expensive).

Your score on the GCS is 6, not viable.
So I say:
“Play dead!”
A least you can obey that command,
Though the poor registrar looks horrified.

Yet you keep breathing
And those damned monitors show that you know
When we are there.

You have a tube in your stomach to feed you
Because I will not have you starve to death.
You survive the pneumonia.
(At least the MRSA means you have a room to yourself)
You survive the nurse who made an almost lethal mistake.

And then they say you are well enough for rehab.
You’ll be allowed eight weeks.
We stay there four months.

Your paralyzed eyelids open,
Your first words: “Hey Em!”

And we are in a different reality
Of physiotherapy
Speech therapy
Occupational therapy
Recreational therapy

And while all this goes on,
My mother is dying
And you will never know that she is gone
Because you can’t remember

Then, the decision is made
No more money can be spent to help you
It’s a nursing home
And another reality

Now life goes on.
You are now walking
When they said you’d never get out of bed.

You eat
Where they said I had “condemned” you to a feeding tube.

You speak
And, more importantly, read and write
Where they said you could not possibly do that.

It’s been five years now.

And always
You are the same, gracious, loving, peaceful man
Who carried our family on his shoulders.

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Smoking

When I was fifteen years old I tried smoking, as many do at that age. I didn’t particularly want to, but I was at a party and peer pressure did its thing. 

I remember it clearly. They were menthol cigarettes. The party was at Newport on the northern beaches of Sydney. Of the two friends I was with, one was already a smoker and the other one smoked for a few years and gave up.

I quite liked it. But cigarettes were expensive (though nowhere near as expensive as now), and, more importantly, I knew that they were bad news.

We had had lots of education at school about the dangers of smoking. We’d even seen two preserved lungs – one of a smoker, one of a non-smoker. I’m not stupid, I knew it was a bad idea. Over the following week I smoked exactly five cigarettes.

There were three reasons I didn’t become a smoker back then.

1. I simply couldn’t tell lies to my mum. In those days smoking was legal in buses and I could easily have said I was sitting near a smoker on the bus, but I just couldn’t do it. That was the main reason.
2. My best friend was aggressively anti-smoking, and she helped to keep me away from them when we were out.
3. I met The Boy. He detested  it. Both his parents smoked and his father had died of a cerebral haemorrhage. 

So positive peer pressure and the influence of my mum got me past those years when kids often take up smoking.

I really believe I became hooked back then. I often craved a cigarette when out. I was lucky enough to have positive influences around me constantly to stop my taking it up.

Over the years I became a real anti-smoking crusader, a pain in the arse actually. Friends and acquaintances were lectured on the evils and the dangers.

And yet, I often craved a cigarette, especially if I was having a drink. Many times the only thing that stopped me was the thought of how disappointed The Boy would be. So in spite of those five cigarettes playing in my head, I never took it up. 

I had children, I worked, played sport and continually spread the word about the dangers of smoking.

Then The Boy had his stroke. It was a hell year, and at the end of it, I took up smoking. Only the odd one for the first few months, but after a year it was a habit. 

The Boy now smells cigarettes on me and shakes his head and worries. But he does not tell me to stop because that’s not what he does. I now realise he wouldn’t have stopped me back in the day, it was just his antipathy that did the trick.

So now, here we are. I’m a confirmed smoker of a pack a day and I’m giving up for the third time.

It’s bad for me. 
I can’t afford it (do the math, they’re twenty bucks a pack.)
But most of all, I hate being a smoker. It has a stigma attached which I’m happy to use as a tool to quit, but mostly I see the worry in my children’s faces every time I light up.

Today I started using Champix to quit. It has side effects, which is why I’m awake at this hour, writing. But it’s supposed to be a very useful tool in giving up the cancer sticks.

Wish me luck, my first smoke-free day will be March 17, St Patrick’s Day, a special day for me.

I’ll give up these smokes if it kills me.

I’d appreciate your comments and support.

NB: Information about Champix. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcmed.nsf/pages/pfcchamt/$File/pfcchamt.pdf

How Are We To Go On?

How are we to go on?

My life
Filled with family, friends
And the mundane, trivial things

Your life
Filled with strangers, mostly
And snippets of love when they walk through your door

Our lives together
Each thinking of the other until we tire
And fall asleep

Alone, yet
Together in our hearts

But how are we to go on?

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