Last night was New Years Eve and for the first time in about thirty years I had no interest in going to see the fireworks. Every year since my first child was born, almost eleven years ago, I have trekked out to a family friendly vantage point to show them the fireworks. For the past three years, we have joined a family from school to see the new year in. The kids have a ball running around the grass with loopy neon glow sticks hanging off arms, legs, necks and ears. After night fall I spend the evening in a state of anxiety wondering where the kids are. They disappear into the darkness as I’m forced to abandon adult conversations to wander after moving glow sticks. Which incidentally, every child at the park is wearing.
This year, I enticed the children to go and see a movie instead, which surprisingly, they happily agreed to do. A funny thing happened on the way home from seeing ‘Rise of the Guardians’. Funny things always happen to us. If you follow this blog you will see what I mean. Anyway…where do I start?? Probably the story really started back in May 2012 when a very close friend of mine passed away suddenly. I threw myself into helping his distraught partner, Alex, whom I’d been spending hours on the phone with during the month of May. My ten year old son, who is a technical wizard (compared to me, that isn’t hard) offered to put together a compilation of photos set to music for the funeral.
My son and I were on our way to meet Alex, at my dear friends childhood home. The plan was to rummage through old photos and decide on a suitable backing song for the DVD. On our way, we pulled into McDonalds for a quick lunch. There I sat feeling empty and stressed, stuffing in food without any thought. My phone kept ringing, people kept asking for my lost friend. While my friend was in intensive care, I’d diverted his business phone to mine so I could take the pressure off his partner, Alex. The phone kept ringing, people kept asking, I kept telling them the sad news. Everyone was crying and gasping “I can’t believe it…I just can’t believe it” and I kept comforting and reassuring them “It was sudden, but it was the best way to go….sudden….no prolonged illness”.
We could only remember him looking fit and healthy and making us laugh. It was only three weeks ago that my daughter and I had spent an hour with him in his salon. My eight year old daughter giggling at his hilarious mannerisms. While he thought I was distracted, he asked my daughter what she had bought for me for Mothers Day. He bent down to her level while she cupped her hands around his ear and whispered the secret to him. I remember his face, paused with mock excitement as he listened intently to her whispers. God, I can’t believe he’s no longer with us. He’d bought me a prettily wrapped basket of home made biscuits for Mothers Day. And a curious little silver box which housed three angels. Inside the message read…
When our spirits are low
And worry overcomes,
Three guardian angels remind us
We are never all alone.
Sent from heaven to guide
And help us find our way,
Their loving blessings bring
Protection throughout everyday.
At the time, my daughter absconded with the angels, so I didn’t think much more about them. I thought my dear friend would always be there….in his salon, making people laugh. I didn’t see the angels as a sign that he may have known more.
As we got up to leave McDonalds, my son asked for an ice cream.
“Ok….but buy two would you?” I agreed, giving him the money.
We walked out of Maccas licking our ice creams, thinking about the journey ahead, worrying we were late, when a man’s voice broke into our thoughts.
My son looked incredulous. We took in the mans bizzare dress. He wore a fitted powder blue velvet jacket. Buttoned down the front. He had a wide moustache which reached out to half way across his cheeks and twirled outrageously up at the ends. His eyes had a mischievous twinkle. His friend stood beside him, highly amused at his friends antics.
My son stared and held onto his cone a little more tightly..”You look like Willy Wonka!”
We all laughed and exchanged friendly banter which I can no longer recall. As my son and I walked away licking our ice creams, I commented on how friendly everyone around us seemed to be.
It’s like my friends playful personality was following us… guiding us….cheering us along” I thought. I told my son what I’d thought and he agreed.
The GPS guided us to my friends house. I realised another strange thing. The house I had lived in when I was three and still remember, was right across the road from my friends house. He was sixteen years older than me so I worked out he would have been nineteen when we lived opposite each other. Today a huge pylon to the overhead freeway sits on the land where my house once was. But amazingly, once upon a time, we’d been neighbours. It took me fifteen years to find him again. When I came to work in the same salon. There he taught me everything to know about hairdressing and made me laugh every day of my apprenticeship. We always remained friends even after we stopped working together. Meeting up every year with mutual hairdressing friends for lunch and a gossip. The last time we were all together was November 2011. It was at a funeral. I wanted to take a photo of us all together, but somehow it didn’t happen. At the end, we all dispersed back to our own little worlds.
When I first heard my friend was sick I volunteered to work in his hair salon without a second thought. I thank God to this day that I was given the opportunity to be in his life once more. I feel blessed to have been able to help him out and show him I care. I knew he knew I cared, his last text message to me was,
‘God is closer to me because of you, I pray to God”.
Back to the afternoon, in his childhood house, looking through photos of my friends life. Baby photos, teenage, glamorous drag queen photos. While we were sifting through memories, my son became fascinated with a little figurine sitting on the china cabinet. With a slight push the little man who looked like a circus performer began to swing between two poles, like a gymnast. His strong hands gripping the poles, as his legs gained momentum, swinging back and forth. He wore a red velvet jacket which was buttoned down the front. He had a red top hat and a moustache which was wide and twisted a little downwards at the ends.
” He’s just like the man at McDonalds mum!” my son announced. We watched my son’s interest in this little performer and Alex whispered to me that he would let my son have it. On the day of the funeral, Alex presented the little man to my son. As soon as we were home, he dashed inside to plant him on top of our TV. Before I had the chance to emerge from the car, he ran out of the house crying. The little circus performer had swung himself so hard and so fast that he had propelled himself off the TV and lay broken on the floor. I reassured my son I would take him to be fixed and he would be as good as new. The moustached man in the velvet suit is still waiting to be repaired but still stands slightly wobbly on top of our china cabinet.
Last night, after leaving the cinema complex, my son was suddenly gripped with pain in his lower abdomen. “I think I really need to do a pee!” he gasped.
“Well there aren’t any toilets here” I told him feeling slightly annoyed.
“I have to do a pee Mum….really…..I’m desperate!”
I pulled over to the side of a quiet street in a business district. “Here, you’ll have to pee in that” I said handing him the orange juice bottle I had almost finished drinking.
“Ooooooh!” whines my daughter who is sitting beside him in the back of the car.
“What? Pee in that?” queried my son.
“I have no other ideas, if you want to relieve the pain you’ll have to..”
He proceeded to pee into the bottle, stop, starting, for the sheer awkwardness of it all. He gets the giggles but is still in pain. Both kids think it’s hilarious.
“Stop laughing so he can concentrate…stop…he’s in pain” I instruct, trying to sound serious.
“Mum, there’s so much….what if it overflows?”
“Don’t get any pee in the car for Gods sakes” I rouse.
“I need another bottle, just in case”
I hand another empty water bottle over to him and we wait trying not to laugh. I may have been laughing, but deep down I was worried he had a urinary tract infection. Since the holidays, he hadn’t been drinking much water and he told me he’d had pains in his tummy and been feeling whoosy all day.
“It’s no use Mum” he whines.
“Well you’d better get out and do a wee behind that bush over there” I suggested.
Desperate, he gets out of the car and walks behind a bush. The security lights of the office building switch on and flood the grounds with bright light. We all laugh ourselves silly. I turn off the motor of the car.
“Turn the motor back on Mum….it’s drowns out some of the noise” my son calls out from behind the sparse, flood lit bush. With that I start the motor again and the security lights switch off giving him some privacy. Silence. Waiting for a sign of the mission being successful.
He calls out..”Mum, can I do a poo?”
“NO WAY…get back in the car…you can’t do a poo there!”
“But I’m desperate….I can’t hold it” he explains through clenched teeth.
“We’ll be home soon…” I juggle the two bottles of steaming hot urine. “What the hell will I do with these….where’s the lids?”
“I don’t know…” was the unhelpful reply.
“OOooooooh….I really have to go Mum…” he complains from the back seat.
I feel enormous pressure to find a toilet for him, I start the motor and balance the sloshing yellow fluid between my legs.
“I’ll just have to ditch these” I say as I glance in the rear vision mirrors for any cars. Bang…..out the window goes one lidless urine specimen. A short distance down the road…whooosh…out goes another.
“What is it with us and bottles of fluid…yesterday it was sour milk…today it’s urine!” I laugh incredulously as we drive away searching for a toilet. I remember the McDonalds my son and I went to last May. It’s around the corner. We zoom into the carpark and pile out of the car with no delays. As I follow the kids, I remember the moustached ice cream taster in his blue velvet button down coat. I wondered if I would be given another sign. Here, at the most unlikely portal for paranormal activity.
My son raced to the toilets and returned to us feeling much happier with all problems resolved. We sat down to eat a salad – which I insisted on, accompanied by a big bottle of water each. I thought it was pretty pitiful to be sitting in McDonalds two hours before midnight on New Years Eve. How I have lowered my expectations. I wondered about my new attitude and put it down to two things. Maybe it’s because I’m anemic and my energy stores are not what they should be and maybe I’ll just be glad to see the back of 2012.
I lost my darling friend in May, my daughter was taken by ambulance to hospital the Sunday before my friends funeral. Three weeks after my friend passed away, I was rushed to hospital with a serious blockage causing liver and pancreas problems. My auntie was taken to hospital with crush fractures in her spine and then relocated away from the home she had always known, to a high care facility. Later in the year, my daughter fell off her bunk bed and had a suspected fracture in her neck. After a week of worry, she was thankfully cleared of that. Also this year, my son had suspected asthma and after a late night ambulance visit and second, third and fourth opinions, our prayers blew the asthma theory away. A month ago my Mum fell out of her shower chair in the nursing home and broke her arm.
However, 2012 was not all that bad. Out of the seemingly bad things, came some good. No fractures in my daughters neck, no asthma for my son. I had such a shock from my health scare that I decided to turn my health around. With the help of a wonderful mother from my kids school, (who I used to be jealous of in my darker days) I have undertaken a personal training routine. Twice a week this lovely lady puts me through my paces on the local oval with outstanding success. I have discovered I can actually run. I can actually skip. I can actually get out of breath and not die of a heart attack.
For all the bad things, it was good to say goodbye to 2012 and look forward with great optimism to lots of positive things into 2013. As I stood at the counter of McDonalds mulling over these things I became aware of a man standing in a nearby queue. I wondered why he was all alone in McDonalds on New Years Eve. Was he single? For the first time I didn’t really care. I feel happy being on my own. I glanced down at his calves and thought they were a nice shape. Golden tan covered sinewy muscles. I imagined he might be a keen sailor, just come off his yacht. Apart from our initial eye contact, I refused to look again. But he was in my peripheral view. I was aware he glanced at me at least three times. As he reached for his milkshake, I looked at his hand wrapped around the cardboard cup. The word HOPE was clearly written on the side of the cup, just above his tanned fingers. He moved away but I could still feel his gaze looking at me. I realised I had been given another message …… a message for 2013…..HOPE.
HOPE is the title I gave this new blog when I started it two weeks ago. HOPE is all we have, HOPE is everything and I sincerely hope you all have a Happy New Year 2013.