Monday, May 3, 2010

I need another weekend to recover from this week!

This week has been a strange one.

Grandpa died, which was just so sad because he was a beautiful, good hearted man. He passed on a great sense of humour and a talent for singing to much of our enormous extended family. He had a long and good life, but it was awful to lose him, and I'm filled with regret at not having spent more time with him. How true that we don't know what we've got till it's gone.

I had been planning to visit him the day he died. I wanted to sing him some songs in the hospital. He died a few hours before my planned visit, and I was really upset that I hadn't sung those songs to him - a hymn called come back to me, and some old songs like 'don't sit under the apple tree'.

However, on a previous visit I had brought him a little contraption that played 'how much is that doggie (in the window)' when you turned its handle. It was a song we used to play on their pianola as kids (I use the term 'play' loosely as of course you only push the pedals on a pianola - great fun for kids, no piano playing ability required!) and grandpa sang along as I turned it for him. I think it's a funny song to have sung the last time I saw him, but it's connected to lovely childhood memories and at least it was a shared musical moment with him before he went. He said to me 'it's funny how at the end all the old songs come back to you'. I think that's a lovely idea - that when we are nearing the end of our life, a history of songs that have accompanied us over the years come back in a medley of memories.

I decided to sing him some hymns when we went in to St Vincents Private to see him after he died. It was one of the saddest and most wonderful moments for me and I'll always remember it. Nothing I could have said to him as I sat by the body would have told him what I was feeling - that I was grateful for the gift of singing that he not only passed on but also encouraged at family events, especially the family singalongs on christmas day; the fact that the last christmas he had with the family, when everyone knew he was unwell and so everyone came along and joined in the singalong, was the best christmas I could ever have had; the way his gentle grumbling that I was wasting my voice led me to seek out singing lessons again after years of not having that joy in my life; that even though I had lost my sense of connection to the catholic church over my life, that singing was the closest I felt to a sense of reconnection (not with the church but with a higher power); that to sing to him was to honour him and farewell him in the best way I could think to...

The day before he died, grandpa took mine and Bertie's hands, put them together, and put his hand around ours. He then said "stick together" in a strong and encouraging voice. I felt like even though he wouldn't be there to attend our wedding next year, he had just given me the strongest and most beautiful blessing of our relationship that I will ever have. The fact that someone from his generation could take our hands and sanction our union in such a straighforward, caring, accepting way touched me so deeply. It was one of the most amazing moments in my life. I will always think of it, and I hope to incorporate it or honour it at our wedding.

It was like at that moment I felt married to Bertie simply by the powerful sense of love and recognition that Grandad was directing to us.

A beautiful example of Grandad's sense of humour was that after he said 'stick together', I teared up and said 'we will'. He looked at me with a glint in his eye and said 'shut up - stop being so sentimental'. He was so cheeky - imagine making me choke up with tears with the beauty of a gesture, knowing I'd be moved, only to tease me for being sentimental! I love that story and I know that it's one I'll tell our children and keep in my heart forever.

Our niece pulled through her brain operation - there are still issues, and she is still recovering, but the fact that nothing bad happened on the operating table is something for which I'll feel very grateful for a long time. She's just a wonderful kid and I'm glad to know her.

My brain test (EEG) on thursday was an interesting experience. I had electrodes glued to my head. The two women at the Austin who did the test were very friendly. I felt comfortable and at ease about the test... UNTIL they got me to hyperventilate and then put strobe lighting in front of my eyes! hey!

The deep fast breathing made me feel very nauseous. After doing that for what felt like ages, I was unpleasantly surprised by the strobe lighting, which had me flinching and feeling like my head was exploding. I don't know what the test results were (I have to wait until a neurologist appoint in JULY when I get back from Europe...geez), but I do know that I never want to have an EEG again.

And even more news! What an emotional, eventful week! I graduated on Wednesday. Bertie took the day off and bought me a new dress, took me in to the ceremony, helped me run around getting tickets and robes and deakin souvenirs and photos... then my parents arrived (nearly too late to see the ceremony! At least I know where I get it from!). Bertie's mum - my mother in unlaw - came along too, which was very sweet. She's really enthusiastic about education and has been really supportive of my educational efforts over the years I've known her. I felt very special getting that piece of paper, finally. It's taken me bloody long enough to get an Arts degree. I find it so hard to finish what I start, so it was a real feeling of achievement and elation when I walked up on that stage and officially graduated. I wasn't expecting the rush of happiness, but it was very welcome in a week where things were so sad and hectic and stressful I nearly cancelled going at all!

My parents were busy trying to help organise the funeral for Friday, so they weren't sure they could stay for the rest of the ceremony after my name had been read out, but in the end not only did they stay to the end of the ceremony, they came out to dinner afterwards too! Bertie and her mum were there too. I felt so pretty in my new dress, and so happy after my graduation, I don't think I would have cared what I ate. Joy of joys, then, that my meal at Number 8 (on southbank, part of the crown complex) was the best lamb meal I've ever eaten. The meat was superb, it literally melted on my tongue. It was cooked to perfection, and the honey jus and caramelised parsnips with it were divine. The only thing I didn't love was the herb crust. In the end I would have preferred it without it, but most of it was easily scraped off. Our sides of broccolini with feta and spinach with pine nuts were also delicious. I was really happy with the whole night. It was a nice break from all of the stress and sadness.

On Sunday, Bertie and I went to some of the gardens in Melbourne to find a wedding ceremony location. We really loved Carlton Gardens, near the Hochgel fountain, on the lawn between the two rows of trees. There was even birds of paradise (my favourite flower) and these other AMAZING orange flowers that towered over our heads and had green/burnt orange leaves. They looked Tim Burtonesque, or like they belonged in Alice in Wonderland. There were also bright red and purple flowers - Bertie loves flowers, and it just seemed like a beautiful setting for a wedding.

We also ended up going to Iron Man 2 - we didn't think we'd have time, but we braved a late night (we're such nannas these days) and saw it at the Westgarth at 9.30pm after all the runaround that day. It was fun, but not as good as the first one. The highlight of the date for me was the little amount of time we had to kill before the film - we wandered down westgarth until we saw Kelvins. I've never been there, but when we walked in and saw the dark comfortable interior with shelves of board games we knew we'd found a good spot. Some girls next to our table were playing connect four, but we opted for Scrabble and played a quick game while sipping on glasses of port. We both enjoyed the Galway Pipe port more than the Bethany, though I do like a sweet drop and the initial taste of the Bethany was delightfully sweet. The Galway Pipe was just richer and had a nicer aftertaste.

I always think of Bertie's dad when I drink port. He's the reason I got to like it in the first place. It was the first year anniversary of his death the day after grandad died, so it was hard for Bertie being around death and funerals and mourning right at the time she was grieving afresh for her own father, who died so young at 59. She was so strong for me over those few days, but it was a sad time for both of us.