The Thing About Grief Is...

Okay okay, it's a legitimate post title, but it's also the title of one of my favourite songs ever. You can hear 'The Thing About Grief' in the background of this very special video.

This week my grief has snuck up on me. Millie and Pip have been drawing together with a box of crayons my great grandmother gave me when I was about 10. She'd won them at bingo and I always kept them safe and special. The box tipped over today and as Millie and I scooped them back into the box a divider fell out. I'd written on it 'Bottom Right Left'. I loved that giant box of crayons so much when I was kid, I didn't get to see my Nana B very often, and I loved the little gifts she gave me. Seeing the girls playing with the crayons and seeing my careful childhood writing on the box (to keep them pristine! I Looked After My Things!) made me miss her oh so much. She would have loved meeting her namesake, Millie Alice to her Mildred Alice, and I see her cheeky grin in my Millie Alice.

I am estranged from my paternal grandmother (Norma) and her mother, Nana B, did everything to be the best grandmother she could be. She died a few months after her 100th birthday, after spending six months in a home. She stayed at home until she was 99 1/2 until her dementia was such that she needed more care. When she was in her early 90's, Mr S and I drove down to see her house in the Victorian hills and help with her garden. My tiny great grandmother (standing only about 5' tall) cracked the whip and exhausted both of us with her energy.

Nana B was a real firecracker. She never married, which in her time was somewhat controversial. Amazingly (divinely?) she had a daughter, and the Blanchard lineage was born. She worked hard, and after her partner, Ted died before I was born, she kept herself busy. There was always a charity to crochet for, a raffle to sell tickets for, a bingo night to attend. She was always partial to a flutter on the pokies. More importantly, she was always there to chat to her family, and remembered every birthday, Christmas and special event.

I miss her so. Her memory brings forth the memories of my Dad too. Ah, grief. You can still sock it to me.



Thankful Thursday

I don't really like this week in July. Every year I get more anxious as it approaches and I never quite know how I will feel.

You see, five years ago this week my Dad died. Now I've got Millie and another one on the way, the gravity of losing a parent seems magnified. I run through the scenarios in my head - if something happened to Mr S, how would I cope? How would I honour his memory to his children, OUR children? That's a rhetorical question. We've talked about this as Mr S takes off for another South-West Wilderness hike.
But yes, thankful.


I tearfully explained to Mr S this week that this year, the anniversary of Dad's death really make me sad. It's as if the everyday fog of grief has lifted a tiny bit, and I now remember with searing clarity, the week leading to his death.

The decision I made to drop everything and fly interstate to see my family and my Dad. Finding out that Mr S packed his suit because he suspected he might need it. Realising that I hadn't thought about that. Sitting with Dad in his hospital room. The way that grieving people can behave. Singing songs to my Dad. Listening to him talk to me for the last time. Finding a new normal in a hospital room.
Realising that I have to find a new normal outside of that hospital room.

And Mr S said to me 'I know how horrible it was. But be thankful you had that time with him, that you got to say goodbye.'
He's so right. (yet another reason why I love that man.)

I'm so thankful that I got to drop everything to be with my Dad. I'm thankful that I got to sit with him in his hospital room with my family around, chatting normally and including Dad in the conversations. I'm thankful that we found the humour in the situation more than once, because I know that's what Dad would have wanted. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to sing my songs to Dad, one last time, and that if I'd ever doubted the power of music, I stopped doubting and started believing at that time.
I'm so thankful I got to have one last conversation with him.
I'm so thankful that he was here, for without him, there'd be no me, no Ben & Sally, no Millie.

He was an awesome man with a ripper Dad sense of humour. And I'm thankful for that, too.
After all, who else's funeral would it be okay to be walking through the chapel, hearing the mix CD I'd made randomly from Dad's CDs, only to hear a song pause and hear the singer say 'I'd like to thank you all for coming here tonight... but I know that you don't give a f**k.' Oops. Sorry Mum. I laughed out loud. But I think Dad would have liked that.

Linking up with Kate for Thankful Thursday.


Dear Dad

Has it really been five years? I know that Mr S and I have certainly done a lot in five years, but still, five years sounds like a lot.
There are no words to explain what it's like without you. Aside from quiet. (ha ha!) It's still incredibly crap without you around, and I suppose it probably will be for a long time to come.
I wish you knew Millie, and had met Rob and told Sally how great he was, and held Sam, met Stacey and told Ben how amazingly wonderful she is.
I think my biggest observation of the time since you've been gone is how much other people's lives go on. I wrote an entire album about this, and especially the song 'Turning'.


Turning

(A.Kendall)
I’ve been building blocks
and I wondered why they fall - it makes no sense at all
then it was time I blinked and shadows changed, and a swift breeze took you away
I am counting cards, trying to find a hand that fits
I know it’s real, my world stops and yours will keep on turning
and so it seems I am a changed woman now
 - I’ve split apart at the seams
I now know all I am made of is tears
and there’s a grey spot in here
I am counting cards, trying to find a hand that fits
I know it’s real, my world stops and yours will keep on turning
the sun shines now I thought it’d be a little less,
but there’s a warm breeze instead
I’m taking stock of all that’s good in me
from me to you, you to me (me to you, you to me)
and I counted cards, I’ve never found a hand that fits
I know it’s still real my world stopped and yours will keep on turning


I found some pictures I'd like to show you...


Dad with me, circa 1983.

Boxing Day 2005. We are all exceptionally hungover after
having been drunk since 8am Christmas Morning.

Sally and I can touch our toes. Dad wonders why we would want to do that.

Come on Dad - give it a try!

Success!

Sally has a mid-photo nap. Dad finds some perk.

Blue steel... sort of...

Dad with his medal presentation at his retirement, 2007.

Dad (stylin' red head with beard!) with my brother Ben in 1979.

Dad with requisite wide-neck tie and Mum in jumper dress...
I'm going to guess in the 1980's?

Dad with his grandmother, Mildred Alice Blanchard.
(Millie's namesake!)

Dad with Sally and Ben at the Eurobodalla cheese factory, 1990ish?

Mum and Dad on their wedding day, 1974.

Dad and I in Melbourne, 2005.

Dad and I outside Port Arthur, TAS 2005.

My favourite photo of all, Dad giving me a horsie ride - 1985?


You were not a serious man, so this is the photo we put
on the front of your Order of Service at your funeral.
Missing you as always, Dad. Hope the jam doughnuts are fresh, the tea has milk, there's a meat pie close by and endless footy.