Posts tagged: writing

Blood bonds call for tweet revenge

By , April 14, 2013 6:40 am

SHE started it. It wasn’t my fault. A direct message to my Twitter inbox and there it was. Unfollowed.

(This article was published in the Courier Mail)

My daughter-in-law-to-be had cut me off, just like that. In the past few weeks, she had instigated a break-up with my youngest son and the whole social media ball of string unravelled. It was very un-social.

The very least I could do was to immediately unfriend her on Facebook. After all, hadn’t I written a Merry Christmas post on her wall and she didn’t respond? So, unfriended; and that was that. She wouldn’t even know. It’s not like she checks her Facebook page every day.

After a few days and more break-up heartache for my son, I blocked my tweets to her as well. Cut her off with a mouse click. It felt good, but left me wondering where the line in the sand is drawn when it comes to social media with your children and their friends.

All kids need a breathing space from their parents and vice versa.

But when your kids’ friends who you dragged along to school summer holidays up the coast for the past five years want to be friends with you on Facebook, it’s flattering.

After all, weren’t these boys also my own “other sons” by default?

We’d shared many weeks and years, making glorious memories on the beach, having barbecues; and I taught half of them to cook and drive. I’ve watched them grow from gawky Year 8 schoolboys to uni graduates,  still grinning with pleasure when they meet me unexpectedly, out and about.

“Mrs B!” they exclaim, and scoop me into their manly arms for a hug.

Of course I am going to be their Facebook friend, but we don’t have much interaction. Breathing space.

As for my son’s ex, of course we were friends. Until the click came.

What if my son gets back together with her? Do I add her again? Should I have remained friends with her, knowing she is able to read my posts and see my photographs? Not that we would talk about her on social media but, still, it’s a dilemma.

Facebook allows us to share our world with whomever we choose and I love the way it can unite us in a common cause. Social engineering can bring down companies, change perceptions or build up a new idea. It’s powerful stuff.

Last week, I celebrated my birthday and spent a good part of my day simply responding to each and every well-wisher. As an old Capricorn girl who grew up with school friends away on holidays, I am used to everyone not being around for my birthday. I had no parties or sleepovers. Everyone simply left town.

To open my computer and see the loving messages and congratulations was very satisfying, but where is the line drawn? I have never met most of the people on Facebook, but I do follow their lives, and they follow my untidy adventures as well. So are we real friends, or not?

According to my profile I have 385 friends. I know about 100 IRL (in real life). Social media allows us to travel the world in other people’s shoes, to live through their own images and comments; opinions are formed by sharing knowledge and having our say, no matter how small.

So back to my ex-daughter-in-law-to-be. She and my son shared years together … but my loyalty lies with my son. Family first, always. She’ll have to make the first move to follow me again. Then I will follow her back. After all, she started it!

Patty Beecham is a Brisbane freelance writer.

Flood of Emotion

By , April 14, 2013 6:36 am

IT’S been two years since I stood in disbelief on her cream carpet, watching the muddy Brisbane River swirl around my bare feet. This is really going to happen! My elderly mother-in-law’s home in Indooroopilly will go under in the flood. We nearly cry, but don’t; it’s pointless. You can’t stop Mother Nature and it’s only a house.

 

I can't believe it's going to happen

(This article was published in Courier Mail)

In the distance, through the windows and past yielding mangroves, you could hear it. The Brisbane River galloped past like an unbroken stallion, a monster of a beast, it’s back hunched with fury and a wild, untamed mane of foam and flotsam.

We weren’t rescuing stuff, we were rescuing memories.

Another pontoon breaks loose. A very expensive speedboat is perched on it, gaily sailing down the river; sightseeing, spinning slowly.

She will lose the house her father built, the place she raised their five children, the house her husband passed away in; it will all go under, but not her memories. I’ve packed it all away in boxes, for now.

Today my mother-in-law sits in a unit at the Sunshine Coast, reading books until she can motivate herself to look once more at her house plans.

Don’t get me wrong, she was one of the lucky ones. Her insurance company paid up promptly and she has alternative accommodation at the coast. But her age – she finds it harder each passing week to remain interested in the rebuilding of her new home in Brisbane. She’s over it.

The broken house was bulldozed, allowing weeds to cover the vacant land. Bamboo grew back, unchecked.

It’s heartbreaking stuff at 78, to start again, but finally she started building in January last year.

“That house would have seen me out,” she says.

“I have to make so many decisions, I just don’t know any more.”

To cheer her up, I make margaritas. “To my margarita mother-in-law and your new house!” I exclaim. We toast her good health, savouring the iced tartness of home-grown lemons.

Originally the builder told her she would be in by August. We looked at the calendar in dismay as weeks and months ticked by and there was no sign of the house .

“By Christmas, for sure,” he cheerily responded to her growing concerns about moving back, to reclaim her life and live once again among friends and neighbours.

We had planned a wonderful Christmas Day, complete with celebratory drinks in her swimming pool. Alas, no swimming pool completion. No poolside margaritas.

If you ask her about her new house, she will look at you with the saddened eyes of a woman who has been through too much.

It’s heartening to see other flood victims already in new homes; it’s a special part of our human spirit that we can regather and rebuild with enthusiasm and energy.

Rebuilding takes an enormous amount of decision-making. What sort of light switch? Where do you want it?

Every day requires more energy, more decisions that, once made, cannot be undone. It’s exhausting.

I admire people who can make the most out of what nature and life throw at them. People who live their lives with gratitude, and who hold a glass-overflowing attitude.

I look at my margarita mother-in-law’s glass. Her glass isn’t even half full. It’s just empty. And the lemons remain unsqueezed.

Patty Beecham is a Brisbane freelance writer.

Nursing her elderly mother after a fall, Patty Beecham reflects on the reversal of roles as she becomes carer

By , February 7, 2013 4:19 am

This article was published in the Courier Mail, Brisbane, Queensland.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/nursing-her-elderly-mother-after-a-fall-patty-beecham-reflects-on-the-reversal-of-roles-as-she-becomes-carer/story-e6frerc6-1226572035991

My elderly mother stands over my bed and whispers in my ear. “Are you awake?”

“Not really”, I mumble. I can see she is smiling at me, even though I am asleep.

It’s 5.20am and I remember that my mother is actually critically ill in Rockhampton, 700km north of my home. She was admitted last week after a horrific fall that shattered her thigh bone. Osteoporosis and old age; it ain’t for sissies.

The doctors tell us “she’ll never walk again, never be able to bare any weight on her leg”. They delicately performed her first ever operation, gluing her “mushy bones, like nailing sticks of butter” back together.

Mum is 93. A widow for nine years, a soldier’s bride and the mother of us four rowdy adult kids and enough great-grandchildren that we gave up counting them.

The family gathers. We sleep in our old family home, in a disarray of mismatched pyjamas and T-shirts, ready to spring into action; to drive to the hospital. We listen for the telephone, every inch of us straining to hear, ready to pounce.

Exhaustion takes its toll. Siblings squabble. We snap and leave rooms, words unsaid. We huddle and cry, wring our hands with helplessness. We cook, shop, eat, going through routines. I can taste nothing but chew methodically and swallow.

When the phone does jangle us awake we leap with angel wings to grab the receiver before the second ring.

At the hospital, Mum is sleeping. We wince at the sight of her and her poor, injured leg. Gently, we rub her feet. Tenderly, we kiss her cheek, her face, her forehead.

Each day more bruises appear on her arms. She has so many tubes and needles and veins and black and purple marks, it hurts to count them all.

Nurses come and whisper to us. My medically trained sister and niece translate doctor’s talk for the rest of the family, so we understand.

We stand in dismay at our situation. No one wants her life to come to this. This is not what was supposed to happen. Fighting our inner voices, we gather and pray for her life to end. Struggling with moral choices. Is it wrong to want your mother to die? Priests are called and we are grateful.

We discuss her life, remembering old memories, laughing at our own contributions. Gently, gradually, we come to accept. She fights on, grimly breathing and trying not to cough.

Only weeks ago, I bathed her. We dutiful daughters had taken over the task of showering her after she became agitated with the daily rotation of home visit nurses. No matter how cheerily they would arrive to care for her, it became too much. “So many new faces,” she would say and blush. She’s a proud, private woman.

Undressing her is an art in itself; gently removing her trousers and shoes, unbuttoning her floral blouse, being careful with her arthritic bones.

I know every inch of her soft body. Every curve of her dowager’s hump, every unidentified lump, every wrinkle and fold where once smooth skin lay pale, unseen. We inspect her for bruises. Her delicate, paper-thin skin demands our full attention. Gripping the handles we have installed with trembling hands, the fear of slipping and falling frightens us the most. It’s constantly on our mind, the elephant in the room we cannot avoid. Already, she’s broken her wrist, and once slid off a chair when her dressing gown proved to be slippery on the leather seat.

I powder her chest, easing on fresh clothes and walk her gently to her bedroom. Now fully dressed, she lays on top her bed, exhausted. “I’ll just rest a while” she says, her eyes closed.

Bathing mum gave me opportunity and wisdom to see hands-on old age and dignity. It taught me patience and respect, returning my mother’s love and care.

I stand next to her bed and discuss the day’s events; recalling memories, quietly chatting as our roles are reversed. My mother is my child, my delicate doll with the blue eyes.

And now this. The Big Fall that was always going to happen, no matter how much we loved her. It’s a train wreck and we are taken on a ride no one bought a ticket for. This nightmare of old age that refuses to leave.

With life, comes death. My mother is teaching me gently, still.

 

My Margarita Mother-in-law

By , January 17, 2013 11:13 pm

It’s been two years since I stood in disbelief on her cream carpet, watching the muddy Brisbane River swirl around my bare feet. This is really going to happen! My elderly mother-in-law’s home in Indooroopilly will go under in the flood. We nearly cry, but don’t; it’s pointless.

I stare in disbelief as my barefeet leaves wet footprints on her new, cream carpet.

In the distance, through the windows and past the bending, yielding mangroves, you could hear it. The Brisbane River galloped past us like an unbroken stallion, a monster of a beast, its back hunched with fury and a wild, untamed mane of foam and flotsam.

This house also went under in the 1974 floods, we weren’t rescuing stuff, we were rescuing memories.

Another pontoon breaks loose. A very expensive speedboat is perched on it, gaily sailing down the river; sightseeing, spinning slowly.

She will lose the house that her father built,  the house that her husband passed away in; the place she raised their five children it will all go under, but not her home.  I’ve packed it all away in boxes, for now.

Today my mother-in-law sits in a unit at the Sunshine Coast, reading books until she can motivate herself to look once more at her house plans.

Don’t get me wrong, she was one of the lucky ones. After 17 weeks her insurance company paid up, and she has alternative accommodation at the coast, but her age, she finds it harder each passing week to remain interested and motivated in the rebuilding of her new home in Brisbane.

She’s over it.

The broken house was bulldozed, allowing the vacant land to be covered in weeds. The bamboo grew back, unchecked.

It’s heartbreaking stuff at 78, to start again, but finally she started building in January 2012, after wrestling with Council by-laws, and illogical decisions that would have seen her rebuild flat on the ground. This time the house would be raised, making it flood-proof.

To cheer her up, I make margaritas. “To my Margarita Mother-in-law and your new house!”  I exclaim.  We toast to her good health and hold our glasses high, savouring the iced tartness of home grown lemons. It begins to rain again.

Originally the builder told her she would be in by August. It rains more. We all looked at the calendar in dismay as the months ticked by and there was no sign of the house even reaching lock-up stage by winter, or spring.

“By Christmas, for sure” he cheerily responded, to her growing concerns about moving back, to reclaim her life and once again live amongst her friends and neighbours.

She frets about the rising costs. Can she pay for it all? Tradesmen don’t answer their mobiles. Work slows to a trickle.

We had planned a wonderful Christmas Day, complete with celebratory drinks in her swimming pool. Alas, that didn’t happen. No swimming pool completion. No margaritas for us!

If you ask her about her new house, she will look at you with the saddened eyes of a woman who has been through too much. It’s difficult for her, but the only way to solve this settling depression and angst is to complete the house, and move back to reclaim her family memories, re-establishing her old stomping ground.

It’s heartening to see other flood victims already in their new homes; it’s a special part of our human spirit that we can re gather and build once again, taking on each chore and commitment with enthusiasm and energy. Rebuilding takes an enormous amount of decision making. What sort of light switch do you want? Where do you want it? Every day requires more energy, more decisions, that once made, cannot be undone. It’s exhausting.

I admire people who can make the most out of what nature and life throws at them.  People who live their lives with gratitude, and who hold a glass-overflowing attitude.  I look at my Margarita Mother-in-law’s glass.  Her glass isn’t even half full. It’s just empty. The lemons remain unsqueezed.

 

This was published in the Courier Mail: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/flood-of-emotion-has-still-not-subsided/story-e6frerc6-1226556052648

Top of the tide

By , January 7, 2013 5:14 am

Along the shore,

footstep by footstep,

the thin, crisp line wanders.

 

Meandering along the top of the tide,

it states: I was here, once.

It binds throughout each coastal bay,

every beach and cove,

weaving Australia with a tidal thread of today.

 

Tomorrow, the moon beckons a different path.

It’s a Pirate’s life for me!

By , August 29, 2012 4:34 am

A Pirates Life for Me!

Cowboy Calum and the Big Secret

By , February 13, 2012 2:27 am

Cowboy Calum and the Big Secret

Calum is Cooking – a birthday book for my nephew

By , February 13, 2012 1:49 am

Calum is Cooking

Calum and the Big Secret

By , November 4, 2010 4:01 pm

Cowboy Calum and the Big Secret

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