Thursday, February 25, 2010

Don's Find.
I've been using Don's old computer as mine is no more - in a few weeks I will be able to replace it, but for now I am sitting at his old spot, the spot where he typed hundreds of lette
rs to the Editor and media releases all done with a bit of wooden dowel strapped to his hand, to replace his fingers. Nobody knows how hard that was and how long it took him, but he was so determined and so interested in areas of social justice, he was like a tidal wave once he got started - sweeping me along with him, happily.

In his computer I found this series of photos he got one of us to crawl through the undergrowth and take these photos of the Satin Bower Bird;s bower...

How on earth he was able to see it from his wheelchair through all the bushes is beyond me. He could always spot things that most of us didn't see - in many ways - but in the natural world he was able to see birds nests and Koalas and all sorts of things which were well nigh invisible...

Of course I had long
ago backed up his computer just in case... and sometimes I sit here and go through the hundreds of documents he wrote - One day I think I will print them all out as a sort of tribute to him, for our girls - I think they will be amazed at the breadth of his knowledge and interests - although somehow I think they know too well where his head was at.
Then I took this last photo of him from inside the bush, near the bower looking out at him. He was so pleased with himself...

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Old photos from my sister Veronica.
This first one is me when I was fifteen - I could pass for 25 at least and no doubt did...but no opportunities m
uch in a tiny country town of 1,000 in the late 60's. I was never someone to whom fashion meant much at all - we didn't have the cash for that anyway. Mum bought these jeans and jumper from Fosseys - a cheapo clothing store in many NSW country towns...I was pretty happy with these - THEY WERE JEANS rather than slacks...that was enough. My sister is in this photo but she's not so friendly to me these days and I rather think she would find something to complain about should I post the whole photo - sad really, because I remember this day so clearly. This was one of two photos taken - the other was of us standing...maybe one day I won't have to hold back. This day we went to the Glenbawn Dam for a gathering - it was organised by the Catholic Youth Group a wonderful nun called Sr Campion organised. I was not religious but this nun recognised that there really was nothing there for kids to do in our home town of Aberdeen...and she rectified there were gatherings minus religion - and no one was asked who or what they were - she did it for those of us who had nothing and no car (dad had been killed not too long before this was taken - so no more drives anywhere). But there was nothing Catholic about the gatherings and a few trysts were concealed by those of us with no was such a good time after such a sad time. That nun will always have my gratitude because she actually cared about us practicly.

This photo was taken of Don and I - he aged 23 and me 19. I was about 4 months pregnant with Melissa. Its not a great quality photo but we didn't have many. It was 1973. I have cropped the photo because I had on jeans that were way too tight for anyone pregnant - but we didn't have much money for pregnancy clothes - that came soon after. For once he was beardless - this event only happened twice in the 35 years I knew Don...this time and in 1982 when in the Spinal Unit my sister Veronica shaved off his beard because when he had his accident he was in sea water and it had set up an irritation on his face...

I preferred the beard and so did he.
We visited Mum, Veronica Joan and Jackie, at a holiday unit in Terrigal NSW just after Christmas. I wanted to stay but Don wanted to visit his cousin Wayne...when we got there his partner was so bloody unwelcoming and rude I wished myself back - I was a bit of a wuss in those days and went along with a lot...but as time passed Don seemed to prefer being with my family above so called friends etc who wished we didn't come... ah! it all works out in the long run doesn't it?

Lovely times...
Our Birthday!
I got back on the bus yesterday - a nine hour trip up and back but it was worth it. One thing though, any fool who visits Brisbane in winter and thinks of moving there should visit in was soooo hot and humid you sweated even in bed at 4am in the morning - you sweated doing just ran in rivers...something happens to my brain when its like that and I get really ratty - but I put a lid on it as much as I could and we had a good time. I am waiting for my sister Veronica's photos as she took more than me and better shots - I left my precious camera in a taxi cab and didn't realise till the next day and guess what I got it back!!! There is a God.
This photo is of my sister Joan who turned 50 and for whom the gathering was organised - and her daughter Alanah.

Here is the life and light of any party, as we all know. She made our birthday cake as well...and made sure we got plenty of exercise looking at shops...something she is famous for is trawling every shop on the street...

And the last photo is of Melissa and her Chris who came all the way from Sydney just for the day, and shouted us all out for our birthday dinner. All that was missing for me was Ali and her boyfriend - Melbourne was just a bit too far. I know Joan was and I am so grateful for those who came and made the time what it was - and even though Ali couldn't be there she was on the phone a lot and we had some lovely talks as usual...

On the bus trip back I went into towns off the highway which the bus had to stop at and was so pleased to be able to see yet more places Don and I spent time in when we were young. Its sort of bittersweet when this happens - its like you can see the ghosts of yourselves still young but like shadows on the streets... but its also lovely as well because we both always lived our lives as if the glass was always half full - and it was - no matter how bad things got and many times we wondered how we got through, we seemed to be able to make each other laugh - usually it was when things got really bad that we laughed the most, mainly at the blackness - maybe it was hopeless laughter but better than the misery faces I see about me of those with nothing much wrong at all.

I think its a very human thing to do, to poke your tongue out at adversity and make it a joke, be it as black as - it defuses things which could grow over you and take you over till you lose touch with when someone bemoans having an ache or pain which is trivial and temporary- one can always think of those in Haiti and compared their suffering to that. Just waking up able bodied in the morning and smelling the new day is a privilege not a right...

(there's those darn old three dots again... for those low class ex family snoopers - I know when you're there petals...enjoy your time in New Zealand...your pressie and phone call for Joanie's big fifty must have gotten lost again. )

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A big 50 Birthday Gathering.

In just over a week my sisters and I will gather to celebrate yet another one of us turning fifty. As of mid February only one of the five of us will still be under fifty and not far behind. When we all gathered after our mother died in 1993 we resolved to try and all gather and have a few days of getting together, drinkies and gadding about on happy occasions rather than just at funerals. This year my sister Joan (in the pink top) will be the one who turns fifty.

She and I were born on the same day but six years apart and I always used to tease her with the fact I had to share my birthday cake... When I turned fifty, six years ago we shared our cake happily...and Don ordered it and arranged and paid for all five of us to stay in a unit in town so we could have some time out as well. It was wonderful. And as usual wonderful of him to care enough to arrange all this. Not every one's husband would bother.

This year we will do our best to make this a happy time for Joan as she also lost her husband in a bus accident, and it will be bittersweet for her to compare how it is now to how it was this time last year.

These photos were taken just before Christmas 2006 and the one taken of my sisters and I has us all looking down as it was taken by Don from wheelchair height. Its funny when I look at old photos you can see the ones he took - he would usually make some remark - shit stirring - and take the photo just as we reacted.

So anyway only the three of us will gather this year in Joan's new house (she recently moved away from the old neighborhood so as to be a little less lonely). Melissa and Chris surprised us by saying they'd fly up to Brisbane just for the day - and their making the effort really made Joan happy. Melissa has bought Joan something very special which will no doubt make her bawl her eyes out, but she will love it as well...My other daughter Alison will be in the process of moving herself, down in Melbourne but made sure she remembered Joan this year. I am so pleased and proud of my kids - they don't forget things like this... like many twice their age do.

Sadly the other two sisters will be in New Zealand and as a Christmas visit was made by one to Joan its easily understood that its too far to do so soon after wards.

For everyone there are certain times of the year which are more emotional than others - we all have these times... but when they pass you really appreciate at least being able to feel honest emotions, be they high or low. I am really looking forward to this trip, to seeing my sisters again and my niece Alanah - also my own daughter. It gets a bit isolated out here, and 90% of the time I love being out here like this but of late its beginning to really bite and I need to be with people I love.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Time is passing.Soon I will be the same age Don was when he was killed.

I was pulled up on using the term killed some time ago but I prefer to use it as it is the truth. He would not have died if not for the actions of some shithouse doctors and nurses as the Professor for the Coroner's office wro
te in his report to the NSW Coroner,
it is most unlikely that the deceased’s rapid, but lengthy, deterioration would have commenced when it did but for the patient undergoing the various transfers and treatment."
He was 56 and soon I will be his age. Its so odd to think that God willing I will become older than he was. I remember when I passed 49, the age our dad was when he was killed - I looked at his photos and saw him looking back at the same age.
As time passes an awareness grows that it is possible that there will never be justice for his killing just as there really was no justice for our father. Where our dad was concerned he was blood tested after death but the driver who ran into him was never blood tested although he had been on a pub crawl down the highway. When I got the notes from the courthouse which clearly showed this, I remember being angry but also I felt it was wonderful that almost 40 years later one of his daughters would be able to know the truth that she suspected. There is a small justice delivered there...because I can pass on to his descendants the truth when they ask.

But even our father received much more justice than is allowed for someone killed by the vile medical monsters who acted for the five weeks without duty of care. And dad didn't suffer more than a few moments. Some days, like today I am haunted by flashbacks and a parade of images revolves like a sort of fractured slide show on my inner screen.

This is the legacy we are left with. Every happy memory that the girls and I have seems to lead to that dreadful end. We start out laughing about some silliness, some saying or way that was uniquely Don's and it almost always moves into the hospital and what happened there.

With a death which isn't caused by someone the grief is bad enough, but when the people to blame are so protected by the system, where there is no acknowledgement of the crime committed against them you are left like a soldier returning from the horror of war. Its like you feel sick in the guts all the time, but on the surface you smile and greet people. In reality the only time I feel that I can truly relax is when I am with my daughters because its okay to be who you really are. Even with two of my sisters who have been wonderful and a great support, you are aware you can't explain what is going on inside because they too have their problems. One my younger sister is dealing with her own husband being killed last year as well - and all the court stuff that is happening which is awful...but I wish there had been a court case for Don - when the coroner found that his death had been caused by treatment no action at all was taken against those responsible. I don't think they were even spoken to. My eldest sister has a serious but private issue which haunts her and she works very hard - too hard for her age.

Sometimes I try and remember was life was like just to be normal - to have the normal stresses of small children, home, work, money.

That normal life left us back in 1982 - but my God we four made the best of the life we had. The kids say they had the very best childhood possible - and thats because Don never forgot the child within, rather than just being childish like too many. When it was just us four our house rocked with laughter at each other and more importantly at other people...Don could imitate anyone and no one was sacred.

Someone said to me once that if Don had had education he would have been dangerous. I think in his case an education would have stifled his free spirit and made him like the was his difference I loved. My spin on that was he was dangerous enough without it because mainly when dealing with bastards such as local pollies - because he hadn't learned the right way to approach them - he had his own unique style - such as planting his electric wheelchair right in front of the health Minister's chauffeur driven car, meaning that the minister had to get out and talk with him because bloody brave Don would not budge and no one there knew how to throw the chair out of gear so it could be pushed - not that they would have been game to - he could be pretty loud at yelling "abuse" out... I have many ring binders of his and mine letters to the editor, and actions we did together trying to make the bastards honest.

Life may never have been normal but I would do it the same a thousand times. We had such a life together and our daughters have grown into the most compassionate, ethical and funny adults... a lot of this was Don's legacy. Really I guess who would want just a normal life hey? Certainly not me - it was something I was never going to be cut out for. We were both rebels and I think we recognised that in each other that night we met in 1972... but probably that came later - I just thought he looked pretty good to me, and he was offering to buy me a drink. I had gone out with $2 in my pocket. That would buy me 4 alcoholic ciders - we spent the weekend together and moved in together three weeks later - for us it was like coming home... it always felt like that.

Some couples I know seem to almost hate each other - and I cannot imagine waiting my whole life living with someone I didn't like. They appear to have so much - each other and family around, enough money all of that but inside they are unhappy and this passes to the whole family. I know I was lucky, and I'd hate to think that my luck and happiness came at some sort of price -which meant the dreadful suffering Don endured and the suffering I will never recover from.

I feel now as if I really have lost my other half. We ceased to be two people some time ago. We still had little issues - what I used to call his pernickety old man's blankie ways and it used to drive him to distraction that I always put too much food on the plate, too many suds in the sink, did jobs like a bull at a gate. But funnily enough it was these funny things which kept us and the kids amused.

In Don's latter years as he became even less mobile, more short of breath, and more fragile all over we noticed that some people's attitudes seemed to harden towards us. Him mostly. One time he fell forward in his wheelchair and almost hit the footpath with his forehead - just outside Starbucks. I was able to get down on the ground quickly and hold him back off the footpath but could not get him back into the chair. I remember looking at the jumbled twist of his paralysed legs and knowing how rotten his bones were I was sure there would have been breaks - I screamed and screamed at those having coffee at nearby tables - and they looked at us. They sat there. No one got up off their fat backsides to help us. One man finally pointed at his chest as if to say "who me?" and finally got up and came over. It took a real effort even then to get Don back into place without doing damage to him. We were both shocked to our core. Some cuts and bruises but no broken bones miraculously .

But there were as many good people as bad, and the lady in the chemist shop helped me get the blood off him, and out antiseptic on the broken areas...she took his Blood pressure because he was as pale as a ghost... no charge and she still says hello to me these days.

There were so many things denied to us, and mostly we didn't mind because our lives were pretty rich. It was hard though for a man like Don who rode horses and surfed never to be able to feel the sand again, to feel the grass beneath his feet and to have to stay home when visitors came and went to interesting places which were not really accessible and even more so as he became more fragile.

I'll bet he is seeing some pretty interesting things these days...surfing the universe and riding the cosmos - in between making sure i don't go to rack and ruin...and keeping the girls in his heart.

Its a rainy day today - lots of time for remembering today. Tomorrow I will make myself get out of the house but its good to have this time for reflection.