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still sorting life out

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My secret place

Life does not always go the way we plan. Sometimes when I am sad and lonely and I want to give myself a lift I lay down and shut my eyes and go to my secret place. It is a rose garden. The scenery is based on a real garden in a little country town I have visited but the nice thing is that in my meditation it is whatever I want it to be. I can build a pergolas and cover it in pink roses. I can put garden seats along a long wall. I can even have a fountain if I want to, it is my secret place.   For those of you who have to stay inside think of doing this, building a magical garden in your mind.  I come out of that meditation refreshed and able to go on again. Men your place may be a hunting lodge or fishing spot or some place you went when you were young. I don't think it matters where it is as long as you leave it with a more tranquil mind. Some people would call this day dreaming and in some way it is similar but I benefit so much from that time of relaxation and enjoyment so I thought I would share it with you.   The bush fires are officially out as of today. Of course there is a lot of work to do now rebuilding, reaforesting, remaking  and repairing of roads, parks, the very expensive job of rebuilding infrastructure which will take years to do. But at least the fires are out. The blame game has been playing out in our media, according to them the fires have been lit by all kinds of "bad people". The truth may never be told or maybe never be listened to. It is so foolish to spread rumours but spread them they do and distract people from what they need to be doing, lending a helping hand with the clean up.   But the rains came, well actually floods in a lot of places and sometimes exactly where the fires were so debris and ashes washed into dams and waterways. Friends of mine were cut off from town for three days, finally out today. And many people had to be evacuated and will get home to face a huge clean up. So not as much rejoicing as it would have been if the rains had come earlier in the year. But some brave farmers will try a late crop and we will all rejoice in the green grass and the flowers in the garden beds. A peach tree next door is in flower, no chance of fruit this late in the season but the flowers are lovely.    I live in a land of such contrasts, the dry outback, like the country around Broken Hill where Trevor lives, such wonderful open blue sky country. Then there is the rolling hill and plain country, now in urgent need of restocking now they have grass and water again. The coastal areas, over burdened with houses, roads and commercial areas but still beautiful in parts is where most of our population live . It is what most people think of as home. Sure some of them go out to "the country " but many have never crossed the Great Dividing Range to where I think of as the "real Australia". I have Ray and our time with Fisheries to thank for that.   I have been having to tests that go with my annual check up at the Melanoma Clinic. I have a new doctor as my old doctor retired and he ordered blood tests and yesterday I went to see him after a phone call from his office and he wants me to have more tests. I did persuade him  that wouldn't be a be a good idea now, better to hold off till after my next operation. Most of what he found wrong with me was pretty trivial so I hope by the end of March he will have forgotten most of it. I can't see the sense in taking a lot of medication or starting to worry about minor problems when I don't get my Melanoma clearance for another two years.   Shirley, my daughter and family are coming to spend Saturday night here. They are going to  Gosford Corps, the Corps they left to become Salvation Army Officers, for a catch up. Craig is going to speak about his job as Chaplain to the Salvos Stores. I have to preach on Sunday at my church so won't hear his speech but am sure it will be good and they will be able to catch up with old friends. We will have lunch together here before they go back home. I love any family contact. Last night I played phone tag with my older son Steven, finally getting to have a chat about how the kids had settled back into school etc. I wish they all lived closer so I saw them more frequently.   The sun is shining outside again so time to do the Autumn gardening chores. We  still will have some really hot weather ahead but I think that will be summer's last hurrah as March is generally much cooler.  Which a lot of people will be thankful for, hot weather is harder for older folk. And so life goes on here on the lovely Central Coast. Wild wind, torrential rain and all kinds of bad weather comes and goes but despite that it is still a great place to live

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Rain at last and other news.

You all know about the devastating bush fires we had in January. They were accompanied by high temperatures, the very hot and dry westerly winds and added to the dry bush conditions what devastation they caused. Well we have rain at last. Here on the Central Coast it is very welcome, a full day yesterday and some showers today. In some places there has been flooding  and a couple of the lakes with a sea outlet have been "let out" which is a good thing.   It has been a strange year so far. In January we had very high humidity which I found difficult. I was on a bus on a hot day a week or so ago and the lady behind me asked: " Have you just washed your hair dear? It is dripping." And I didn't tell her I was sweating because of the heat and humidity. The waist to toes pressure stockings are bad in the heat of summer but lovely and warm in winter. Everything has an up side I guess.   I have just been to visit my daughter Shirley and family. The new house she has moved to is about the same size as the last one but although there are four bedrooms upstairs,the living area is all downstairs. It was good to spend time with her and her family. I was very interested in hearing details of her new job as an Aged Care Chaplain. She is learning a lot about dealing with dementia patients in the Nursing Home. I think her common sense approach to people will really help a lot in that job. It was good to spend time with my grandchildren too. Christopher has a coaching job in the science field in his old High School. Some of  Naomi's friends have changed subjects though so she is still settling back in again.   I have no plans to do any more visits for a while as I have so  have some tests to do, the Pre-admission Clinic for the thyroid operation to attend and then the operation itself ahead of me. I did go out west to Armidale for a while to visit friends, a few days in the country from time  to time is a real pick-me-up. I am a country girl at heart. This was my third visit so it was a familiar place. The countryside was brown and dry when I got there but after a couple of days of rain the green started to brighten up the scenery again.   I always thought I would end up back in the country but it seems unlikely now. Those years out west when Ray was with Fisheries living at Yass and then Narrandera were great years but moving from the familiar Central Coast to the country would be a big move at my age. The Coast is so overcrowded at Christmas time  and during any of the school holidays now, it makes it difficult to get out on the main road from where I live so I have started travelling on the bus which with my pensioner pass is probably cheaper than driving.   We have had three funerals already of congregation members. One was my favourite 102 year-old and I read the Psalm for that at her daughter's request. I miss those who pass on very much. I sometimes feel as if my life is peopled by ghosts. Nice warm hearted ghosts but ghosts none-the-less. New people will come into my life's eventually but the dying always leaves a space in my heart when they go. I know in a way it is morbid thinking but in other ways it is seemly that we farewell friends in order to feel more comfortable with our own mortality.   And so dear friends I go forward, doing what I can to be a comfort to others, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on. Among my widow friends there are those who need support but also those who support me. I am always grateful for your support on here too. Being a widow would become a lonely life were it not for the support of family and good friends.      

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

The word for this year

My word for this year is "SING". This came about in a strange way. I was in a lift and when I got off the man who had been in the lift stopped me.He said: "When you hum are you singing the words in your head?". I had to think about that but the answer was "yes". I was a bit embarrassed really as humming in company is not exactly good manners. Then the man smiled at me and said: "Oh you are a mind singer like my wife and daughters!". I had never heard of mind singing but was relieved that humming to myself didn't make me mad! I had always wondered if it proved I had a slightly odd mental illness!   The other reason is that I can feel joy or find joy in a day in retrospect but I want more than that now, I want my heart to sing for joy whatever is going on in my life. In other words I want to rise above the things that happen that I have no control over and be happy anyway. I have known for a long time that happiness is not dependent on what is happening around me but is the result of what is happening inside me. I want to put what I know into practice. So I am going to use singing to lighten my mood on those days when the pity party is striking up the band.   The new year has brought terrible bush fires to Australia, millions of acres burnt out, loss of farms and forests, thousands of animals killed. Also some loss of life among the human population.Some of what has been lost will revegetate when we finally have rain but many small animals, rare plants and environments like rain forests will never return. Thousands of people are homeless and emergency services are stretched to the limit. Although the fires in some places have been burning for months emergency services are only just being boosted with defence personnel. I won't go into,the politics of that!   As usual in a crisis in Australia people rise to the occasion and offers of all sorts of help flood the internet and other forms of media. People do sincerely want to help and support victims and those who will care for the burnt and injured wildlife. Lions Clubs have a fund called LCIF, the Lions Clubs International Foundation and they will act as a clearing house for donations sent in by small clubs like ours and also are able to draw  on disaster funding from overseas. That is one of the reasons I am a Lion - we help people in an emergency situation.   Many people are donating through charities like the Red Cross, RSPCA and various Wildlife funds. Of course the famous people who have access to moneyed people or have money themselves are offering money, in most cases directly to the bush fire services. I am most impressed that Pink! a singer I am  a fan of has donated $500,000 because she says Australians have been so good to her. Well I guess we have been good to many others too, she is just the one to step up first. Bless her.   My next door neighbours were holidaying on the south coast of New South Wales, camping by  a lake when the fires swept through and burnt out their car and caravan. Just before the fire hit they were taken out by boat into the middle of the lake by a kind stranger and from that vantage point saw it all happening. They were offered accommodation for a couple of nights before family members managed to get through enough road blocks to bring them home. I, like so many, was praying hard for their safety. They are a good family and great neighbours and I am fond of them and their four children. That sort of event is certainly a test of anyone's faith.   My daughter and her family are moving today to a new location, only 6kms from where they live now but still a big upheaval. They were to have a week away last week, several days of which were in Canberra over the New Year holiday period but the fireworks were cancelled due to the bush fires and smoke pollution from the bushfires in the Snowy Mountains so bad in that city that they returned early. We make plans in life but as we all know here our plans can change for many reasons. In the face of so much greater tragedies this is just a small price to pay for simply being alive and having a home to go to as my daughter said to me.   My son Trevor and granddaughter Alice will arrive here sometime around midnight. Alice told her father he had to go to bed early as they were leaving at 2am but he vetoed that idea on the grounds that there would be too much wildlife out on the highway. It is a long drive here from Broken Hill so they will both be very tired when they get here. I don't know how we will fill the ten days they are here because it will depend a lot on the temperatures, over 40 degrees (105) and I try not to go out. But there is a chance of rain tomorrow so maybe we can stay home and just catch our breath for a moment.              

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Kick back, relax, Christmas is over.

After Christmas is over there is a short period where I can relax and recover from that chaotic run-up to Christmas that happens every year. There is always far too much to do in December and I wore myself once more. As usual I accepted too many party invitations but probably enjoyed them less than usual. This year being invited to a so called party meant paying your own way at the designated venue, usually a restaurant or Club, then in my case trying to find things I could eat with no dairy or unidentified oils because of my bad reaction to Palm oil. So I had lots of salads with the first course and fruit salad for the second. Very little joyful celebration this year with bad news coming in daily from the bushfires ravaged inland towns there seemed little to celebrate.   I did slip in a one week visit the first week in December to Trev in Broken Hill. It was a good week, we had smoke from the bushfires here but out in Broken Hill it was hot and dusty but not smoky and I felt better than I had for a while. Because of the trauma 30 years ago from the viral pneumonia I have damage at the bottom of my right lung so can get short of breath. The smoky air seemed low on oxygen and so being away from the coast was a bonus. I left a bag full of purchases with Trevor as one of the local stores had a closing down sale and I found a lot of curtains, linens etc at bargain prices which Trevor will bring with him when he comes for a visit with Alice in January.   Broken Hill is a broken town in many ways. I guess you don't think when you buy those items on eBay or Amazon that you are taking purchasing power away from your local community, so a tourist like me can make a difference. The new type of older tourist couples  with the big new caravans unfortunately no longer bring in the income to small towns that the old fashioned ones did. Now tourists only go into the major supermarkets to buy goods not into the little owner operated stores, so smaller towns are losing trade to the larger towns. It is such a shame. What can a small town do but reduce shopping hours and in many cases local run stores close down.    Someone staying locally as I do has time to browse around and spend on locally produced goods. For instance I go into the Sufi shop to buy curry powders, or Ferries Haberdashery to buy odds and ends, a crochet hook, wool, cottons, all kinds of small gifts. I stop and chat and just enjoy being there. Trevor is struggling now he has only his cleaning job so I do some extra shopping for him while I am there. And there is the joy of the Tip Shop, the old shed converted into a second hand shop that is used to raise money to keep the suicide counseling phone service Lifeline going. The suicide rate particularly among men in our inland towns has risen dramatically with the drought and now the bushfires devastating our agricultural lands beyond the ranges are a bigger worry.   Our Lions Christmas raffle this year will bring in very little money. We get our spot at the shopping centre at management's discretion and were placed near one of the side doors where there was little through traffic and as a result sales were minimal. We will make a profit from Christmas cake sales as our cakes are good value and many people told us although they had trouble finding us they do not like to go without a Lion's Christmas cake. I did twelve half days on sales and struggled to find time for everything else I had to do. But  in a way that is a basic part of my pre-Christmas run-up. I have been selling tickets in a succession of raffles for Lions since Ray joined the Club in 1984.   As usual I went to church at 6pm Christmas Eve and 8.30am Christmas Day. The evening service was as in previous years just hilarious. The church secretary's sons had a succession of roles in the Nativity play and their mother stood at the back of of the church ready to turn the three shepherds into angels and turn angels into kings as we sang carol after  carol. I don't go to the 9pm service but am ready to go at 8.30am. it is a good way for me now to start my Christmas morning before plunging into last minute preparations for Christmas lunch which was at my house this year, the first time for five years.    It was lovely to have five out of six grandchildren with me and Craig and Shirley and Pam. Unfortunately Steve and his new partner  Alison never join us for Christmas. My eldest grand daughter  Tori helped me set up the spare table and the three older ones sat there and talked and laughed together. I so miss Ray when I see them like that and think how much he has missed out on seeing them grow up. The  family members do not talk of Ray now and I wonder how much they remember him. The older two grandchildren do remeber him and hopefully remind the younger ones. I notice Oliver who was only five when Ray died goes over and pats the arm of the chair Ray used to sit in so that comforts me.    Christmas time is such a mixed blessing but I am glad at least some of our family can get together for a while and build new memories together. I then have hope and  courage for the months ahead. My life is lonely at times but it is doable. Have a happy New Year everyone, hope it is one of our best!   

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Time flies...

Well I complained last month about how fast October went and so indeed did November and we are a week into December already. My life is back to being routine again. It took a lot longer than I expected to get over the brain op to clip the aneurysm and it was difficult for me to go through that but I feel I am back to normal now. Thank goodness. I can deal with a whole day now without a nap, do three things in a day instead of two and don't have to run home for a nap between 2pm and 3pm. I found that so restricting so I am glad that time is past.   Now I am more energetic I am also busier. I hadn't been out to Broken Hill for ages so this time I went for nine days, including a weekend when Trev had Alice and his birthday when she came to him after school. It was hot and dusty but I preferred that to being on the Coast where it is smoky from the distance bushfires and the air quality is very poor. Our bushfires have been burning for weeks now and every westerly winds puts a pall of smoke over the coastal plains. I am not allergic to the smoke but a lot of people develop asthma from it so the hospitals are full.   I have been selling raffle tickets for Lions three half days a week at Bateau Bay Square our local shopping centre so the week fills up pretty fast. I quite like it as I am on with another Lion's Club member and so we chat between customers, we are dealing with the public and I find people interesting and from time to time I catch up with a friend I haven't seen for a long time. I am finding it difficult though to keep up with my usual housework and gardening so find myself doing things like ironing in the evening to keep it up to date.   There is a lot to do with all the end-of-year events. I went to the WAGS Christmas party yesterday. Seemed down in numbers from a few years ago as sadly we have lost a few of our members. One of the guests at my table was going back years trying to recall names, she has had a stroke. Seems she has plenty of long term memories but seemed to have very little short term memory. She and I worked together 28 years ago and she recalled several incidents that happened during that time. She has a mobility problem but still has a great sense of humour and I think that is what attracts people to her.   I am blessed with some wonderful people in my life. People who others might consider insignificant I know as prayer warriors, cheer leaders of other people with disabilities, great friends and neighbours. I love people who are a bit different, who have been tested by life and come through it. Those people who are willing to share their experiences and have a great compassion for others. I don't care if my friends are not perfect, do not hold the same opinions I do or come from the same background, in fact I would prefer that they didn't. As long as they can put up with me and my funny little ways..lol.   The two local families will be with me here for lunch on Christmas Day. This is Shirley's idea as she is moving in January and wants the house packed up by then. They will still have a week away at their holiday house. They will need that time to relax and unwind before going through the house move. The house they are moving to is only 6 kilometres from where they live now but everything still has to be packed and unpacked. The house has to be fully functional before she can start her new job. She is going to be an Aged Care Chaplain in a facility that specialises in Dementia  and seniors with other mental illnesses so it is going to be quite a job getting used to her new duties.   Trevor and Alice will be here the first two weeks in January. It is easy to keep Alice entertained now she is seven and the Adelaide kids will be with their Mum so I guess we will have days with them too. I love my grandkids and love to be with them. Okay it is disruptive but January is a month where I have few duties anyway so spending time with them is not a problem. Maybe we can do some things we have put off in other years as Alice is older now. I know Trevor loves to be back on the Coast away from the dust storms and high summer temperatures of Broken Hill for a a while.   Well I probably won't do another blog before Christmas so I will wish you Happy whatever it is you celebrate. For me it is Christmas and unlike the first few years of my widowhood I can actually enjoy it now. Since the brain operation I am even more aware of the preciousness of time and how fleeting our time on earth is. So happy holidays, or happy holy days or whatever has meaning for you and may 2020 be a great year for us all.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Where did that month go?

They do say as you get older time goes faster but October flew by. I didn't go anywhere or do anything different, I have just lived life day by day as I usually do. So why do I feel as if I just lost a month? When I blogged in September I didn't have the date for the next operation, the thyroid operation, now I know it will be in March 2020, a long wait but the side effects of the brain surgery should be just a distant memory by then. And I should be a lot better too if I embark on an exercise program and improve my general fitness.   I have attended the usual number of funerals for October, three, had less days out than some years, no doctors appointments, only the six monthly session with the lymphoedema clinic. I had Trev and Alice come for a week in late September into early Octoberor but no family visits in the rest of October. In a way it has been a peaceful month and I think I needed that as I had started to worry about how much there was to do after the operation in July and worrying is not the ideal thing to do if you have to keep your blood pressure down.   Did I have fun in October? Not really but I did manage to keep most of my appointments and get back into a routine with the main components in place. The three months passed when I had to call on paramedics if I had a fall and I didn't had a fall so that was a bonus. I will gradually increase the amount of activity in each day. Daylight saving helps as the days are longer and I can fit in a nap early afternoon if I need one and still have time to do a little gardening before coming inside for the night.   We are still in drought in most of Australia and the last few days have been hazy with the smoke blowing down from bushfires further upstate. I think it is going to be a bad bushfire season. There is the promise of rain next week but our weather bureau seems to raise false hope with their predicted rain falls. I was brought up in a low rainfall area so am frugal with water usage. I do pray for a return of fertility to our inland areas, living in the inland towns of Yass and Narrandera when Ray was with Fisheries gave me a great admiration for farmers and their struggles with uncertainty due to climatic changes. While we city folk argue about whether Climate Change is real or not they get to deal with it.   The usual Spring illnesses affected my women friends so less get togethers than usual. The little lady I take to church on Sundays has had a few days in hospital but it was nothing serious just her medications needed adjusting. Sadly a contemporary of mine who I have known for forty years or so is on her last days with liver cancer but her family is asking for privacy so I haven't visited her in hospital. I hope she doesn't think her friends have deserted her. I am always dubious about the family deciding "no visitors" as I know how much I appreciate visitors when I am in hospital myself. Maybe that will be different when I  am dying, who knows?   November is a busy month, the last of the Spring cleaning followed by the first of the end-of-year meetings and the first of the pre-Christmas parties. I am going to Broken Hill before the month is over, will book flights this week. Trev is always glad to see me. Broken Hill has already had some dust storms so he will wipe down the cupboards etc in the caravan before I get there. I haven't been to Shirley's for a couple of months but she has been busy too with a move expected mid January. She is going in to Aged Care ministry and moving a couple of suburbs over as the house she lives in is attached to the Corps she works in now. Life gets complicated doesn't it?   And so it is a case of taking life one day at a time as usual, rejoicing in the good, accepting the bad. Planning for the future isn't something that happens much now but I am always optimistic, always looking for good things to happen. Next year there is a cruise in my plans. So that is hopefully the fun event to look forward to.        

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Looking forward to more fun in life

I have started to get back to my old routine again, this has some good and some bad aspects. The good side is more socialising and going out when I want to go out. When I had the carers it was shopping once a week on Wednesday afternoons and coffee or lunch if someone volunteered to take me. I felt isolated and frustrated. Then after I saw the neurosurgery team and got permission to drive I regained my  freedom, now I can go where I want when I want.  The downside is that I am expected by the church folk to be wherever there is a need for pastoral care! And to do all the things I used to do.   I am gradually getting stronger and maintaining my energy levels longer.  This means a whole day out is still not possible but a morning or afternoon for three or four hours is. When the three months is up, when I should have recovered from the anaesthetic etc I should be back to whatever is the new normal for me. If I have been busy in the morning at the moment there is still a time mid afternoon when I need to rest, whether it is in a quiet corner  with my feet up or a short nap. I try not to say "yes" to too many things on the one day now.   I find I have to take signs that I need to slow down from my body seriously. If I only do 20 minutes gardening in the morning that is fine, I can do some more tomorrow or the next day. It is good to be able to do a little more each week. Today was a busy day as I went to two funerals, one in the morning, one in the afternoon about half an hour's drive apart.  Both were Lions wives, I had known them both for many years. Sadly as some of our Lions are in their 80s and 90s this is going to happen more frequently. But as the Lions were some of the people who supported Ray and I through the stroke years they deserve my respect now.   Also on the good side I should soon be able to travel again so I can go up to Trevor in Broken Hill for his birthday and plan some short visits to other friends. Basically this has not been feasible for the past couple of years so it will be another form of freedom gained. I have been wanting to go on holidays so much, envying all my couple friends who post pictures on their Facebook page from all over the globe. I must confess this has been so ever since I became a widow. I did those two trips to England including the trip when I met Ann Rogers at her son's wedding in Norfolk and  of course I had the meet up with Sarah Rademacher in Hawaii. Those trips just whet my appetite for some more travel adventures.    So what can I do? Increase the fun times in my life. Let's face it Mr Right is not coming along in my future, with or without the white charger. So anything I plan to do I need to be able to do alone. This is a bit limiting, dancing needs a partner except at the WAGS Womens Weekend in November and I have just put my name down for that. Then there is the WAGS  Christmas party and I have put my name down for that too. Every year I ask my friends to give me a call if they want me to do anything with them in November or December and each year I explain why I need advanced notice. Every year some are disappointed that the Lions Club Christmas raffle and other things have taken priority over whatever they wanted me to do.   BUT I still have to have the thyroid operation to face up to. I have contacted the specialist's office but have not heard back from him yet about when he plans to do the operation. I am hoping this doesn't mean I will have the operation just before Christmas, that would be a tragedy. I would prefer it after Christmas in that slow period that is most of January, when my friends are looking after the grandkids for the long summer  break. I am not as involved as I used to be when the Adelaide boys are up visiting their mother and need babysitting. These days they would be minding me! They are 13 and 12 and full of energy. I love having them here but strictly one day at a time.   I must say my future looks brighter now. I am still cautious about making plans, maybe that will never change. I still keep to the motto: "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" but if I relax and go with the flow it can still be a very pleasant life.      

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

I'm a success

The title is a little ambiguous but I have just been to my 18 month check up for my lymph node dissection and my six week check up for the brain aneurysm clipping and both were determined to have been successfull. The area of the lymphoedema has not increased and is about the same as this time last year and the neurosurgery team is pleased with my mental condition. When I consider I have had three major operations in two years that is a miracle.   I have just started to drive again and it is wonderful. I am so grateful to all the people who have transported me during those six weeks but I hated ringing people up and asking them to take me places. I did get a couple of "too busy" replies and that is inevitable so I wasn't offended. I have made the same reply in the past when I wanted to say "yes" to someone but knew it couldn't be done. I have learned some new routes and on two occasions a trip to the shops resulted in having lunch out as well. Great socially when I consider I could have spent the whole six weeks alone.   I missed out on a few events as they were at night during the first few weeks when I rested most afternoons and would have been too tired to attend but resumed going to Lions this week and I will try to help out with the Lions Club crew at the BBQ at Bunnings on Monday. Tomorrow I will pick up my little old lady and take her to church, she hasn't been for seven weeks so is looking forward to going. I have been picked up the past four weeks for church by a friend who is the organist and am so thankful for that.   My daughter and her family are coming tomorrow for lunch. It is Ray's birthday, he would have been 77. They haven't be here as a family for a while although Shirley has as she took me to the appointments in Sydney last week. I am happy they give me the time they do I know how busy they are. In another four weeks Alice and Trevor will be here for a week. A d I will get to see my two grandsons from Adelaide too. I live for these family encounters now and feel as if I am just filling in time in between. I don't think I will ever get used to being a widow and being on my own.   I often ask myself what this part of my life is all about? I had the three operations to extend my life but there are times when I wonder what the future holds. Today is wildly windy and not good for gardening which is what I had planned. Of course time is easy to fill in, I have been piecing together crocheted squares left over from other projects to make cat mats, used as part of the give aways for rescued cats going to their forever homes The mat is used in their cage and then goes with them to their new home, something familiar to help with the transition.   Soon I will be back working in my usual capacity as a pastoral care person but that is a little further down the track ,I'll start as soon as I am back to feeling energetic again. That will probably be another six weeks or so on. Three months is what it takes to get over the effect of the anaesthetic and the trauma of the brain operation. At least I can drive! That gives me so much more freedom. And there is still the social meetings, coffee  mornings etc to enjoy. I really don't have a lot to complain about, do I?

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Getting out a bit more.

I walked into church today at Bateau Bay Anglican Church and five people lined up and gave me a hug. It felt good to be welcomed back after being away for three weeks. Some of the church people I saw last week when the  care worker escorted me to the shopping centre, others I had spoken to on the phone. The lady who often sits beside me took a card out of her handbag and gave it to me apologising for forgetting to post it. It is something I have done myself so I just smiled and thanked her.   Yesterday I was taken to the Combined Stroke Group morning tea and other friends did the same, hugged me, gave me cards, welcomed me back. I am not fully recovered yet but am starting to get out for a couple of hours without feeling overtired. The nursing staff were right when  they said I would feel really tired  for the first  couple of weeks. I so grateful to those who have volunteered to drive me to one of my doctor's visits or one of the places I regularly go to. I am glad some of my friends have been willing to put their concern put into action in this way. And for those who have visited me and brightened my day.   I'm glad I went to the Stroke morning tea as there was a very good guest speaker, a local neurologist who with a team of other health professionals is putting into place a system called "Telestroke" which will streamline practices with hospital admission departments so that people suspected of having a stroke will be given priority and access to a neurologist, a CT or MRI scan and blood thinners etc routinely to lower the risk of deficits. It seems so logical but has never really been available outside of city hospitals. It is fantastic that linked together by technology a neurologist or neurosurgeon could now supervise this process in smaller country hospitals where it had previously been impossible to access such a service. It will certainly make living in country areas and having a stroke much less of a risk than it has been in the past.   I am not sure when I will be driving again but have to see the neurosurgeon the first week in September so that should be decided then. I am lost without a car here but with kind friends wanting to take me here and there I hopefully will not get cabin fever. On days when the weather is fine and sunny I sit on the verandah and read or simply watch the world go by. There are people walking dogs or pushing babes in strollers or just walking back from our little row of local shops so plenty to ponder. And I am willing to put my feet up and rest if that is what is required to get back to full health.   Once I would have become restless and fought against this enforced rest but now I just appreciate that I have had a very dangerous operation and have come through it relatively unscathed. It would not have happened a decade ago, we have come a long way in the last ten years as far as technology is concerned. At 72 I am an older lady in the eyes of the medical profession and am thankful they agreed to do operation. A couple of days before I left hospital a man in surgeon's scrubs put his head around my curtains and said: "Mrs Wilkinson, you are a success!" and I am. No longer do I have a time bomb threatening to blow up in my brain, I now have as much chance of living to a ripe old age as everyone else.   I have one more operation to be done, the thyroid, and then I will commence a whole new way of life. Hopefully I will be able to travel, see a bit more of Australia. Because of the lymphoedema international travel is in doubt so I may never get back to England or over to Canada but trains and buses and  cruise ships may still be practical. I would still like to travel with a companion but with grandgirls growing up maybe they will be suitable companions.   My family are much relieved by the success of the operation and my continuing recovery. I am glad I was able to come back to my own home and not have to be a burden on one of them. I love my kids and grandkids but having had to look after my parents and then Ray I know what a toll that takes on your life and I don't want that for them. So right now I am sitting here counting my blessings. Including the blessing of being back in here in my own home.    

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Back home after the operation

I arrived back home from hospital this afternoon. The operation to clip the aneurysm has been deemed a great success. When they said a headache for two weeks  I wasn't thinking of a face ache but that is what I have. The medical team have been thrilled with the success of the operation in " an older woman". I must say I am pretty pleased myself. I will endeavour to post a longer blog at a future time. I just wanted to let you all know that our prayers were answered and that apart from heavy bruising and a little pain and discomfort I am just fine. Walking , talking and commenting on the world around me.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Looking ahead as cheerfully as I can

It is only a few days before I am off to Sydney to have the brain operation. I am not scared, my angel still has her finger on the problem spot. I am packing an assortment of bed wear keeping in mind I may not necessarily be able to pull anything over my head. I know it is a long recuperation but do not know the stages of healing. I have spoken to people who have had the operation but for most of them it was in their 40s not their 70s.   The school holidays are here and Alice and Trevor have been down from Broken Hill for a few days. It is always a chaotic time with them but lovely to have the company of a lively seven year old. The Nintendo Wii was used a lot and she tried to beat me at every game we played. Mostly I gave in and allowed her the victory. We went to the local parks, had some nice walks and she and Trevor managed a couple of hours buildings and castles on one of the local beaches.   We also had dinner one night with Pamela and the two boys. Tori was still in Adelaide having some extra tuition, with her major exams in four months time she felt she needed to do some catch up work. I will see her on Monday. I spend the weekend with Shirley and family two weeks ago. As usual  she is a tower of strength to me. She will be by my side right up till the operation time and there when I come out of recovery.   It was good to see the grandchildren, they are all so different but I love each for their positive qualities. Christopher is at University and seems to be doing well, the others range from Year One to Year  Twelve. I try to keep up with what they are doing, what their interests are etc. I have not been travelling much so I am glad Trevor has decided to come to the Coast for his week with Alice each holiday. It is facing that long drive, 14 hours each way, that I admire him for. I know many would not make the effort.   I am following my usual routine, that is making it much easier to find my way through the waitng days. It has been difficult at times not to  worry  that  my future may not be as I had planned but  I have promised myself to live as well as I can whatever happens. All those years of living with Ray's many disabilities have  given me the courage to look at my own future with a better attitude. We can do so much more if anxiety is kept at bay. And hopefully the days ahead will be better than I am anticipating right now.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Holding patterns

If no news was good news life would be so wonderful. I have paperwork in for both operations in two different Sydney hospitals now with a pre-admission interview on the 11th for the aneurysm clipping operation. I know you all know the importance of this operation as it will save me having a stroke, at least that is the way I am choosing to look at it. With a good surgeon and a lot of prayers it should be fine. I am not looking forward to it but I am no longer afraid of it.   We have just had the first really cold days for the start of winter, record snowfalls for  May in some of our little towns near the Southern Alps. It is time to turn out the cupboards and find the winter woollies. I might need to get out scarves and gloves too if yesterday was anything to go by. I will probably need to look out bedsocks and shawls to wear during my convalescence. Not counting on anything at the moment as  I will find out more details at the next couple of meetings. Anyway no harm in getting ready for  whatever the future holds.   I am not as active since my last hospitalisation for the infection in my affected leg, it seems like my lymphoedema increased in my affected leg so that seems more log-like than before. I am also conscious that I walk differently now swinging my left leg more slowly than my right and I am doing shorter distances too. It is  nuisance more than anything but does affect my confidence. I find stairs are a challenge too and I am mostly walking down them sideways with my back to the rails. A bit awkward but hey! I am still on my feet and that is the main thing.   Apart from that there is still a lot to enjoy in my life, morning tea or lunch out with various members of my widow friends groups, church meetings, craft, Lions and other activities. I like a variety of things to do and mostly enjoy some activity each day. I am more tired than I used to be, after 2.30pm I find myself wanting to head for home or find somewhere to sit with my legs propped up. This has been coming on slowly but I certainly know the difference that losing the lymph nodes made to my  overall health and wellbeing. I have finally got rid of the chest infection, had it for almost four weeks. I am sleeping better now.   The short days means I try to fit gardening in after lunch. There is not a lot to do except keeping things tidy but with no rain for four weeks I have been watering a couple of hours each week. I had three different chrysanthemums flower just before Mother's Day which was a surprise.  Shirley and family came down for Mother's  Day lunch and and brought me another chrysanthemum which can be potted up once the flowering is over. I also have five different bromiliads in bloom so that was a beautiful surprise too. I have always enjoyed pottering in the garden. The herbs are finished though, I will renew them in Spring.   I am not sure how the next few months will go, Trev would love me to go out to Broken Hill to stay with him for a week as I usually  do at this time, last year I was there for my birthday, but I can't go anywhere right now. I am glad Ray can't see me like this. I still "see" him here in my mind's eye. Funny how that happens for a long time after they have gone. Those 44 years were the major part of my life. Despite my efforts to live a full and satisfying life the loneliness is still a major factor. No way to overcome that.   So that is my whinge for today. Not exactly a pity party, just a blog about the uncertainty of my present life.  

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Home is where the heart is

I had five days in hospital and got home late Friday afternoon. It was so good to be home. I went to hospital because I got cellulitis in my melanoma affected leg. It was my own fault, I scratched an insect bite and set up a bacterial  reaction. Without the protection of lymph nodes to fight off the infection spread and on Monday I realised I was in trouble. I consulted my doctor and then rang the Melanoma clinic and following their advice finished up in the local hospital. Needless to say that was the right solution as I needed intravenous antibiotics urgently.   Being in hospital again reminded me how fragile life is. I was in a four bed room and each lady had a story to tell, some sad, some of hard times, all linked to a series of health problems. With daily turnover I probably spoke to ten women in all. I am always astounded that we assume we are all so different from others until we are sick and then suddenly find we have much in common. I hate hospital, with its bad food, almost impossible sleeping conditions and insufficient staff but that was the place I needed to be to get well. I am so happy to be home though and it is great to sleep in my own bed again.   It was Mother's Day today. I did the usual picking up an older lady for church, then after I had dropped her off I came straight home. I am still not at full strength so didn't want to risk shopping today. About 1 pm Shirley and family arrived bringing chicken and salads for lunch. It was so good to be together again. They only stayed a few hours but it was great to catch upon the grandkids news and what Craig is doing in his job. Shirley visited me in hospital last Tuesday so I knew what she  is doing. I loved having them but was tired when they left to go home.   A week spent mostly in bed has zapped my strength so now I need to build myself a routine with more walking and spend some time doing exercises on the Wii. Not allowed to do anything strenuous until all is back to normal, or what passes for normal these days. I am feeling my age now, sort of lost my bounce. I am not complaining, I am as well as I can be but I have to make an effort to get stronger before I have the next operation. And that is going to take an effort on my part.   The garden looks well after the rain and I need to trim a few of the smaller shrubs. It is good to be able to get out into the sun for a while now it is cooler. I really miss the long days of daylight saving, it seems that it is almost dark by 5pm now. The garden looks good as my lawn mowing man was here last week. It is just as well I have someone reliable to do it. It is better to think about the cost as just a normal budget item. And appreciate a job well done.   Apart from that we are in the middle of the lead up to our Federal elections, polling next weekend so all politics on TV and social media. I think I will read and watch old movies for the week. I  can always find something to do. As soon as I feel strong enough I will return to my usual routine, weather permitting of course. Looking forward to that.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Back to cooler days - still awaiting news.

It is always hard to wave goodbye to Trevor and Alice. They live so far away and with all my medical woes I won't be going out to Broken Hill for a while. But we had a good week, no big dramas with Alice settling in.  Not as much  time together as usual as they went down to Sydney for two full days, one to Taronga Zoo and one to the Royal Easter Show where they met up with the cousins, Tori, Alex and Oliver. Alice is very close to Oliver who treats her as his little sister so she follows him around as much as she can.   We had a visit from Shirley, Chris and Naomi on Monday, Shirley said it was great as Alice really talked to her this time. We had lunch  out  and the day just flew by. Chris is doing Biomedical Science at University now. He wants to do research. When he was much younger after Ray had had yet another stroke he asked me: " Granma why can't the doctors fix Pa?"  I told him that we don't know all there is to know about stroke and he said: "When I grow up I will find out."  So maybe that is still in his subconscious mind.   No news on when I am having either operation. 2 - 3 months seems to be the normal waiting time for a hospital bed now. I am not worried as I am sure the surgery will be done eventually. I find that just going on with my regular routine is the best way for me to keep busy and not fuss. I got used to the one-day-at-a-time routine when I was a caregiver for Ray so it is not new to me. Unfortunately it does mean I can't do any forward planning but that is not new either.   The summer heat has gone now, we still have the occasional hot and humid day but they are not the average day. The days are quite pleasant now. I am in the middle of repotting plants and cleaning the gardens up for winter. I know that with either operation I won't be able to do heavy lifting so I will do as much as I can now. I am enjoying being outside more although now we are off daylight saving the days seem much shorter.  I am always glad when the humidity drops, it makes life much more enjoyable for me.   I have been to a couple of funerals in the past month. It is because all of the groups I belong to have members much older than me. I don't think that is a bad thing as some of them have mentored me over the years.  Some of them were my best supporters when I was looking after Ray. I have been in my Lions Club for twenty years in November so have watched the members I started with get older  and frailer, but that is life isn't it? I guess the younger members think the same about me.   I guess some of you have noticed I am no longer Hostsue, I am now swilkinson. I am still officially the Blog Moderator and still occasionally comment on posts so I am still involved. I still have a lot of people from this site on my Facebook page so I am still interested in what is going on in the lives of the wonderful friends I have made here.  And I still pray for those who ask for prayer. Thanks to all who  do the same for me.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Always waiting

I went to the throat specialist, he said the thyroid operation was the way to go but probably the right side of the thyroid removed would be sufficient. I don't know how I feel about that. Anyway I agreed and now await an operation date, probably in May. He also asked me if I wanted to have the brain aneurysm surgery first but as the thyroid is the lesser recovery time I said let's do it first. This may be the wrong decision but I hope not. I really miss having someone else who can help me make decisions now as my family say: " It is your decision Mum."   The weather has suddenly got colder, last night was a cold snap bringing a dusting of snow to the Snowy Mountains and the cold winds came north to us. Then today it rained and I spent my gardening time rearranging my autumn wardrobe. I have a lot of clothes available, I just keep recycling them every year. Some of my clothes must be almost vintage now. I come from the mix and match separates era so it is a matter of matching blouses to jackets to skirts or pants to shoes etc. Of course the thick stockings I am wearing will be less obvious in winter which is a bonus.   I had a enjoyable week out west in an area called the New England District going out by train to go to a friend's 70th birthday party. Another couple stayed with him too, old friends from way back so it was a time of reminding each other of shared events and the fun times we had. Of course that would once have included Ray which made me a little sad. I guess you never get over a loss, just spend less time thinking about it. Those 44 years together will always be a background to whatever is happening to me now.   The next event will be Trevor and Alice coming here for the school holidays towards the end of April. While they are here they hope to go to the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, to Taronga Zoo and possibly the Australian Reptile Park so I shall hardly see them. I love having them here and of course it means having the other grandkids visit too and mayhem all round. For a week it is great fun. Of course Christopher is in University now so I will probably just have Naomi visit this holiday. Life changes all the time doesn't it?   When I came back from my inland visit I had the house lights fuse, seems some of the house wiring may need replacing. Actually I need it all reviewed now. That is one of the problems with a house like this that has been built onto a few times, you forget how old some of it is, the original three rooms having been built in 1959!  We bought it in late '60s and as our family grew more had to be added onto it to accommodate us. I sure miss Ray for that too, where is my lovely handyman husband now when I need him?    Life somehow is always a mix of happy and sad for me. I hate being a widow. I loved being a member of a couple, it always felt safe to me. Not that Ray and I were the perfect couple but someway or another we always managed to compromise. A new friend said to me: " Sounds like you were always fighting." but it wasn't like that. And of course there were all the years of me looking after him but I always included him in the decision making as much as I could. That is what a true partnership is about.   This is a blog about the way life is as I live it now, I have some freedom but it comes at a price. That price is loneliness. There are certain advantages, like I sleep at night without that voice calling: "Sue can you help me?" I still sometimes dream that. I miss Ray. And life is not as good without him. End of story.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Hard decision time

I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer this morning, my melanoma specialist Prof Saw will find me a throat specialist who can see me locally but who operates in one of the Sydney hospitals.  Then the throat specialist will liaise with the neurosurgeon who wants to operate now on my brain aneurysm to see who gets to operate first. Not a good day.   I wrote that to a few friends yesterday. I was in shock, I had gone to the doctor to discuss some options and he read out the biopsy report and there it was, the biopsy had shown a tumor in the node that had doubled in size. A bit of a surprise as the last report a year ago had said the nodes were all benign. But my mother had had her thyroid out in her fifties so I guess it is familial. Dash it all. Another operation to endure. I know it is my age, for some  of us reaching 70 is one bridge too far.   So it is a waiting game again. I will hear from the melanoma specialist again with the information on the throat specialist, he or she will get in touch with me, maybe get some more tests done and then book me in for an operation. It would be nice if I had a choice but I don't. Remember I had the other operations in order to see my grandkids grow up? I guess the same applies.   The aneurysm in the brain operation is more serious of course, no laughing that one away. But an aneurysm is a small unexploded brain bomb and it is either get it  tied off or live with the uncertainty of when or where it will detonate and blow. That is indeed a dilemma. So I will have to screw up my courage for that one. It is a pity somone else couldn't make the decision for me but I am still in my right mind so the decision is all mine.   So how do I feel? Not confident that I have a future. I say that knowing the side effects of both operations, the downside of doing hospital chaplaincy. Some people come through operations so well, recovering fully, some people don't. Either way it is a long recovery and life will be different to what it is now. But that is the good news in what may be an end-of-life experience. I say that because one of my younger friends (58) from my stroke recovery group died this week after two massive bleeds, one on the left side of the brain  one on the right side. Life is uncertain.   Where does my Christian faith come into all of this? I don't know. I have always known life was uncertain, I was a caregiver for all those years and watched Ray have strokes, falls, fits and seizures. I saw how very brave he was and how he struggled back each time. I want to be as brave and determined as he was. I want to go into the operations knowing that things can go wrong but be brave enough to be able to take that chance. That is what living by faith is all about.   So if I write a few down blogs or put comments on Facebook that don't sound like my normal cheerful self you will know why. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike so don't feel sorry for me or worry about me. But do keep prayers and positive thoughts in your mind for me for the next couple of months as I deal with some of these awkward decisions. And help me to keep smiling when there is not a lot to smile about please.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Thankfully very few changes

I have a lot to be thankful for. My daughter Shirley took me to see the specialist in Sydney today. Luckily the heat of yesterday was replaced by  drizzly rain but as  usual that just made the traffic worse and so our two  hour journey took half an hour longer. I know why I love my part of the coast so much, it is because  I would  much rather listen to the sound of waves rolling in to shore than the sound of squealing  brakes and the horns of  impatient drivers. Or park by the lake instead of trying to find a parking spot among the high rise city buildings.   I have several tasks to do when I get there. I filled in the research paper I usually do on my post operation feelings which becomes part of a national survey, then I was interviewed by one of the associates which is part of their training and then I can see the Professor herself. It seems there is not any sign of further melanomas, no signs of secondaries. I do have some age related problems which the young doctor explained but these can be seen to one at a time. I don't have to see the specialist again for twelve months pending two more tests to come, one a biopsy and in March there is the brain scan and the visit to the neurosurgeon.   I am  so grateful for everyone's prayers. It was a tiring day but just to know I have passed the first year without a recurrence of the melanoma and no secondary sites is a great relief. I still will have some residual pain from nerves damaged during the operation but that is a small price to pay. I have been given another year and will make the most of it. My word for this year is enjoy and so far there have been few days I haven't enjoyed. My life may be shortened by this past year's troubles but it is still a good life.   The week leading up to today was busy with all the tests but even then it was an interesting week. After one of the tests a woman friend picked me up and we went to lunch, a thoughtful gesture on her part. I am blessed with good friends. I don't have family close but Shirley is only and hour and a half away. I also had lunch out with my ex-daughter-in-law and caught up with her news. She is the mother of my grandchildren who live in Adelaide with my son and his new partner.    I am lonely still, really no getting around that. I have plenty to keep me busy, I have friends locally I can connect with as I do, but when Ray died the centre went out of my world. But we widows and widowers just have to rebuild our lives and I have done that. Like any rebuild it includes things from the past as well as relationships which are more recent. The friends I have now are from different parts of my journey. It is inevitable that relationships change when your partner's dies and some friends drift away and new friends take their place. And of course at my age many older friends die.   It was nice to have my daughter stay overnight and to and from Sydney we talk of so many things. She told me she now uses a lot of the sayings she heard from me and her father and her kids say: "where did that come from?" It is good to have a laugh together. I know she is busy and am glad she feels she can spend the time with me. It means a lot to me. Now it is onwards and upwards. No, I am not fixed or cured or guaranteed a future but for now I have a good feeling about the year ahead of me.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Looking ahead but not too far

Every now and again something jolts me back to reality, today it was the post on Facebook by Steve Mallory announcing that our friend Denny (Dennis Jeffries) had died. Denny and I talked frequently during my years when he was a chat host on Survivor Chat and I was chat host for Caregiver Chat. He was also my friend on Facebook. Like so many of my friends on Facebook and Strokenet we never got to meet in person but nonetheless we were friends. In this modern age this will be so for many of our friendships.  My  heartfelt condolences to his beloved wife Peg and their extended family and all those who knew him and valued his friendship.   As I minister to the older church members in my own church and others in the organisations I belong to I am probably over familiar with death but never inured to it.  I know each death robs us of a piece of our history and breaks down some of the bonds between us and others. All we can do is to remember those friends who have passed,  remembering why we liked them, what we shared with them,  remembering all that was good about that particular person and the ways in which the friendship enriched both our lives. We also need to remember those they left behind.   I have just had my daughter and her family here for the weekend. Not her husband as he had injured  his back trying to start a stubborn water pump so he stayed home for some bed rest. It was only a day's notice so it was unexpected but turned out to be a really fun time. My grandson  Chris starts University this year so is a grown  man now, his sister Naomi is 14  so quite a young lady so it was funny to see them playing with the toys Alice aged six had got out to play with. The Nintendo Wii got a bit of a workout and more so on the second night when Pamela and the three Adelaide cousins joined us. I guess that is when I realise my house is small when  five teens and near teens are fighting to see who will be the challengers in the new Wii games.   I do so enjoy having my grand children here, every  time I see them I can see the changes in them. With Trevor and Alice's visit the first two weeks in January and then all the others last weekend I have been so blessed with the amount of time I have been able to spend with them. The Adelaide kids are going home in a week's time to start back at school, they are  all doing well according to their abilities. I love them all and want the best to happen to them but have no illusions about them. Like Ray and I they will have their own struggle with life.  They know Granma prays for them, but only two fully understand what that means.    Summer has been very humid so it is out shopping etc in the morning and home in the afternoons. I have to keep hydrated and remember to take some time with the affected leg elevated. I have just lined up all the appointments and tests for the second week in February prior to seeing the melanoma specialist, with more tests before I see  the neurosurgeon in March. I figure this is all for my good, remembering especially that this is prolonging my life so I can look forward  to seeing my grandchildren grow up. I have felt the negative effects of wearing the body stocking toes to waist  bevause of the humid weather but try to remember that too is to ensure I live as full  a life as is possible.   On the whole life is good and I have many blessings to count. I have a roof over my head, food on the table and many good people behind me challenging and supporting me. At my age I know that as long as we have love in our lives we are truly blessed.    

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Never a cool Yule

Tracy wrote in a reply to Janelle that it is hard to get her head around the fact that we in the southern hemisphere are in summer and a hot one at that. It makes the Christmas we have very different from what most of our readers are experiencing. And it is hard to imagine unless you can think of the Fourth of July and Christmas coming together. Then add mosquitoes, bush fires, heatstroke and crowds of people flocking to your town from the nearest big city and you are starting to get a picture of my kind of Christmas. Despite all of that we, the Aussies and those who have made Australia home, love it.   I did go to my daughter's place for a couple of nights, had a good time without too much trouble, enjoyed the Christmas Eve supper my grandson prepared and the lovely Christmas lunch my son-in-law cooked, going to church with the family etc. I got quite a collection of small gifts, the flavoured teas and  home made jams being my favourites. As the grandchildren are now 19 and 14 there wasn't the noisy excitement of younger children but it was still nice to see them open their presents.   My daughter drove me home late Christmas afternoon as they were heading off to see their other grandmother the next day and in a way I was glad to be home. The run-up to Christmas was very busy this year as I did extra shifts on the Lions Club raffle in our local shopping centre. One of our younger Lions had a stroke the week before Christmas and I replaced him as well as another Lion who finished up in hospital with pneumonia. We all push ourselves too much and end up with stress related illnesses if we are not mindful of the pressure. Anyway all that is behind me now.   So my word for this year is one I have had before - ENJOY. I aim to 🎉 celebrate the life I have regardless of the way the year influences my health etc. I am learning that I will only be happy if I plan to be happy. I can no longer guarantee good health, or prosperity or even what will happen from day to day so I just have to accept that. I am blessed with people who care about me whether they voice that or not. I found out through the journey of the last year or so that people express love in many different ways, through flowers, food, visits , phone calls and dropping by with a cup of my favourite coffee. And of course emails and comments on social media.   Some here are some thoughts for the year to come. Firstly to stay as positive as possible regardless of whether I feel lucky, happy or in control. Secondly to go on loving people and in  whatever way I can to help and support them. This will include keeping in regular communication with some people I have neglected this year. I found out just before Christmas that one of Ray's favourite cousins had died five months ago. I guess I need to still send letters but to follow up with a phone call if I do not get a response rather than doing nothing and getting bad news later.   I have a more exciting period coming up with a visit from my younger son Trevor and granddaughter Alice happening next week. I am not planning life for the next two weeks after that at all, I am sure we will be out and about, at the beach, visiting her cousins, having picnics and enjoying the summer. How my ageing body will stand up to that I don't know but enjoy it I will. That is a promise. And hopefully without negative results.   So I wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year but if it doesn't turn out that way I wish you the strength to carry on anyway.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Noises outside

On the whole I think I cope with being a widow pretty well. But as soon as the warmer nights start we have noises outside. As a widow and even before when Ray was living here still but was unable to get quickly out of bed I am the one who goes off to investigate. It may be possums on the roof, dogs overturning the bins out on the road or a group of noisy teens coming home from a party, rarely is it something life threatening. Sometimes I just don't see the cause and I might go back to bed and worry for a while but usually I am satisfied. Tonight there is a wind so all kinds of rattles and bangs but all ones I know the origins of so I am okay.   I always say we all plan for retirement but not for old age and I think that aplies to me now. I have got a lot slower since the last operation and I know that while I can still manage housework, shopping and the ordinary tasks of life I cannot do maintenance so in the New Year need to find a way to do the jobs I can't accomplish and that means find some tradesmen to do them. This is going to be a considerable expense but as I don't go on holidays much now I can use that money.   We also don't plan for widowhood so I am now putting some thought into my future again. There are two main choices, staying in my own home or some sort of retirement complex. I think I will maybe consider downsizing to a smaller place too. It seems unlikely now that's one of my children will move closer so I am probably not going to have help in this. It is not that they don't love me  but it doesn't occur to them that I need help. And I do find things more difficult now since the leg operation. Every job that involves bending and lifting takes a bit longer than it used to.   And we don't take our future needs into consideration. I am thinking of our need for help and support. Through pastoral care work I deal with the elderly a lot and I can often now see my own needs in the ones I am helping. The need for companionship is high on the agenda for widows. It is easier during the day as public transport, taxis and lifts from friends help if you no longer drive but at night and at weekends that is not as available so there is a difficulty in meeting up with friends.    Technically speaking the family should fill the gaps but in fact few have family living close by.  I hear that from the little lady I pick up for church and others in my craft group so I am aware of how it will be for me if I can no longer drive. I wondered if I should express these thoughts here or if I should write them in my widow blog but I think a lot of people on here also struggle with living alone as I do or wonder how they will cope if it ever becomes their life. For those of you who have someone living with you, cherish that situation. Alone means some extra freedom but too much time alone is stressful, particularly on those nights when the wind is up and I become super aware of noises outside.   The good news is that I do have people who love me. They might not be right here but they exist. An old friend in her 90s rang me early this morning to tell me she does. She had received a Christmas card from me and rather than try to write a letter had rung me instead. I know there are people who love me, family and good friends, I am not discounting that. But it isn't always in the forefront of my mind. To my mind I am very much alone. My girlfriend who died recently was one of the people who I could ring on a night like this and it is one of the reasons I will miss her. I miss a lot of people who have been good friends in my past years. It is not the same without them.   Sometimes I think the Christmas season is hard on us as people who have cared for others. I know I never really thought about the impact before I was a widow. As a caregiver I was simply too busy. Now I am on my own I have too much time to think. There is a car alarm going off somewhere in the neighborhood, another party up the road, the sound of music somewhere further away. Somehow that accentuates the aloneness I feel. I probably need to put on some music of my own and block out the noises outside.  

swilkinson

swilkinson

Another milestone in WAGS

Last weekend was the Women's weekend of the Stroke Support group WAGS, I think my 10th full weekend although I have sometimes just gone to the Friday or Saturday night, depending on the circumstances. I remember one year I got my older son to look after Ray so just went from lunchtime Saturday until after the dinner. Of course the past six years I have gone as a widow. I shared with another younger widow this year as I did last year. She is only mid-fifties and still has children in her care as her husband died young. She enjoys the weekend as a break from her usual routine.   One of our members has compiled books of photos from each year back to 2005 the year before I joined.  I really enjoyed looking through them and recognising some of the faces as old friends who can for various reasons no longer come. As usual it was a sad/happy time as we remembered those who are no longer with us, acknowledging also those who were foundation members. In every organization there are those who put in a lot of hard work to make events go well and WAGS is no exception. We are all grateful to the handful of organisers who make the weekend possible.   I enjoyed the company, the food, the entertainment, but as usual especially the dancing. Of course I would  love to be able to dance the way I used to but found it impossible to be as balanced with the left leg musculature being so different now from the right. But I managed to dance for most of three hours so I was very proud of that achievement. And it was wonderful meeting up again with such wonderful, brave indomitable spirits, both caregivers and survivors. They are an inspiration to me.   Coming home is always a let down and I have been feeling that this week.  I am busy enough, on the Lions Christmas raffle two mornings already but my trip to visit my daughter and family mid-week and go out to a  Salvation Army lunch today was cancelled due to her schedule. It is a thank you to the officer's  parents, and  thank  yous  are rare. And  then news of another death in the distant family added to my sadness. It does seem as if there has been a lot of deaths within my circle lately and I think that dims my usual brightness for a while. It is a reminder of our built in use by date when those younger than ourselves die.   Really now I have no-one to turn to when I am sad, I miss my good friend Lyn for that reason, we always included in our chats news about family members, happy and sad and I have no-one to do that with now. I think it is not likely that I will make another good friend like him. I really miss my girlfriend Jean, who died six weeks ago too. It was such a shock when she died. And without those friends from our formative years to share our memories with we are so much the poorer. I am really feeling that now.   But as we know life has to go on, Christmas get togethers are starting, bring a plate to this one, book in for that one. It is not only the busy season it is also the expensive season. I have the trip to Broken Hill to look forward to and other upcoming events but Christmas this year will be with just Shirley and family as Trevor and Steven and their families have other plans. Inevitably that will happen some years. But that is when I really miss Ray and that focussed family life we used to live.  

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

From cool days to heatwaves.

We have just had one of the hottest November days for decades. What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The weather was still fairly wintery when I went out by train to Armidale one of our little inland cities to stay with family friends. The days were warm but the nights were cold and I was glad of the couple of blankets and heavier cover. Then one morning what looked like heavy snow clouds blocked out the sun and it really was cold so on went the winter weight jeans and jacket. I was glad I had gone out with a range of different clothes.   Armidale is a University city so I went to the University several times as my friend is doing a Master of History course. Isn't it remarkable to see buildings looking like big splendid piles of bricks and mortar in an otherwise rural setting? Of course this is a thriving town set in what we call the New England district so rolling hills, good rainfall and fertile soil made it an ideal landscape for agriculture of all kinds. That makes for a rich community who could easily afford to build such a magnificent University. Such a contrast to the practical but modern  University buildings on my part of the Coast.   It was good to get away for a few days, I find when I am away from here with friends or family I am able to see life differently from afar. And it is good to have different conversations and to step away from purely domestic issues. I went on a visit to several historical homes and as my friend is a guide at one of them was transported back into the past to see how hard life was back a century ago not for the nobility but certainly for those who worked for them. Remember the butter churning, wood chopping, boiling up the sheets? And all done by young girls in service who also did the heavy lifting as the house belonged to three sisters and no men folk were allowed.   It is good to be reminded that we are so lucky to live now with so many modern appliances to make our life easy. Okay we have to do our own housework but it is not so hard is it? I  was woken up early every morning as the house next door  had  poultry,  both hens and ducks in their back  yard and the rooster crowed as early as 3 am. I even cooked  a couple of meals while I was away, it was strange getting used to someone else's kitchen. But it was so nice to be out in the country, I really am a country girl at heart. Thanks for the memories.   Then home and back to the routine. A couple of our older church members now have health problems so I visited one in a local hospital. I did some work in the garden the first couple of days I was home but two very hot days put that activity out of the question. It is easy to do nothing but that is not what I need to do. It must be Spring cleaning time so a minor declutter is in order. ( I think I say that every year about this time). This year has gone so fast with all the medical  appointments that so much looks neglected. I wish I felt more energetic but I do feel my age now. More's the pity. On a bright note I had two lunches and one dinner out this week and one was actually a date. (Shhhh!  it's a secret.)   On Tuesday I get my roster for the Lions Club Christmas raffle and an idea of what else we have to put our names on rosters for. There is still plenty of activities to participate in for church, with the Friday coffee morning, craft afternoon etc.  And tomorrow is my preaching day. And I still have the trip out to Broken Hill for Trevor's birthday to look forward to. I like to be busy as long it is practical. There are a couple of medical events to get over, one at the Lymphodema Clinic and one at the Skin Cancer Clinic. And then there is all the planning involved in Christmas.   It is six years since Ray's death and much has  changed, other friends have passed and  l have some newer friends now and a different kind of life. Of  course I would swap the life I have now for my old life in a heartbeat if that was an option. But it is what it is.  

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Happy and sad time.

I just had a few days with my daughter and family, it was nice to catch up with the grandkids as I hadn't seen them since May. My grandson was busy studying as he starts his exams on Thursday.  These are the last of his Year Twelve exams and give him his final score important for future employment and access to University entry. He is very focussed but I could see an element of panic which is quite common at this time. My grandaughter is still three years away from that stressful time. She is a good all round student and as yet unworried about the future.   Shirley and I went to  Gloucester about two hours away to my girlfriend's funeral on Monday. I thought I would need support as this is the woman I had known since I was seven. Jean and I went through school till our third year of high school together and had always kept in contact. She will be missed by many as she was an art teacher, a singer, very active in her community and recognised as an artist Australia wide. I know she is irreplaceable in my life. We had many friends in common so it was good to catch up with some of them. But I will always be conscious of her absence in my life.   I am busy with rosters, they rule my life from now to Christmas. In Australia with Christmas, end-of-year activities and of course the coming of summer with school holidays starting in December. Our days fill with beach going and picnics etc so we are BUSY. I don't think the beach will be a big feature for me but when the kids are here I do take them so take advantage of living on one of the best stretches of coast in Australia. The Christmas raffle alone is two days a week out of my life for six weeks.   The Royals are here, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, so Royal fever is gripping the media. They are due to land shortly in an inland city called Dubbo and the population has doubled there. Good timing as they have had rain there so the signs of the drought are overcovered by fresh green grass and they will see it at it's best. This is the fifth Royal visit Dubbo city has enjoyed so it is the envy of many. It is a boost to any little city to host a Royal visit.   We are having a Fashion Parade and High Tea at the end of the month at church and I might purchase a Spring garment as my wardrobe contents is mostly old and tired. It is many years since I was a trend setter. But it does a girl good to have something fresh and new to wear. Call out to caregivers... remember to look after yourself and from time to time to treat yourself to something special like a pamper day or a new outfit. All caregiving is hard and you need to look after yourself and keep your sense of self. I am only really seeing that in perspective now.   And so I am enjoying slightly warmer days and longer days as we are now on Daylight Saving time. Nice to have a chance to do some gardening that results in flowers brightening the back yard. There seems to be a time for a relax after a long day, this is when I really miss Ray as we used to review the day together. Ah well life must go on.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

It was a hard month

Sometimes I take the hard decisions and accompany someone on the journey to death. It is something that I was trained to do as part of my Chaplaincy training. This time it was more difficult though as it was someone I knew well, the man I went out with for a while. Lyn and I broke up in November 2016 and four months later started a friendship that lasted till last Thursday when he died. He had twelve weeks in hospital and it was hard to see him slowly deteriorate and probably during the last two weeks the quality of life was no longer there.    I will really miss him, he was a great conversationalist and we talked for hours over cups of tea and across cafe tables. Once I accepted that friendship was all he could manage because of his ill health we became the best of friends and I am going to miss him a lot. The funeral is on Friday. I have met all but one of his children and step children so will  feel comfortable being there. I do go to a lot of funerals anyway but the closer I am to the person the harder it is for me to not be an emotional mess.   Apart from that I have been doing some gardening, preparing for summer by doing a little Spring cleaning. This week I have Trevor and Alice visiting so we have been out most days. Alice loves going to the beach even though the weather is still cool and the ocean temperature cold she has been in doing her version of swimming. Today we went to an area with a children's wading pool and she loved it, she palled up with a girl her own age and they ran around together, a great way to burn energy and keep warm.   Yesterday we spent the day with Pam and her three children and it was great to seen the four of them playing  together. The boys play games Alice can join in and understand with her being so much younger they have to be gentle with her. I think being with cousins is a great thing for Alice. Unfortunately with major exams ahead for Christopher and much to do Shirley and family won't be coming down before Trev and Alice go home. A pity as she enjoys their company too. I may see them next week.   The country is still very dry, Trev said kangaroos, emus, goats and cattle are competing for what little grass there is and carcasses litter the roads. Drought is heartbreaking for all our country farmers and my Lions Club among many others is collecting money and goods to send to the country to support farmers and their families. It is probably too little, too late but we need to show them we care about what is happening to them. After all we really do rely on the farmers for the food we eat and some of the materials for the  clothes we wear etc.   The year is flying  by already people are asking about my plans for Christmas. I never know what I am doing this far ahead. Shirley is not moving for at least another year so that is good. I will probably spend Christmas with her family. There is a lot to get through before then. I hesitate to make plans, in the past so many things have gone wrong that for me planning too far ahead seems crazy. Just have to wait and see what happens.

swilkinson

swilkinson

 

Living on angel time.

I went to see the neurosurgeon on Tuesday. I was interviewed by a young Asian associate doctor and sent for a 3D MRI and angiogram, a brand new way of showing  the blood supply within the brain. The results were given to me by the associate and then I saw the specialist. It appears the aneurysm is larger and deeper than previously thought but at my age they are not going to operate as it would mean a full brain surgery. Coiling, one method of dealing with an aneurysm, is not an option. I think I was a little bit shocked by the news but taking into consideration I have had the melanoma op, the lymph node dissection etc I am not really a good candidate for another operation, especially brain surgery.   The specialist was fairly brutal because I think  he wanted me to know if I wanted an operation it had to be after I got a clearance from the melanoma specialist and that would take time. He said he knew I had a long wait ahead of me but not to worry.  Not to worry!!! So back to basics, no stress, no strenuous exercise, no * blush, sounds like no fun at all. So what can I do? As usual make some decisions, live a quiet life, let the future take care of itself, one day at a time. Hell's bells, what else is new?   So I have a plan. I have to just go on the way I always have, going about my usual routine one day at a time. Whenever I start to worry I will visualise that little bubble about the same size as the tiny diamond on my engagement ring. I will visualise a tiny angel sitting alongside the aneurysm, with her thumb firmly on top of it holding it in place. I know one day it may be that she will take her thumb off and the pressure will build up and life as I know is it will be no more. But It will happen to us all one day, in one form or another.   I went to Dissection Clinic down in Sydney today and there have been no changes in the past three months to the Lymphoedema, which is good news. In the interview I told her I had regained my confidence in walking down stairs which had taken a year to do and had recently started yoga again. She seemed pleased with the progress. No more interviews in any of the Sydney specialists rooms until next February. Hurray! I have survived twelve months since the melanoma was removed and six months since the operation to remove the lymph nodes. I have a lot to be thankful for.   My daughter took me to both appointments, I was so glad she had the time. We stopped for lunch today before we left Sydney and although it was expensive it was a happy time and one we rarely enjoy together. She also got the news today that the position she holds as Captain of the Cardiff Corps has been extended for another twelve months which is good news for me. If she had been moved it might have been a lot further away. Her husband's appointment has also been extended. Though he will now have a wider area to cover, which means a lot more time on the road. But she said he can cope with that.   On a less happy note my special friend who has the leukemia has now been in hospital for eight weeks and he now seems to be getting much weaker. I have been a regular visitor and it is painful to see the deterioration. With all the people  I  have ministered to in hospital you would think I would get used to seeing that happen but I never do. I am always an optimist, thinking with the right treatment, an adjustment to their medication etc they will be fine. But that is not always the case. So maybe there is more bad news to come.   There are signs of Spring now, birds building nests, green grass after a little rain, even some blossoms on the prunus trees in the parks we passed today. Hopefully the nights will warm up and we can start packing away the winter clothes. I have no plans, the future is a blank canvas. Don't think there is much fun and excitement ahead but who can tell? If I wake up breathing and moderately energetic I will endeavour to have a good day.    

swilkinson

swilkinson

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