The moment I’ve waited for is finally here. My beloved pseudo-sister is coming to ease the grief torturing my soul. The last time I saw her was at mum’s funeral. The last time I saw her I had freshly lost my mother, and she had lost her adored Aunty Ellie. I was six months pregnant then. My word … how I have missed her.
When I see Trudy running toward me at the airport, I feel such a sweet rush of love and relief. She hugs me so tightly and says, ‘I can’t believe you’ve had a baby!’
It is a truly joyous reunion. We excitedly chat on the two hour drive home, in the dead of night, laughing together about the antics of our children – she has an eight year old girl, called Ruby, and a two year old son, named Vinnie. The car rings with happiness, even with the grief in tow.
We arrive at my beloved blue house in the dead of night. Trudy insists upon sneaking in to see August. As if sensing that something special is happening, August wakes up and stares up at her, beaming. She scoops him up and gives him a magical cuddle. She is utterly speechless with emotion. She adores him on sight. She walks him through the house, as I show her what we have done with the place. She is both amazed and teary, and she tells me that what we’ve done is beautiful – that our grandparents would be so proud. She is so unbelievably happy that we decided to move here. In one moment, she provides me with what I have been so desperately craving – for a member of my family to appreciate and understand how I need this house, and how much I love it. I am so lucky to have her for four whole days. I will be able to live through mum’s birthday with her by my side.
20/07/10 – Mum’s Birthday
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, and … fuck.
Today I do not want to wake up. I do not want to face today. It is another of those hideous ‘firsts’ without her.
How different it would have been! How different it should have been … planning her little pink party excitedly with August, perhaps even donning him in a pink shirt. Spoiling her senseless, and watching her eagerness to peruse her mountain of splendid offerings, as August helped her unwrap things. The laughing and the joy would have been infectious.
The possibility of what could have been is stripped from my being ruthlessly, like unwanted wallpaper.
But I have my Trudy. I can survive today. We can laugh and cry today, together.
In the afternoon there is a patch of sunlight. We take August out into the backyard, and let him roll around on a blanket, while we sit and drink Asti-Riccadonna. We both hate the hideous wine, but it was mum’s favourite. I put on a CD of songs that I have made to remind me of her – lots of Barbara Streisand, Tina Turner, and other various power ballads. The atmosphere reminds me of her, and yet there is still no sense of her spirit present in this place. She continues to elude me. I watch my son happily chew on his toys and gurgle as he rolls his chubby frame, and I feel a sublimely devastating mix of woe and gratitude. And I know that Trudy feels the same. She is devastated that she has lost the aunty she loved so much, and she is heartbroken that my children have been robbed of the chance to know their grandmother. She understands how I feel, and the comfort is so unbelievably welcome.
Ellie, Ross and I were down in Bunbury for our coinciding school and university holidays. Ellie had gone back to Perth for the night for a friend’s birthday party that she simply couldn’t bear to miss out on. Ellie did not like to miss out on festivities of any kind, and indeed everyone knew that hosting a gathering without her exuberant presence was a waste of time. Ellie was due back in the morning, so Ross and I had the house to ourselves for the night. We had enjoyed the peace and quiet.
The following morning I woke up at the reasonable hour of ten, and went to have a shower, excited about savouring my coffee out on the front veranda in pensive silence. I had just finished showering when I heard a car pull up. It was the unmistakable jovial grunt of the pink Pysar. What? I thought. ‘Surely she can’t be back this early?’ I immediately realised what a silly thought that was – of course she could be back! She probably partied all night, then chatted to anyone who agreed to stay up until dawn, before making her way back with no sleep whatsoever. Ellie didn’t need sleep. In fact she considered it an inconvenient waste of her precious time – she would far rather have been doing something adventurous and exciting.
Reaching this conclusion I began drying myself off, planning to make her a cup of tea as she gave a vivid and passionate recital of her evening. But then, to my surprise, I heard a quiet knock on the bathroom door. Irritated, I said, ‘I’m getting dressed mum’. As the door began to creak open I hastily wrapped my towel around me, thinking, ‘Typical! Of course she can’t wait a few minutes to begin her tale!’
But to my complete and utter surprise, my cousin Trudy’s head popped in around the corner of the door. I stared frozen in shock for a few seconds, then my eyes misted up, as I exclaimed, ‘Oh my god, Trude!’ Trudy lived in Melbourne at the time. She came to stay with us in Perth when I was 14 with the intention of staying a couple of weeks. She ended up staying for nearly two years. The three of us had been bonded for life ever since; she was like a sister to me. I hadn’t seen her in ages.
As soon as I acknowledged her she leapt into the bathroom and embraced me in a giant, suffocating bear hug, both of us crying with joy. We left the bathroom, still embracing, and I saw mum standing in the hallway, all beaming and smug. It dawned on me that she had not been to a party at all. I had been tricked!
‘How did this happen?’ I yelled in delight.
Ellie was poised for any verbal signal to begin her detailed description of the plan – how sneaky they had been in organising the flight and faking a mock party as a pretence to collect Trudy from the airport. When she had finished Ellie stood proud and mighty, utterly delighted with herself. I thanked them both and said it was the best surprise ever. We all embraced in a mutual family hug and went to get the champers. At that point Ross appeared from the bedroom, shirtless and sleepy- eyed. He saw Trudy and literally jumped back in surprise. Then he started laughing and joined in the embrace.
That day was the best day ever. We gorged ourselves on mountains of food and drank all day, talking and laughing hysterically.
This lasted until the late hours of the night. Ross retired to bed, still not quite used to the vivacious energy our little family was capable of when reunited. Ellie, Trudy and I continued to drink until all three of us were incredibly drunk. At this time Ellie thought it was a prudent plan to analyse the situation with Trudy’s partner at the time – Ben.
‘So tell me about Ben Trudy’, she said, in her girly baby voice. Trudy began to start a sentence about things going really well, but Ellie swiftly interjected with, ‘So, it’s quite serious then?’
Trude hesitated for a second, and then nodded her head, ‘Well, yeah, I think so’.
Ellie allowed no time for reflection, ‘So are we talking breeding then Trudy?’
Again Trude hesitated. She shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘Well maybe’.
On this verbal confirmation of the possibility of breeding, Ellie pounced with an entourage of questions, ‘So what’s the gene pool like? Are there any deformities, mental illnesses, or drunks in the family?’
Trudy began to answer, ‘Well no-’ but was cut off abruptly.
‘What class are they Trudy? Lower-class? What do his parents do? Are they educated? What kind of education does Ben have?’ Ellie glared at Trudy with upmost interest.
Trudy said that Ben was an aborist, and added that he was quite a hippy at heart.
Ellie recoiled in horror at the word ‘hippy’. She frowned and said, ‘So, we’re talking dirty then – with no ambition? Oh, dear me.’ She placed her head in her hands. Then other, far more pressing question popped into her head. ‘What does he look like Trudy? Will the offspring at least be attractive? You know we can’t have anyone spoiling the magnificent genes in our family’.
Trudy and I laughed, well familiar with such a line of serious and judgemental questioning. Trudy was prepared, and said, ‘Yes Aunty Ellie, he’s very attractive’.
Ellie was not satisfied with this. ‘Yes to you maybe Trudy, but you’ve obviously been blinded by love. We want a detailed physical description please’.
‘Hey!’ I piped up, still laughing, ‘Leave me out of your superficial interrogation’.
Ellie proceeded unperturbed, ‘Rebecca, you’ve met him, is she telling the truth? Is he attractive?’
I knew the exact way to answer such a question; one that would leave Ellie quite placated and satisfied. I put on the most serious face I could muster, and replied, ‘Yes, he’s actually quite attractive. And he’s very … TALL’.
That did the trick. Ellie leaned back with relief. ‘Excellent Trudy – we like tall men’. She pondered this a bit further, while Trudy and I doubled up laughing. Then she couldn’t resist adding, ‘But then of course you’re also quick freakishly tall Trudy – you don’t want to have giants’.
At this Trudy and I literally fell to the floor laughing, as Trude yelled, ‘Aunty Ellie! How can you be so cruel?!’
At the acknowledgement of her own cruelty, Ellie too began to laugh, until she was bent over, slapping her thigh with delight and crossing her legs to keep her sphincter under control.
Can someone explain to me why I can’t have it all? Comparisons, that’s what it all comes down to. Human beings are forever comparing themselves to each-other. It is natural, I suppose, perhaps as a way of trying to identify with others. Comparison helps us understand our own experiences, and those of others. Does it help to know that others have gone through, or are going through, similar things? Or does that make it worse? This game of comparisons can become quite competitive and nasty – particularly when it comes down to trials and tribulations. You go through some hideous thing, and you want some kind of verification that your experience is worse than everyone else’s. It helps to validate your feelings.
But unfortunately this doesn’t work for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are those annoying people (quite a lot of them actually) who always say, ‘Ahh yes, but it could be worse – other people go through much worse’. My response to that is FOOLS! Who cares when it’s the worst thing for you!? Everyone’s own unique experiences are obviously the most important and significant experiences in the world to them. Their worst experience to date may be breaking up with a long-term boyfriend. Now, it would be very easy and tempting for someone like me, who has known true pain, to laugh in the face of their current adversity. Indeed I have done this. And I have taken sadistic satisfaction from it. This is because from an objective perspective, comparatively, my suffering has been much greater. But that is irrelevant to the girl weeping over a cocktail with her best friend, damning all men after a nasty breakup, because to HER this is the worst time in her life. To her I want to say, ‘Girly, if you think this is bad you just wait. There are some far nastier wet fishes in the face coming for you my friend’. This is obviously quite nasty of me. But my feelings on it are a product of MY own experiences. I should be glad that she doesn’t know my kind of suffering, and I genuinely hope she never does, though I can’t really see her avoiding it. But I still want her to look at me and acknowledge what I’ve been through, to admit that she knows nothing of suffering and to subsequently rush to the bar to buy ME three cocktails. Then I would want her to get really drunk and whinge to her friends about the audacity of men and stumble blindly into a brighter future.
This seemingly inherent need to compare leads me to wonder exactly how the universe works. I have decided presently that it works by evening things out across humanity; so across the broad spectrum of human experience, as long as there is an equal amount of good and bad, the world is manageable. You would think this would provide some kind of comfort at a first glance. The inquiring soul would find rhyme and reason in it. But don’t be fooled. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all, even though it makes sense. I don’t like it because essentially this means that whoever or whatever is in control of it all, god or fairies or whatever floats your boat, is taking the easy way out.
Let’s just use god as an example, as he does seem to be the most popular for some reason. God gazes down upon humankind, rubs his hands together, strokes his beard, and prepares himself for a day of work. Obviously he has the task of overseeing the world and trying to make it not all go to shit. So he casts a pensive eye out and says, ‘Right, what to do here? What must I do to keep the world running, and humanity functioning – preferably according to the way that I want things to work? I want to create peace and order so it’s easier for me to oversee it all, but this might be tricky on a universal scale as there are just so many annoying little people. I know, I’ll simply make sure there is an even amount of good stuff and bad crap happening at the same time, so that at least half the population is satisfied at any given time. This way the whole population won’t unanimously opt for anarchy and defy me in response.’
With these thoughts in mind, he then quickly peruses the current situations affecting mankind and makes some very general and subsequently very misled assumptions. Firstly he makes some big decisions, such as, ‘Ah yes, I see America’s doing quite well. I’ll just send an earthquake that will wipe out one eighth of the population of northern China to even that out; can’t have too many happy people. What’s happening in this neck of the woods? Hmmm Australia’s quite politically sound … perhaps an economic crisis for England?’ Once the larger decisions have been made he then makes some minor individual adjustments to balance things out. To do so he picks out a select few random individuals each day, ‘Right, what’s going on over here with subject 510338? Oh no, oh dear me, alas! He seems to be slightly disillusioned with his work, so I’ll just add a touch of family harmony to his day to day life and he’ll carry on’. He goes on like this for some time. But he doesn’t really study number 510338, or any other subject. He doesn’t take the time to understand his experiences or his feelings; he can’t, he’s got too much to do. It is a cold objective assessment with a cold objective response, designed to make his own job easier.
Of course, the fact that God has altogether far too much to do, has far worse implications for someone like poor number 20033699011. You see, as God has been busy perusing the prickly situation in Southern Cuba for some time, unbeknownst to him number 20033699011 has managed to find himself in a particularly advantageous position. He’s found the love of his life, is finding his feet at work, his kids are sickening healthy and happy, and the family actually enjoys Tuesday family DVD night. God notices 20033699011 only by accident, as he quickly drifts past to a pressing matter in Mozambique, a zone he has been neglecting for some time. Noticing happy number 20033699011 God stops dead in his tracks, exclaiming, ‘Oh my beard! What a dire state of affairs! It seems that, quite unbeknownst to me, this cunning chap has entirely of his own accord achieved a state of genuine happiness in his life. Outrageous! He can’t do that! It will throw all the fine balancing work I have done into chaos! Other people will surely notice his perfect life and become envious and covet it, thus demanding more of me! Well, I’ll soon nip that in the bud’. And he swiftly delivers subject 20033699011 a dead father. That being done, satisfied with his adjustments, he hurries off to Mozambique without a second thought.
But by far the ones that are affected most by God’s inordinately momentous to-do list are those that don’t ever get selected or noticed. True – without any divine intervention they might find happiness and keep it. But the chances are low, considering that should they find too much perfection they would surely be noticed by God. No, it is the others at the furthest end of this spectrum that suffer most; the ones that attract nothing but heartache, depression, and downright bad luck – bad luck that can be entirely attributed to God and his inability to consider every individual on the planet.
If you think about it, this assessment of the universe is logical, be it also highly cynical. But personally I still don’t see why 20033699011 wasn’t allowed to keep his happy existence. Actually yes I do; you know why? Because God is lazy, that’s why. And because it wouldn’t be fair. He has to even things out to make it all manageable. If this is the case then it is shit. If I manage to create a sense of perfection in my life then I must take heed and constantly look over my shoulder for the Almighty to smite me with some hideous thing that is aimed at general world balance. That’s just the way it is. If you’re feeling really, really happy about your life, it is quite useful and definitely advisable to have a glance over your shoulder. Maybe not all the time, but a few well timed peeks might alert you to the fact that God, or whatever, appears to be hurtling toward you with a nasty bout of hepatitis B in his handbag of justice.
That is what happened to me. It’s what happens to everyone and it’s going to happen to you – that is, if it hasn’t already. After years of general restlessness, mixed with times of joy and dashes of depression, I found my state of happiness. My studies were on track, I’d rediscovered the love of my life, I fell pregnant, and I was so excited. My family was healthy and happy. God, or whatever might be responsible fot the universe, obviously failed to notice this for a few months, and then got a rude shock when it was brought to his attention, as he was balancing number 51’s great night of sex with number 633390186’s left arm being taken by a shark off the coast of Queensland. Noticing me – completely by accident – he made an hasty adjustment; he let my gramps pass, and thought, ‘All good – one lost one born, well done me’. Then he re-evaluated the situation three weeks later. He thought, ‘Hmmm, I really think she still appears to be too happy. Damn it – people have started coveting her life already! There’s just too much good going on for her. What to do? I know …. I’ll kill the mother – that ought to do it’.
This all seems very morbid, as it should. But I’ve decided that my theory is irrefutable. The system cannot be changed. In fact, for those who continue to insist upon the existence of God I now have a carefully considered rebuttal … ‘Well, if so, then what makes you think he’s physically able to consider you personally?’ Ah! I wait with baited breath for the next Jehovah’s Witness to knock on my door! Yes, the system is what it is. The well-timed glances are needed. It does mean, however, that we need to focus on the time we have and truly enjoy those fleeting happy states and so forth. That is, while we are waiting for the next divine assault. We must prepare for what’s coming, and we should wholeheartedly be indulging in the happy times. They are, after all, worth the suffering I suppose, and they do make life a spectacular adventure, mind you with a few bone crushing stumbles. Get used to it.
In a similar vein I personally can provide further evidence of the validity of my theory for those doubting readers. After mum’s death I slowly clawed my way – actually, scrap that – I pretty damn quickly clawed my way out of that pile of shit, picked myself up and got my life in order. I am now enjoying a relatively happy, tranquil existence with my delightful son. So naturally we recently found out that Ross’ dad has prostate cancer. We couldn’t possibly be allowed to go on carrying out such utopian lives! That would be unacceptable, as it would violate God’s balancing work. Now we potentially have another horrendous experience to confront and survive. It is crap and I don’t think it’s fair – I KNOW it’s not fair. As much as I am convinced that my world theory is the biggest and most annoying discovery of modern philosophy, I am still completely outraged at the injustice. Why can’t we have it all!? Why couldn’t I have the perfect child, with the fantastic partner, the beautiful house and BOTH sets of parents alive and flourishing!? Because that would be too greedy? Too selfish? FUCK that. Am I not entitled to it all? Do I not deserve it? Is it past karma?
It’s the stinking truth that’s what it is. Fact of the matter is we cannot hope for that kind of perfection. It is a futile pursuit. We can only hope that things will ‘even out’ for us in the end and that our good experiences will be enough to make a beautiful life. I do have a beautiful life. But I’m still really pissed off that I don’t have my mother, and that my father-in-law is sick. It sucks massive time. I can just hear all the sympathetic advice-givers harping in unison, ‘Be grateful for what you’ve got – it could be worse – some people don’t have anything’. Well, I am grateful for what I’ve got, you unappreciative bastards, but I’m also highly angered by the audacity of some recent events and I am certainly NOT grateful for them, they STINK. And they’re not going to make me learn to appreciate life more either. Life would always have been BETTER had they not happened, so shove that down your preaching traps.
As I’m writing this I am waiting to hear the results of my father-in-law’s latest blood tests. And that does nothing but stink. It stinks of putrid rhino crap, rubbed right into every orifice of your face.