Family Ties

Shhhh. My family are sleeping. Andrew, my husband of 20 years, and our three progeny. All asleep in their beds. My family.

I caught up with more of my family last night. My siblings. My older sister, my older brother, and my younger brother. We do this occasionally, just us. No partners. It was pleasant. We have long abandoned childhood hierarchy and now meet as equals. Well mostly equals! We laughed and talked, caught up on each other’s news. We had fun. My brothers both surprised me with gifts for my birthday. I obviously have a drinking problem being given two large coffee cups (that’s morning drinks) and a bottle of gin (evenings sorted!)

We were acknowledging our mother’s birthday this coming Saturday. She died shortly after turning 70, almost 11 years ago.

Across this city are more members of my family. Dad lives with his girlfriend, the younger woman. I jest. Dad will be 88 in August. Noeline is a month younger. We are happy he has found someone to live with since Mum.

My mother in law has been a widow for almost 15 years. She had heart surgery last week following a heart attack a month ago. For the past five days she has been “imprisoned” in a rest home convalescing. Today her family are busting her out. She is going home. She can do this because if her family’s willingness to support her.

My brother-in-law will drive her to her appointments. My daughter will move in from today for at least two weeks, to sleep over and be there as company and in case of emergency. Other members of the family will help out as well.

One of my sisters-in-law has told my mother-in-law she cannot rely on her family for ever. Pam knows this. But apart from weakness from being unwell preceding her heart op, she is fine. She can tend to her own personal hygiene needs. Arrangements have been made to deliver a daily hot meal and for someone to vacuum, clean the bathroom, and change the bed.

The shortfall will be picked up by her family. Because they want to help her. Because she was miserable in her rest home box. Because even though it would have been better if she had moved out of the four bedroom rambling family home 10 years ago, she didn’t. It is still her home. And she wants to live there as long as she can.

It will make more work for us. It won’t be forever.

Family. Everyone has a family. You cannot be born without a mother or a father contributing those first cells. My family is very traditional. Mum. Dad. Kids. Other families are made up of different combinations. Most are connected by genetic make-up. But not all.

I may not always like my family, but I am glad to have one. To be the middle child in the middle generation. To know I have history behind me and the future ahead.

So let’s drink to family. Cheers!

(It is early morning as I write this, so I raise my coffee cup!)

Love is …..

What is love?

Apparently that is one of the most searched questions on Google. I know I have asked it myself.

Love is an emotion I am not sure I feel or receive.

Odd, isn’t it. I am married to my best friend. I have three kids. I know I probably do love them, but identifying that emotion is beyond me.

I know when I am cold. I know when I am hot. Happy. Sad. Hungry. In pain.

But I struggle to identify love.

Yes, I say I love things. Chocolate. Coffee. This book. That movie.

I don’t tell people I love them. Even when alone in the middle of the night, sitting with my dying mother, I found it hard to utter those three words. Eventually I did. Maybe she had been waiting for them all her life too, she died two hours later.

No-one told me they loved me when I was growing up. It was not the done thing.

I have lived most of my life struggling to even like myself, let alone love me. I took it as read that perhaps I was not very loveable. Even Andrew doesn’t really declare his emotions for me. The language of love in our family is a strong dialect of sarcasm. My kids are incredibly fluent. Though Robbie checks in with a touch on the shoulder as he passes. Jonny steals my glasses as he goes by. Juliet talks to me these days – high praise indeed. Andrew says, if he doesn’t add “you stupid bitch” to the end of his sentence, that is good enough.

But last night I felt something which I assume was love. For a person. Luckily it was my husband. He has been particularly supportive as I wrestle with a problem. I looked at his face. And this huge wave of warmth and emotion swept through my body.

Love.

Wow. I love my husband!!

Did I say it? Nope. Too chicken.

Maybe when he wakes up. Though the emotion I feel towards his snoring is definitely not love!

PS: Some of you might poo-poo the sentiments expressed above. Please remember this is what I feel, not what you perceive me to be or feel. My journey of healing through counselling has reinforced the importance of owning my feelings and emotions. No one has the right to judge me on those.

I know I have warped views on some things – love, sex, body image. I am working on them in my own time.

All you need is love

Today is Valentine’s Day. The day of love.

What bollocks!

Every day should be a day of love.

Growing up in New Zealand, Valentine’s Day was something I read about or saw on TV. It was part of a culture quite different to mine, one which included Halloween, Thanksgiving, cheerleaders, proms and drive-in movies.

I also read a lot of English books and was just as intrigued with boarding school, lacrosse and smugglers. (OK, I read a lot of Enid Blyton.)

Somehow with the globalisation of the world these figments of my childhood literary world have invaded my actual adult world. I even saw school girls playing lacrosse in Hagley Park on Wednesday.

Valentine’s Day. Roses. Chocolates. Cards. Gifts. Dinners and special dates. The pressure is on.

It is Friday. In our family Friday are fragile. Everyone is a little frazzled. Tempers are frayed. Fights frequent.

But we know this and try to avoid any extra pressure.

Juliet teaches dance class and then babysits or goes out, or else goes to bed early. Jonny usually has indoor soccer and dines royally at Burger King. Robert goes into cyberspace and does not notice anything else outside of that world.

Often Andrew will come home and offer to take me out for a meal as neither of us feel like cooking. It will be cheap. Sometimes so cheap it involves a trip to the supermarket deli and then parking up by a river or the sea. It doesn’t actually matter. What is important is the time we have alone to talk about stuff – big stuff, little stuff, silly stuff. That’s what keeps the love evolving.

I like getting flowers. And presents. I like being romanced and treated like I am special.

But I like it more when it just happens. Not because of some declared day.

And when Juliet says I can share her pot of coffee, or Robbie pats me on my head as he walks past. Jonny puts selfies all over my phone and Andrew offers to bring me tea if I am working late at work.

That is love.

The cat nuzzling me all night, kneading my shoulder, purring loudly on my chest? Not love! Hunger! The cats need to give me flowers and chocolates today!

So this Valentine’s Day will be like any other Friday. If we can get through it without falling out – that will be fine. That is all I need.

Andrew and Robyn – 29 January 1994 – Christchurch Cathedral

I think it is appropriate to start this post with a link to this Little River Band classic. For 20 years ago three of us walked down the aisle as a married family – Andrew, Robyn and baby Juliet.

Wow. A lifetime ago.

Somehow we are still married. It certainly has not been a Mills and Boon romantic story. Romance? Andrew? Flying pigs? Life has had its ups and downs. Literally.

It seems appropriate to compare our marriage to life in post-quake Christchurch. I wait ages for Andrew to get things done. He communicates about things that matter about as well as EQC. Road-trips are never straight-forward. We always have to have detours. The house always look like an earthquake happened within the previous 24 hours. I won’t mention the similarity between Andrew and Gerry Brownlee in shape! Like progress on our house, that work is in progress! We have an orange road cone decorating our garden. But the spirit of togetherness and community keeps us going when time gets tough. Families that pee in the garden together, stay together.

Marriage is also like marathon training. To do it well you need a plan. My plan is to stick it out as long as I feel it brings me happiness and satisfaction. There will be times when it all feels too hard and you have had enough. Throw in the towel. Find a new hobby/hubby. But then you get one of those runs/days/times/things when it all falls into place and you remember how much you enjoy/love this and why you want to keep doing it. There are easy runs. Tempo runs when you struggle to keep up with the pace. Lots of slogging it out runs. Making up time and distance, hanging on for the finish. Sometimes it hurts. And makes you cry. Hopefully this is a temporary setback and you keep going.

So I wonder what Andrew would say about me if you asked him. Something along the lines of “Nosey, with a weird (wacky?) sense of humour.” And maybe a few other comments not suitable for public knowledge!

We are not really celebrating today. We don’t actually go in for big romantic gestures. However I have been told to be ready at 5pm on Saturday with an overnight bag and toothbrush. And I know that he knows that I want to know what we are doing. He is getting the last laugh – for once.

Here’s to sticking it out for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.

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