Thursday, August 11, 2011

Big Bridges

I rarely talk about my family on this blog.

In my day-to-day life, I tend to gloss over most aspects of my direct family, making the broad statement that my friends are my family and leave it at that.

Family. Can't shoot them. Can't bury them behind the potting shed.

I have a blended family of sorts. I have a Mum and a stepdad who live just out of Adelaide. I have a sister who I affectionately refer to as Manhands, a brother-in-law and two nieces, also living in Adelaide. I love the lot of them, but I feel like I love them more because they are 500 miles away in another city.

My father died fourteen years ago. My stepdad is an amazing man and has been like a father to me for decades.

I left Adelaide in 1991 and have only been back for regular, but fleeting visits ever since. I manage to stay in Adelaide for three or four days before the necessity to leave overtakes me. Many painful associations and memories are there in Adelaide - though they are a lot easier to face these days. Going back isn't the drama it used to be, but it's still not something I chose to do often.

My life is here in Melbourne, with my friends. My adopted family.

I also have a step-sister, JD, who I've barely mentioned on this blog. JD's my step-dad's daughter. JD and I have always got on really well - I've known her since her first day at Myponga Primary School, some 35 years ago. Ostensibly, JD is an only child, but we do look after each other in a strange, sisterly sort of way. JD and I would be the black sheep of some families if it weren't for the fact that there are other characters out there who take this crown - like my step-dad's feral brother who lives out of a car and has a police record a mile long.

In some ways, JD and I are the family scape goats - the ones who haven't done things the easy way - the ones who just get on with things, but the ones who take on the family crap. Neither of us stand for this any more.

Manhands - my dear sister, has done the required things, which takes the pressure off of us - marriage, mortgage, children, drinking Cowboys down Hindley street - skinny, muffin top jeans, voting Liberal, the oversized four wheel drive, kids in private school, big televisions, Golden Retriever, jacuzzi. My sister likes things. If it makes her happy, then good on her. I wouldn't want her life. She wouldn't want mine. We have that understanding and this is a good thing.

In my own story, I've been alone all my life, travelling the world, educating myself, keeping out of trouble for the most part and living the life of a pseudo-intellectual-yuppie with perceived values.

JD's path has been different as well. JD's got some serious health issues - managable, but persistent. JD has lived all over Australia. JD's also gay - which still gives my parents some angst - though loving, confused angst, rather than angry, vengeful angst. Though fully supportive of JD and her lifestyle, get them on on their own and you get the odd comment - which is always countered my me and Manhands with,"Deal with it, folks. At least she's not getting pregnant, There's is nothing wrong with it. Men muck you up just as bad."

There are other lovely skeletons in the closet which don't really get aired much any more - as all the parties are now either happy or dead - good outcomes. My long dead father lived with my step-dad's ex-wife - JD's mother, Trista, for a while.

Please remember that I've known JD, Trista and my step-dad for thirty-five years or thereabouts.
Which is why this weekend away in Sydney is pushing so many of my deeply rooted buttons leaving me to want to go and find a cave to hide in until it all goes away.

This weekend was meant be a celebration weekend.

It's my pre-birthday weekend. A weekend where I'm climbing the big bridge and running a long way with 70000 or how every many other nutters. It's supposed to signify the end of the old me and the start of the new. Which, on a personal level it will be doing - somewhere in the background I'll be doing this.

However, when I was over in Adelaide in May for my aunt's funeral, I sat next to JD at the funeral. The three girls. Manhands, JD and Pand (or Dory as I'm known to family)

"You know that Liz and I are no longer together."
"No, Mum and your Dad never said anything." My folks often neglect to tell me things like this. I used to hear all about how the cat was going, but nothing about JD's partner and her splitting. It's funny like that.
JD went into a few details. After ten years, she and Liz were wanting different things. It was amicable now, but they were still sharing the house they bought years ago.
"And you know about Mum?" asked JD.
"That the folks to tell me about. She's looking okay." I spied Trista and her new husband a few rows back in the pews. Trista has been remarried for a long time. JD tolerates him, just.
"Mum is here? I didn't think she'd come. Things like this are a bit raw."

Trista has been fighting cancer for the last few years. In the week before my Aunt's funeral she was told by the doctors that there was nothing more that could be done. She was sent home to live out the rest of her life. She's not expected to make Christmas. JD is dealing with this at the moment as well.

On returning to Melbourne after the funeral, a few phone calls were made. JD also celebrated her 40th birthday in the weeks after my visit to Adelaide. I asked the parents if they would want to go halves in sending JD to Sydney for the weekend to come and do the bridge climb. I'd arrange the flights on my frequent flyers. After a few more calls and a bit of time on the web, it was all sorted.

So come Friday night, I'll be meeting up with JD at the airport in Sydney, she, Trin and I will be sharing a room at an inner Sydney hotel. We'll mooch around the city for the morning, I need to pick up my race pack from the Town Hall as Australia Post lost my original one. We'll do the Bridge Climb, go out for dinner at a rather lovely Japanese restaurant. Sunday Morning Trin and I will leave JD in bed to sleep in and get herself to the airport while we join the other wallies on the road to Bondi trekking the 14 kilometres - I'm hoping to do it in under an hour forty. That's my goal anyway.

JD will make her own way the airport to get her flight back to Adelaide - and the ensuing crap that will greet her there.

I've been a bit quiet of the last few days - there's been a lot to ponder.

As this was meant to be a group thing with the girls from the 12wbt, but I've been distant with them for a little while. I often find myself organising stuff for people. Not this time. My heart isn't in it. If it wasn't for the fact that all was organised months ago, I'd be backing out of this weekend - or just going with me and JD - but this can't be the case. And I do want to do the climb. I want to do the City to Surf. I'd just rather be we a small group at most.

I know I'm not in a spot to take on anybody else's stuff at the moment. As much as I love the 12wbt girls, there's always somebody's drama that is playing out - hence me taking a back seat and not putting myself out there as I normally would.

Part of this weekend was meant to be a birthday celebration - but it doesn't feel like it at all - though dinner, with Gloria, Gaynor, JD, Trin and Kez will be lovely, and I'm really looking forward to that. The restaurant has been recommended by a foodie friend - slated as the best Japanese food outside of Japan .

But at the moment, I just can't find it in myself to celebrate. It will be strange anyway. Three sets of my life meet at the one table. Gloria and Gaynor know me as Pandora. Kez and Trin call me Pand. JD, like the rest of my family, call me Dory.

I'm not going to know where to look!

This weekend has the distinct feeling of the calm before the storm. A weekend of respite. A weekend to take stock, to relax and to fortify oneself - for I know that JD is about to go into what looks like some of the hardest days of her life.

It will be great to spend some quality time with her - away from the dramas of Adelaide. Away from her dying parent. Away from everything else.

For me, I will just keep to myself and my inner sanctum. I'll do the race. I'll mooch about a city I don't know that well, but I'm keen to discover. JD and I will drink coffee and talk, and talk and drink coffee. It's what we do.

And I will put it to the universe that in my next life, they not make me an empathic healer, feeling the pains of others.

For as much as life is there to be lived - there are times when other things, other circumstances, other lives, take precedence.

As much as I want to be included or a part of a group, this weekend is about family. It's about reflection. It's about how precious life is and how far we have come.

1 comment:

The Elephant's Child said...

Families is tricky.

Have a good weekend, enjoy the bridge climb and the run, and the company of JD and other friends. Enjoy as much of the rest of it as you can.

More importantly, look after yourself. Easier said than done if empathy is your thing. And happy birthday.