Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Cat and the Anxiety Disorder

I will not become complacent again about Flame’s tablets! I will not become complacent again about Flame’s tablets! I will not become complacent again about Flame’s tablets! I will not become complacent again about Flame’s tablets!  [this said while beating self up the side of the head.]

Who is flame you ask?  Let me tell you. I have written in the past about Raji my wonderful gentle 14year old red point Birman cat.  Well Flame is the ‘other’ one. 
 A very pretty sweet looking kitten-faced 10 year old red point Birman cat.  To look at her you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.  People take one look at her and go all gooey and, to their later regret, reach a hand out to stroke her.

YD says calls her ‘Southern-White-Trash’ and gives her a whiny voice that says when YD tries to touch flame - “Don’t you turch me you curly haired girl .. I only like that other one … she feeds me and I will let her turch me as long as she feeds me and provides a lap for me to sit in WHEN I want it.  I own this house and I let her and that other big red cat live here to look after Me.!”  Whereupon Flame stalks away, sits and begins to pointedly clean any part of her body that the unsuspecting one has touched.  I think maybe YD is a little put out that Flame seems to like only me.

We adopted Miss Flame when she was about 3yrs old.  She had been a breeding cat but with the last litter of kittens she had a prolapse which required surgery and the owners couldn’t breed her anymore.  She is a rare red point female Berman, rare because most Red point Females are tortoise shells. So they let us have her for the cost of having her desexed and we wanted her to be a companion for Raji since the other cat we had  - a lovely blue point Berman male called Haji,- had been killed on the road and both Raji and my husband R were fretting.  And we too were taken in by the sweet kitten-like face when we went to look at her.

First night with her R was away with work, and she came into bed in the evening and sat between my knees as I was reading.  I thought “Oh, isn’t that nice, she’s adjusting well”. Until I felt the bed clothes become wet and realized she had peed on me and the bedclothes. I didn’t realize at the time but Oh god! that was the beginning of years of stress with this little cat.  She took to peeing on the lounges, the mats, the beds, at odd times – seemingly at random. 

We tried everything; putting lots of litter trays around, behavioural strategies, pheromone sprays – you name it we tried it.  I bought plastic mattress covers for all the furniture and kept the bedroom doors shut.  Eventually in desperation I discussed medication with the vet.  So began her journey on anti-depressants.   Now that kept the behaviour to a minimum [mostly].  Every now and then the routine of the house would be interrupted by a workman, stranger to Flame, or some other disruption to her world, and she would be stressed and pee on things again.  Sometimes she would poo also.  

Eventually I realized this little cat had an anxiety disorder. Not surprizing given her early history.  Kept in breeding cages and having a number of litters of kittens.  She had been sent to Queensland to another breeder for a time and then sent back when that person became ill.  When she had the prolapse surgery they had needed her to continue to feed the kittens so forced her.  Then when they decided to give her away they took the kittens away too soon and she developed mastitis.  Shortly after this she came to us without ever really having any experience as a house pet.  Not surprisingly we didn’t think about this until after the ‘trouble’ started.

Despite all this in the beginning I persevered with her, gradually accustoming her to being cuddled by me and I believe feeling safe.  She became the dominant cat straight away as Raji was accustomed to not being in that role.  He always defers to her.  She eats first and will sometimes come back in and push him away if she sees him eating.  She is also a greedy little thing and is now so fat she will lose her balance when lying on her back and suddenly find herself rolling over
Now, she is a very bright little cat and she doesn’t like the tablet she knows she gets every morning.  So she ducks me – hiding behind the lounge where I can’t get to her. Sometimes I get complacent and think it doesn’t matter if she misses a day for her tablet.  But sometimes without my realizing it, this stretches into a few days and then she starts to pee or poo on the mats or my chair.  You have no idea of the work it takes to clean all this up.  I keep a thick blanket on my chair and it’s a pain to wash and hang out on the line.  If the carpet catches some, I have to shampoo that and then I have a spray that neutralizes the smell.  I don’t even want to think about the problem with the bedding, especially the times in the household in the past when I’ve gone up to bed after a stressful day, feeling exhausted, only to find I have to strip all the bedding etc.

 In the last week or so I have been lax about flame’s tablet, kidding myself, I realize now, that she is going OK.  Cured of the behaviour, I thought.  Then Wham it started with the bathroom mats where this time she began pooing.  Not too bad because they are small and easily washed. But it quickly spread to the blanket on my chair where for 4 days in a row I walked in and found she’d done the deed again.  4 times had to wash the heavy blanket and struggle to get it dry.  So I began to make sure I gave her the tablet every day no matter how hard that was.  By the night of the 5th day I got cunning and brought out the plastic bed protector [duh], and put it on the chair overnight and any other time I was not sitting in the chair.  So finally the medication seems to have kicked in again and no more troubles but I am still reluctant to leave the plastic off the chair.

 At night she waits for me to go up to bed and then comes and curls up on the bed and sleeps the night there.  The bed seems safely out of harm’s way while I am in it.  She likes to go outside more than Raji.  She often finds a sun spot or at least shelter from the wind.  If she gets locked out too long for her however, she complains bitterly and loudly in her high whining voice as I let her in. Oh and the other funny quirk about her is she snores – very loudly and sounds just like a human.  It cracks me up when she does this.

Raji grooming Flame
Despite all this I really love her [most of the time]. Raji and she have become a family and they often groom one another and sometimes curl up together.  I don’t know how she’ll be when Haji goes.  But like all families we have our individual quirks and ups and downs.

So now you know why I am writing on my computer 500 times ‘I will not become complacent again about Flame’s tablets!’  Maybe tonight I will leave the plastic off the chair .. what do you think??

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Lazy Autumn Morning in Aussie

Here in Aussie we are in the early stages of Autumn, and just this week the temperature has finally begun to reflect that. It’s been hovering along the edges of slightly warm accompanied by lots of rain and clouds, and dipping now and then into shivers. 
Nature is so amazing.  Just as many of the trees begin to shed their leaves and the flowers die off so there is a lot less colour and dull winter threatens, there are pockets of brilliant glowing deep purple springing up all over, where the wonderful tippichina trees have burst into bloom.   It’s as if Nature wants to spread some colour through the gloom that  is gathering.  Added to this the Camellia trees are coming into bud and here in my garden I have miniature camellia bushes already sprouting some delicate pale pink flowers.

Early mornings are much cooler and it warms up a little for a time in the middle of the day.  So this morning  … the first day off for a week  … I took the opportunity to snuggle under the covers for a while and read a good book before getting up to face the day. You know how nice it is to wander around in the warm dressing gown and bed socks and settle with a cup of fragrant coffee in the sun to read a good book. 

While I sat there one of the two resident kookaburras .. I’ve christened them Bib and Bub from a famous series of children’s stories about the gumnut babies .. flew onto the gate and began to scan for breakfast.  As I watched he swooped down grabbed something and gave it a sharp flicking shake before raising his head and swallowing.  He’s fat as mud, an indication of good pickings for birds after all the rain lately. 

Well, I’ve had the whole morning to myself, successfully avoiding all pending tasks and now guilt is creeping in to push me back to reality. I’ll go soon to do the tasks but I think I’ll also buy myself a loaf of hot fresh bread to have later smothered in butter and dipped in wonderful hot creamy pumpkin soup.  

Later today I will work on my writing.  Some for this blog and some for the writing group six of us budding writers have just formed. This is not a task as such but an enjoyment. I think it’s going to be a wonderful group.  The women in the group are all very talented and I’m sure will one day be published authors.  

Hope you are all having a great day out there as I am here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

That Wonderful Smell of Hot Fresh Bread

This morning I bought a Vienna loaf of bread from the fresh bread shop instead of the ‘long-lasting’ sliced bread from the supermarket. I didn’t get it sliced because that would spoil the experience. It needed to be cut thick just as we used to do before sliced bread was invented. The smell of the bread as I cut it with the breadknife – which I had had to hunt up, having not used it for a while - flooded me with memories.

First my mind went to me as a little girl, the first day I was trusted to cross the road and go to the bakehouse around the corner all by myself to buy the bread for the family. With dire warnings echoing in my head about not pulling chunks out of the middle of the loaf,[as most kids tended to do], I walked up the driveway of the bakehouse, enticed along by the wonderful smell of hot fresh bread. Is there any more comforting smell or a smell more likely to trigger memories? The baker handed me the bread and I set off and along the way I broke the loaf in half – they were made to do that easily then – and where the soft part on one side made a little hill I ever so carefully, so as not to leave a tell-tale hole, peeled out some of the warm, soft, oh so fragrant bits of bread and stuffed them in my mouth and chewed in something bordering on ecstasy mixed with a little guilt. Then I proudly took home my prize. Now I’m sure the adults knew what I’d done, but they didn’t say anything and that left the experience intact as a lovely memory.

My thoughts then went to the early days of raising my children when the baker came around every day except Sunday and delivered fresh bread. We would wait for the baker so we could have fresh bread for lunch, each slice covered in honey or peanut butter or vegemite. Originally the baker, who came from the old Co-op store, had a horse driven enclosed cart. He would stand on the wide step at the back of the cart when driving it and he would often let one or other of the kids have a ride with him for a little way down the street. The kids of course loved it and would often wait for him so they could beg their ride.

One day I was going for a job interview – all dressed up - and I missed the bus and was faced with a run up the steep hill to try to catch another bus in the hope I could be on time. I didn’t think I could make it and I worried I would present at the interview all hot and bothered instead of cool calm and collected. Then along came the baker with his horse and cart and I cadged a lift on the step of the cart with him while the horse pulled us up the hill in time for me to catch the other bus.

Now tonight for tea I had fresh slices of bread with the crisp crusty outside and the soft white inside, slathered with butter, then dipped into lovely hot creamy pumpkin soup. Heaven!

I think this will become a ritual at least once a week.

Monday, 23 April 2012

On Getting Started

Well… after the marathon of the last couple of weeks getting this blog up and running, I can take a breath and settle in to write and post. But before I do that I just wanted to say a big big thank you to Clever Eldest Daughter [CED] who was encouraging of my early writings and suggested I should think about creating a blog as an outlet for said creative writing. Not only this but she then set the blog up and taught me how to use it and run it. This last being not an easy job as I have a bit of a block about my ability to learn the new technology. I could never have done this without you CED.

So at first we tried two different layouts and CED gradually worked out the bugs in them. Then we needed to change it again so people could post comments, etc. It quickly became obvious that the original title of the blog was too unwieldy and the word “ruminations” in the blog was used far and wide. That led to a week of trying to come up with a new title that was catchy and reasonable short.

Well, I did come up with some that seemed very clever but on CED’s advice when I checked them out other people were just as clever and had already come up with them. Finally I gave up the hope that inspiration would strike out of the blue and made myself sit for hours just working on the name and plugging it in to see if it was already taken. Cries for help to other family members didn’t bring relief even though they got into the spirit of it.

So I decided to continue to post with the old title until I could get a better one. Then; out of the blue, when I was out the morning before I posted the next piece, inspiration struck [helped along by something I saw] and LO! the new title ‘Marg’s Slices of Life’ was born. Yay!..Then CED, just yesterday morning decided we needed to change the layout for some technical reasons and we sat for a couple of hours working on that. Just as we had settled for something reasonable and convinced ourselves it didn’t have to be too pretty CED came across some new backgrounds and layouts that would fit.

Now anyone who knows me knows not to give me too many choices or I waffle on forever. So CED looked at the choices and offered a couple to me. And the blog evolved based on the last 2 pieces I had posted. It feels appropriate to have the blog reflect the Aussie bush in both colour and background.
So there we had it. Quick Marg! before you begin to waffle tell CED to set it. And it was done. Now all that remains is the road ahead to write.

To all who might visit my blog in the future – welcome, may we share good stories.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Spider Dance and stories from the webs

Spider Dance

This morning I walked out of the garage door intending to check the letter box and straight into a huge spider web that had been craftily strung across that entrance overnight.  I’m sure you’ve all been there.  The brains message ‘sh*t there’s a monster, people-eating spider on me somewhere, probably on my head and about to attack my face’, is pipped at the post by the body hurtling into the ‘spider dance’.  In situations like this the body needs no direction from the brain – survival kicks in, by-passing the brain. To the accompaniment of the eerie high pitched shriek, instantly recognizable as the spider noise, the legs frantically lurch into the dance and spin me in circles while the arms windmill, madly brushing the hair and face and any part of my body that can be reached while my head cranes on my neck in a vain attempt to view the whole of my back to see where the dreaded spider is currently stalking me. Unable to see, but convinced the creature is there just out of my sightline, I rip off my top – heedless of the fact that I’m by this time in the middle of the driveway and in full view of the neighbours. When there is no sign of the spider on my top I now lean over and continue to frantically brush at my hair.  When I finally realize the spider is not actually on my body I begin to search my surroundings for it.  I spy the tattered web where I have broken through it and can see that by the probable size of the web the spider that had constructed it had to be really big.  Then I spy it huddling in what I would like to think of as fear of me, but is more likely in glee, up under the eaves.

Gathering the shreds of my dignity around me I replace my top, take a quick surveillance of the neighbourhood – no neighbours in sight, probably lurking, with snickers of laughter, behind curtains or closed doors – and continue to the letterbox.

Now the experts tell us that spiders string their webs across the probable flight paths of insects or near light sources so they can trap unwary food sources. This makes sense.  But at my place while there are hundreds of spiders that do just that, there is a small number who seem to have loftier ambitions.  I have lost count of the times I have walked into webs strung across the outside access doors of my house.  Call me paranoid, but maybe there is secret society of spiders that have ambitions to catch a human! Come to think of it, the size of these webs is bit of a giveaway isn’t it? – they are always huge.  Set up for larger human sized prey?  They are very cunning too.  For a time after I have been caught they wait until I’m lulled into a false sense of security or have forgotten and then overnight up goes a new trap and bam! there’s the spider dance again. Well I’m recovered now but will stay on yellow alert around doorways for a while whenever I go outside.

After all of this excitement, nay more like terror, I find my mind going back to the many spider encounter stories in the annals of the family.  So I thought I might post a few. Some are hilarious, but only if you are not the victim.  So read on.

Spider hunting story

Younger daughter [YD] has always been particularly frightened of spiders but always unwilling to kill them.  Once when she was a teenager she sat curled up in a ball on the lounge afraid to move for four hours, watching what she described as a giant huntsman spider, march across the opposite wall, and waiting for her father and me to come home and catch it. [I have been the spider catcher in the family for years.]

By the time we got home and she told the story, the spider was nowhere to be seen, despite a thorough search. Four days later I was walking past the wall where the spider had been, and noticed what appeared to be part of spider leg poking out from the edge of picture hung on the wall.  I got the latest top-of-the-line spider catching equipment, aka a bowl and a piece of cardboard, gave a reluctant YD a broom so she could move the picture while standing at a safe distance and I could quickly pop the bowl over the spider when it moved out.  Good plan, until the spider did move out and, reminiscent of the scene in ‘Jaws’, I jumped back in fear - “we need a bigger bowl”-.  It was the biggest huntsman I had ever seen.  However, brave and courageous mother that I am, I ran to get a really big bowl leaving YD, now standing on top of the lounge in the farthest corner of the room, to keep the spider in sight so we wouldn’t lose sight of it again.  I ran back and after a few heart stopping minutes managed to trap the spider in the bowl with YD declaring in the background “Very brave mummy!... very brave!”.  I then took the spider down to the back fence under the gum tree and released it.  Now this was the designated ‘spider releasing spot’ for years. And therein lies another story.

Under the gum tree I had lots of plant pots stacked upside down, one on top of the other for gardening purposes.  One day, some years after the “Jaws” event, I went down and picked up a pot and looked at the pot that had been underneath, to see to my horror it was covered in huntsman spiders of various sizes.  Thinking quickly through the shock; told you I was the brave and courageous one; I realized there may be others inside the pot I held, my hand covering the hole in the bottom. Carefully I turned the pot around and looked and sure enough there were spiders there as well.  I flung the pot away - brave and courageous only goes so far-, and had a quick look around all the other pots.  There were hundreds of huntsman spiders infesting the “drop off” area.  I raced inside and dragged the family out to see.  The closest I could figure was, for years whenever I took a spider down and dropped it off, it walked into the colony saying “Hi honey I’m home – she threw me out again”.  While I don’t like killing spiders, that’s why I catch and relocate them, this time I had to get in the exterminators.
Funny spider story
Years later Youngest Daughter [YD] went with a friend to attend a Buddhist retreat out in the boondocks.  No sewer this far in the bush, so toilets were the old dunnies with the pan system. YD held out as long as she could and then, in fear and not a little disgust was forced to visit the dunny.  She got herself settled with her undies around her knees and reached out to get some toilet paper ready and put her hand right on top of huntsman spider. With her very own well-honed trademark ‘spider shriek’ – recognized by every family member  as ‘YD has encountered  a spider’ - , she leaped to her feet, burst out of the dunny with her undies still around her knees and ran  full pelt in a hilarious knock-kneed gait – off into the bush while her friend rolled around hysterically laughing.- She was NOT amused.

Funny Spider and snake story

Fast forward a few years.  YD Had agreed to check the house and collect the mail for us while her father and I went away on holidays. At that time we lived in a house where the only driveway was at the back of the house off another street.  The letter box however was down several levels on the street at the front of the house.  So the logical thing was for YD to drive to the letter box at the front, collect the mail and then drive around two blocks to the back of the house and check the house.

A few nights into the holiday I accessed a couple of messages on my phone about 10pm. These were from YD sent some hours before.  Voice message one- shrill panicky voice “ I’ve just picked up your mail and there, not 2 feet from me was a giant snake – frightened me half to death, so I scooped the mail up really quickly  and leaped in the car and took off before the snake could crush and eat me. 
As I hurtled off in the car and got a little way down the road, I glanced over and there was a large huntsman marching out from the mail and stalking towards me.  In my panic I drove up the gutter and leaped from the car.  I was dancing around calling for my mum to come and get the spider out, but you are away- big help you are! Then I considered going into a nearby house for help. But eventually, I don’t know how, I managed to get the spider out with a newspaper and bravely continued on my way, pushing away the thought that other scary creatures might be lurking.  You owe me big time.  I want a frock”. 
2nd message:  [a little bitterness and revenge creeping through the voice] “I am now in your house and I am smoking!  Not happy.”

Me and Spider story

Four years ago I had moved into my latest house and had a long haired carpet laid.  I was very happy with my house and a few weeks in I was walking up the stairs to go to bed at about 11 PM.  I looked up and saw a large huntsman – yes I know they seem to follow me, probably looking for revenge - up high on the wall on the next level.  Deciding I needed to catch it before it got into the bedroom and frightened me to death in the night by walking on my face, or before the cats investigated it and got bitten, I gathered my usual spider catching equipment. This time I could judge the right sized bowl needed.  I proceeded to try to catch it only to drive it further up the wall.  So cleverly, I got the broom to gently ’encourage’ it to come down where I could get it.  Unfortunately it dropped straight onto the long haired carpet and started straight for the bedroom. There I was on hands and knees frantically chasing it plopping the bowl down just a little too late to catch it.  Lucky for me but not so lucky for the spider, the long haired carpet must have made it like trying to run through long thick grass.  It seemed to run in slow motion lifting its legs high in a sort of staggering gait. This slowed it down enough so I just caught it in the doorway.  Breathing a sigh of relief I carried it down the stairs carefully opened the back door and stepped out straight into a large spider web strung across the doorway.  When I finished shrieking and doing a parody of the spider dance while still clutching the bowl, I placed the bowl on the bench and cleared the web from the doorway.  Then Through the remaining panicky shreds of thought, I realized it was best not to create another colony down the back of the new house and took the bowl out the front and released the spider into the gutter, whereupon it lurched across the road toward another house.  I imagined I could almost hear its footsteps because it was so big.  I had a momentary bout of guilt about launching the spider onto the new neighbours, but eventually after a short struggle, brushed that aside and went inside to settle down before going up to bed.  In hindsight I suppose this should have sent a few warning signals up about spiders and doorways and paranoid thoughts I wrote about in the 1st post.  But then I was blissfully unaware.  

Nowadays I am learning how to live in harmony most of the time with the spiders that inhabit my yard and house. There are some lovely stories about the various types of spiders that I will share sometime in the future.  This time it’s been about the funny encounters.

Friday, 20 April 2012

An Aussie morning gift

This morning I reluctantly rose early. I would have killed for a sleep-in because I had one of those nights where I had trouble sleeping.  I walked into the study, sat at the computer and looked out the window at my garden and the bush reserve at the back.

I never wanted to be a photographer more.  After a week of torrential rain and dark days it was as if someone had strung fairy lights all through the bush. The trees and ferns and plants were sparkling with hundreds of tiny lights, even the grass.  The sun streamed through the trees lighting soft shafts of light through the fine morning mist.  It was like those photos you see where clever photographers have caught the streams of light spearing through from behind an amazing tree. Here and there one light seemed to sparkle brighter as if to say “look at me – look at me”.  An errant breeze whispered through the leaves for just a few seconds stirring the sparkles and then the bush settled back into the morning stillness.

I wish I had the skill to describe this and share with you.  It is particularly wonderful because of the awful weather we have had this last week and indeed for most of the summer just gone.   Look -  there goes another ‘Look at me” sparkle and I know this is a leaf spinning on the end of one strand of cobweb but it’s too far away to see more than the magic sparkle.

The sun lays pathways across the grass, and further back it spotlights individual pockets of the bush, contrasting them against the darker shadowy pockets where the sun can’t quite reach. There between the ends of two branches of the wattle tree is a delicately fine spider web  shining golden in the sun – a golden orb spider has spun this one,- while nearby another misty grey spider web shimmers like a tiny bit of soft grey mist.  And look, there is a tiny spider web seemingly suspended in mid-air with no visible support.  This one you would never see except for the few moments the sun has caught it just so this morning. And see there in the garden the sun now scatters the fairy lights on a few of the plants and on the vine covering the back fence. 

I open the window to hear the birds more clearly and their songs echo in the slightly misty air seeming to celebrate this bright morning.  And if I listen carefully I can hear the little creek down the back bubbling and burbling along its way.  This is fairly rare because the creek really only runs like this after heavy rainfall. So everything brings its own blessing.

Wouldn’t you know – I left my I-phone at work last night and I can’t take even an amateur photo of this.  As I sit here the scene begins to change as the sun rises higher.  My bush - as I like to think of it -  presents a different picture depending on the time of day, or the weather, or the season. Each picture uniquely beautiful, in its own way ever new and fascinating.

But this morning its absolute MAGIC.  I look at the clock and know I have to stop very soon and prepare for the work of the day but OH how I want to just sit here and drink in this scene that’s so particularly precious after the days of gloomy shadow and rain.  It brings and joy and amazement to my heart.  If only I had the time to just sit and meditate on this wonderful picture.  But I know it will soon change as the sun moves higher and I realize it has been a little gift that I had to be up at just this time to see this snapshot of beauty today. And I once again feel how blessed I am to have my home in this place and the opportunity to see such wonders in my backyard. A heartfelt wish that you could see this too, particularly those of you who haven’t seen the Australian bush.  We Aussies truly live in the amazing ‘lucky ‘country.   

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Ruminations on Love and Loss

My old cat has come in to bed with me as he is wont to do in the mornings and has laid his soft warm body across my chest. He snuggles his head under my chin as a newborn babe lays its head against its mother’s neck.  It is a trusting thing and reminds me of tiny babies I have nursed and loved.  All  grown up now into such independent adults who don’t really share my memories of the precious moments when I had them to myself at 2 am, when all the world was asleep and it was just the two of us cocooned in that moment, so filled with love it was almost too much to bear. 

Raji isn’t very heavy though he’s a tall cat. He is very thin now and when I pick him up I can feel his bones. The vet says she’s pretty sure he has a tumour near his bowel.  He’s 14; a pure bred red point Berman.

“Is there anything that can be done,” I asked, hope trembling my voice.  “You could try an ultrasound but you would need to go to Sydney for that.  And if it is a tumour you could try some chemo but surgery won’t help.”

As I heard this I was thrown back to an almost identical scenario when my husband was diagnosed with his terminal illness. Then I didn’t have to make the decision – only to stand by him in whatever he chose to do. And he chose quality over quantity.  Now I have the decision to make alone. And I think “how can I put this gentle creature through that awful treatment which he won’t understand, just to keep him for a little longer with me. So the decision was simple - just palliative care and cherish the time I have with him. 

But simple is a head decision and doesn’t stop the heart from aching. 

And so I share his last months with him.  Does he know something is happening?  Does he really come to me more often for cuddles or do I just imagine that because it comforts me.  At times I wonder how I will manage without him.  He has been my comfort through my grieving. Who will comfort me when he goes?  Can I bear another loss?  Of course I know I must.  But there have been so many losses over the years and now as I get older I find those losses aching my heart at odd moments.

I look in the mirror some mornings and I see my mother’s shoulders  and I wish I could talk to her now and tell her I understand so much more about how she felt than I did when I was younger and so busy. I sometimes see myself through my grandchildren’s eyes and realize they think of me as an old lady.

So I guess in a way this impending loss is part of a new phase of my life. I don’t expect to completely retire.  But I will take a new path of work.  Will I become a writer?   Or is there another journey awaiting me?  Once a psychic woman told me that when I was about 87 I would be dictating a book to my secretary in the morning and in the afternoon as I sat in my favourite chair I would just go.   “That’ll do me just fine” I thought.  So it seems I have a few years yet.  I hope to do them well.

And as I write this I hear Raji calling at the door to be let in.   He has woken from his sleep in the shade outside and now is sitting at my feet crying to be picked up.  He stands on his hind legs and reaches his front paw up to stroke my face as I lean down to him.  How can I not give him my lap to curl in while I finish writing this?  He buries his head against my arm and his soft purring is like a lullaby as he drifts into sleep.

Easter Story

An Easter Story based on real events.
It was Easter Saturday about five in the afternoon.  The boy had just received the last bit of the money he needed from old Mrs Banksia for cleaning her yard.  It was a huge yard and the grass was getting out of hand.  It was probably too big a job for a ten year old but he had begged the old lady. He’d toiled all day  pushing the old hand mower then raking up all the grass and putting it in the bin.  Then she’d insisted he hose all the paths.  He was so worried he’d miss the shop if she wanted one more thing done, but at last she gave him the money and he took off running full pelt.

He wanted to buy his mum the Easter egg he’d had his eye on for the last two weeks.  It sat right in the middle of the Easter egg display in the window of the Candy shop down the road.  It was chocolate and covered with foil in a magical mix of bright purples and silver, greens and pinks with a bright satin bow around it. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. It seemed to glow like a jewel and he desperately wanted to get it for his mum. 

She worked so hard to support him and his sister and brother and this wasn’t easy in in the 1940’s when so many mothers were widowed from the war and work for women with kids was scarce and so hard – washing or cooking or scrubbing floors and taking in ironing just to put food on the table. Lately she looked so tired and worn.  But never a complaint escaped her lips and she always had a smile and an encouraging word for him particularly.   He wanted to see her face light up when he gave her the egg on Easter morning.

So he wheeled into the shop and breathless from his run, told the shop girl he wanted the big egg right in the middle of the window. “Sorry love we sold the last of the Easter eggs an hour ago there’s none left.”

“But it’s there in the window – I’ve seen it all week” and he ran back to look, his heart dropping when he saw the display was changed – no Easter eggs to be seen.  He ran back in “but you must have some somewhere – Look I’ve got the money “, and he held out his handful of coins – pennies and halfpennies, threepences and the odd sixpence and  one precious shilling,  the tears and panic beginning to spill through his voice ,  “you Must”.

In the devastation of the moment he hadn’t noticed the tall man with the dark curly hair sitting in the logue at the back of the shop.  The man stood up and came over, his eyes taking in the somewhat ragged barefoot boy.  He noted the  grass and dirt sticking to the boy’s legs , the bright ginger tufts of hair sticking up where the boy had  been running his hands through it and the struggle to keep the tears back, written all over the boy’s face.  “What’s the trouble son?” he asked, his voice pitched to a gentle tone,

It was too much for the boy.  Out poured the whole story – His mother who worked so hard and the odd jobs he’d scrounged over the last 2 weeks and the final hard day’s work, the exhaustion and despair in his voice telling more than the words. And now it was all for nothing.  No precious jewel bright Easter egg for his mum. And the man understood that it was about so much more than an Easter egg.

"Tell you what son, how about if you come around to my factory and we’ll make an Easter egg for your mum.”  “Really?” disbelief and hope warring in his voice.  Then the boy paused as he thought about all the warnings he had been given, but the man seeing this in his eyes, reassured him that there were a couple of other people still cleaning up in the factory.

So around they went and while the dark haired man warmed the chocolate for the mould he carefully drew more of the boy’s story from him.  He heard about the younger brother and sister and the family struggles and said casually “well , look at that, seems like I’ve heated too much chocolate here for just one egg so why don’t I make one each for your brother and sister and you too. While I do that you can pick out the foil to put around them.”
So the boy went through the various colours and carefully chose the foils and when the eggs were cool enough they foiled them together, the boy’s tongue poking out a little from the corner of his mouth as he concentrated on this important task.  Then his face fell. “Gee mista, I’ve only got enough money for the egg for my mum.  I can’t pay you for the others”. 

“Well that’s OK; you’ve done a lot of the work here yourself so you get a discount.  Now let’s find some boxes to put the eggs in and a bag to carry them.”

The man thought to himself that the light in the boy’s face as he carefully counted out the coins and took the bag was worth a hundred Easter Eggs.  But he didn’t dent the boys pride by not taking the money.

25 years later and the enticing aroma of toasted coconut filled the factory and wafted out the doors as the tall man, silver now sprinkled through his dark hair, made toasted marshmallows.  His face was lined and today his forehead creased with worry. He was expecting a traveller to arrive and the continuing supply of chocolate depended on the goodwill of this traveller because the account with the supplier was overdue. He needed the chocolate for the Easter eggs for this year so he could trade out of the slump his business was experiencing. The traveller he was expecting was not known for his kindness. 

Then in the doorway stood a different man than the one he was expecting, the logo on his badge indicating he was a senior man in the company.  The tall man’s heart sank – they’ve sent the big gun.  Then the man stepped forward, his ginger hair catching the light as he said with a smile “Hello John, you won’t remember me but …’