February 2004

Highlights further down: Julie meets wildlife, Canberra Zoo, War Memorial, Sydney.

My very grateful thanks to John who gave up his Sunday morning to help me to pack up. It came down to a dozen large boxes plus books and clothes. And that’s only about 30% of the total! The YMCA Auxiliary people are coming to collect it all tomorrow.

Thankfully, now all of Doris’s various collections have been sold, given away or kept, and I can get on with moving ahead a little. The remainder actually filled the small truck the guys brought. I’ve swept out the Hall and taken a few more days off to just chill out and recover from the sore throat and tight chest that hammered me on the weekend. I realised that I had not thought past 8 am Saturday to anything that followed. No wonder I hit the wall on Saturday afternoon!

Yep, there’s the number 2 haircut and ACT Contingent shirt.

And today I was finally offered my old job at Deakin and start on Monday. Meanwhile, Scouts is cranking back up for the year. Latrobe Park has been renamed Air Scouts Canberra, with a new affiliation with the Canberra Aero Club. I have offered to return, initially only for 2004, as Scout Leader.

And Julie is coming here for a visit in just 2 weeks! I’ll pick her up from Sydney and come into Canberra via the south coast and Cooma, and take her back to Sydney the following weekend via the Blue Mountains, Manly and Sydney Harbour. During the same week, I expect to be involved in activities for Organ Donor Week, including a concert down by the lake, maybe a newspaper interview and possibly some radio interviews. Bloody Doris will get even more media coverage than she’s already had.

Life Center NorthWest have just sent me an “Organ Donor Medal”, in solid brass, to honour Doris’s gift of life.

It signifies the donor touching the recipient, with a gift of life and love (the heart and the rose), and the magnitude of the gift symbolised by the rays emanating outwards. I showed it to Holly, the ACT Organ Donor Coordinator and she was so blown away that she showed to everyone in sight. In the midst of my occasional bouts of depression, I feel very privileged to supported in such a way from the other side of the world. It can be very easy to sit in the middle of Civic, watching people walk past, and think, “Who the hell cares?”. Then I remind myself that lots of people do!

I could very easily become an alcoholic as I work through Doris’s stock of old wines. Some of the older ones were relegated to marinades, or went down the sink. It’s usually not a good sign when the cork has completely disintegrated. However, the Lindeman’s 1978 Nyrang Hermitage went down very well and the Noon’s 1986 Burgundy was just as good. I could, but I won’t.

I got to thinkin’. What do we as a society, expect of someone like me who has lost a cherished partner? Do we expect them to remain alone and lonely? We all lead busy lives and somehow don’t manage to make the time to call them, or drop in unannounced. So what’s the message we are giving out? Do we not care? God forbid! Then do we expect them to somehow “get a life” and be able to reach out and seek the company of others at a time when they least feel like doing that? There’s a contradiction in there somewhere. 

And what’s the time scale we put on that process? If 3 months is “too early”, then what defines what is not “too early”? And what do we expect them to do during this time, when quite likely, they have done a huge amount of growing in the first few months, but still feel sufficiently fragile that they still need some nurturing. In fact, I believe it’s a good thing that I met Julie within 3 months and we were married just 2 months later. At least I have someone to look forward to. Meanwhile, it’s Saturday night with nowhere to go. Am I depressed? No, not really, just being realistic. I’ll start work on Monday and won’t have anywhere near as much spare time.

God it’s good to be back at work! I never ever thought I’d hear that from me. I’m slipping in to the work that my colleague has done to improve the system that I spent 4 years building up, as I also start to remember the way that we set it all up. I even have a window seat, that looks out onto a small nature strip between the building and the car park. I remember a blue wren and his harem flitting through there last year. Hopefully this time I’ll be quick enough with the camera.

I’ve just finished battling with a bottle of champagne that was so old that the cork was stuck so hard that the top of the cork eventually broke off. It took quite a lot of persuasion from 2 different types of corkscrew, one to drill down and pierce the bottom of the cork and let the pressure off, then a much older brass one to lift the cork itself, followed by a bit of brute force to wrangle it out. It’s probably about 30 years old, based on some of the other vintages. The label says to “enjoy whilst it is young and fresh”.

I’ve also finished another series of counselling, with the counsellor saying that she was impressed by my insight into this whole situation and thought that my strategies for tackling the future were solid.

Stewart seems to be putting together his plans to transform from holiday party mode to serious study mode. He also has to find himself a car, as we will be going in opposite directions each day very soon. At least we have a life insurance payout on the way, which will relieve the financial pressure considerably.

I had a fascinating conversation at lunch the other day, with a friend of Doris who has known her since our early days in Canberra. They had long talks before we left last year.
Doris: “I’ll see you when we get back.”
Friend: “I don’t think you’re coming back.”
Doris: “Yes, I’m not going to make 50.”
When I asked how Doris would have known, she said that Doris was very psychic, highly intuitive and very gifted. I knew that! But bloody hell, I wish she’d at least have given me a clue. Quite likely she did, but I wasn’t listening. Looking back with hindsight, there are lots of clues.

It’s been a busy week, starting back at work and starting with the Scout Troop. And just as busy on the weekend, as I am co-facilitating this month’s marriage Course at SJC. Wow, how to stay out of your comfort zone.

The Marriage Course went really well. I introduced myself with, “I love being married. I’ve been married 3 times.” That got their attention! I managed to hold it together all day, although by the time I got home, I was completely washed out, to the point of every muscle in my body aching.

Work has been pretty laid back, but still challenging, as I need to absorb lots of information fairly quickly. For the techno types, we have cut over our Access back-end database to SQL, which involves re-configuring all of the ODBC linkages to the netViz diagram and refreshing all of the objects in the diagram. However, we still use Access to get to the SQL database, using linked tables.

Poor Stewart drove all the way to Tathra today to look at a car, only to find that it was a bucket of bolts. Tomorrow we look at one for me, that he can drive in the short term, until he can find what he wants. My taste in cars is a little less restrictive!

It’s been a busy week and I’m now only just catching up. Thursday night we went out and bought a car, a 1997 Magna in really good condition, just in time for Stewart to have a car to drive while I went to Sydney to collect Julie from the airport. She got in at 7 and I finally got there at 8, having been stuck on the motorway while the maintenance guys cleared 2 prangs out of the tunnel. From there, we cruised down the coast.

The look on her face. “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”

Stayed at Durras Lake.

Our very gracious hosts, who put out a plate of food for the parrots.

“We’re going across there?” “Yup.”

“See, told ya we’d make it.”

Stayed at Narooma.

“You poop on my bonnet and I’ll have your guts for garters.”

Home via Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station.

Recent bushfire damage.

Arrived in Canberra via Cooma around mid-afternoon for the Organ Donor Week concert,

I had a 5-minute spot to say a few words as the bands were changing over. Julie had bought a digital camera that can also record audio and she recorded what I had to say. Julie also brought the rain with her and it came bucketing down just in time for a cruise on the lake. Just as well most of the boat was under cover.

Stewart has discovered that he has to read a chapter of the book plus lecture notes before each of his 4 (or was it 6?) lectures each week, so he’s suddenly discovered that he is going to VERY busy.

It’s great to have my wife here, and I admire Stewart for being patient with her. We’re starting to do a bit of “longer” term planning, which for us tends to be weeks and months, rather than years. Hey, we’ll have a whole lot of time for that later. And a big thank-you to Ruth for showing her around on Monday. It was a great introduction to Canberra.

Good to see that the art work I arranged last year for the Scout Hall is still there.

Earlier this month I received a wonderful e-mail message from Julie’s father, Bob, as follows: Ada and I are sending a belated welcome to the Cook family as a new son-in-law. We really enjoyed having you here at Thanksgiving time and all the others in the family were of the same feelings. Julie, of course, was so happy to be united to you in marriage as we were. We want to wish you both a wonderful relationship. You will find that Julie has a very warm heart but it will be a learning experience for her to be in a good marriage. Wow.

Just back from an action packed week here in Canberra, followed by a very busy “tourist” weekend in Sydney. The highlight was being joined by about 25 people, including Stewart, at the Yacht Club to celebrate my 52nd birthday and to welcome Julie to Australia.

I was busy the next day, so Julie took herself off the the zoo and went crazy with the camera.

“Why does the toilet have 2 buttons?”
“One of them is a partial flush for the times when all you have done is a pee”.
“Huh? Why?”
“Saves water.”
“Oh.”

Other highlights for Julie were talking to her long-time friend in New Zealand and a visit to the War Memorial.

The weekend in Sydney was a bit like a honeymoon for us (finally). We did lots of touristy things like catching the Manly Ferry into the city, shopping for souvenirs and riding on trains and the monorail, and generally veging out. As always, leaving was hard.