Anna sat down to write on the multi coloured Christmas card she had spent over an hour selecting in the David Jones Xmas section. Baby animals jumping around the well known portly man in his red suit filled the front of the card. Anna was sure her new grandson would love it. Her first grandchild.
‘Dear Jacob’, Anna started, imagining her daughter reading out the words to the young baby who’s age was still being counted in weeks and days.
Anna wanted the card to be special. It was going to be Jacob’s first Christmas. She would much prefer to be there, to hold him tight and whisper ‘Merry Christmas my little one’ into his ear, but it was not to be this time.
She stared at the blank inside of the card. The words did not flow. Instead, wet giant silent tears formed and trickled down her cheek. Images of Jacob from the many photos and videos her daughter Lilly had sent rolled in front of her eyes. This tiny human that she had yet to meet in person had already taken up a massive chunk of her heart. He was not her own baby, but the feelings she felt for him seemed as strong as her feelings were for Lilly. It had taken Anna by surprise, and memories of holding her own babies had come flooding back. She longed to hold this baby, but it was too dangerous to travel just yet with the pandemic still raging.
She wiped her cheek and pushed the chair back, making it almost fall over. The heat in her chest spread like wildfire across her body, causing knots in her throat and redness in her cheeks.
Damn flushes. Not now!!
Anna couldn’t control the tears or the hot flush, and raced to the bathroom, stripped down naked into the shower of welcoming cool water. While the tears flowed down her cheeks the tightness in her chest and throat eased. The roughness of the towel drying her body felt comforting.
She walked back into the kitchen and made herself a cool drink from the fresh mint leaves and soda, then pulled out the old family photo album.
Pictures of happy faces over the years, sleeping babies, birthday parties and picnics. And many Christmas’s; silver and gold adorned trees, tables laded with turkey and glazed ham, steaming pudding full of rich marinated fruit and warm creamy custard.
Christmas in so many locations, most years in their old red brick home. But also the occasional Christmas spent abroad in the cold northern winter with snow and darkness outside, and smells of vanilla cookies, roast pork and pine needles inside. Other times with friends up north in the blistering heat, everyone in swimmers in the backyard under the tarp thrown over the Hills-hoist, and the kids playing with their water guns soaking wet and laughing.
So many memories in the photo album, but also in Anna’s heart and she knew in her children’s heart. No Christmas had ever been a sad event for the little ones, even if the adults had had their own problems to deal with. For the kids, every Christmas had always meant good times and lots of presents.
Jacob would have many more Christmas days, and Anna knew she would celebrate with him one day. His parents would be with him this year. It would be their new little family Christmas. Their time to start their very own mesh of old and new family traditions filling albums of happy memories.
Anna sat down to write.
You don’t know me yet, but you will soon. I am your Grandma from Sydney, where our Christmas is in summer, and the sun shines almost every day. We will meet one day, and I will read Australian books to you, and show you pictures from your mum’s homeland. Maybe one day you can visit me, and I can take you to places I am sure you will love; giant beaches and bays, shady bush lands with enormous trees reaching right up to the clouds, and so many wonderful animals that will make you squeal with delight.
Till we meet my love, I welcome you to life, and hope you have a wonderful blessed Christmas with your very own mum and dad.
“King of the forest, old Silverback, fell down with a thump on the soft mulch-littered ground, and the whole forest held their breath. They realised something was wrong.”
A teaser for my children’s short story which I am SUPER excited to announce is now finally available in print as part of the Sutherland FAW anthology Webs of Life; a collection of short stories written by the many talented writers in the group.
It has taken several months of planning and organizing, and we can’t wait to officially launch the book at our Writers Unleashed festival on Saturday 17th August at Gymea Tradies in Sydney.
Also had my first taste of a writer’s reading yesterday. My workplace organised a BBQ and had me read the story. Was nerve racking and exciting at the same time. Happy to say the story was well received with lots of laughter and congratulations from everyone.
Enjoyed sharing that part of my life with my colleagues. To work at a place that encourages and supports employees in a life outside of work is heart-warming.
I’m feeling a bit more like a real writer today and it feels damn good.
If you would like a copy please DM me. Pre-orders before the festival at a discounted rate of $12 plus postage.
He was not my first love. But he ended up my biggest and my last love.
It was a short love affair, but the fall was intense. We both knew it would not be an easy road yet it was a road we both desired and had to travel. Almost like there was no other option.
I saw it in his eyes across the breakfast table in the hotel cafe busy with people enjoying a last weekend away before fall. We seemed to be the only people by ourselves. I was wondering if he had a partner. But he remained on his own. Our eyes locked and we both smiled. I think that was the moment I fell. Something in his face, the way his smile seemed to not only make his lips move. His whole face and body smiled. I felt instantly warm, secure and immensely content. My whole body felt alive. Longing raised to the surface so overpowering I could only go with what my soul urged me to do. Both feeling the pressure of time and a need to let go once more and just dive in for the fall. Dive into falling in love.
We had both given up on finding love again. Settled for life as it was. Content with friendships and family catch-ups. Life was good. But the longing was always there. The longing to connect and to love again. The longing to have another human being to share life’s little moments with. To rid you of the loneliness that would creep in at night like a silent thief robbing you of your contentment and leaving you with sadness wondering if that was all there was left. But you kept going each day suppressing the loneliness and focussing on all the positives in your life.
We were both at that point in our lives. I saw the reflection of my life in his eyes when we smiled across the tables. The instant attraction was deep. I normally would never do what I did next, but it felt so natural. I got up and walked over to his table.
“Can I join you?” I uttered cheerfully. His grin said more than yes. That was the start and the end for both of us. No return.
We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the sights together. We laughed and smiled a lot. And we talked. We talked for hours. It was like we both knew we had limited time together. We wanted every minute to count and to be the best we could.
We spoke about our lives and realised how close we had been to crossing paths on a number of occasions. Our travels throughout Vietnam in our twenties, staying at the same hostels only days apart. Our children attending the same universities and graduating the same year. We would have been in the crowds cheering for them. Both with partners then. Both unhappy staying in miserable marriages for the sake of our children. Both finally divorcing and starting our new lives in our late 50’s. Settling into single life only a few suburbs apart. Eventually, both settling for life as it was. Single and content, but always longing.
The weekend ended too soon, but we exchanged numbers. His hug enveloped my whole body and reached beneath my core into my soul. It penetrated the loneliness and brought feelings to the surface that overwhelmed and surprised me. I felt like crying. A need to shed the loneliness I had suppressed for an eternity. Even with partners, I had always felt lonely. With him, I felt complete. I felt joyful. I felt love.
“Let’s catch up again soon” he whispered in my ear. I nodded and saw my own reflection in his moist eyes when we said our goodbyes.
We spoke every day after that and started our love affair. We kept it a secret to avoid trouble and the inevitable backlash. Our families would not approve easily, but we were committed to making this work and would tackle any issues together.
Our time was filled with romantic dinners, drives to new places and movies. Always talking, always laughing, always exploring new activities together. We loved with such intensity it sometimes didn’t seem real. Like being the main characters in a romance novel. Yet it was extremely real. Our feelings raw and real. Intense and beautiful.
We loved with no limitations, we read each other like open books. We didn’t always agree, but we never quarreled. We accepted each other with no questions as to who was right or wrong. Our families and friends eventually accepted us being together. Except for my daughter. “It’s just wrong” she yelled and slammed the phone down when we last spoke. “She will come around in her own time” he reassured me in his kind loving way.
We had six months of pure bliss. Pure unadulterated bliss feeling like nothing could stop this love or change our lives. But something did.
I saw it in his eyes as soon as he walked in the door. I had prepared an easy meal for a movie night at my place. Outside was windy and rain had started to set in. A perfect night for snuggling on the couch. We hugged, but I felt his tenseness. Then his body shook. He held me tight, his tears quietly rolling down my neck. His body told me he was holding back the sobs. I held him till he relaxed. Then he looked into my eyes. I saw the reflection of the end, I felt his intense pain. I took his hand and led him to my bed and we just laid there in each other’s arms. I knew he would tell me when he was ready.
I could feel he was relaxing as I caressed his face. I looked at him, my eyes full of questions, my heart full of fear, but I was ready to hear what he had to say. I needed to hear it. His voice was filled with sorrow and despair when he uttered the six words that changed everything “I have cancer. I am dying”
My world stopped then. I struggled to take in the words at first. I don’t think I wanted to take them in. I cried. Then I kissed him intensely. We tried to make love, but we both just cried. We gave up and just hugged. Dinner stayed in the oven and burned to a crisp. We stayed in bed all night, just hugging, kissing and talking.
A routine checkup had revealed the headaches were not mere headaches. A large brain tumour had been growing inside his skull while we had enjoyed our love affair. Silently sneaking into our lives with malicious intent to rob us of our last chance of happiness and love. At our age, the fall season of life, it does not come easily or often.
The days following was a rollercoaster. He pushed me away at first saying he didn’t want me on this journey. He wanted to spare me the sadness, he wanted me to leave and find a new love. I shouted at him for the first time in our time together. I screamed and used words I didn’t know I knew. The result of my sickening fear, sadness, and despair came out in my yelling. Through it all, we both ended up accepting our needs to be with each other no matter what. Till the end. I could see that he wanted me there deep down. My eyes and emotions showed him I wanted to be there too.
We accepted our limited time. Our lovemaking returned. It was as deep as before but tinged with a sadness that we couldn’t escape. As the visits to the hospital increased and he grew weaker we mostly just held each other quietly throughout the long nights. Or we cried till we both slept. In each other’s arms, savoring every moment we had left. I would wake often. More than him. I would watch his face and listen to his breathing. Capturing the image for my memory bank to keep forever.
I laid in his arms, in the hospital bed, on his last night. Just listening to his breathing and taking in his beautiful face. His family had left for the night, vowing to return in the morning. I wished my daughter would accept us like his family had.
He woke up briefly at 4 am. His eyes were clear and looked deeply into mine when he whispered “I love you, Sam. Thank you for loving me”
He never woke again. He took his last breath shortly after in my arms. I stayed in his arms for a while longer then I called my daughter. Still with my head on his chest, I looked up as she walked in. She came over, hugged me and whispered. “Dad, I am so so sorry”