Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dragging on...

I dislike anniversaries of things, except the anniversary of the federation of Australia, January 26, also known as Australia Day.

The trouble is, a week from today, it's the anniversary of Christopher's death and as much as I'd like to deny it, it's bugging me not a little.

It's been 6 years (less 7 days) since he died and I don't know whether to be ashamed or proud of the fact I still miss him terribly and that it still hurts.

Right now, I'm still overwhelmingly confident I will never get involved in anything resembling a close personal relationship again. Not that it doesn't seem worthwhile, it's just I haven't come to terms with so magnitudinous a loss yet. Some part of me is still totally distracted by what's no longer there.

Cody would leap on it with glee if I surmised my preoccupation with the Crew, as I've affectionately come to know the kids on the other side, is largely down to missing my little brother so much - considering he was only 19 when he died.

I do sometimes fantasize about a few of them as pseudo replacements for Christopher, but not in any serious way. They are their own people, all different from each other and all different from Christopher. I love them because of who they are, not because I miss my brother.

Looking after Christopher was something of a habit. The only time I wasn't doing something revolving around caring for him was when I was asleep. And I preferred sleeping when he was awake because it was next to impossible to sleep when he was asleep because the little bastard snored like a freight train. It made the windows rattle. When he slept, I was out working but I would call in regularly to make sure he was ok. I was lucky to have had such an understanding boss at the time.

When he died, I had no option but to break the habit. I didn't know what to do with myself. Not only had I lost the person I loved more than any other before or since, my daily routine was ruined.

I'd get up at 4am and go to work, Chris would still be asleep. I'd drop in around 9 to make sure he was ok and get him anything he needed. If he were awake and wanted to come with me, I'd get him dressed and take him back to work with me where he would sit outside and watch the passing traffic until about 1pm when I'd finish. Then I'd spend the rest of the day with him - usually fighting about some stupid thing or other - and we'd end up back at home where I'd crash by 10pm while he watched the television.

Towards the end, we moved the mattresses from his bed and mine into the loungeroom so if he needed anything, he could wake me up. He needed to sleep by the heater because the cold made him ache too much and even morphine wouldn't calm him down. There were days and nights he was in so much pain, all I could do was hold him.

There were times I had to carry him to the car and drive him to hospital, shouting at him to make him remember to breathe. And Christopher wasn't small. He was a stocky nugget of a kid. He lost 20 kilos in his last few months, and I don't know whether he gave up on himself or pitied me for what I was going through watching him waste away, unable even to take care of his basic needs. Before he got sick, he was a small mountain of a kid, strong as an ox. To need help showering and dressing himself was devastating for him. If we didn't share that bond of unequivocal love and trust, that would just have been nightmarish for both of us. He used to apologise if he needed me to help him get to the toilet if it interrupted what I was doing. Then I would hold him again, sometimes for hours, just to reaffirm the fact I still loved him.

There was nothing I didn't do for him and nothing I wouldn't have done for him. It's an attitude that became, as I said, a habit and one I was neither willing nor ready to break. What I got out of caring for him was fulfillment. It was me being more than just me, it was me being fundamental to his life as well. I don't even know how to describe how that made me feel except to lose that feeling suddenly left a massive hole, not only in my daily routine, but in me as a person. Half of me was gone. In many ways, a more noble part of me.

What I get from those kids on the other side is an opportunity to again do in a greatly reduced fashion the one thing that brought me unequalled joy, pride and pleasure, the best thing I can say I've ever done and that is to care about someone other than myself. Christopher could have opted to go into a hospice or hospital, but he hated the very thought of that and chose to stay with me instead. For better or worse, I wouldn't have had it any other way either. What has been the cost to me for doing what I did instead of putting him somewhere he could have had 24/7 professional care? I don't know. Did I gain as a person? Again, I don't know. Would I feel differently about so many things now had I not taken care of my little brother? Maybe. One emotion I don't feel though, is guilt. I did my very best every waking minute of my life and I was 100% devoted to Christopher.

In view of the fact there are times - like the upcoming anniversary of his death - when I feel that loss more keenly than normal, was taking care of Christopher the best thing I could have done for myself? Hindsight, being the interminable fink it is, I have to say the answer is 'no'. It probably wasn't the best thing I could have done for myself. But I can only guess at how I'd feel if I'd have done anything else. I have no alternative but to think I'd feel much worse, and yes, very very guiltridden.

And that's why I can't help wanting to do the things I do and why I can't help wanting and needing to be around for the kids on the other side. Not just the Crew, but all the other kids from the other side as well. That these kids allow me to do that is what continually brings me so much pride and joy.

Parents don't always get things right. They quite often get things very wrong, but as long as there is love, there can be forgiveness for past mistakes. If together a family can muddle its way through the upbringing of a child, the child will turn out just fine as long as there is love for and trust in one another.

I wanted to blog this here instead of there because to me, imposing this sort of emotional burden on a kid is nothing short of abuse. I've no doubt one or two of them will read this, but it's their choice. If I did this over there, it has the potential not to be. If any of them cared enough to read this and comment here, I would take that as a pretty good guage of whether they feel I'm a pain the arse or if, indeed, they place any value on what we've done together over the last 6 months.

For those who needed a reason why I'm there at all, this is it.

For those who need to know what I do there, well, I converse. We talk about music, books, poetry, people, politics, history, blogs and the internet. They send me their music and they listen to mine. We share ideas and we laugh together. Sometimes, I listen to them when they need someone to listen to them or even just to know that someone is there who will listen to them if they ever need to talk.

I blogged this here because although I trust them enough to treat this sensibly, the idea they might take my happiness on as some sort of personal responsibility doesn't sit well with me - and there is more than one who might very well feel that way. That's not what I want. I'm pretty happy just as I am. I don't need any sort of moral support right now. I just wanted to say this because it's important to me to properly identify what I'm feeling - both about this upcoming anniversary of Christopher's death - and my interaction with all of them and how or if the two are related and what that relationship might be.

Maybe not doing this sooner is what has contributed to my making contact with the kids on the other side at all. Again I don't know, although I do suspect that's probably very likely. I can't stress enough how important it is to properly and honestly identify our emotions and deal with them openly and honestly and if that means keeping a diary or blogging, then that's what it means.

When Christopher died, I had an emotional breakdown which was probably a major contributing factor to my last heart attack. Put simply, I stopped wanting to live. I knew that much and it didn't need any further identification than that. But now I do want to live and today, with so much angst being generated because of the date and the anniversary it represents, I'm moved to deal with these feelings I've been carrying for 6 long years. I'll probably blog something similar next week, but the next big bit of writing I will be doing will be on Thursday when I put out the next edition of The Swamp, which will be another Worst Business Practice Award - the 8th WBP since I started them in 2001.

Feel free to comment but be warned now, I won't be happy if any stupid platitudes appear hereunder and I may choose to either ignore or retaliate. It'll depend on the weather.

6 comments:

Cham said...

Hi you...

*Nods with (relatable) understanding, especially at paragraphs #3,4,7,8, and 12.*

I was going to post a lengthy message to you...but I deleted it. Mainly because I hope you've always known how I (and several other people whom I hope you shall always consider friends) - how glad we are that you're willing to keep your Christopher's memory alive.

Besides that - what can I say to you that I have not said to you before, in the past couple of years? (And not just about your Chris...)

*Smile*

So...how's the weather, Paul? Since y'all aren't getting any cold-front, is it at least raining?

*Hums the song Cool Down* ;D

Rat said...

It rains at night when I don't want it to and our days have been one long spell of hot weather.

I put my clothes out on the line the other day thinking in this heat, they'd be dry in 20 mins. I went out there half an hour later and there were 22 neat piles of ash on the ground under the clothesline.

Did I mention it's hot?

Now - what is it about my keeping Christopher's memory alive that you find appealing? I mean, I'm the first to admit I have certain hang ups and my message in that thread in PA about the relative merits of a dead dog over living children is pretty strong evidence of that. There's no question in my mind I want my little brother back. I want to see him, hear him and hold him til my arms fall off.

What I was asking with this entry is if it's my hang up with Christopher which is having so profound an affect on me that I'm finding so much enjoyment when I spend as much time as I do with the kids on the other side.

And what would or will I do if one day I wake up and find I'm over him? What then for the kids on the other side?

Right now, I can't see myself losing interest - they're a very bright and switched on crew and I have much for which to be thankful to them.

I also have no doubt they'll tire of me when I'm no longer important to them - and that's exactly as it should be. I have no problem with that at all. It's called growing up and taking care of oneself. They all do it and it's then I become just a happy memory for them, one they can revisit any time they like.

It's whether or not some other kids somewhere come into my life by whatever means that I'm asking. They will move on, it's natural. Right now, I seem unable to do so.

Is that me or is that the memory of Christopher?

Cham said...

Hey again, Rat...

Even though this is for the general public (and I was waiting to see who else was going to make a reply, before I followed up my last post)...I don't find your memory of Chris so much appealing, but more like I view it with a wonder? See - personally, I've never witnessed anyone show so much devotion to sibling/loved one...especially so publicly. You somehow keep a balance within yourself, Paul.

I mean - I for one like the fact that you're able to talk about him - and you don't always place in a positive - nor negative - light. Does that make sense?

Rat: "What I was asking with this entry is if it's my hang up with Christopher which is having so profound an affect on me that I'm finding so much enjoyment when I spend as much time as I do with the kids on the other side."

I don't know. But from my own personal opinion - after reading what you've posted around here for the past few months and from your recent blog entries/replies:

Definitely...

Of course you know no one - and I mean no one - will ever replace your Christopher...But I do understand why it is important that you can get through to them and somehow be with the kids. Of course you love them EACH for who they are.

Why? - Did someone try to tell you differently? Did someone pointedly say that you were trying to replace Chris?

You know what, Paul? Whether or not you wake up one day and find that Chris is but a sweet and loving memory - I honestly cannot see you losing interest in the kids. I really can't...When people have such a memorable effect on someone - the people are never tossed aside.

Besides - you've said so yourself (about how you are with your friends). From what I can recall - I think you've even talked about it in your "Don't Say Goodbye" article.

lol Or perhaps I just read too much into it...

But that's me.

*Shrug*

Rat: "Is that me or is that the memory of Christopher?

I don't know if you've been asking rhetorical questions, but of your last one:

I was going to say "Both...though mostly it is because of the memory of Chris"...but now I'm looking at it from another perspective - because if one thinks about it, the memory of your brother is part of what makes you YOU.

*Nods*

Cheers for now and later... :)

Rat said...

Nobody has suggested I'm trying to replace Christopher but there are a few on the periphery who are wondering why the hell I've been keeping up with the blogs of a bunch of highschool kids.

I think they're not aware of what goes on outside of blogland; the conversations, the swapping of music files and exchanges of views on everything from sport to politics, education and god only knows what all else.

You said you can see why it's important for me to get through to the kids and be with them - if you'd care to share that, I'd be interested to see it.

Not that I'd put the brakes on as far as my contact with The Crew is concerned, but all I know is I'm interested in them in the same way the strings section of an orchestra interests me. I hear it and I can't help wanting to know everything about it. Why are their voices louder to me than those of anyone else - older women, for example, who were the focus of my attention before Christopher moved in with me. Why the change?

My brother died 6 years and 3 days ago. Why can't I let go? Why doesn't my attention go back to where it was before?

I've never witnessed anyone show so much devotion to sibling/loved one...

I don't know how to explain what I got from Christopher. The strength he had was beyond compare. He was my hero. If I were a squillionaire, I'd build a monument to him, a 12ft high marble statue of him. It's not that he did anything terribly remarkable, it was just that he was so remarkable a person and above all others where he would undboutedly have been better looked after, like a magnet, he always stayed with me and wouldn't hear a bad word said of me.

Everyday until he got very sick, each day was the same routine: we'd fight like cat and dog over nothing all day, then we'd go home and laugh about it. Then we were the closest of friends and confidantes. Wild horses wouldn't tear us apart. And whenever we weren't together, he'd ring me up twice an hour to find out how long it would be before I got to where he was. And when I'd get there, we'd fight.

Then he got sick and he really needed me to be there more than ever. We fought less although he accused me frequently of not understanding what he was going through. And whereas a professional would have kept a professional distance in the course of remaining objective, I didn't. Every ache of his became a pain I couldn't understand - I just knew it hurt and it became a preoccupation. I wished for all I was worth I could change places with him and relieve him of his torment.

I know now when I see a kid hurting, it's like a sledgehammer on my very soul. That should give you some idea why I reacted as I did to that dog petition.

I miss his strength, his energy and yes, I miss his love and unshakeable faith in me.

Cham said...

Hey there, you...

*Smile*

Rat: "...but there are a few on the periphery who are wondering why the hell I've been keeping up with the blogs of a bunch of highschool kids."

Paul - I don't see why it should be of their (the ones who have been wondering) concern. I can actually say this:

He adores kids/young people. He respects them. I first got the hint two and a half years ago/the first month that I started conversing with him at a group - when I told him at the time (when I was on sabbatical) that I was teaching kindergarten. I had the choice between primary and high-school. I told him my reasons why...

*Sincere smile*

He said he would have chosen the latter.

Rat: "I think they're not aware of what goes on outside of blogland; the conversations, the swapping of music files and exchanges of views on everything from sport to politics, education and god only knows what all else."

Exactly...People see what they want to see and make presumptions. I'll ask you something, Paul (and yes - this does have to do with your persona as The Rat vs Paul Ritchie - writer and mentor. I use the second word, because whether you want to accept that particular word or not - that's what me - as an adult perceived AND perceives you as, to young adults. Sometimes, I wish that you would take a bit of your persona and be fine with being called a mentor and/or a hero, Paul.)

Since you see the young people as your equals, why do you call them kids? I'm not invalidating what you've said in another entry - but I've never FULLY understood why you used that word. Emotionally - I understand why...It's just in my mind - I have sometimes wonder(ed) why.

*Shrug*

I would have sent what I said in a personal e-mail...but I'm already here, Paul. Besides - I don't enjoy it when people who don't understand kids and young adults start reading into things that they know nothing about - nor don't want to learn about, either. It's like those people forgot that they were ever in their twenties, teens, and kids. D:

Rat: "You said you can see why it's important for me to get through to the kids and be with them - if you'd care to share that, I'd be interested to see it."

See the last sentence of what I said about how people forget...

You remember the importance of youth and what they can contribute to community, society AND the world. Adults our age (sometimes) have the tendency of undermining ones who are (much) younger than us. The younger adults and teens need to see, if not realise, that not all of us are going to forget what it was like to be their age.

I know people can only do so much on the net - but I've always believed actions speak louder than words. And you simply not only listening, but ALSO paying attention and letting the ones you talk to know that they matter - that's what will count at the end of the day, Paul...

Okay - since I don't know how you're life was before you became The Rat...I won't try to read into things too much.

Rat: "Not that I'd put the brakes on as far as my contact with The Crew is concerned, but all I know is I'm interested in them in the same way the strings section of an orchestra interests me. I hear it and I can't help wanting to know everything about it."

That's understandable...that's MORE than understable. It's what I've been trying to tell you...God, I wish I was better about expressing myself. I understand the feeling (it's just hard for me to put it into words).


Rat: "Why are their voices louder to me than those of anyone else -"

Because you're at the point of your life that you've FULLY realised that there are other more important people that are worth your (free) time. Your morals and principles are extended, if not changed.

Rat: "older women, for example, who were the focus of my attention before Christopher moved in with me. Why the change?"

Why? Hmm - I suppose it depends on the security of those relationships (in comparison to your relationship with your Chris.) I won't pry and ask you about that - because even though I see the comparisons as relevant - I do not know how strongly you get attracted to women (who are older than you), then or now.

See, what you have been talking about - I understand and can relate to the (past) younger man/older woman attraction (though I subconsciously kept reasonable boundaries). But I don't doubt that we have different reasons for our choices.

Rat: "My brother died 6 years and 3 days ago. Why can't I let go?"

Security, Paul...Your memory of Chris was a precious and 'sure thing'. Your relationship with him was what you placed your heart and soul into. When ones gives of one's self to another - especially emotionally (because he was the world to you) and physically (spending the lot of your time and life taking care of him) - it is hard to let go.

My mind/memory is a bit lapsed right now - so I'll ask you this:

Did you and do you consider your love for your Chris unconditional, Paul?

Rat: "Why doesn't my attention go back to where it was before?"

Again...'Because you're at the point of your life that you've FULLY realised that there are other more important people that are worth your (free) time. Your morals and principles are extended, if not changed.'

Hey - I absolutely understand how you feel about Chris being your hero and you wanting to build a monument to him. That was the main reason why I asked you several months ago if you were ever going to write a book about him/dedicate your next one to him (like I said - my mind's lapsed right now, so I can't recall the exact month/date of when I asked you about it...)

Rat: "I know now when I see a kid hurting, it's like a sledgehammer on my very soul. That should give you some idea why I reacted as I did to that dog petition."

I'm going to assume that you were talking to whomever else is reading your blog (though personally, I can't see why you're explaining anything.)

*Shrug*

Rat: "I miss his strength, his energy and yes, I miss his love and unshakeable faith in me."

The holiday wishes I gave to you still applies...Besides - it wasn't just for Christmas. They are for every month and for whenever you need them, of course.

I'm going to go listen to The Pretenders song now...

Cheers for now and later...

Cham said...

*Heh, o-k-a-y...remembers to proof-read entry before posting. Makes an important correction in case passersby don't GET it.*


He (Paul Ritchie) adores kids/young people. He respects them. I first got the hint two and a half years ago/the first month that I started conversing with him at a group - when I told him at the time (when I was on sabbatical) that I was teaching kindergarten (during the fall/winter term). I had the choice between primary and high-school. I told him my reasons why...

*Sincere smile*

He said he would have chosen the latter.