I spend a lot of time in this household running downstairs to close the door and just breathe. I duck out to coffee houses and get sane again. I spend time among the trees, or failing that, among the pot plants. This morning a friend of my father’s, a gracious fellow whom Dad first met when they were seated side by side in the first year of Norman Park State School, came to visit and I made him some coffee and offered a slice of the cake another of their friends had brought. I was thinking how lovely it is that my folks’ friends come to visit even though Dad falls asleep on them, how they have friendships stretching back decades from living thirty years in the same place. My father went to school and grew up here, and has friendships going back to childhood. I was thinking how this will not be the case when I am 77. We had a fascinating chat about Sir John Monash, whose biography this man has been reading, and about the anti-Semitism in Melbourne that kept Monash out of the Melbourne Club. Dad’s friend volunteered the view that Murdoch, an enemy of Monash, even back in those days acted like he ran the world. I said how this was in evidence every time we have an election. I was thinking of the photos of Tony Abbott clasping a puppy, etc, paired with a front page picture of his rival Kevin Rudd with mouth half open which was titled, “Does This Man Ever Shut Up?”
This led very quickly to a lecture from my father’s friend about the errors of environmentalism, which he perceives as a kind of conspiracy theory. He has holidayed recently on Heron Island and says grandly, “Heron Island is just as good as it was in the 1960s.” Oh good, I said: so all those acres of coral bleaching must just be a bit of a furphy. Well, he said: 7000 years ago the whole Barrier Reef was above water. Now it’s not so bad as that, is it? “Oh no,” I agreed, picking up my cup of tea, my notebooks and my cat and standing up to go. I kissed him on the cheek. “All just a big natural cycle.”
These natural cycles are all but overwhelming me at the moment. The slow sleepy death of my father, whose eyes are rarely open and who will take no nourishment but ice cream and milk. The frantic collisions of my mother with a series of administrative chores which she sets herself, needing to gain back some form of control over her life, and which subsume her grief and dread, I think, driving her into a frenzy of impatience and a series of spills of papers and pens onto the floor as she is kept waiting on the phone line by the bank, the electricity company, the phone people themselves. Our larger darker howling emotions. It’s hard to live in them. It’s harder to live alongside them… I feel.