A Lot to Think About

I saw a specialist this week in Melbourne, for something that has been a long time coming. I’m going to be deliberately mysterious on what exactly this whole thing was about, except to say that it is something that has affected me for a long time, will last forever, and will be entering a crucial phase in the next few years. The doctor was a particularly awesome person that, coincidentally, I might run into at writing festivals in the future. But the news she had for me was not the best.

Related, but I love the Father of the Bride movie. I even love its ridiculous sequel too. It’s so comforting to watch those films and think about how perfect Annie’s life is, how she’s so used to everything going perfectly that it turns her world upside down to receive a blender as a gift. Before the age of 25, she studies abroad in Europe, falls in love and has a $100K+ wedding, has a baby, gets her dream job and eventually has really enviable hair. I’m sure for some people, the whole movie would make you want to scream at her to check her privilege, but for me, it’s just kind of like… happy escapism. It would be super if things in my life could all run so smoothly, but the appointment confirmed that a rather big area of my life is going to be a gigantic scary struggle.

Shakespeare (or rather, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) said “the course of true love never did run smooth” – not just true love, but maybe it’s the case that anything worth fighting for won’t be won easily. I would like to tell myself that I will appreciate things all the more if it was such a battle to have them, but realistically, I’m worried that struggle wears a person down. I don’t want to be worn out, weary and cynical because of my journey – I want to always be optimistic and excited about possibilities. If anybody has a magic potion that can retain this, please let me know.

Bowie

We were watching the news, nothing particularly remarkable, when the headline flashed across the bottom of the screen – BREAKING NEWS: DAVID BOWIE DEAD AGED 69. My jaw dropped and I felt all the blood rush into my head, hot and dizzying. I couldn’t process what I was seeing, immediately grasping at alternative explanations. It’s a hoax, he’s not dead, he’s just sick, it’s bad reporting, how could it be? I didn’t even know he was sick. Nathan grabbed my hand and said “I’m so sorry, honey” over and over. It was a horrible jolt, from a world where none of my beloved idols were in any immediate peril, to one where I had just lost my hero.

I have loved David Bowie for most of my life. Mum and Dad never really listened to him when I was little, so like most of my generation, my first experience of him was seeing Labyrinth. I was obsessed with that movie. I can’t count how many times I wished, with all my heart, that the goblin king would come and take all my little siblings away. I pranced around the garden in a frilly shirt and jeans reciting lines from the film, made grand plans to attend a masquerade ball in a real hedge maze (vetoed, because I was about 14). Slowly, I discovered the man behind Jareth, and his music. Low was a big part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, particularly the depression of 2003. I loved his costumes, his theatricality, his humour, his multidimensional melodies, his layered lyrics. I loved the way he evolved – so many artists languished in the wake of their seventies stardom and never released anything worthy again, but not David Bowie. His 2004 Reality tour was livestreamed around the world, which I attended with Dad. Even though I never got to see him perform live, I’m so grateful I got to be a part of that experience.

Bowie was never really on Nathan’s radar until I acquainted them. Now, I want Life on Mars? at my funeral and I’m tossing up which song I want at my wedding. Last year for our birthday, we went to the David Bowie Is exhibition while it was at ACMI, which was amazing. I was in awe the entire time, seeing scribblings of familiar lyrics and costumes that I had seen so many times in youtube clips. I loved it, but it made me sad. Even at the time, I wondered about the fact that all things must come to an end, and I have serious doubts about whether world, in its current state, is capable of producing this kind of revolutionary, broadly virtuosic person, of enough stamina to manage a fifty year output, of enough talent to influence so many aspects of culture apart from the one he directly participated in.

So, I’m pretty sad. Somebody on my facebook ranted that it was ridiculous that so many people were sad over David Bowie when they could direct that empathy to something ‘worthier’ like saving a child’s life. At first I didn’t care, but I get madder each time I think about it. Why does my childhood dog dying bring tears to my eyes so many years later, when dogs are put to sleep in shelters every day? Why do people feel sadder when their parent dies, compared with a stranger down the street? It’s so obvious that we care intensely about the people (and animals) that personally touched us, inspired us, helped us, taught us, were beloved by us. David Bowie was my idol, but his music will forever be an undeniable part of the emotional landscape of my life. That’s why I am sad, that’s why I will miss him, like a friend.

failure to launch

So, my one big task for this summer (apart from cleaning my room) was to start a blog. University starts again in about four weeks, and I have failed already. I don’t really have any excuses either, which makes it worse.

What have I done this summer? Not a lot. But I survived it without too many disasters, which is more than I can say for other years.

  • Nathan and I went on our first ever ‘just us’ holiday.
  • We both got to see Hobart for the first time.
  • I am now officially a ‘fairy godmother’.
  • I got all the Christmas shopping done with minimal tears, anxiety or last minute freak-outs.
  • I went to the beach a lot.
  • I spent some time with Dad before he went back to Singapore.
  • And my room is ALMOST clean.
The most entitled dog.
The most entitled dog.

It was nice to just be able to enjoy things for once, rather than coasting from one disaster to the other. There is so much I want to finish in the next few weeks, before the long hard slog of the academic year begins. And even though I have failed so far, I will try my hardest to actually make this blog a thing.

tin can in the sky

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow.

This shouldn’t be a problem, except that it has been a while, and I’m not quite as brave as I used to be.

9235_534605441432_2537356_n

In our Taiwan days, we flew a lot. One time, my sister Cait and I even flew back to Australia by ourselves. For my tenth birthday, my mother and I flew to Hong Kong for the weekend. When we came back to Australia to live, we were constantly jetting back and forth between Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, to spend time with my dad while he was working interstate.

Fast forward… it’s been a long while, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I suppose I haven’t been on a plane as an adultWish me luck!

EDIT: I survived! It was bizarre.. I’m so used to flying on BIG planes, that I got on the little 737 and was like, “this is it?”. It was one aisle flanked by rows of three seats. Nathan was a total pain by telling me a ‘story’ before we took off, about us crashing into the ocean and dying, and how Posie would miss us forever, and how she’d shed little puppy tears and her little puppy heart would break into a million pieces when she learned that we died in a horrible plane crash. I punched him in the arm.

Though I did get a laugh out of this –

708429_682551401542_2126362369_o

We were in the emergency exit row, so there was extra signage about how we had to open the doors if there was an emergency, etc. I chose to read this a bit differently.

If you can set things on fire with laser beams that shoot from your eyes, don’t look out the window!

 

Rupert, the wonder dog – part II

**This is Part II of my first post about Rupert’s health issues. You can read Part I here**

Reflections, seven(ish) months later.

I’m having a lazy day and writing this from bed, propped up by pillows with the laptop on my knees. Rupert is curled up, sleeping at the end of the bed. He snores like a person, sometimes punctuated by little whimpery barks if he’s having a particularly vivid dream. Posie is, of course, busy doing her ‘job’ of guarding the house – patrolling windows and French doors, watching for any wayward neighbourhood cats that dare enter our yard.

I have a theory about dogs, that they love having a job to do. A raison d’être. Just like people. I suppose it makes them feel important, or like they are contributing somehow. Nathan’s childhood dog Marshal would help bring the shopping inside, waiting by the car for someone to give him a bag to carry. My childhood dog, the million dollar globetrotting Xiao-Gui, was a bit of a Florence Nightingale – she would take up residence on the lap or bedside of whoever was sick, or in need of some comfort, and stay with them until they felt better. Posie looks like a bit of a princess, but she’s a fantastic watchdog. The barking can be annoying, but there have been times when I have been endlessly grateful for it. 

I’m not sure what Rupert’s job is, but today at least, he’s off duty. Or maybe he’s retired now. After everything he has been through, he’s earned it.

His eventual diagnosis was idiopathic pharyngeal dysphasia, which ultimately doesn’t say a lot. The veterinary team that cared for him at the hospital started with a long list of suspects, but ruled them out one by one, until we came to this – a condition without a name, a reason or a cure. The first few weeks after he came home from the intensive care unit were harrowing. Apart from twice-daily steam sessions, multiple rounds of tablets and constant supervision, Rupert required hand feeding three times a day, then being held in a sitting position for half an hour to ensure all the food went down. At first, he was so exhausted just from having pneumonia that he gave up after only a few morsels.

It was touch and go for a while, but eventually, things started to look better. Not all at once, of course, but a series of little moments that gradually gathered momentum. Rupert wagged his tail when my sister came to visit him. He got out of bed by himself to go searching for a teddy bear to snuggle. He started giving me his big-eyed, pathetic Oliver Twist tragic face again, when he’d eaten all of his dinner and was hopelessly full, but still wanted more.

It’s about seven months since his ordeal. He snores and coughs a lot, and still has to be hand fed (luckily, only once a day). We have to be vigilant about signs of pneumonia, but he hasn’t had a single relapse. He spends his days sunbathing on the lawn or napping on the sofa, but runs around like a madman and bucks like it’s a rodeo whenever he gets excited. And he’s still Posie’s BFF. Looking at the spirited, vibrant little dog he is after less than a year of recovery, I can’t believe how many people expected that we would just give up on him. It’s just a dog. He’s had a good life. He’s done his dash. It’s not like he’s a child. 

He is not disposable. And we will not give up on him. The vet staff have mentioned many times that Rupert is lucky to have been adopted by us, and that we were willing to do whatever we could for him. But we are the lucky ones. Rupert has done (and is still doing) his job – loving us – unconditionally, unwaveringly, without expectation. Dogs are so selfless and giving of themselves, and after everything Rupert has gone through in his life, it’s amazing that his love for us (and everyone he meets) just keeps coming and coming. The very least we can do for him is love him back.

Rupert, the wonder dog – part I

**This was originally posted on tumblr, but I felt compelled to repost here. You can read Part II here.**

I don’t normally use tumblr like a journal or a diary, but I’m a bit miserable and needed to ‘write it out’.

tumblr_m5sl3jlsfw1qfauueo1_500

Little Rupert is in intensive care. The hospital sent this photo on Saturday night. He’s spending his time between a nebulizer, an oxygen tent, and having endless blood tests. If he’s well enough for anaesthetic, tomorrow he will have an MRI on his brain, a barium x-ray and they mentioned testing the fluid in his lungs and taking muscle biopsies. Apart from the pneumonia, he has a mystery auto-immune muscle wasting disease.. they originally thought it was masticatory muscle myositis, but it seems to be affecting his shoulders and his ability to breath and swallow, too. The vets are confident that it will be treatable, but he has to get past this pneumonia first.

It’s not a nice or reasonable way to feel, but I wish this was happening to some other dog. Rupert’s biggest ambition in life is just to be cuddled, or sit on someone’s lap. He is so gentle and spirited, and his favourite trick is throwing his body weight backwards in your arms so you have to hold him like a baby.

What we know of his history is so awful – before we adopted him (free to a good home, in the classifieds), he’d had two years of being passed around between people who weren’t prepared to or able to look after him. Before that, he had been in the pound. He was free because of his separation anxiety – he is so desperate to be loved, he would go to crazy lengths to prove how submissive he was.. like peeing on the couch. We’re working on that! He still has some scars from his past life – some strange grooves on the back of his canine teeth, possible from chewing on a cage; if he ever sees a plastic bag on the floor, he immediately claims it as his ‘bed’; he loves his little sister, Posie, but he gets incredibly agitated around other male dogs. We don’t know when his birthday is, we don’t know what his first name was, or where he was born.

It’s so cruel and unfair that this should happen to him after everything he’s already been through. But if it had to happen, I’m glad it’s happening now – because unlike everybody else who gave him away when it got tough, we’ll stick with him through this.