Tag Archives: family

It’s been a while…

I know, I know…of late my blogging has been atrocious. This week for my local writer’s group I had the task of writing a letter to a dead relative/friend. Strange subject I know…and guess who set the task ??

Yes…it was me. I am learning there are few coincidences in life. I know from writing the following piece that I had a need to say these things to a father that can no longer hear them.

But the process of taking these thoughts from my brain and placing them on paper was very good for me. I can move on. I can love with open arms and no expectations, and not be afraid.

Dear Dad,

Earlier this month I took a moment to ponder what it would have been like to still have you here. You would now be 107 years old, and I wondered if time might have made you different. Seemingly out of nowhere came a thought. Common sense tells me that of course nothing comes out of nowhere. That our thoughts are simply pulsating deep feelings that we may try to bury, yet like an earthquake they will eventually erupt and arise to the surface. My thought was this. Love and hate are very closely bonded together. I realised that when I think of you in the quiet moments I waver between the two.

I remember and love the moments we shared. It was only as I became an adult I truly appreciated how you suffered through my learning to cook, never expressing what you must have felt about some of the awful missteps in the kitchen that still made their way on to your plate. You generally ate every mouthful, and for that I loved you. I also remember you teaching me to drive, and wonder just how you made it through that period without suffering a serious heart attack. There are many of these memories that pop up. Often they surface when not expected, but they give me a sense of peace.

I also remember how you broke me in to so many pieces that 20 years later I am still finding cracks. It was not until after you died that I realised how like Pop you were. I should have seen the signs; perhaps I did but chose to ignore them.

Family was in fact a burden to you. When it came down to it, like Pop, you were not above exploiting that family for your own needs. As I reflect, one memory in particular arises again and again. It was painful at the time. It is still painful. Conceivably that is why for many decades I buried it deep inside. I was an eight year old, getting to know her mother for the first time. Using guile and guilt you tried so hard to bring me to heel. When I take that memory apart now I see a selfishness I had refused to acknowledge in you.

Put that aside…and oh how I loved you. I still do. I always will.

You left this world in 1996. You left it leaving behind your signature on some papers that would do exactly what I believe you wished for. Papers and a signature that would tear me in to little pieces. I know that you had no way of knowing what a vulnerable state I was already in, because I kept from you the news that my marriage was falling apart. So for a time…even broken as I was by your action…I did not hold you to account.

When the news came to me days after your death of your decision to cut me so completely, at first I felt nothing. I moved from room to room in my newly rented house, and often wondered how I came to be standing where I was. I dressed and fed my two children, your grandchildren, yet a part of me was disconnected from everything in my world.

One day while I was cleaning out the pantry, my disconnection, the very thing that had held me together for those few weeks, dissolved. As did I. I lay amongst the tins and packets of food on my kitchen floor and piece by tiny piece cracked open so wide that feeling the world around me became a painful thing.

A hug from my children, seeing a butterfly land on a flower, a summer shower…all those little things that had once given me such peaceful joy now caused more pain than you can imagine. It was as if any pleasurable thing that touched me wore a coat of acid.

For years the pain of living with what you did seemed simply too much. The pain of knowing my father was the cause seemed simply too much.

In the following years many things happened, and the adulthood I had so longed to postpone found its way to me. My children were a large part of my learning about the world. I learned that I could love so deeply and so unconditionally that I was in truth…nothing like you. With that revelation came some peace. With that peace came some forgiveness. Not only for you but also for me. I forgave you. I forgave myself for still loving you. You who could consciously cause a child of yours so much pain, so much sorrow. I promised myself to learn to be everything you were not.

I would love my children…with no conditions applied, with no expectations that their lives were mine to control or to exploit. Love is often a surprise to me. Having never really felt secure in love I was a prime candidate to be like you. To seek it, to demand it, to hoard it. I imagine there is more of my mother in me than I will ever know. Because I have learned that love is not to be controlled. It is only when you embrace it with loose arms so it is free to leave when it desires, that you ever truly experience the peace and the joy of it. And I wonder if you saw the part of me like Mum, and that is what drove you to wreak such destruction. In trying to punish me you were also trying to obliterate her in payback.

When it came time to write this letter to you I was surprised to find that feelings I thought of as gone, were actually just in hiding. Love and hate. The two ends of the spectrum of emotions. I hate what you did. Still. But…yes, with me there always seems to be a but, I am also thankful for it, even if I can never grasp what drove you to inflict pain of that magnitude on your own child. No matter what you perceived my guilt to be.

Asking a pregnant woman to choose between the two most important men in her life was unjust. Clutching your perceived sense of being wronged when you were the one who forced the choice in the first place was unjust. Unjust and unkind. And once again I am surprised at myself. When I take my memories out and lay them before me I see that in fact you were not a kind man unless it suited you. A kind man would never have allowed the police to hold his 18 year old daughter responsible for a car crash, when he was the driver, and drunk at that.

Perhaps I am now the one being unkind, for the possibility exists that you did not fully comprehend the fall out from your actions. Yes the possibility is there. The probability and the likelihood of that being the case, sadly is minimum. The child that still lives on me would love to latch on to that possibility and therefore be able to imagine her father as a kind man, a just man. The adult in me knows better. The parent in me is uncompromising in her revulsion of the cruelty of your action.

So there in lies the hate part.

And the love, where does that come in to play? In forgiving you, and forgiving myself for still loving such a father. Through forgiveness I have learned to love and love freely. I have learned that even if love is not returned, as we would wish, the act of loving itself is a blessing. I have learned that a love that has no expectation except to be given is the purest form of love, the one that gives the most reward.

You Dad, with your love that was wrapped in expectations, and punishment should those expectations not be met, yes you, taught me how to love without expectation of any kind.

Your lessons though oft times uncompromising and harsh, were for me, lessons I now believe I needed as I went my way in this world. You taught me how love should be, could be, and luckily for me, is.

How can I do anything else but be grateful to you for teaching me what is the most important lesson I have ever learned, for handing me a way to learn the true value of love ?

Love freely given.

Love without expectation.

Love that compromises.

Love that is unconditional.

Love that seeks no reward other than the pleasure of loving.

So there in lies the love part.

Ever your daughter,

Love Joanne.

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Family isn’t about blood.

I have known this statement to be true for a while. Last night it was proven to me again. In a movie of all things. And perhaps in a movie where you would least expect it.

Through my two children I was introduced to the Fast & Furious movie franchise. I never expected to love these films…but I did.  These movies are what you would expect…in a way. They have fast cars, crime, shoot outs, but they also have family and family values.

Fast-and-the-Furious-Series-May-Get-3-More-Movies-After-Furious-7

I looked forward to each and every new release…only once did I have a moment of…oh dear…really.

So it was with sadness that I heard the news that one of the stars of these movies died. Paul Walker died too young.

Furious-7

For a time I wondered if I would watch this last movie of the franchise with him in it, because it was only possible to be released with two of his brothers standing in for certain scenes.

I am so glad I finally did see it. Even if it broke my heart watching the ending. Knowing that those scenes had been filmed with the intention of saying goodbye from his cast members.

Vin Diesel may not be everyone’s cup of tea…but his tribute in the last scene…well it reminded me that family is those that live in our hearts and not just our veins.

I know this to be true because I have family that in no way are related by blood. They are related by heart, because I love them as dearly as it is possible. Just as I love some family by blood as well. So I know what Vin Diesel means when he says…”I used to say I lived my life a quarter mile at a time, I think that’s why we were brothers, because you did too. No matter where you are, whether it is a quarter mile away or half way across the world, you’ll always be with me.”

I swear…the stunts are fantastic…I held my breath with the car and three buildings one. I really did. Please…please watch this wonderful movie. You will not regret it.

Saying goodbye.

Auntie Ed is in the blue. My Auntie Rita's [next to her] wedding day.
Auntie Ed is in the blue. My Auntie Rita’s[next to her] wedding day.
I don’t have many memories before I was eight that did not have my Auntie Ed [short for Edna] in them. Auntie Ed was tiny. Seriously tiny. She was also a force of nature. Not someone you fooled around with. Auntie Ed had a way of looking at you that made your bones rattle when you had done something you knew was wrong. She [as we Aussies like to say] called a spade a spade.

Auntie Ed was the youngest of my father’s siblings. She had one other sister and four brothers. Though I actually lived with my other aunt, every holiday was spent at the home of my grandparents, where Auntie Ed lived. As well as holding down a job, Auntie Ed cared for my grandparents. My grandmother was blind and my grandfather had taken to his bed when retired, so her plate was full.

She never had her own children, as she married late in life. I always found that such a shame. Auntie Ed would have made one hell of a mother.

She loved golf. She was a wizz at gardening. I think the tomato plants were so scared of her biting wit they wouldn’t dare not flourish. As for her peas. I can’t remember a Christmas where I didn’t turn green from eating them. Each day we’d pick a bowl and it would be my job to shell them. Luckily we always picked way more than needed so I ate my fill as I shelled away.

Earlier this year as I picked peas in my own garden I was transported back to that time.

At the back of my grandparents’ house was a neighbour’s mulberry tree. To this day the smell of them sends me in to a tizzy of ecstatic delight. Auntie Ed had little sympathy the day I raided the tree and ate myself sick on mulberries that were still too green. I think she was actually secretly giggling at my discomfit. I learned a lesson that day…or maybe two. Never steal from the neighbours, and when you do make sure the fruit is ripe.

It has taken me years of practise to try to achieve a reasonable level of competency with baking. But I will never reach Auntie Ed’s standard. I can remember standing in the tiny kitchen as she threw ingredients together for her always perfect scones. I don’t remember her ever measuring anything…not ever…yet time after time they came out of the oven…perfect.

Christmas was a special time at the house in Campsie. Auntie Ed made her Christmas cake and the one thing I craved more than her peas…her Christmas pudding. As she sliced it open and served it with a piping hot homemade custard…the only thing that could make it better was knowing that somewhere inside I would find a shining silver sixpence.

Auntie Ed collected spoons. As I do. I am the proud possessor of some of her collection.

In 2007 The Daughter and I went to Sydney to visit with her. I am so glad she got the chance to meet my daughter, and profoundly saddened she never met my son. We stayed with Auntie Ed and I’d like to tell you about something she did…or rather said…that might help you to know this tiny powerhouse of a woman.

The Daughter and I were sharing a room. Sadly [like my father] I snore. This is not a little snurk now and the, rather like a train, an endless train right next to your ear. So at some point during the first night The Daughter grabbed her bedding and moved to the lounge. In the morning when Auntie Ed got up she she smiled at the Daughter. Then commiserated with her about how she had heard me too…all the way in her room.

This morning…my cousin rang me to tell me that Auntie Ed, at the grand age of 99, had passed away. While I understand when people say what a life she had, and yes she sure did…I am sad. So sad. You see, there are actually some people this world is better off because they are in it. My Auntie Ed was one of them. Today the world became a lessor place. It lost one of its best and brightest stars. I lost the greatest aunt a girl could wish for.

My cousin shared with me a couple of things, these things…they make me smile…because I know that there were people who were with her that loved her right until the end. Auntie Ed had been in a home in Australia. When he got the call that she was failing he spent the day with her. One nurse came in to Auntie Ed’s room. She asked him if she could give ‘Auntie Ed’ a kiss. You see they all knew her as I did…she was Auntie Ed…and they loved her.

So…a life well lived. A person well loved. A woman who gave me so much more than just a love of spoons. For all this I am grateful. I just wish Auntie Ed could have lived forever.

Colin Arthur Bryant and the third child.

I don’t do this. Reblogging I mean. At least NOT my own posts…but you see today is Dad’s 105th birthday.

Three years ago I awoke early on the 13th of April and words poured out of me. Like the molten steel you see running down in to a mould, burning, shining, a completely unstoppable river that once cooled within will form a weapon. That post became my weapon you see. After a lifetime, it sliced effortlessly through the things that guarded my past and held me captive behind a solid door of emotion.

I love my Dad. I loved him growing up. But ours was a tumultuous relationship. Because as deep as my loving was, my understanding of him was shallow. Colin Arthur Bryant was not a sharer. I know that. Yet I was luckier than most in our family. I saw more than the others, but even with that I grew up knowing that I would never be able to say I really knew my Dad.

It has become important to me that my children will never think that of me. Some may say that I over share. I understand their view. I also disagree. Through the circumstances of my life I grew up knowing neither my Dad or my Mum well. I can’t tell you their favourite colour, what smells reminded them of moments they had lived, what their joys were or what their sorrows were. I know nothing of why they once loved each other or why their love became so twisted and full of emotions that drove them to acts I neither know if they regretted or were glad of their doing.

So words have become my path to a future for my children that will enable then to say…this was my Mum. I knew her well !

Again I digress. A habit I am not sure I want to break as it often leads me in to places I had forgotten existed. As I age I feel a growing fondness for finding places that lay hidden in the recesses of my mind and my memories, if only for the lessons that each journey has had, and possibly still has for me.

Time though to revisit Colin. I had thought to write a post today for the celebration of the day he was born. Instead I found myself drawn back three years to this post. I realised that this post had said everything I want to say about the man I called Dad and the years in which he graced my life.

I cried today reading it as much as I did the day I wrote it. Both for the possibilities that were grasped and for the ones abandoned and lost between us over the years. Those tears are good tears…the healing kind.

With all this…I still feel an ache that has never diminished.

So to Colin I say this:

“Happy birthday Dad. I know that you did the best you could with what you had. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for you. I miss you no less with each passing year. I will love you no less on the day I die than I did on the day you passed from my life. I feel you in each step I take forward.
Your loving daughter,
Jo.”

I hope you will have the time to visit fully with my Dad. Get to know him as much…or as little…as I did…in my post from three years ago. That is of course if you haven’t seen it before.

Chronicles of Illusions

One hundred and two years ago Caroline Ada Bryant had a baby boy on this day. Her second child, also her second son.

She named him Colin Arthur Bryant.

As a young boy Colin had hydatids. Maybe that’s why he was a little iffy around animals. His body bore scars from where they had operated to get the small sacs off, and save his life.

He married twice.

His first wife died after they had a son and a daughter.

Colin & Mary Bryant (c) Jo Bryant

His second ran off with a no-hoper from the circus after she had a daughter.

He carried that scar with him for the rest of his life as well.

Once a month until the third child was twelve he came to wherever she lived for his visit. He was always dressed in grey pants with a crease down the legs, a grey jacket, white long sleeved shirt and tie.

The…

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Three Lamps Bar and Eatery

When I went up to Auckland last, we went out in Ponsonby for lunch, as the next day was The Son’s 23rd birthday, but he had plans.

The Son’s brief was for a pub lunch, so guided by The Daughter we wandered around and headed to the Three Lamps and Eatery. It is a beautiful building.

Three Lamps Bar and Eatery

It was quiet when we arrived. That is probably because we were having an early lunch after spending the morning watching the Wet Hot Beauties frolic in the sea. I imagine most Aucklanders tend to eat a bit later on a Saturday afternoon. Inside were only the bar staff I think, but they had a lovely outside area…again not busy but that was good.

When the menu arrived it was huge. What I wasn’t prepared for was that only one page had food on it while the other 6 pages were beers mostly. I imagine there is a different menu for the dinner crowd, so as a lunch menu goes it was more than sufficient.

threelampsmenu

Okay, it is a ‘craft beer’ bar, so as you might imagine the range of beers was incredible. You can see the list here. 

Impressive no ????

While we waited for our order we all tucked in to the fresh baked breads with house made dips, olive oil, balsamic marinated olives, three lamps style.  A very nice way to enjoy sitting around with a beer and having a chat.

I had the chilli and garlic prawns and wasn’t sorry that I did.

I liked the atmosphere for a summer’s afternoon and I was with friends and family…so in the end…it was perfect.

Black & White Photo Challenge: Family

Sonel’s challenge this week is family. This family really grabbed my attention.

family

 

Can you spot my baby among these bathing beauties ???

I sure did !!!!

The Daughter is scheduled to perform at the Auckland Fringe Festival. The Wet Hot Beauties are doing SWAN SONG. And they are trying to raise the money needed for the performance.

PledgeMe is a crowdsourcing site that you can visit and donate if you think they are worth it. Sadly those of you overseas will have to forego them coming around to wash your car. But you’ll get heaps of satisfaction from knowing you did a good deed.

So visit SWAN SONG by the WET HOT BEAUTIES at PledgeMe and the rest ‘as they say’, will be history.

And The Daughter will be happy…which means I will be happy.

In February I will tell you all about it !!!!! Maybe even share a few photos of the night.

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Still learning…

Sometimes reading a simple message on a social website can and does change not only your day, but your being. That happened to me last night when I went on to facebook and read a friend’s message of condolence.

You see I knew the boy she was talking about. Not well, at least not anymore. He had been a friend of The Daughter’s when she was in primary school. As they grew up they grew apart…he to his world and she to hers.

But I remember the little boy with the wide smile, soft eyes, the gentle heart.

I remember the shine all over his face when he gave her a gift. Plastic earrings that his Dad had salvaged from somewhere.

After I read the message I rang The Daughter. Not just to be sure that she had heard the news, but to hear her voice and know she was safe. Then I rang The Son. I made sure to tell them “I love you” before I hung up the phone.

Because my mother’s heart knows that this is something Jono’s parents will never be able to say to their child again…and not being able to utter those words so that he can hear them, will tear and rent theirs in to a million pieces that can never be reassembled.

It took a long time to find sleep last night. Because I was angry at myself for wasting time. I have wasted so much time in disagreeing with choices my children make. I’ve wasted time in being angry, disappointed, when I could have been wrapping them in love, my love.

It is much harder than I imagined when my belly began to swell, this being a parent.

Because it is not just about feeding them, teaching them, making them ready to go out and grab their space in this world.

Being a parent is about letting them be. And loving them exactly as they are.

Recently The Son had a lucky escape. A car ran over his foot…broke two toes…it could have been so much worse. And I could have known first hand what Jono’s parents know. I guess The Son wasn’t the only one who had luck riding his back that day.

I can’t imagine what Jono’s parents are feeling…because when I imagine something happening to The Daughter or The Son, my body collapses under the mere thought. I can go no further in to it, and I do not want to.

I am sorry it took their loss to make me realise what I have not lost.

What are expectations anyway ?

The dictionary definition: taking something for granted; something expected Synonyms: acceptance, accepting, assuming, belief, conjecture, expectation, fancy, guess, hunch, hypothesis, inference, posit, postulate, postulation, premise, presumption, presupposition, shot in the dark, shot, sneaking suspicion, stab, supposal, supposition, surmise, suspicion, theorization, theory.

Why do any of us presume to expect something from others ?

Haven’t we all experienced the weight of others’ expectations of us ?

And why do we weigh ourselves down in disappointment when others behave differently than we would ?

Isn’t that the way things should be ?

Each one of us is unique. Therefore our behaviour in any situation will be unique, different to how others will behave. As a parent is that not what we work toward ? That our children will confidently stride forward as they map their own path. And yet…when they don’t stick to our plan, we presume to know better.

Why ? Because we’ve lived longer. Does that really mean we know better, or just that we think we do ?

These are some of the questions that kept me awake last night.

No.

I still don’t have all the answers to them…but I found a few.

I won’t be wasting time anymore on expectations. I’ll be using those precious moments to just love my children – exactly as they are.

Unique.

Perfectly flawed.

Questing individuals.

Exactly as they should be.

***

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Oh baby baby it’s a wide world…

HAPPY, HAPPY 21ST TO MY DARLING BOY…

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When a cake is not simply a cake…

Image

Come the 2nd of February this year this sweet boy is turning 21.

As I did for The Daughter…the plan was to make a cake. Something like this one…

Classy – maybe not so girly, but still – well – nice.

Thanks to The Daughter I am now making The Son a different style of cake…very, very different.

Cake number 1

A banana cake just out of the oven…

Cake number 2

Also straight out of the oven – but this time a chocolate one…

Any of you bright sparks out there figured out what this cake will look like when finished ??

I’ll keep you posted as I go shall I ??

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