Friends

06 February 2016

The Finale


First of all I must thank all my blogging friends for your comments in recent weeks. Even though close to tears I appreciated that you took the time to leave messages.

I have been away too long and now I’m wondering what to write on the blog. It has to be about Joe, of course, and I know it will be difficult. I think I’ll start at the beginning ...

At the end of Joe’s terrible illness, when the cancer spread and threatened his life, he was transferred from hospital to a hospice. He had been admitted to hospital two days before Christmas, on our 38th wedding anniversary. At that time he was still able to communicate and he pleaded with us to carry on with the Christmas arrangements. Months earlier he had ordered and paid for the family’s usual slap up meal at our favourite hotel so following his wishes we dined out - rather sombrely - and then went to see him in the hospital. There was a slight deterioration, not too bad but bad enough for him to show no interest in his Christmas gifts. He was in the hospital for eight days before being moved to the hospice. And that was where he died.  Rosanne and I had been with him all day before leaving to come home. It was a half-hour drive but one we wished we hadn’t made. As we walked through the front door the phone rang, the caller asking us how quickly we could go back. He only had 5 to 10 minutes left. We left immediately but got there too late. Joe had gone.

How did we cope? I would say we coped with extreme difficulty. Tears well up when I think of that time. But we had to move on, or sink.

As you know there is a lot to do when death strikes. Arrangements to make, people to tell, all the while trying to live and eat and sleep as well as shed even more tears.  I tried to keep the tears private, though, rather than upset others.

But let me tell you about the funeral, which many have described as wonderful. When I made my funeral plan, something like three years ago, I had been impressed by the firm of undertakers that took me through the plan. Naturally, Rosanne and I went back to them. They did a wonderful job and I know Joe would have approved.

The undertaking company is a family affair, brother and sister known as Daniel and Sarah. Both are well trained and have the knack of putting folk at ease. They don’t push, they suggest. And you can’t fault their suggestions. Right from the start they took over, ordered and arranged everything, always consulting us first. Sarah would ring just to see how I was, all the time offering help if needed. She knew I was alone, you see, Rosanne having her own house to stay in when over here from Australia.

On the day of the funeral we were treated like royalty, chauffeur driven and red carpet! But the service was straightforward. We had tried to keep it simple, well known hymns that got people singing, and an interesting eulogy that told people more about Joe than they knew. We had emphasised his love of football, from his playing days to the less energetic interest of watching his team play and in this regard we had requested that people wore a splash of red – his team’s colour. And they did... it was lovely and genuinely approved of by the priest. There was a surprise ending to the service, though. The music chosen to end was the signature tune of ‘Match of the Day’ which produced smiles and tapping feet as the congregation sat and listened. Many people remarked on our choice of music and they all said that Joe would have approved.

There were people there I didn’t know and it was interesting to hear how the word had spread to the business world which in turn brought people to pay their respects. The small crematorium was packed with, I was later told, 70 people, many of whom came back to the house for refreshments.

In recent weeks I learned more about Joe than I knew. What I didn’t realise was how loved he was by people from all walks of life. Many referred to him as a great man with a terrific sense of humour and one who would talk to anyone. They were SO right. My Joe wouldn’t harm a fly let alone a human being, and if he knew someone had a problem he would do everything in his power to assist. Yes, he was a man of simple tastes but with a heart of gold. Is it any wonder everyone loved him?

Yesterday, whilst sorting out his papers I found a folder full of cards and letters. Inside was an envelope full of letters written by me before we were married. He never threw them away. There was also a poem I wrote when he was going through a bad patch. It wasn’t a great poem but it was my first and he must have liked it to have kept it so long.

LEAN ON ME

If I could reach out and pluck stars from the sky
I would feel the desire to plant one in each eye
Of the one that I care for, the one who deserves more
From one who is willing to try
To make life richer and easier to bear
Let me be the one who is willing to share
In your ups and your downs,
Your smile and your frowns,
Let me be the one to care.

Don’t be afraid, there are no schemes
Just a heartfelt desire to be part of your dreams
Of a life full of promise and hope,
Knowing that one day you’ll cope
And your path will be filled with new themes.
These are the words of a very true friend,
Take love and some laughter and make them blend,
a recipe which in time creates peace of mind.
I make you a promise that eventually you’ll find
If you use my strength you’ll succeed in the end.

23 January 2016

JOE, MY HERO


REST IN PEACE, JOE

Yes, my husband passed away on the 8th day after moving to a hospice. He is no longer in pain and for that I am grateful. Watching him suffer was awful. I coped, after a fashion, but only because daughter, Rosanne, was there with me. She arrived back in the UK just in time. Another day and it would have been too late. The funeral will be on 3rd February so I have plenty of time to pray to the good Lord and ask him to take care of my man's soul. 

Today I received some thoughts from Rosanne's husband in Australia. I would like to share them with you. His words will be included in the Order of Service on the day of the funeral. I just know everyone will smile when they read them and maybe, like me, they will shed a few tears. 

Everyone loved my Joe and they are now telling me how much. Yes, he was a great guy and I am so pleased I spent the last 38 years with him. 

MEMORIES OF JOE ... from FRANK MILETO (Son-in-Law)

Joe’s visits to Australia

I remember ...

My son, Hadley, coming in and shouting “You have to come outside and see Joe.”
Not knowing what to expect I ran outside and watched Joe balancing the soccer ball on his foot and doing other tricks. Enjoyment for me and my boys

Arriving home from work and Joe asking if I wanted a drink. I’m thinking beer or cordial but learnt fairly quickly when he came back with a cup of tea. Priceless!

Taking him to our famous steam engine Puffing Billy for a trip around the Dandenongs with Rosanne and my sons. Two days later I got home from work and asked Joe “what did you do today” he responded I went to Puffing Billy again. I realised his love for Steam Engine Trains was real.

At Mini railway in Eltham, he was like a kid in a candy shop especially when he was invited into the workshop.

Everything for Joe was “Brill”

Rosanne and I took him to a friend’s place on a 40 acre property, 3 hours outside Melbourne. When it was dark I took him at the front of the property to look at the stars where there was no artificial light around. The look on his face when he looked up nearly bought a tear to my eye. It was a beautiful moment for both of us. We felt that we could reach up and touch the myriad of stars up in the sky. Moment was confirmed in Joe’s log as his favourite moment on that year’s trip to OZ.

Visiting an upmarket Hotel at Southbank with Joe and Rosanne. The Menu had a great range to pick from. Without missing a beat Joe asked for fish and chips which gave me a chuckle because that’s all he ever ordered whenever we went out.

Joe walked our dog Bonnie every day and they became best mates. When he would go back to the UK I would occasionally take her for a walk around the block and be stopped by people recognising Bonnie who would ask me “How’s Joe”. He spent approx. 4 Months in 3 trips to Ferny Creek and because of his pleasant nature more people knew him than me. That doesn’t mean I am a miserable Git, it just means Joe walked Bonnie more than I did and probably closer to the truth he would talk to anyone.

There are many more stories of the time he came to Australia but his life was full and this was a small part.

Loved by his family and respected and loved by my immediate family as well.

Great man and I will miss him and the banter we would have about the soccer. Take your place in heaven, Joe. A giant amongst men and you are the true meaning of a gentleman. Love you to the day I die (hopefully long way to go for me).

05 January 2016

The reason why there are gaps in posts

Some will have guessed why I have been absent so for those who don't know I have to tell you that my Joe was admitted to hospital two days before Christmas. It was our wedding anniversary but he didn't realise that. Poor lad didn't have much of a Christmas but then neither did his family and friends. We were all very tearful. 
The thing is, the cancer has spread which has brought about many side effects that are equally severe. He was in awful pain and still is but painkillers do their best to ease things for him. The worst news is that nothing can be done. Head consultants have had to admit that they have done all they can and now it is up to the Lord. 
I am at the hospital every day where he has a huge audience of nurses and doctors - all of whom seem to love him. I too have been honoured with free dinners and umpteen cups of tea... and some people moan about hospital treatment! Actually I have done better than Joe because he has no appetite and refuses liquid most of the time. This is worrying because he needs fluids but what can you do when lips are locked? Fortunately there are such things as saline drips!
Family and friends are wonderful, and surprisingly Joe's clients (he audits their accounts, or rather he did!) have rallied round. Some have visited the hospital and others phone regularly to check on his condition. 
Joe is Roman Catholic and the priest visits nearly every day. Last rites were given early because the Priest thought it better not to wait. Today he received last sacraments which I found very moving. It is awfully difficult to stem the emotion at such times but somehow I manage it. Daughter Rosanne says I am a strong person. Am I? It doesn't feel like it, that's for sure. 
I hope the news doesn't upset anyone, but I had to explain my absence and give a reason for future gaps in posts. I love you all. God bless. 

15 December 2015

A MAN IN MY LIFE

I have posted this many times because it once brought me fame! The reason for this repeat and more to come is due to domestic circumstances not being what they once were due to Joe's medical setback. Hope newcomers to this blog will enjoy this story.

A MAN IN MY LIFE (Lady Denman Cup Winner 1988)

The room is so quiet that if you stood outside the door you would suppose it to be unoccupied; but there is an abundance of sound: crackling firewood, squealing chair springs, the vibrating window when a plane takes wing, the tap of steel needles, and the expletives when I drop a stitch. You might hear these sounds if you listen hard but you would not see Jeffrey's wicked endeavours to make me lose count, my voice rising with each enumeration as I walk two fingers along the pin, determined to outwit the arm-waving comedian and cursing the misfortune of being saddled with an imbecilic brother. The mantel clock proclaims its own opinion, issuing dull thuds, which are supposed to be reverberating chimes. Two o'clock, and the rest of the day to get through. Even the fire-logs serve to emphasise the hour, a pair of charred timber chunks spilling to the hearth. I toe to safety the smithereens of charcoal and inhale the intoxicating smell of burning wood as I study the flames, remembering my youth, when Jeffrey persistently devised new ways to destroy my concentration and the strife at school when homework was inadequately completed.
   
The dreadful clacking of Jeffrey's dentures infiltrates the reverie, transporting me to present time like an exploding bomb. First I am ensconced in daydreams, then, suddenly, I encounter reality head-on. Unexpectedly, my brother's grinning countenance brings a swelling to my throat. Family features: grizzled hair, bristly brows and pointed nose, except that Jeffrey now has pendulous jowls, skin dark with liver-spots, and hazel eyes mottled with age. At eighty-five he should be past indulging in puerility, but it is too late for him to change and, anyway, I am fond of his desultory ribbing. Occasionally.
   
While he gazes at me in his silly fashion, I set the rocking chair in motion, anxious to start the next stage of the complicated pattern yet hesitant in case Jeffrey renews the struggle for power. He looks docile enough, sitting erect like a spectator waiting for the show to begin, but I never know when he will embark on another wild prank. In two minutes I could be despising him; in three, I could be storming to pack his bag and return him to the home from which I delivered him, beseeching the dear Lord to explain why a man in my life is so essential.
   
My confession might shock you. If you could witness this scene of cosy domesticity you might think I am satisfied with my life, that my days consist of snug tête-à-têtes and happy reminiscences or that the daily woman's duties give me ample time to knit and amuse my brother. But how can I expect her to clean the mess that incontinence affords, or supervise his eating, and encourage him to aim for his mouth instead of his shirt? And yet, on reflection, your assessment could be right. Beneath the grievances, you might detect a glimmer of the affection I feel, for despite intensifying bouts of wrath and irritation I love the old fool to pieces.
   
Pleased that Jeffrey has settled to read I resume my occupation. Pins clicking furiously, my thoughts roam the years, evoking instances of his outlandish behaviour. Though his impaired mental state drives me to distraction he can be enormously entertaining; like now, as he absorbs the printed word, contorting his lips and nose as if they are moulded from rubber.

In the shadow of a frivolous father and two ebullient brothers, Jeffrey grew vague and bewildered before his time. As a consequence he relied on me for support, seeing me as an island of sanity in the midst of a chaotic existence. That's why I never married. The concept of leaving my guileless brother to fend for himself was inconceivable, though lately I long to be free of obligation. Notwithstanding, the good days outweigh the bad. In fact, until the onset of true dementia, most were agreeable; funny even, if an old man's waywardness can so be called.   
   
As dotage accelerated, Jeffrey became quite adventurous. At seventy, equipped with his pensioner's pass, he toured the county for bargains. But his logic left much to be desired. He once travelled a distance to save twenty-pence on melon, then spent ten times that amount on chocolate. I still remember his gleeful look when he produced the melon and the box of chocolates, and my incredulity.
   
The fingers are flying now and the rocker's going like a swing as I call to mind that day we waited in Woolworths for our brother to end a discourse with a chum. Thirty minutes trudging round counters, failed attempts to resist Jeffrey's pestering at the photograph booth and the endless wait for obscure pictures. Secretly chuckling, I recall Jeffrey's restlessness and his entreaties for a go on the weighing machine - several times - for the sheer joy of cramming weight cards in his pockets, which on the journey home were distributed among the passengers on the bus, his laughter so infectious that the whole of the upper deck joined in.
   
My feeble eyes are filling up; it always happens when I reproduce the images of bygone days. A pity they couldn't stay the same.
   
You should see Jeffrey now, playing peek-a-boo around the Daily Mail. I pretend not to notice his buffoonery. I could curb him but he's been in enough trouble since the episode next door. Unbeknown to me, on the days when I allowed him out alone, he developed the custom of going in the neighbouring gate and walking into Miss Smedley's house demanding tea. Initially she humoured him with biscuits or a cake, but when he burst in and ordered tea and toasted soldiers, with no regard for her undressed state, she ceased to think it amusing. He's now on tight rein lest the woman carries out her threat to call the police.
   
The room is dimming now that the winter sun has disappeared, and the fire needs banking. The clock thumps its message home. Four o'clock, it says. Time for tea. My daydreaming has taken me to girlhood and back, through teen-years to adulthood. And Jeffrey's cardigan is almost done. If the Almighty is willing I will finish it tomorrow, that is if Jeffrey deigns to let me get on. But then I'd worry. Since silence is an alien characteristic I wouldn't know if he was behaving or indisposed. Oh, if you could see him playing his game, retreating behind the paper like a guilty schoolboy whenever he catches my eye. I cannot help sniggering at his expression, a fooled-you kind of look, the sort meted out when my counting goes completely awry. I am tempted to teach him a lesson and leave his cardigan sleeveless but I cannot succumb to spite. You see, he won't have many more birthday gifts, and I won't have the foolish fun that life with him has brought.
   
See his face, see the way he peers at me like the simpleton he is. My throat constricts at the sight of him. Dear God, don't take him yet. For my sake, give him a year or two more.