Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Posting for Posting's Sake

Is it possible to feel inspired and yet so un-inspired at the same time? Maybe it's inspired but un-motivated. Perhaps that's tautology. Or just some form of an excuse. Either way, I feel like doing nothing, and it feels O.K whilst I am doing it, then after a few hours of doing nothing I start to feel incredibly guilty and frustrated.

I don't really have much to write about today, but I am using this as some sort of outlet, creative or not, and to break this vicious nothing circle of the day.

My mind is on some sort of heavy duty spin cycle but nothing seems to be getting clean.

"Are you writing a book?", the waiter asked me on Monday. "No, I am writing my thoughts down to help me stay sane". The reply was said with a little tongue in cheek, and I got a laugh, a nervous laugh. We are all telling some kind of story, whether they ever become a book or not is another matter.

Sometimes I think if I was to ever have a book, I'd just like it to be filled only with images.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Post Mortem and the Meaning of Life...

I spoke to my grandmother this morning. I called her as soon as the thought of calling her entered my head, without any hesitation. In the past, I have procrastinated, delaying several phone calls. I am sorry for that now. I had my reasons I suppose, even if some of them now seem selfish, but it saddened me when I called today and did not hear my Opa answer the phone. It saddens me even more knowing that I'll never hear that voice on the other end of the line again.

He never spoke for long during phone calls, but there was some sort of security, or stability... normality I suppose... with just the knowledge he was there, at home, with my grandmother. It was somewhat of a comforting thought I guess, for I had never known it to be any other way. Today when I called, it was so apparent that he was no longer there; that my grandmother is now all alone. She is being very strong and possibly more reasonable and rational than I have ever known her to be. She seems to now have far less demands and expectations of the world and her family. This makes me both happy and sad.

After speaking with my grandmother, I phoned my mother, who is still terribly sad about the loss of her father. Of course, I did not expect her to be anything but this, I too still find myself bursting into tears on occasion when I look at his photograph. The other day I asked C if it gets any easier, or should I just put the photo away for a while to avoid some of the sadness. He suggested I leave it up until I can look at it without having to well up; until I can look at it and smile and remember all the good things... the happy memories. I have many of those.

My grandfather was a lovely man. He adored his two children and two grandchildren. In return, he was adored by all four of us. His story has now become a huge inspiration for me.

( Weird. I am sitting at a favourite cafe, outside in the light rain, and I just smelt his smell; the smell I remember so well from sitting in his car. Now it's gone again.)

I want to paint. I need to paint. I want to dedicate my next body of work to his memory. After all, I have him to partly thank for my creative passion and artistic talent.

I have found myself becoming more and more curious about his heritage and his homeland of Russia. I found myself ordering a book of Russian fairy-tales online last week. It is the same book that was given to me as a child but I could not find it in the house. I remember loving it as a child, so I see no reason why I won't now, in fact I will probably get more out of it now, as an adult, than I did as a child.

I already have several ideas for new works. I tried sketching some of them the other day but I was so anxious and eager to get the ideas out and the images/works completed that I could not even draw. It was very frustrating.

I have also found it a little bit hard to write lately, on screen or paper. When I see the words appear it makes everything seem so much more real and right now I am having a bit of trouble dealing with reality.

I've often been called a dreamer... and I am O.K with that. Sometimes, in that world, everything is much nicer. Being a Piscean however, I am also part 'realist fish'. Some days I swim with the tide, other days against it. Part optimist, part pessimist. Sometimes I feel I am an expert at being both happy and sad at the same time. I don't always get to where I set out to go, but the journey is always interesting... sometimes even surprising, even in a good way.

I accept that the world we live in is far from perfect. My glass is neither half full or half empty... but it does exist.

It was a struggle and a surprise last week when my mother, (a normally optimistic, vibrant and happy person), turned to me and asked me the meaning of life. "I just wonder... what's the point of it all? Life? When one day 'poof'! you're gone." I stared back at her blankly for a good 3-4 seconds, frightened of what might come out of my mouth - and although my initial thought was, 'oh mum, you are so asking the wrong person' - I found a strange sense of comfort in my words.

After my few seconds of stunned silence, I felt calm and confident enough to provide some sort of answer... or at least a response. After all, is there really an answer to that question? Sometimes I wonder if we, (humans), ever find out - if not in life, then in death? It's a daunting thought for most to think that we don't - I suppose it just seems somewhat cruel... unfair... but then again, how do we measure fairness or even purpose for that matter? It makes more sense to me why people choose some sort of faith, in order to hold onto some sort of belief that there is something else... ?

Maybe this really is all there is. Am I O.K with that? My answer, I suppose, is 'does it matter'? My answer, or response to my mother was something along the lines of... "remember telling me how happy and proud he was when he received his diploma? His joy at becoming a grandfather for the first, and second, time... and then a great grandfather?" Words were just coming out of my mouth and we both just listened. "Mum, do you ever get excited about things? Do you ever, even if only for a second, feel such an overwhelming sense of happiness... pleasure... excitement that you forget about everything else?" I continued to suggest that perhaps it was these things, these moments, these feelings or intense emotions that gave our life on earth some sort of meaning or purpose. "I suppose so... Yes", was my mother's reply... and with that, it was like we both just accepted, (or not), that this indeed was a good enough answer to THE question, for better or for worse - and even if it wasn't, it was a good enough solution for now.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My Opa - Part 2

Yesterday was my grandfather's funeral. Saying goodbye is such a hard thing to do.

It still all feels a little bit surreal. Someone I have known and loved my whole life, is now gone.

I guess in one way I am lucky to have only attended one funeral prior to this, (that of an ex-boyfriend's grandfather whom I got along with very well); and in 35 years that seems to be quite rare. I have been fortunate enough to have my loved ones with me all this time... until last week.

I got the call from my mother early on Tuesday morning. In fact I was still in bed. As soon as I saw it was her calling, I just knew it was bad news. I was told that my grandfather had suffered a massive stroke on Monday night and it was worse than they first thought, with untreatable hemorrhaging from the brain - he was deeply unconscious and not expected to last the day. My uncle and grandmother were at the hospital. I called my uncle who suggested I just go to work and do all my normal daily things as there was nothing I could do that would alter the outcome. I felt confused after that call. In hindsight I can understand where he was coming from but I could not just pretend it was not happening. I phoned my mother back to get some perspective. Unfortunately, she was in Coffs Harbour on holiday with my father and would not be able to get to Melbourne that day. This, I know, was a devastating thought for her. Knowing that my mother could not be there, I HAD to go. I then called my partner and he confirmed that I should get in the car and head to the Austin, even if hesitant, at least get down there and make a decision then.

I got in the car, and from that moment I was on auto-pilot. I drove for nearly 2 hours, arrived at the Austin, ignored the 'Car Park Full' sign and drove into the underground car park, parked the car and proceeded to ask directions to my grandfather's room.

I thought I would be ok, but as soon as I opened the door and saw him lying there I burst into tears. This was the last time I would ever see him. The reality smacked me in the face as soon as I entered the room. It was a feeling I have never felt before.

I hugged my uncle, embraced my grandmother, then walked over to my unconscious grandfather and held his head and kissed his temple and whispered words of love from my mother and from me, and I then sat with them for around 2 hours before I had to call my mother to let her know her father was about to draw his last couple of breaths. "How do you know? How does anyone know?", she frantically shouted into the phone. I just knew, we all did. It was the hardest phone call I have ever made. A moment later my grandfather drew his last breath.

We see and hear stories of death every day. They never fail to sadden me in some way, but, with no disrespect whatsoever, there is often an element of disconnection when you are not directly involved with that life. It makes it no more or less sad than my loss - in fact, my grandfather lived a long and eventful life and was fortunate to have endured and experienced 87 years on this earth. Many are not nearly as fortunate and I acknowledge that. Still, I feel a sadness in relation to his death and our family's loss. I still cannot look at his photo without getting teary. He will be greatly missed.

Though I have little funeral attendance experience, I will say the service was pleasant. I'd even go as far as to say it was a 'nice' service - under the circumstances. My grandfather would probably agree.

My mother had asked me not only to write the eulogy, but to also read it at the service. I agreed instantly, however, prior to the service I had become quite nervous and anxious about the whole thing. I honestly did not believe I could get through it without falling apart.

I had words with the celebrant prior to the service to discuss proceedings and formalities. I also had words with my grandfather in the bathroom just before the service started, asking him to give me the strength to get through this tribute without bursting into tears - I told him if I cried it would set everyone off and that would not be good because I had a story to tell - HIS story!

"Hello", I think is what I started with. Anything that was not written down is now a bit of a blur. "Not a bad turn out for an old fellow", I do remember saying... but I don't remember hearing anyone laugh. My grandfather would have. I needed to use some of his dry humour to get me through this delivery. It worked and I proudly told his story, and eventually even got a few smiles and chuckles from a very tough crowd.

When Lara's Theme was played at the beginning of the service, I saw my grandfather, dancing and smiling, as if to say it was ok... HE was ok.

Lara's Theme is the name of a piece of music written for the film Doctor Zhivago (1965) by composer Maurice Jarre. It then became the basis of the song - Somewhere My Love. I thought the words were quite fitting, as though my grandfather was saying this as he danced off the stage...

Somewhere, my love, there will be songs to sing
Although the snow covers the hopes of Spring
Somewhere a hill blossoms in green and gold
And there are dreams, all that your heart can hold
Someday we'll meet again, my love
Someday whenever the Spring breaks through

You'll come to me out of the long-ago
Warm as the wind, soft as the kiss of snow
Till then, my sweet, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again

Someday we'll meet again, my love
I said "someday whenever that Spring breaks through"

You'll come to me out of the long-ago
Warm as the wind, and as soft as the kiss of snow
Till then, my sweet, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again!

I received much praise at the conclusion of the service, but I gave all the credit to my grandfather - after all, it was his life that made the story I told so remarkable.