June 2011

Hanging… On…In….There.

by Lori Dwyer on June 30, 2011 · 31 comments

Both my children are sick.

Fevers, runny noises, a deep rattly cough that is terrifying in the middle of the night. (We are so far away here, if something goes wrong… so far away from a hospital, a large medical centre… so far away from my mum.)

I am exhausted, up to them repeatedly at night to cuddle and kiss the pain away, to administer Vicks on their chests for their coughs, Nurofen for spiking fevers that leave them brick hot, cheeks flushed.

And I feel a pallid, almost complete exhaustion. This is single parenting, and this is rough.

After two days of sickness, two days of the Bump crying, clear liquid running from her eyes and nose and mouth all at once; two days of the Chop, grumpy and screaming unintelligibly at me when his fever rises, cheeky and filled with a kind of energy that only a three year old boy can possess when the meds kick in… after two days of that, I snap, and lose my temper.

The Chop screams at me, for pressing Play on the DVD we are watching, and throws a dummy that hits me square in the face. I am filled with a white hot rage, and, before I know what I am doing, I slap him, open hand, on the thigh.

His face crumples, and of course, the screaming intensifies. I see a red mark, the shape of my fingers… it’s the shape of shame, and it’s forming on his leg.

I kiss it better, I apoligise profusely, and I wrap him up on the lounge in a blanket to watch TV. I go outside and look at the stars, I light a cigarette.

And then I cry. because this is so fucking unfair, and so difficult, and I am so damn tired. The mother guilt is eating at me, the life guilt takes my breath away.

My son, he forgives quickly, as small children do, and the three of us, we cuddle on the lounge. The smell of Vicks, warmed by the skin of tiny bodies, is comforting.

Tonight, it will be another long night. I remind myself that this is what millions of women do, all by their themselves…. but it’s still difficult. I just wish I had someone to take the pressure off, someone to get up at night.. someone to cry with, to play tag team with… I wish i still had Tony’s endless patience for our children, that kicked in when mine was lacking.

Hanging on in there. Because what else is there to do?

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Nature, Nurture and The Memories In Between.

by Lori Dwyer on June 29, 2011 · 16 comments

Some days I wish I could see, all of this, this whole total life change we’ve had, through the eyes of my son. So I would know best how to ease his pain, what i can say that will be of the most comfort.

Other days, I’m so glad I’m spared that pain. Just imagining the pain of my little one is enough to break m. To be immersed it…. the pain would drown, unable to breath through the crushing viciousness of it on my chest.

I watch my son grieve as I do, back and forth, toward and away from the memory of his dad. Unable to watch TV shows or movies we used to enjoy with him, because to become trapped in a memory like that hurts, not while you’re in it- but once you remember that a memory is all it is.

Then, I watch him sleep on the floor, curled up around a pillow the way he used to with his dad. And I see him, mourning as I do. Pulling the memory close for comfort, as much as it cuts ans chaffs at your soul.

My son, he is more like his father every day. Nature, nurture, and the memories that fill in the gap.

In Tony’s eulogy, they mentioned our little boy, and the way he stands just like his father- one arm stretched out to lean against something for support, one foot crossed over the other. He still does that, stands like that… a habit. But he no longer tells me he’s being a man, just like Daddy.

And just recently, my son has developed a strong gag reflex to smell. Just like father had.

Nature, nurture, habit.

In a way, I feel grateful that he is old enough to have absorbed that core of masculinity his father had. I think that’s become intrinsic, his measure of masculinity. The Bump, she will miss her father (I wonder, how old she will be, when she starts asking questions, and realises a father is a generally accepted part of a family?), but, and it’s my own feminine and masculine stigma showing here- it seems less of a blow for a little girl to lose her father, than it is for a little boy.

I remind myself, that while I have a framework to fit his in, my son does not. Suddenly, his best friend, his idol… the centre of his world… was gone. With no explanation, except what I give him, which always seems futile, and never enough.

It seems important to remember the last time my children saw their father. But my memory tricks me, and the details aren’t solid.

I can’t remember if the Bump was awake when Tony came home that day, or if our arguing woke her up. I can’t remember, exactly, if Tony picked her up and gave her a cuddle.

My memory, a vague, shadowy one, it tells me he did. And I like to think of that as the last time she saw her father…. I hope, if she remembers anything at all, it’s that, and not the Other.

My little boy… I just don’t know. Tony put him to bed the night Before This, I remember that. It was Tony’s birthday, and I tried not to get cranky as he stirred up our incorrigible three year old right on sleep time.

I know it was a habit of Tony’s to say good morning to our son, our Chop, as he left for work in the mornings. Chop was usually awake, playing in his bedroom, safely behind a baby gate that served a double protection for our long flight of stairs. Tony would go in, say good morning, and bring the Chop a glass of milk to start the day, giving the Bump and I an extra half hour in bed.

Chop was, thankfully, sleeping when This Happened.I don’t know if Tony did his usual thing, on the 6th of January, if he crept in and had an early conversation with his son, a final goodbye with his best mate. I’ll never know.

But I like to think he did.

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by Lori Dwyer on June 28, 2011 · 20 comments

I have dreamed, off and on- more, recently, now I sleep un-medicated. I dream of standing in the shower in my friend Auntie Mickey’s house, where I spent those horrific days between ICU and funeral, my breasts running with milk, overflowing with the elixir of human life, white liquid escaping in uneven spurts and melting into watery rivulets that slide sown my skin and past my bellybutton. The tight feeling of engorgement in my chest, the heat of breastfeeding a newborn in my nipples.

I think it may be my body, weeping. For my small, young family that did not quite feel complete.


I am so jealous, it catches me in the middle and pulls at me. To witness a young family- mother, father, children complete- it aches me deep down, somewhere primal.

52 months I spent with Tony. 18 of them married. 17 of them pregnant. And 28 of them breastfeeding. Our relationship was all about creating life, and we reveled in that. My daughter weaned herself just two months before Tony died.

The traditions, the language, the nuances that make up the nucleus of a family… I watch the rhythm of them, the comfort of it, the shared history and mutual understanding; I hear the beat of it in other people’s lives and it makes me want to sob at the unfairness of it, the ridiculous anti-equilibrium it has created for my children and I.

The brightness, the perfection, the smugness of my perfect nuclear family…. it was beautiful but now it’s gone, and it will never be recreated. Things will be good again, if I have any say in it all… but the gossamer strings that held in place that perfect life are gone.

I will replace it. With the vision of a kick arse single mum, who does what she has to do for her kids. A family, with a bit missing, like a limb that will heal with a scar. But heal it will. There will be- is- something beautiful about our new family dynamic, a grittiness and a closeness, an appreciation and empathy and a deep, big love.

A nuclear family, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all, not the only thing to aspire to.

But I loved it so much…. I was so happy with what I had.

This is not what I expected. But things haven’t been, not for months now… I’m beginning to stop expecting at all.

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