This post is probably of no interest at all to anyone else and being so long I think it's fair to warn you that moving on to the next blog now is probably your best option. I've just has some sad news today and need to sort through my thoughts and memories so I can be ready to move on.
Two weekends ago, I came across an old photo. I think most of us change friends over the course of our lifetimes, but there are some friends that are always part of your life in some way or another, no matter where you are physically and on every level. For the last year or so of high school, my best friend was a girl who for the purpose of this post I will call Pie.
Pie and I were friends at a time when we were gaining real independence in our lives. We had the trust of our parents to go out without curfews, had our own "stuff" and were establishing our own haunts. My parents had been divorced for a few years and hers since she was a baby but where my step-dad was creating a very unhealthy and unhappy home environment for me, hers was more of a father to her than her real father (or mine for that matter) ever was.
As teenagers do, we spent a lot of time in each others homes; I practically lived at hers most school holidays. It's not until I've had step-kids and kids of my own that I realise the impact that has on a home but that understanding has made me realise even more what a wonderful Mum and step-dad Pie had. They completely welcomed me and I was actually friends with them to the point where we would all hang out together and often had our own running jokes and were just comfortable, you know? It was everything in a blended family that I didn't have in my own home at a really important time of my life and on top of that I really appreciated both the way they respected me as an individual as well as the way they respected and loved one another.
Pie's mum, Tink, and her step-dad, Woolf, were a wonderful couple. They co-existed so well: they had jokes, they had frustrations, they had hobbies and it was a real friendship. I used to love spending time there and loved going through their old records (total ex-hippies, they were) and old photos. Of course, Pie thought they were boring and annoying, as most kids do, but we still had a great time together.
I dated Pie's brother, D-San, for a while and Tink and Woolf were just so wonderful through the relationship as well as the breakup. It could have been difficult as they are very loving and supportive parents but they were also so supportive of me and this helped on the times in the future, well, you know how it is around an ex.
Anyway, the world moved on and Pie and I developed our separate interests in terms of jobs, partners, houses, as is the way things go, but we were still always friends. We were always involved in each others lives to some degree, sometimes more than others. We were there when each of our kids were born, celebrated birthdays and she was my only bridesmaid at my wedding.
A few years later, Pie's mum, Tink, had an aneurysm in her head rupture. She was in a coma for months and when she came out of her coma she had to undergo extensive physio and has been wheel chair bound ever since. Pie once said to me that Tink wasn't "in there" any more but I think she was; she's just didn't have the social filter so was more raw in her expressions and I think Pie was just trying to disconnect from the pain she felt to see her mother that way and to be treated by her as she was.
This was obviously a hard time for all and created a huge burden on Pie's dad, Woolf, particularly, as he became Tink's full-time carer and had to do everyday things for Tink, the woman who he had thought he would always only ever need to be a husband to, that one would have to do for a baby with feeding her and cleaning her and doing everything that was needed so she could stay at home with him rather than go into a care facility. Sometimes he did this with more grace than others but no matter how tough things were, he always treated her with respect.
It's been a few years since I've seen Tink or Woolf but I keep in contact with Pie. We always talk about how they are going, their antics, Woolf's latest interest (he's always doing something). When I found the photo the other day I spent ages just looking at it. It was from 1992 so was before Tink's aneurysm and Woolf looked so young. It was a candid shot and it captured so much of their personalities. It made me sad for what they had both lost with Tink's health.
Then, last week, Pie had an update on Facebook that was a little cryptic but I knew something was wrong. I contacted her and she told me that Woolf had had a suspected heart attack. I've seen recent photos of him and I know he looks like most other men in their sixties but in my head and in my heart he is as he was before - doing ballroom dancing with Tink in the lounge room with all of us laughing because he danced like a six-foot tall bikie fairy - making paola, pumpkin soup, curried sausages or the famous chicken-noodle soup potato dish - coming in and jumping on the bed to wake Pie and I up when I'd slept over - drinking beers with his mates at his 50th birthday party (he loved the present I got him - a model of a motor bike made out of nuts and bolts, I think it was his favourite present of the night).
Pie gave me an update a few days later saying they didn't think it was a heart attack and that things were looking good. He came home from hospital a few days later.
Then, this morning, the phone rang at ten to eight and it was D-San to tell me that Woolf had passed away on Saturday night. Pie hadn't been able to ring me herself but I ended up speaking to her and we cried together over the phone line that connected the 300km that separate us these days. They said it wasn't his heart, he had just given up. He'd taught his oldest grandchild about fresh tomatoes and knew that Pie and his other kids were finally getting things together and being the people that they want to be. He had a few beers and ate pizza and then passed away later that night.
Pie made me laugh, even through our tears, and I can hear Woolf laughing with us, too. I know that the last thing he would want is for everyone to be crying, but I am so sad for the way the world turns sometimes. I can see the inspiration in the person that he was and I know that there is a lesson coming for me through that, but for now I just feel like crying. I sit here and write this as the candle I have lit for in memory shines brightly as it burns down, as is the way with our lives here on earth. Woolf always shone, no matter what his circumstances, and he was always busy and just doing something but he took it all in his (very long) stride and he made it look easy to balance everything that life throws at you. He had a warmth in his heart that glowed through every pour on his face and a kindness and humour in his eyes that always made you think things were going to be ok and I'm crying because all of that is gone now. And I know he is happier now and that he was ready to die and after I finish with my tears I will raise a glass to him and will honour the lessons he taught starting by working on making my own decisions and then making everyday choices to support that.
Blessed be, Woolf, you are much loved and I am grateful for having known you in this world. May your spirit be able to soar now with the freedom that this transition makes possible and may your energy and love stay forever in our hearts.