wings and things

Special K

‘Special K’ is the nickname I have chosen to give my 13-year-old, 6’2″ nephew, not just for the sake of his privacy, but also because he is especially special.

This is a difficult post to write but here goes: Special K was one of the five children injured in a car accident in which Ming was the driver … a bit over two years ago.

Special K was the only one thrown out of Ming’s ute, his leg was broken badly, and he was subsequently emergency-helicoptered to Perth with his father (my youngest brother). And yet this brave and beautiful boy, instead of screaming, helped everyone to calm down. I don’t know how he did this because I wasn’t there; I was at the other end of a suddenly-silent telephone call in which Ming said, “Mum, I’ve had an accident.”

Fast forward to now and all of the children have recovered physically except for Special K who needs an operation to remove the plate from his leg. He might even need another smaller plate inserted; I don’t know.

Ming and I were talking about life and death yesterday and he admitted that he thinks about the accident every single day.

Me: But you were so philosophical at the time, Ming! You kept reminding me that nobody died!

Ming: You were a mess, Mum.

I think the fact that Special K has to have an operation on his injured leg has thrown me back to that dreadful night and reminded me of how resilience works. IMG_0240

As you can see from the photo, Special K is almost as gorgeous as our brand new 007!

[This post is for you, Jo – mother of all mothers!]



One of the things I have had to do in all of the recent decluttering is to toss some things into a miscellaneous box to be figured out at a later date. Despite the fact that this box is getting rather full it is good to know that I have one place to put anything that I don’t recognise. I will hold the object out to Dina and say, “Do you know what this is?” (Usually it’s some sort of ancient tool – an artefact from Anthony’s past). If neither of us can figure it out, it goes into the miscellaneous box – perfect. Then it’s over to ‘the Ming’.

I thought it might be quite fitting to write a bit of a miscellaneous post, having discovered that ‘miscellaneous’ is a definite, and quite acceptable, category. So here goes:

Most of the grapes are ripe now and I can just pick them and eat them whenever I go outside. I think it’s just the one vine and the wild birds get to them as fast as I can so there is almost no point picking them. They grow just outside the back door and I’m not sure if Anthony planted them or if they were there before the family came here.


The figs are nearly finished for the year as the heat is getting the better of them – and the butcher birds (which Gar, Anthony’s mother, used to hate). Last year I just let most of them fall of the tree and frizzle in the sun but this year I have given many bags away to friends, family, the local pub, the restaurant where Ming works (my mother and I went there today for lunch and the fig and coconut muffins were a hit), neighbours etc. I have also eaten quite a few with Ants in the nursing home. I also went to another restaurant and asked if they wanted figs and they said YES and I asked what I would get in exchange, suggesting a lunch voucher and they said yes to that too, though a little less enthusiastically.


After lunch with my mother today I went in to the nursing home to spend some time with Ants before my 3 – 7pm shift in the dementia house. I had my camera with me so took some photos through his window of the outlook from his room. This garden area – one of many – is where he often ‘sees’ calves and often asks me to go out and check if they are all okay, which of course I always do and the calves are always okay.


Periodically, I rearrange or change the pictures on his walls. The photo of younger Anthony has pride of place very high on one wall where there happened to be a hook and he rather likes looking up at himself!


Me: You really like looking at yourself don’t you! Such vanity, Ants.

Ants: Men need to love themselves.

Me: Why?

Ants: In case nobody else does.

Okay I am kind of cheating here as the above conversation happened over a year ago. Ants doesn’t articulate so well anymore but he sure as hell likes looking at the photo and so do I. It kind of pulls us both into the time warp of when we first met.

Then there is the oil painting of cattle that I commissioned from an artist friend years ago; a calendar my mother made of moments/months in our lives (e.g.. Ming recovering from his first spinal surgery); and one of the few photos of Anthony and his mother in her latter years, that I had framed for him once upon a time.


Then I took a picture of the rose plant I gave Ants not long ago. Everybody has remarked on their blooms and many people, including Anthony, thought they were real until I finally had to own up to the fact that they were VERY expensive fake roses made of silk. Some people are still fooled though, especially when I spray them with rose perfume – haha!


Well now that all of the ancient rose trees on the driveway of the farm are either dead or dying, the fake rose tree seemed like a good idea. In my defence, I am hopeless at gardening and every time I water something the pump makes the electricity bill soar!


Just before 3pm, after watching Judging Amy with Ants, I went into his bathroom and quickly changed out of my t-shirt into my new uniform, put my name tag on and explained I was going to work. He always only remembers a bit of this new situation so I have to explain again that I am not going somewhere else but will be working just next door and that I might be able to see him a couple of times during my shift. This reassures him and whenever he gets anxious I just tease and tickle him into his new half-smile and all is well.

This afternoon it was a bit too humid to take many people for a walk outside or through the complex and it wasn’t until I took a teary S for a wheelchair walk that I saw Ants again (just as I saw many of the people in the high-care section as S and I did a lap of the gardens and hallways).

S. Who’s that old chap?

Me: My husband.

S. Not bad-looking!

Me: Keep your hands off him, S!

S. (chuckling and sticking her tongue out at me) All right.




Would you rather …?

The storybook that my mother, Meg, read from on her 8oth birthday cruise last weekend was one of her grandson’s favourites when he was little. (Thanks Morgan!) Here is a link to it on youtube

Meg brought the book with her and insisted that all of the grandchildren sit on the floor of the boat despite the fact that half of them are now in their 20s and even the youngest (12-year-old twins) are close to 6 feet tall. Then she began to read and something rather magical happened as they were all catapulted back in time and transformed into giggling little kids in the thrall of Grandma. One of the most hilarious moments was when my mother said to one grandson, in her best school teacher voice, “Rohan, pay attention!” Everyone collapsed into laughter as this big ‘boy’ – now a husband and father – obeyed. Then everyone competed, hands raised, to answer the questions posed on each page of the book.



In googling information about this storybook, I discovered that “Would you rather …?” has become a bit of a party game and I can see why! It was one of the highlights of a perfect day.


Out of the mouths of babes….

This group of quotes for Gma’s birthday book does not need any explanation from me.






There are more quotes to come of course – from some of the bigger ‘kids’ – but I will save those for tomorrow night after the boat cruise. Suffice it to say that these children’s words, enclosed in her book (and rather brilliantly photographed by me – ha!) have culminated in the most beautiful, mutual, unshakable hug of family.

Oh, I can’t resist: here is Jared’s (Meg’s second grandchild):



Rowing the boat!

My mother’s 80th birthday is happening soon!
We are all going on a boat cruise lunchy thing in a few weeks.

Over twenty of us –
That’s my two brothers and me,
our spouses,
plus all of our kids,
plus my nephew’s wife,
and my niece’s husband,
one newish grandkid (very special),
the boys’ girlfriends, the girls’ boyfriends,
someone who knows how to row the boat!

Idiotically (I am not the least bit art-and-crafty) I suggested putting together a book for ‘Grandma’. I solicited quotes and photos from all grandchildren, very successfully, and now I am covered in glue and ink, and know the difference between a portrait and a landscape photograph.

Ming came into my writing room tonight to find the recent neat-and-tidiness chaotic with the ‘casualty’ photos all over the floor.

Me: I love doing this, Ming! Grandma is going to be thrilled!

Ming (backing away cautiously): Mum, I’m on my way out, okay? I’m not interested in whatever you are doing here because it just looks like a mess to me. Bye!

Anyway, I am having a huge amount of fun with the Grandma book and it is comforting to know that if that boat-cruisy boat falters, Grandma will probably row us back to shore ….



The maternal conundrum


Sometimes we want them to get lost, stop interfering and giving advice, and to stop implying what we should do/be.
Other times, we limp, bruised and bloodied, into their laps, for the kind of hugs that nobody else can give.

On my bulletin board I still keep a note that Ming wrote some months ago – “Stop mothering me!” At the time, he was referring to my overbearing attitude to his diet, so I stepped back from this, finally willing to let him fend for himself.

But. tonight, it kind of went the other way because Ming was asking me why I had taken so long to be okay again, since the car accident. My response was sarcastic: “Not sure, Ming – might have something to do with the fact that five kids were injured?”

Ming: But, Mum, they are all okay now and I always knew they would be!

Me: Well I didn’t know for sure, so I was terribly worried.

Ming: So, Mum, please can you stop worrying now? They are all good!

Me: Okay. I am still reeling from the court case result and can’t quite believe it, Ming.

Ming: Just accept it, Mum – it’s over now. Stop (s)mothering me!


Here comes the bride!

This afternoon my sister-in-law (married to my youngest brother) and their three younger children came to stay overnight at my mother’s house because they have hospital checkups up in Perth tomorrow and the next day.

Neither my family or theirs was able to attend my eldest niece’s wedding in Scotland a few months ago to her Scottish beau. So, as a special treat for all of us, Ashtyn came over in her wedding dress! Later tonight they will watch the wedding video which Ming and I have already seen. In fact, we were the first to see it – quite an honour as we got to watch it with the happy couple, and, even though I am not usually a wedding crier, I did shed a few happy tears.

It was so beautiful to see my sister-in-law, and my nieces and nephew (all of whom have nearly fully recovered from injuries sustained in the accident), and then, when Ashtyn arrived in her dress, it was such a buzz for all of us!

My other brother’s daughter (Ashtyn’s younger sister) will hopefully get her spinal brace off in a couple of days. As you can imagine, we are all in a state of perpetual hope that this will happen.

As a whole, our family is beginning to breathe a bit easier now. Well, Ashtyn had to take the wedding dress off and change before she could breathe at all, but that’s beside the point!




Oh and my mother prepared an incredible meal for everyone of leftover pizzas from Ming’s party. Perfect!



My mother had a terrible fall yesterday and is in hospital undergoing surgery for three fractures in her wrist. Her pelvis is also fractured in two places. She had just recovered from a fractured hip and was elated to be able to ride her bicycle again and it was only her second ride. A neighbour found her on the road and rang me. Since then it has been a bit chaotic.

She shines.

I weep.


First brother


My first brother, BJ, turns 52 today which is wonderful because for the next six weeks or so he will only be a year younger than I am – ha!

BJ is a chiropractor, like our father was, and he is now working in the Solomon Islands with his wife and two of his five children (yes, First brother and Baby brother surpassed me long ago in the baby-making stakes).

This is him with our mother a couple of years ago. He has taken to wearing a kilt because his eldest daughter is getting married in Scotland next year and I think he also quite likes the look of his own legs.


And that’s BJ on the left, Baby brother in the middle and me on the right – in our father’s arms.

Both my brothers have inherited our dad’s love of being a father.

Happy birthday, BJ!


I sent my mother a saddish email and this is what I got in return!

For Julie. 2012.

Where to begin.

You are a symbol of all that is beautiful in my life.

I can’t remember my own infancy, but I remember yours, every detail, every freckle, every asthma attack, every giggle. I remember getting the news that I was pregnant with you, and telling absolutely everyone including the man in the ticket office when I bought a train ticket to Sydney that day.

I remember the newsagent’s surprise when I was on the way to give birth to you, and Dad stopped so I could buy a Readers Digest to read during the confinement, absolutely sure it would be a breeze. The elevator man on the way up to the labour ward commented with a smile, that he had never seen such a cheerful expectant mum. And the moment when you were placed in my arms. Unforgettable. Grandma and Grandpa were in Melbourne which nearly killed Grandma…. and me.

I remember decorating your room in Canada, for one of your birthdays. I remember the tiny little flared skirts and rope petticoats I made you when you could just toddle. I remember Percy, the wooden penguin, and your delight pushing him on the stick in front of you. I remember the excitement of driving over to Dee Why to show you off to Grandma and Grandpa so often. I remember the pushcart and you all dolled up in a knitted outfit I’d made, and getting you on to the train from Birrong, to once more show you off to the staff at MLC, who must have groaned when they saw me coming once again, to show how you’d grown, at least a week from the last visit.

I remember you with Daniel and Kalainu in PNG the baby on your hip, like a third arm. And the love shining in the eyes of those beloved New Guineans, Tulia and the rest…such love and adoration.

I remember your tears and the agony of leaving PNG in that tiny plane. You never got over that, nor did we, watching your pain.

I remember the look of love and concern when I opened my eyes to find you bending over me after my mastectomy.

I remember you playing your guitar and singing at Brin and Julie’s wedding, with your heart breaking because Anthony had let you down and didn’t come.

I remember you flying way over the rope marker for the high jump at Ukarumpa. I remember the basket ball against the PNGers on the top court at twilight….Dad and me watching.

I remember Dad, standing at the pulpit at St Matthews, with you, a tiny dot up to his knees, walking up to take his hand in front of the congregation. I remember Dad proudly saying you were a chip off the old block, after a conversation with you by phone from that awful Bible College.

I will never forget your face when you arrived in Perth airport after he died.

I remember Nanna’s face when you used to run into her house to visit. I remember you playing with all the dogs and cats we’ve owned throughout your life. I remember the tearful phone call to my school the day you found your precious pregnant cat, dead outside the house and asking could the kittens be saved, and the agony of the distance away that I was and how powerless I was to comfort you.

I remember your radiant beauty, set off by the sheen in the gorgeous blue of your outfit at your wedding. I see the look of total undying love that Anthony gave to you as he placed the ring on your finger. I remember the label still hanging off the sleeve of my wedding outfit at the church and I remember buying it in a shop, near where I was having some sort of nuclear cancer test soon after you were engaged.

I remember tiny Rohan and Jared all spruced up and full of importance on your wedding day, and your brothers so proud.

I remember the way you mothered baby Brin, and held this great fat child on your own little knees, and later even more motherly when a second little brother arrived. You never seemed to mind the attention they got.

I have a drawer full of your cards and letters telling me how much you love me. I have a drawer full of your amazing writings and a heart full of pride and wonder at your giftedness.

I remember sitting in the car with you when we pulled over to talk deeply about God, after a church meeting and how insistent you were that you understood it all.

I remember how literally you took some of the things your Sunday School teacher taught you and giving out tracts at service stations and how negative that whole part of your life was. But I remember your faith and Len and Betty Evans and the way they loved you.

I remember knocking on the door of the doctor in Ukarumpa when you were having a terrible asthma attack, and being afraid to wake him up.

I remember the patience of a small girl, sitting on a rock by a lake in Canada, as you coached a tiny chipmunk onto your hand. Later, I remember your skidoo taking off at high speed, with us watching helpless with laughter from inside the cabin, as Fred Brown tried to catch you and tell you to stop squeezing the accelerator. And was it you laughing when I did the same thing with your scooter, in Boyanup?

I remember when Mark gave you that little motor scooter. I see the way Mark’s face still softens every time he asks after you.

I see the way the whole room lights up when you arrive to family dinners and last time, I relished the sounds of laughter and love coming from the dining room as I played with the younger kids in my bedroom.

I love the way you love Ashtyn.

I remember Dad and me watching the three of you skating in Toronto, and the time a man skated up behind you and scooped you up to skate a few metres with you high in the air.

I remember how freezing the walk back to the apartment was afterwards, and how you cried with the pain of your defrosting fingers.

I remember how bewildered you were when you three burst into the apartment, identical to ours, but on the sixth floor of the wrong apartment block, in Toronto.

I remember the apple pies in Boyanup and how my stove was permanently welded with the overflowing apple sauce.

I remember the 10k ride at early light, day after day, to look after Gar.

I remember the phone call from UWA saying please could you come home, and Dad saying unequivocally, “Yes.”

I remember the poem you wrote to be read at Dad’s funeral, and the pain. Oh the pain.

I remember how homesick you were when you went to stay at Melodie Brown’s. I remember the shock of the news just after we left PNG, that Ruth had been killed on that motor bike. I remember you and Dad going away for Christmas at Yapeta’s village that year and how strange it was for all of us.

I remember Yapeta never wanting to turn the shower off when Harland brought the three PNGers to stay with us in Toronto. I remember Mandalia stopping in his tracks the first time you yelled a greeting in Wiru, from the front window of our house in Ukarumpa, and how amazed the missionaries were when you spoke more fluently in Pigin, than they did after all their years and years there.

I loved every moment of your young motherhood years. The zillions of photos you took of Ming, and the full blown motherhooding that swept over you, after never touching another person’s baby in your adult life…..or since. The almost unearthly knowledge of this child who had been promised to you even before you and Anthony were married.

The way you “wifed” Anthony and changed nothing in his home or lifestyle. A person so content, who needed nothing more than to be with her man and make his life seamless in transition, except for the wild surge of joy and the total texture of the life changing love you brought to him.

I love the transformation of the farm into an exotic bird paradise.

I love the way you give Ming absolute freedom to be himself. I love the no strings way you’ve brought him up.

I love your blog. Your honesty, your willingness to let us in. And most of all your sense of humour that colours absolutely everything you do and say, and yes, the guffaw, that has become your trademark.

I remember Dr  Dan Hugo saying you were a “real” doctor, when you got you PhD and how I wanted to trumpet the news to the world, while you left plain “Julie Goyder” on your office door for years, not bothering with the Dr.I love that you are free of materialism, when I’m so opposite. You have bucketloads of empathy in its place, but that’s a huge burden for you. I love the way everyone loves you and wants to be your friend, but you’re so happy with your own company.

I love you boot fetish.

When you write the dialogue between the birds, I love the way they talk about you, the human.

You are so refreshing.

I hated the months when you would only eat apples or have a glass of water in a coffee shop.

Do you remember standing on Dad’s feet and walking with him step by step on his big shoes when you were 2?

Do you remember the ominous silence when Dad would threaten to pull the car over when the three of you wouldn’t stop fighting in the back seat on our long Canadian trips?

Do you remember yelling “Turn off the wipers, Dad”, when he always forgot?

Do you remember Grandma shrieking with delight as you all tobogganed down the ravine in Bexhill Road?

Do you remember Grandpa laughing till the tears came, recounting the smell of the skunk as it drifted over them, upstairs at Bexhill?

And Grandpa giving us the red car when they left to come back to Australia.

What about Macdonald’s every Saturday after cleaning Islington Evangel Centre. The wonderful freedom to order whatever you liked as payment for helping Dad every week.

The horror of the “air hostess” uniform you were forced to wear at the Grammar School and that awful day when you fell over a laddered your stocking and bled all over the place.

What about the shock hearing Ming’s name suddenly read out at that same school about 35 years later, when he got the Principal’s Award. Uncanny.

I loved all those Sundays at the farm when you reluctantly played table games with Ming and me, with Anthony watching benignly on. And what about the hilarity of “Black Books”, Sunday after Sunday.

Do you remember telling Auntie Myra off for her grammar, or things like throwing the clothes onto the basket…”Don’t throw them, Auntie Myra….PUT them,” and the number of times you quoted the Bible at me, as a 4 year old.

I know you thought my singing in the car all the way to and from the North Shore every day, that year you went to Abbotsleigh, was hard to take. I remember you saying frantically, “Don’t kiss. Don’t kiss!” as I leant over to open the car door when I picked you up after school when you were seven.

I don’t like remembering the way you had to drag poor, little tearful Mark to pre school in Canada, after I’d left for work each day. Or those bullies who knocked you off your bike. I hate how hard some of your childhood was.

What a reader you were. You could read C.S.Lewis when you were so very young. The world of imagination was your friend and enemy.

Do you remember going into the woods with Dad to get a Christmas tree some years?

I remember how you saved up to buy me presents when you were so young.

You wrote the most beautiful letter to “Unkool Mik”, when he lost his legs from diabetes. I have never read anything so heart wrenching.

I love it that you call Brin Yelsnirb.

And that my daughters-in-law are mad about you.

And all my grandchildren.

And their partners.

In fact all my friends.

Surely you must feel the love. M xx