A sad and wonderful experience

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It is true that my writing urge comes to the fore when I am a little more emotional than normal. Some of those who know me well might say that could only be in situations where I am a blithering mess. But I disagree and digress.

I went to a funeral today. A ‘memorial service’. A ‘celebration of the life of….’

Whatever you call it, it was a sad and wonderful experience. Andrew Crossett was my youth group leader when I was in high school – about 1981-ish I reckon. He died at 59 years of age after a quick and nasty Cancer diagnosis. What a prick of a thing.

Some people in your life have substantial impact and Andy was one of those for me. I haven’t seen him for many years yet still feel close to him. His example and knowledge shaped me – there is no doubt.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 10.02.02 pmThere were a thousand people at the service today who felt the same way about him and I’m sure there are many more who couldn’t be there. I came to learn the influence he had on people in so many areas of his life. As I sat listening to the stories, I realised a current close friend of mine must know Andrew. I flick off a quick text and there’s my mate Richo on the other side of the church. Andy’s influence is indeed still near and far to me after so many years and neither Richo nor I had any idea that we each knew Andy.

It was one of those days where, when you get home, you want to hug your wife and kids and never leave them again… not that that appears to be at all possible in these ridiculously busy lives that we lead.

I was so distressed and emotional at the end of the service that I was close to doing a runner and heading straight off to work. But the words of Andy’s good friend Stan – also a friend of mine – were still ringing in my ears and I felt I couldn’t go until I at least shared some thoughts. Thank God I did because I was so incredibly glad to then be able to catch up with many old friends for the next hour or so where we contemplated age and life and Andy’s impact on it. I don’t think I’m over-stating it to say that this couple of hours will be something I remember for the rest of my life. Times such as these are so valuable and I’m sure Andy would appreciate that many of us were able to chat and catch up with friends from a distant past.

Andrew Crossett still displaying his influence. What a sad and wonderful occasion.

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How bloody good is it to be a dad?

Father’s Day, Facebook nominations, PTSD, black dogs, suicide and children.  All these things have come together in my mind today to cause me to sit down and write.  For what reason?  I really don’t know.  I think it’s my little effort at raising awareness of a few things without having to concede to involving myself in Facebook chains.

In any case, I write.

It’s ironic that as I settled in to do so, a notification pings telling me my friend Darren Cathie has nominated me for 22 push-ups for 22 days on Facebook.  It’s a Facebook nomination thingy that is designed to raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).  Darren, who is no more than 60 kilograms ringing wet and I assume has two good shoulders, may well be able to do 22 push-ups all at once but me?… ME?!  If I could do 10 I’d be pretty happy.  I might have to take advantage of the ambiguity and drag out my 22 push-ups for 22 days.  I reckon I would be able to handle that.

Raising awareness of such things is fantastic of course.  The PTSD 22 push-up effort and the similar chain for male suicide recently, have certainly made their mark over the last month.  If you are a person of around my age and demographic (social media addictions included), I imagine you would be well aware of these two social virus feeds.  Whether or not that is a valuable awareness is up for discussion.

I call Darren’s nomination ironic because earlier today I was expressing my views on this social media phenomenon and the fact that chain letters and nominations are not really my thing.  In defence of my negativity, I was highly commending many of my friends who were fearless in expressing thoughts and feelings that I would normally only ever reveal to my very dearest.  As the PTSD chain requires 22 push-ups, the male suicide equivalent requires the expression of a personal view or experience before embarking on the copied text containing statistics around male suicide of blokes up to the age of 45.

I’ve learnt things about my ‘friends’ which in some cases, I would never have imagined.  Despite our alleged acceptance and more open-thinking about that big black dog there’s still a hell of a lot to learn about people we thought we knew.

Anyhow… I digress.  Kind of.

There are a whole heap of things merging together in my head to bring me to what I am intending to say; mental illness, PTSD, suicidal-middle-aged-males, black dogs….  They kind of come together for me today because it’s Father’s Day and I’ve had such a good one.

I spend a good part of my Father’s Day really happy and really pissed off.  It’s always been a mixed-bag of emotions.

Misc Updates-7I was really happy that my three children made the effort to do things with me today that I wanted to do (not necessarily what they wanted to do).  They spent time with me, loved me, chatted about my crap, gave me some very thoughtful gifts and wrote me the most mature messages I have yet received from any of them.  They’re lovely, and like most dad’s I’ve heard from today, I love them more than I could possibly express in any form.

However, I was really pissed because I always spend some of my time pissed off on Father’s Day.  Pissed off with my father.

At 42 years old, he committed suicide.  I was twelve.

I’m now 49 and my brothers are 47 and 45.  At least we all appear to have made it through the worst years!  For years and years, I never told a soul about dad.  It’s been quite an interesting journey actually, observing the change in thinking and attitudes to a point where I’m willing to share the fact.  Admittedly, the passage of time in my own life no doubt makes it easier to share.

So for 37 years I have not had a dad for Father’s Day.  And it pisses me off.

He hasn’t been there for me for 37 years and he has missed out on years and years of good life in which he could have enjoyed my successes (and consoled me on my bugger-ups).  Not to mention the 21 years thus far that he would have enjoyed his now seven grandchildren.

“So dad, I love you, you were a hero to me as a little boy, I wish you were here, I wish I could have shared the love of my own children with you… and you bloody-well piss me off as well.”

Back to the good bits.  I’ve had such a lovely day.  I’ve done some of the things that remind me so much about the good things in life; spending time with good people in good places.  Best of all my children have been lovely to me and restored my confidence in how much they love me.

Fancy missing out on that.

Image association – Porepunkah past and present

(Warning: This post is a little more ‘R’ rated than my normal material; and less words; more pictures; but hey… it tells the story.)
 

Whilst out on the mountain bike yesterday, I got to thinking about associations I have developed – one element with another, like sky and blue – when it comes to my thinking about Porepunkah. I’ve been holidaying here since I was 8, so there are many. Stuff like the Mt. Buffalo launch ramp with hangliding for example:

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When I stand on the ramp… I associate it with flying my Foil.

The doozy of them all in the current environment, and the association which prompted me to write this post, is at the bottom of the page – one element associated with another – but don’t sneak a peak. Read through first.

Another common one for me, mostly as I ride down the track behind what is now the Porepunkah Pines Camping Park (formerly Rush Inn Caravan Park) is this:

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I can’t show you Adrian’s real face as he’s now a responsible teacher (mostly)… but the cubby we had built on the track near the river – now my MTB route to single track glory – copped a fair old hiding of Southern Comfort consumption… all purchased by Adrian without ID.

Every time I drive past the Porepunkah Pines Camping Park (formerly Rush Inn Caravan Park) I notice the tree still standing, under which we repaired all of our broken down motor bikes… it was the site of much frustration but work which got us going again.

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Of the same era was my mum’s black and white bikini.  Whenever I see a black and white bikini – weird I know – I think of my mum sun-baking and covered in baby oil beside the Ovens River at Rush Inn Caravan Park:

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Rubber truck tubes were like gold.  Luckily, our family business was a transport company so we were never really in short supply.  Truck tubes will forever be associated with many adventurous trips down the Ovens River from Bright to Porepunkah:

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More recently for me of course is the simple association of Porepunkah and cycling.  You don’t need to have known me too long to realise that, for me, Porepunkah and bikes are almost synonymous:

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But here’s the doozy.

The one you’ve been waiting for.

The association of the senses that blitzs them all… at the moment… in the current environment.

The association which prompted me to write this post.

The association which, right at this very moment, is present in my mind because it’s present in my nostrils.

I can’t get out the door, down a single track, into the river, out to a coffee shop or off to bed without this one coming to mind at present.  Early December in the North East will “arouse” this familiar association… past, present and future. The scent of Chestnut blossom is indistinguishable from the smell of seiman… sorry, but check it out!

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If you haven’t been aware of this phenomenon until now, I’m sorry, I may have just ruined your experience of the North East in summer.  But seriously!…  when next you wander out the door in and around the Ovens Valley, take a big sniff, check out the Chestnut trees, try not to get confused and wonder… ‘Was that really even a dream last night?’… ‘Is it just the chestnut trees?’… ‘I thought I was up for it but am I really more like this guy?’…

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Sweet dreams.

Post Script:  Whilst out riding with Scotty yesterday, he suggested that this glorious scent was more like cats urine (he used a different word). It may suit you better to associate it with that.

Waxing, vanity and make-up

Please… read this post in the context of it having been written by a bloke who has his legs waxed once a month and who exfoliates daily. Yes, I actually do.

It’s not vanity of course; there are very serious and important reasons why cyclists must have no hair on their legs…

  • You go faster because you’re more aerodynamic. I’m serious, really.
  • You fit into the group and feel accepted (except with hairy mountain bikers).
  • You crash – well, I do – and it’s much easier for the nurses and doctors when they pull the dirt out and clean you up, and you don’t have to put up with the pain of the band-aids ripping your hair off.
  • You look like a cyclist.
  • You need smooth hairless skin for massages (if you’re a pro anyway… and you have your own soigneur)

So you can see; it’s not vanity.   (For more information on such matters, search ‘shit cyclists say’… you’ll find all the answers.)

Anyway, back on topic… that took far too long just to put you in context.

I read this article in The Age today by Tracey Spicer who is ‘weaning herself off extreme grooming’. It is a bold and honest opinion peace about why this television presenter is cutting down on the ridiculous amount of time she spends getting ready for work in the morning. I was so impressed, I went and watched the TedX video that Tracey did back in January this year.

Worth a read and worth a watch, even if you only have moderate interest.

Of course the other context for me is the fact I have two thirteen year old daughters, one of whom last week went to youth group ‘all dolled up’ as her papa would say.  She looked beautiful in her highish heels, a dress and a little make-up. So did her sister; she was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, messy hair and nothing on her face apart from her smile. Identical yet different – and nothing to be concerned about.

But I had to question my own judgements as I felt a little queezy when Tracey started talking about letting the hair grow under her arms and all over her legs.  That’s why I set that original context; to show that my judgement here is not a misogynistic thing. I think everyone should have smooth legs (not really!).  But this thinking did cause me to check my own judgements.  There’s absolutely no doubt I would rather see female newsreaders made-up, hair done, looking nice… I have to admit that. But I feel the same about male newsreaders; they’d look silly on telly without make-up or hair done and I wouldn’t want to see them in their PJs.  Albeit, Karl did wear the same suit for a year without anyone noticing; and he was making a similar point to Tracey.

It’s just a hell of a lot EASIER for men.

So back to my beautiful girls. Thirteen, soon to be sixteen, eighteen, nineteen… God, I’m scared. I will urge them to read Tracey’s article and watch Tracey’s video (good luck with that I can hear my wife say!). And of all the words Tracey says, they should take heed of these:

“So how do we exude confidence without over-grooming? For me, it’s a three-step process: deconstruct, reconstruct, SHEconstruct. In other words, gradually cut back until you feel comfortable with the real you.”

 Lucky for me, the real me has hairless… smooth… cycling legs.  😉

Karen and Stu Run Melbourne

I’m very proud of my wife.

22 November 1981 - 2hr 58min 27 seconds

22 November 1981 – 2hr 58min 27 seconds

Eighteen months ago she was doing no exercise at all and last Sunday she ran 10 kilometres with her dad in the Run Melbourne run.  Not bad.

Stuart is a long-time runner and in his prime, he ran a sub-3 hour marathon.  That is a feat which puts him in the elite category; he was 40 at the time.

On Sunday – at 73 years old – he ran across the line beside Karen in 58 minutes.  This achieved 6th spot in his category and he was probably seething that his daughter had held him back from the podium!  Karen ran her quickest 10 kay time ever and came in the top 30th percentile overall.

It was a fun day for us all; beginning with Stuart thinking he was getting old when trying to get into his running shirt which had been pinned through the front and back (I still giggle when I picture it); and Karen talking of the stress of getting a poo out before the race began (not wanting to join the real marathoners – like Stu – who just do it on the move).

I say ‘fun’, although it wasn’t seen that way initially by my three children as they were dragged out of bed; expressed most efficiently by Lucy sitting in the back seat in the first scene of this video…

 

For Karen and Stu I reckon it was a very special morning; running together as father and daughter and both in a state of health where they are able do so.

Here’s some grouse photos of the day too.

‘Empty Nesty’ type moments

I had my first Empty Nesty type conversation with Jack this weekend.

Out of the blue, he said, “Dad, I don’t think I could ever move out of home until I can afford to have unlimited internet.  I’ll probably be living with you until I’m 30!”

I said, “That’s okay mate, you can still live with us when you’re 30.”

Jack – “There’s no way I will be living with you when I’m 30. How much is unlimited internet.”

Me – “We pay about 100 bucks a month.”

Jack – “Oh that’s alright.  I thought it would be hundreds. That’s cheap.”

Me – “How much do you earn a month?”

Silence.

Until this time, I had never considered the fact that Jack – nor any of my children – had ever considered the day they would not live with us. It was a sad realisation and a milestone moment.

Later that night we went out for pizza. Next to the restaurant was a bridal gown shop which, naturally, my daughter Kate was immediately attracted to. We started discussing the pros and cons of the gorgeous dresses in the window and I thought it best to end the conversation with,

“Don’t worry Kate. If I have my way you will never be getting married anyway so don’t worry about it.”

I was beaten by my twins (in jest of course, because they don’t think they’ll ever get married either!).

My son takes delight in reminding me that ‘next year’ he’ll be able to drive. 15 in December then 16 in December 2015… yeah mate, whatever. That day’ll never come either.

But shit… yes it will…

  • My son will one day move out of home (as long as he has unlimited internet).
  • My daughters will most likely get married and have to decide on a beautiful wedding dress (if a couple of boys are lucky enough to pass the test).
  • Jack will be driving ‘next year‘… God forbid (and he has my genes).
  • And Karen and I will one day be able to have a private conversation.

Like every parent; I continuously think these days will never come and then become surprised as they do.  Another reminder to make the most of every moment.

It seems like this was only yesterday…

 

10 August 2001 - Birth of Kate and Lucy

10 August 2001 – Birth of Kate and Lucy