Friday 24th September 2021

One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. July- December. 2020. 31/2021.

One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. July- December. 2020. 31/2021.

Recently I wrote here about the changes for me, and many of us, in the first half of 2020 in my life, my local area and wider community during Covid 19 conditions in Australia.

From memory, I think we started to deal with the restrictions of Covid 19 here in our local area quite well:

Central Coast (located on map below – right side -Eastern Australia between Sydney and Newcastle)

It’s in the state of New South Wales Australia.

There were many who would say differently and that is because of these Covid 19  impacts:

  • Borders between states and territories closed/opened/required permits/required quarantine….with changes occurring immediately or overnight. Often without warning.

 

  • Those who were trying to get back home to Australia from overseas were met with cancellations by airlines at the last minute, changes in Australia’s capacity to manage quarantine situations if and when people returned

 

  • As I write, late February 2021, this is still quite an issue. The Australian (Federal) Government and its various Departments are doing what they can (they say) but as we are also State-based, those leaders have to agree/acknowledge their limitations for taking people into quarantine. I know little about it but keep an eye on facebook friends who I know are in this situation and understand it is not great.

 

  • Then there is this. The quarantine comes at a personal cost to returning travellers/citizens and whilst initially it was free, it is now $3000 per first person in family and less for subsequent members. A friend is almost finished her quarantine with her 18 year old daughter and has shown updates from their room, food supplied and more. She is Australian, with her daughter, also Australian, returning to the capital city where they used to live for her to start University. They still live as expats in Singapore for her husband’s work.

 

  • There is also this example. Another friend cannot travel across Australia to see her family (a new & first grandchild born before Covid hit) because of the states’ laws between her state (New South Wales) and that where her grandson and family live (Western Australia). Quarantine costs time AND money and as she is the sole income earner in her family, she cannot afford to do this. We know why, it is just hard!

 

  • For those reading from countries other than Australia, our country, is also a continent and is roughly close in physical size to North America.

Health (again!)

June and it brought my first colonoscopy in over 10 years. It was something I needed but oh my, I hate the prep. I would have to say, it is probably worse than any surgical procedure!! Anyway, because I know I could be having some surgery in my future, I did take the chance once some of the Covid rules for travel and visiting were reduced, to go see my father who had been automatically socially isolating because of his age and where he lives. As always he was pleased to see me and I carried some frozen meals and treats for him. It’s roughly a two hour drive to him from us and similarly on the way back. I listen to audiobooks most times! As the walking on beaches was less restrictive over time, I could visit again.

Our 7th grandchild turned 7. There was no family party but she knew we were thinking of her. We always send a card, which I add lots of photos inside as a memento of the grandchild and us…and often some money is put in the parent’s bank account for the child to spend later on something needed or wanted or even both. Schooling continued to be a mix of home and at school from memory and like everything and everyone, adaptations happened.

My colonoscopy result was good (no cancer ) but also, yes, you need rectal prolapse surgery so I began preparation for the date allocated in July. School holidays were in this month but we had no visitors nor did we visit. Being winter, everyone was pretty cautious around going anywhere and restrictions for visitors to the home were still in place. There was no outdoor concerts, nor even indoor ones at this point. On-line shopping and event gathering happened via Zoom. My pre-hospital admission ended up being over the phone for the late July surgery.

I admit, that pre-major surgery I do get concerned/worried/stressed and much of it, in this case, related to the procedure, what it would be like before I went into theatre – an enema would be carried out – and the preparation whilst thorough and necessary for the type of surgery just added to my load.

I tried to get myself into some nature, locally as it was fine to visit, and to making some meals so that I would have plenty of variety for me to eat. You see, since head and neck cancer surgery, eating anywhere other than home, and in small and suitable quantities is how I have to keep well-nourished.

I did it. Well, the surgeon did, and I am, as always  a model patient and excellent recoverer so I got to come home a night early. I was so stressed because…couldn’t eat much, very uncomfy and my colo rectal surgeon kindly OK-ed me to go home. Best place ever!

World Head and Neck Cancer Day: 27 July 2020. Suddenly when COVID hit, all aspects of fundraising in person went by the by, and in came virtual events, cooking demonstrations and Soup For the Soul via individuals where groups might gather. My surgery was within the same week as this but I did what I could prior to the Day in my role as an Ambassador….and jumping ahead to September, Beyond Five had a name change to Head and Neck Cancer Australia. I remain honoured to be continuing this important work of awareness sharing and telling my story.

August arrived with some wonderful people we had not seen since late the previous year…at least I had but my husband had not. Grandchildren and our son, their Dad. I was still very gingerly post-op with a sore tummy that had an upside down T incision from belly button to pelvis because of the finding of a hernia on top of doing the repair. Sigh. Thank goodness I was wise enough to get some very loose fitting pants and slip on slipper/shoes because getting up and bending was not part of my repertoire then. Nevertheless I had the wonderful feeling of wellness and happiness because...family!

The wellness continued until it did not.

My wound, which had an area of where the opening had been a challenge for my surgeons, opened up slightly but enough to be scary. Fluid leaked constantly and fortunately my G.P. got me straight back to my surgeon, who arranged for wound debridement surgery the following Monday. The hospital stays were about 3 weeks apart. The surgery meant I wore a bag called a VAC attached to the wound and I had home visits from a nurse for almost 3 weeks, then visits to my local GP Nurse. I was not finally well…i.e. the wound closed and good till October 6th! 

More Than “just” Health…Life Goes On!!

Head and Neck Cancer Check in early September 2020 went so well my head and neck surgeon said “see you in a year”. I was in shock. Many of us with cancers who have on-going checks which indicate no changes (for the bad or cancer returning) tell me that hearing that from the doctors can be like that. We are so used to someone keeping an eye on us!

Father’s Day: no get togethers but I remembered the Dads in my life…and that of our children and their children.

6/9/2020: the Fathers & Grandfathers

Together For Fifty Years!

In October we celebrated our meeting as young teachers at a NSW Teachers Federation Conference Dinner at Tamworth in 1970 by going back. It was a great trip down memory lane and some of these snaps capture it. I wrote about it more for Telling My Story here too.

November. Staying In Touch.

Our two eldest granddaughters visited for a mission…taking photos (memories) of their grandparents to celebrate their 50 years together. It was so good to see them again too. What fun we had. Lots of smiles and laughter!

Time for another visit to see my Dad. Important for me (and him) having these more frequent visits as he has kept himself more isolated socially due to Covid and his restricted physical mobility.

I also have almost no other reasons to be driving back and forth to Sydney so can factor in seeing Dad once a month now.

He has had some tricky (for him) health scares including potential melanoma (not) and a serious balance issue (sorted in 2018 along with the permanent loss of vision in one eye (only about 20% OK) so he relies on this better eye. An avid reader, and writer, he is very restricted for both now. He does however, remain very active in one social group where he lives and relies on his TV news and more including sport and other interests.

My husband joined me on my 30 November catch up morning tea because it was my 71st Birthday!

The two of us.

Suddenly it’s THAT month: December.

I spent quite a bit of time on-line and out and about at the local ‘cheap shops’ as I call them finding memorabilia and items for our Golden Wedding Anniversary coming up in mid January 2021. I admit it was fun and very distracting and I enjoyed both the research and the rewards.

I had a little niggle of pain in the area of my upper prosthesis and had a hastily arranged appointment in Westmead with my prosthodontist where he felt it would be OK once I took a dose of anti-biotics and took care with some ‘sharp foods’…ok, chips.

Happily back in the car to see Dad as a pre-Christmas visit. We had plans to go to our daughter’s in North Western Sydney to join most of our family, and Dad was going to my brother’s for Christmas Day….and whilst I did get to see Dad on 17 December, on 18 December everywhere on Sydney’s Northern Beaches – where Dad and brother live – was declared a Covid Hot Spot. Oh Great. NOT.

COVID really interrupted many plans for Christmas and BEYOND. Big time.

By close to Christmas Day, we made the decision not to travel to our daughter’s house.

My Dad would be going to my brother’s as his house, whilst in the Northern Beaches, was OK to have visitors from within the same area.

I ended up with some more pain in my gum and my prosthodontist was able to fit me in 3 days before Christmas (all was OK but he left me with an anti-biotic script just in case) and I took the chance to swing by my daughter’s beforehand to drop off our presents and biscuits I had made to her and see two of my granddaughters.

 Time to Reflect.

Gratitude was my word for 2020. I needed it. I remembered it and I am glad I chose it.

Our extended family stayed well, despite some visits to emergency departments for chronic conditions and accidents. No covid.

Those in our family had shelter, an income and care of each other. Money coming in did reduce and some were helped by the Australian government Covid payments.

We felt generally well, and very safe in the house we call home (even though it is not ours) and we know we are here until April 2022.

We could not fault those in the medical and hospital and ancillary health services who cared for us, as older citizens.

I was glad to be a supporter of all that was happening in schooling and schools things changed…because I am a “cheerleader” but not to have to manage a family and work anymore.

We were grateful we had plenty of practice living as a retired couple and 2020 did not challenge us too much at all. We have separate spaces for our hobbies and interests and that is a good thing.

We had each other.

We remained focussed as much as we could on the good the year had brought, particularly to me as I ticked health boxes and recovered so well.

Summing it up:

How was the second half of 2020 for you and your family?

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. Jan-June. 2020. 25/2021.

One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. Jan-June 2020. 25/2021.

Yes it did. So what? Isn’t everything constantly changing anyway?

The only thing that is permanent is impermanence.

2020 was to be my year of Gratitude…and here I was in my first instagram post of 2020.

And I can tell you that I DID keep to that routine of finding gratitude every day and wrote a post here last week.

Things were still pretty grim on the east coast of Australia where bushfires had been wreaking havoc, causing death, property loss, and much much more from late Spring. Here we were in January 2020 and things were still every grim. Hot. Unrelenting. Smokey skies…but where possible,  LIFE for us/me, and as this is my version of the changes, had to go on.

First for me, and that had knock on changes for my on-going eye health was a visit for a regular check in early January 2020 where the optician was sufficiently concerned for the cataracts he could see appearing, I brought my specialist appointment forward and attended her rooms in Sydney.

Right, she said “time for cataract x 2 surgeries” and we can do them 2 days apart in Parramatta. The big changes occurred instantly early March but took a while for my vision to be ready to adapt to simpler reading glasses. The best part? Lining up at the local NSW Service Centre to have “glasses for driving” taken off my licence.

In February there was the most welcome relief of all from the unrelenting heat, smoke and fires…in the form of pouring rain, flooding roads and more but the fact is most of the fires were now put out thanks to this change. However, changes of all kinds ARE indeed mixed in their blessings!

And from January onwards we heard from time to time about something called Coronavirus that had been found in Wuhan China. We saw news items with many people covered from head to toe in what we now know as PPE. Personal Protective Equipment: masks, boots, face covers, and scrubs…

But in February and March, for my experiences as a patient visiting my head and neck surgeon for a post-cancer check, attending a charity fundraising function and for being part of a head and neck cancer video, there was just one mention at the entrance to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in early March…and none at all in February. I had a prosthodontist check at Westmead where there were no restrictions. Glad I had that because it suddenly had to stop all bar emergencies and did not come back until the latter half of 2020. Fortunately I remained OK and my regular dentist was able to see me for a check in May.

We had our first Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group Meeting in February 2020 and then…we had to cease all meetings. We were not alone. Hospitals and other organisations were affected. We were not to meet again until close to Christmas for a luncheon and then last week, February 2021 we got together like this:

 

February saw me take a solo drive to Newcastle and attend an event at the Civic Theatre. It was Chat 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales and neither they, nor the audience knew it would be a last gathering in large crowds….and as I write, in February 2021, there is a return to concerts, theatre and live events but with some Covid-based restrictions.


I also took part in a video being made for head and neck cancer patients and families at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. We were, as they say, so lucky to get that kind of event before the greater restrictions were announced.


Already though, on-line and in person there were warnings that we should not visit under any circumstances if we were unwell or had travelled from certain countries.

At my day surgery for my eyes in early March (9 & 11 March) some restrictions commenced on the first visit – some questions were asked on arrival. By the day after that, I had to have a temperture check, answer a series of questions and have no-one accompany me. I didn’t anyway. I could feel the tension levels rising.

By the next day after that when my husband drove me to Morisset for post-cataract check, even more restrictions were put in place. I spoke to my Opthalmologist a few months back when she finally started seeing patients again and she said to manage “the many changes, and the ways in which services had to be offered, they were in a constant state of readiness for change and being flexible. Every day brought some new measure”.

And Then More Changed. Where We Could Travel. What We Could Do.

16 March onwards.

Our eldest granddaughter, already immuno-compromised, “left home” where she may have been exposed to any part of this very scary and unknown virus because her mum and young sister attended schools. Still schools remained open..but then they too had to adapt. BIG time.  Ms J. came to the Central Coast to stay with her paternal grandparents and in those months I think the generations made it work well for them. She did have a sneaky day trip to see us and we agreed: HUGS were happening. She said “I so miss hugs”.

About Schools. Teachers, Principals and The Students. Parents Too.

When announcements were made by our N.S.W. Premier, the Health Minister, The Police Minister and the Chief Health Officer,(and sometimes others)  those announcements were many fold.

Every state and territory managed the matters of education, transport, health and so on and there were/are continuing conflicts about Aged Care and Quarantine/Border Matters being state or federal. It truly has been very trying all-round. Schools, because of the close contact via their very nature of operation, had to make swift, educationally-sound and major changes of day to day operation.

It was non-negotiable for public schools. They had to stay open for vulnerable kids and those too of workers in essential industries. They also had to provide quality and consistent work at school for students and for those who could stay at home. I only read about this and viewed how it was via my teaching contacts. Our daughter, a teacher-librarian then at her school found it huge as a shift but like all, they got on with it. It would have been a logistical issue of huge proportions for all schools. I was a very understanding and empathetic cheerleader where I could.

Life As We Knew It…Mostly Changed! 

We here in N.S.W. learned to live with:

  • daily updates of covid cases, diagnoses, tests, and sadly deaths. This happened most mornings at 11.00. a.m. I kept up via updates in social media.
  • sad stories of what was happening in aged care facilities. So many stories that have had to be managed via (I think) a Royal Commission
  • mixed messages from different levels of government. By mixed I meant it was inconsistent because of our way of being governed.
  • shortages…in supermarkets. The first time I visited a supermarket post our levels of restriction in those early months: only leave home for essential shopping, health reasons, exercise and essential work, it blew me away. I wondered what had happened….

“this” item most likely to have been bought AND to have run out!

  • I missed my daily drives and had to re-invent how to take care of my emotional health and form some routines that worked for me at home.
  • I did still do shopping, but was in & out as soon as possible.
  • Our GP practice offered telehealth appointments and we knew they were early days for them too, my husband in particular found a challenging medical issue very difficult to manage via phone. The doctors at that stage were saying no-one over 70 attend the surgery.

Getting Accustomed To The Changes.

  • It was all about being safe. We recognised that. We could not (and would not) disobey the then rules around being out of the house. We saw many more people in our neighbourhood walking past as part of their day.
  • We could not just go out for fun at all in March into early May.
  • I was incredibly relieved when, following the strict rules, my hairdresser was able to re-open and I got a much needed psychological boost of a haircut and a connection with my caring hairdresser
  • Over time, of course, we saw the emergence of Covid Test centres and I had a temperature and a bit of cough so went through the then procedures to got to my local hospital test centre. It felt weird but knowing i had to do the right thing because of this invisible virus, I self-isolated at home and was glad to get my results within a day and a half. Negative.

Changes Happened Regularly.

April – June. My commentary related to New South Wales, and what I recall specifically affected me/us.

  • Covid rules went up and down in severity depending on where clusters of cases had been found and so on
  • Where we live, is an hour’s drive to Sydney and then another 45 minutes to either my Dad’s on the Northern Beaches or our Kids’ in the North West.
  • For quite a few weeks, into months, we could not travel at all, other than locally.
  • It meant no visits for celebrations or care. We did not know how long this would last but fortunately in time for Mother’s Day – May – we could drive to Sydney to see our family and later in that month to visit dad.
  • We also could see via media reports from around Australia that where we lived, we were doing OK relatively. It did not stop our feelings of sadness and concern for many who did lose their lives and the fact that families could not be with loved ones as they were dying.

 

My Health Also Needed Better Solutions.

I have written about this here before but will just summarise, I needed to have a colonoscopy once my G.P. determined how severe my rectal prolapse was in earliesh May. I did get to the colo-rectal surgeon and he very quickly sorted out my thinking do I have to….with yes, how else might we know what’s going on “up there”.

  • Meant to happen late May. Local Private Hospital where he worked one day a week for these procedures accepted my forms for procedures …psyching myself up was the hard part…and then promptly cancelled/postponed because of Covid restrictions on surgeries. They were now a quater of what was before Covid.
  • Waiting not my best thing, but had to. Had my flu injection…sitting outside G.P. surgery while he came out to give me the jab.
  • Finally late June “had the dreaded” colonoscopy. Findings: you need rectal prolapse surgery. Stat. No cancer though.
  • Stat: in Covid times, meant when larger regional private hospital could book me in and I could have relevant pre-op checks. I did. My surgery date was late July.

 

Regular Health Checks Continued.

  • We still saw our podiatrist
  • I had a physio session for my shoulder
  • We eventually went back to choice of face to face at G.P. with mask and social distancing.
  • Saw screens go up at all facilities over time.

Getting Out and About.

I missed my going out for coffee but even when I could return, there were very strict rules for being seated. Over time, and now, I have stopped having a coffee anywhere unless it’s outside. It’s not somewhere I want to linger any more. Perhaps that need has shifted. We do not miss going anywhere as a couple as we stopped that way before this anywhere. Even our get together for a morning tea out has stopped.

I could get back to driving to the beach and walking. There were, in winter, loud hailers and even a police helicopter above the sands, telling us to keep moving, no sitting…it felt big brother ish.

I did do some shopping on-line, like many, but missed actual shops. Sad to say, many of those I enjoyed frequenting for clothes have closed some local shops and the value is no longer there.

That’s it for now.

I will be back soon with July to December.

How was your first half of 2020?

Stay safe, everyone…we are almost at Covid jab time here. Phew.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Women Of Courage: Appreciation For Those Who Shared In 2020. 77/2020.

Women Of Courage: Appreciation For Those Who Shared In 2020. 77/2020.

The Women of Courage Series has now concluded.

I like many was sad to see it end, but with no further contributions waiting in the drafts area of my blog and no-one coming forward with their stories after the invitation, it was wrap time! I certainly am delighted too, that 55 women DID share their stories and they are incredibly varied too. But with one theme: courage!

It ran from May 2019 until September 2020 with breaks at certain times. The backstory is here.

The message I added to each post is this:

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

In 2019 I began with my post, and then numbered each person from #1 onwards. The colour I used in 2019 was this one.

In 2020 I changed to red!

Last week I shared those who told their stories in 2019 here.

 

2020 Image For the Series.

Leaving  January 2020 behind, it was good to launch into the 2020 series with this post: from Jane Caro AM, whose book Accidental Feminists helped me form my plan for a blog series and I will always be grateful for Jane’s support (and likes and retweets each Wednesday) along with those from Rosemarie Milson (#49) who ‘is’ Newcastle Writers Festival Director.

Catching up with Jane Caro: April 2019.

 

Jane Caro AM

To read, or re-read the posts of these Women of Courage: please visit the page at the top of the blog: here. 

Thank you all for sharing your stories. I hope you return occasionally to re-read and see what sharing your story has brought to your life.

Were you someone who shared your story in 2020?
How did it make you feel once it was done?

Thank you again for sharing.

Denyse.

Linking here with Leanne and friends for the Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage: Appreciation For Those Who Shared In 2019. 75/2020.

Women Of Courage: Appreciation For Those Who Shared In 2019. 75/2020.

The Women of Courage Series has now concluded.

I like many was sad to see it end, but with no further contributions waiting in the drafts area of my blog and no-one coming forward with their stories after the invitation, it was wrap time! I certainly am delighted too, that 55 women DID share their stories and they are incredibly varied too. But with one theme: courage!

It ran from May 2019 until September 2020 with breaks at certain times. The backstory is here.

The message I added to each post is this:

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

 

In 2019 I began with my post, and then numbered each person from #1 onwards. The colour I used in 2019 was this one.

In 2020 I changed to red!

Women of Courage 2019 Series.

One woman’s story was shared anonymously in 2019. #25.

 

 

 

 

 

To read, or re-read the posts of these Women of Courage: please visit the page at the top of the blog: here. 

Thank you all for sharing your stories. I hope you return occasionally to re-read and see what sharing your story has brought to your life.

Were you someone who shared your story in 2019?
How did it make you feel once it was done?

Thank you again for sharing.

Denyse.

Linking here with Leanne and friends for the Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Life Stories #1. On Being A Grandmother. Pt1.17/51 #LifeThisWeek. 34/2020.

Life Stories #1. On Being a Grandmother. Pt 1.17/51 #LifeThisWeek. 34/2020.

On Being a Grandmother. Part One.

Recently in Australia, a book was published and both Debbie Harris from here and I were taken by its contents and messages about “being a grandmother”.

Debbie’s post is found here. 

GRANDMOTHERS: ESSAYS BY 21ST-CENTURY GRANDMOTHERS

Helen Elliott

PaperBack

March 31, 2020

An anthology of essays by twenty-four Australian women, edited by Helen Elliott, about the many aspects of being a grandmother in the 21st century. It seems so different from the experience we had of our grandmothers. Although perhaps the human essential, love, hasn’t shifted much? In thoughtful, provoking, uncompromising writing, a broad range of women reflect on vastly diverse experiences. This period of a woman’s life, a continuation and culmination, is as defining as any other and the words ‘grand’ and ‘mother’ rearrange and realign themselves into bright focus.

The contributors- Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Judith Brett, Jane Caro, Elizabeth Cheung, Cresside Collette, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Helen Garner, Anastasia Gonis, Glenda Guest, Katherine Hattam, Celestine Hitiura Vaite, Yvette Holt, Cheryl Kernot, Ramona Koval, Alison Lester, Joan London, Jenny Macklin, Auntie Daphnie Milward, Mona Mobarek, Carol Raye and Gillian Triggs.

We ‘chatted’ on-line as bloggers do and both thought, what about a post or two on this topic. Knowing not everyone who blogs is not a grandmother/parent nor has the experience to draw on, we set out to go like this…publish in Life This Week under #Life Stories #1 and then in a few more weeks, #Life Stories #2.

This first post is based on  a series of questions devised by Denyse Whelan, in conjunction with Debbie Harris, to be the start of a blog post about

Being a Grandmother.

THIS image captures all 8 of our grandchildren so beautifully. Photographed by our daughter, in conjunction with our son to be my 70th Birthday gift as an album. 2019. The first grandchild is in the white dress.

 

The First Experience of Becoming a Grandmother.

 

What do you remember about your grandmother(s)?

I had a loving but strict maternal grandmother, Nanny, and I was the first grandchild. I was loved and cared for but when she became incapacitated by a stroke which eventually claimed her life in 1957, her husband, my “Papa” tended to be the one who spoiled me as life went on.

My paternal grandmother, Gran, was a formidable, strict and somewhat sad grandmother. This was, as we tend to think now, as a result of her becoming a widow in 1935 and raising 4 children (my Dad was 11) alone, other than help from her mother who had come from England to give the family a secure house to live in. Gran would at times, share some of her ‘life stories’ with me as a teen as I asked more questions about her life in England then as a War Bride post WW1 but most times, she would sink back into nostalgia and sadness.

 

What struck you initially about the news you were going to be a grandmother for the first time?

How happy I was…because, the news came in a year that was plagued with money worries,  health fears and more….so this news was the B E S T.

It was, however, not greeted as universally ‘happy’ as we, in a business that we owned, were not doing well at all and I admit my husband’s reactions did not mirror mine for good reason. Very concerned with what else was happening at the time.

We found out in about April, May and the child was due late December. By then, we had liquidated the business and we were very much on the ‘back foot’ with what would be happening to us, house and income-wise (I was still employed) so I did have to “calm” myself. However, big distraction for me and will always remember the time like that. 

 

Did you make any choices/decisions about being a grandmother when you found out this was going to happen?

I recall, being young…at what would be 47 when I became a grandmother but I did not let that phase me. I remember feeling the delight and angst and all the in between feelings because “I” had given birth but my daughter had not..yet. I was, I am pretty sure, deciding to be the most helpful grandmother I could be to allow the parents to ‘parent their child’ in the ways they wanted to and planned. This is always good in theory. Practice not so much initially. See further on.

 

And, in your case, was the news from your son or your daughter?

The news was from our daughter and eventually her husband. 

 

How did you find out?

THIS is a good story! My daughter had been married for just on two years and in that time had completed her Uni degree and was a trained K-6 teacher. She sought casual work and was soon snapped up by the school where I was Deputy Principal. I was not part of her ‘getting the job’ as I wanted (as did she) for this to be the school’s choice. 

She was part of a large group of relatively young female teachers and I, the D.P. was given the role of sharing the news that there had been a case of Rubella in the student population. This was something I passed on privately to each teacher as applicable, including our daughter.

At Recess that day, she came to my office door and asked for a private chat. Closing the door, she shared that “I think I am pregnant.”

Oh. Wow. My goodness, what a way to find out and yes, I was excited but of course tempered by the news of her vulnerability at this stage. The NSW Health Dept advice, which I shared with her, was to go to your doctor and tell him/her. That afternoon she did. The pregnancy was confirmed and she did some blood test for anti-bodies. I can’t quite remember the result but she had Rubella as a child, so was deemed, as best it could be proven, to be OK.

Again. Wow. I remember telling my husband of the news and he did not share my intense enthusiasm but not because of that….he was managing a very tricky time in his business and work life.

Nevertheless, I hugged my secret until our daughter and then son-in-law shared the news with family and friends.

And, recently. Love you J.R.

Were there any conditions/limitations set by the parents-to-be for you, the new grandmother in the making?

I cannot recall but I remember being able to share some of my excitement with them and the extended family which included my son-in-law’s parents and my parents and my husband’s parents. This child would be the first great-grandchild too. I also tried ‘not to overdo’ my enthusiasm as I did not want to over-shadow the parents at any time.

I did, for my sake, and to honour  the future grandchild (our first one, and that of my son-in-law) start a grandmother’s memory book. Oh my goodness, I did have some fun and I admit, the scrapbooking and photography as a journal  probably started then as I added newspaper clippings too. At age 5, this BIG book, was finished ( I remember crying that it was done…as she was off to school!) and eventually it was handed over to my granddaughter some years after. I did keep it at our house for years as she enjoyed looking at it too.

It was not until she was quite a few months old, that I was told by my daughter to reduce my ‘oversight’ of their child..as “I am her mother”.

Lesson learned…Big time. Not always remembered but I took it all on board.

 

Did/does the ‘role’ work its way out for all?

The role as the grandchild grew changed as she did. However, even now, we have a close and loving bond without being ‘in each others’ pockets’. I am so proud to be her Grandma always. But as I said above, I did need to take more of a back seat. 

About My Name.

My parents were known by their first names – their choice – by their grandkids. I wanted a traditional grandmother’s name and I chose Grandma. I spoke to my son-in-law’s Mum and she was happy to be Granny. Sorted! My name did change a bit over the years as the first G.D. started to speak. I have been known as: “Gummy” “Brandma” “Grandma” and “G-Ma”. All fine!

Are/were there hiccups?

Like any relationship there are ups and downs but thanks to wisdom gleaned over time by me observing others and of course, remembering “I am not her mother” and that I also got to drop this child back home after caring for her. A completely different way of child-care…. all fun, some responsibility but not 100%.

Share the highlights of the birth and after of your first grandchild.

For the last month or so before the baby’s due date of close to Christmas Day my daughter developed some symptoms which meant she had to leave her teaching role early, get advice from her obstetrician and continue to see him. In that time, I was also on  leave as I had a whiplash injury from a rear-end car accident on my way to work…thank goodness for work cover paying my salary back in those days.

Whilst we had never really talked about when my daughter would return to teaching in detail, I was already planning a grandchild care package at home! This came about with little or no expense when our next door neighbour donated all of the young girl’s bedding, cot and so on to us. My parents had always had room for our children to stay over for holidays and weekends and we (ok, mostly me!) wanted to do similarly. And yes, my husband did eventually come around to it all.

But she (we never knew the sex) was yet to arrive!

My daughter had 2 or 3 visits to labour ward at the San for testing for ‘leaks’ and was told, no you are OK on most occasions until very close to Christmas. It was a Saturday evening, my son-in-law was at a band gig on the other side of Sydney, and I went to their house to get takeaway tea and keep my daughter company. She told me on arrival, I am still leaking….and rang labour ward (again!) and they said “come in.” We grabbed the food first and I am pretty sure she drove us to the San. Up we went (with hospital bag this time) and after the check and a call to her doctor, she was admitted.

Rightio.

Mobile phones were ‘in’ but in their early days but we managed to let her husband know and then, from memory, I took their car home and collected mine and waited. The next day, a very hot Sunday in December, labour was kind of happening….and I was asked to bring some things over to her. I did.

THIS was when I knew I could not be a help at all. I saw her husband helping gently and she was doing all she had to…and I could not help. At all. So, I quietly took my leave and we waited….until much later on Sunday night. We got a call that labour was in progress fully and could we please bring her husband a Coke…caffeine and sugar needed!! We laugh now, but when presented with what my husband found at home: a diet Pepsi, it was not going to do the trick!

We came home…settled into bed, to see Sunday turn into Monday AND……

12.13 a.m. You have a granddaughter and her name is J.R.

Stunned and stoked and all those words, I “think” we slept and the next morning I was off to buy all things pink and more….

Meeting J.R. 

I entered the single room where my daughter and granddaughter were. My son-in-law had to be at work on the busy pre-Christmas retail day. I looked at this dark haired child in a crib…and thought “how did you arrive to be in our family?”. Both of our kids had been blonde/bald!

After that, it was chatting with my daughter who was still in that post-birth shock and she shared how it all happened rather fast after a ‘threat’ from the Obstetrician about a ‘caesar or forceps’…I eventually took my leave…and went to the shops! This baby girl had arrived 2 days before Christmas and no way was Santa not going to visit.

When I returned the next day with Santa bag and little tree, it meant Christmas was going to happen for the birthday baby.

What, if any, were any ‘lowlights?’

Interestingly the lowlights were in some way related to my disappointment in how many people “turned up” to visit the new Mum and baby…the room was chockers….and people just wanted to chat…with each other and my daughter. I was glad to see what was happening, and as most took their leave, and J.R. was crying, I asked the last couple to please leave…and they did. I think first night after birth should be up to the parents who comes…and I know now this is better managed.

Our wee GD with dark hair.

Special Memories of the First Weeks.

The hospital allowed our daughter and husband home to our place for Christmas lunch and they ‘minded’ J.R. in the nursery. They went back in the afternoon and we visited in the evening to allow the parents to go for a walk and we got to do our first ‘babysitting.’

I made J.R. a little cardigan. I am so NOT a knitter but was determined to “make my first grandchild” something. She wore it home. Lovely. Then it became a cardi for her bear I think!

The new family joined us for the first evening meal at our place and we got to go on a walk around the park. My neighbour over the road offered me a free ticket to a show in the city and I turned it down because “first meal” at our place.

On Australia Day, when she was just one month, we hosted a Welcome To Your Family event with the extended family and it was lovely. No christening etc. Just this.

Then, just after this, my daughter got a phone call from the principal at the school where we both worked, offering her full-time teaching, starting the next week. She accepted after he was fine for me to take part-time leave 3 days a week. Her Granny would drive down from the Central Coast to do the other 2 days and so began a long, tiring, rewarding, learning, and loving experience of “Grandparent Care At Home”: for 6 months!

 

There will be another post in the series in June. I will share the questions then too as Debbie and I devised. If you too are a grandmother it may be something you would like to share.

Thank you for reading…It ended up being a longer post than I thought.

Biggest thanks to J.R. for being the subject…the first…the only…one who could get away with calling me “Gummy” and I would answer to it!

This captures her so much too…totally biased Grandma!

Denyse.

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