Do not go gentle

I’m reading a book by an author who, despite her fame and achievements, is new to me, Claire Messud. I’m only early on in the novel (The Woman Upstairs) but Ms Messud has me completely won over with her insight into people and relationships.

The narrator, Nora, has been talking about her relationship with her mother. The mother has  the disease that killed Stephen Hawking, so she’s rather limited in what she can do, having spent a large part of her life doing things for others.

Nora reflects on her mother and the life she lived in this passage:

Claire Messud The Woman Upstairs p 60

Nora loved seeing that hint of fight in her mother, as she lay dying, and I loved reading how Claire Messud described that interaction.

On the same day as I read this passage I read my own daughter‘s running diary. She lives in north-east America not far from where Messud’s story is set, and is determined to not let the New York winter stop her.

Here she is after her 8 km run:

There’s clearly plenty of determination in her character, but I don’t think she gets it from me.  The reverse, in fact. I have been inspired by her attitude. I am encouraged by reading about how she fights various adversities: climatic, social, political, financial.

I’m not quite ready to give up & go gentle just yet. I’m drawing strength from others.

 

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good times

What good times I’ve had with daiskmeliadorn during her visit here this summer. We’ve twice enjoyed breakfast of vegan muffins and coffee in Soma; celebrated on Christmas day with a family-minus-one beach-side walk; feasted together in a (delayed) Christmas complete-family lunch; she both literally and metaphorically supported me while we scattered my mother’s ashes; and this morning we ‘power walked’ from Coogee to Maroubra.

When we reached Maroubra we sat in the sun at  Pool Café overlooking the ocean. Daiskmeliadorn had an iced soy latté with extra shot and I had the usual long black, while we shared a fruit toast and marvelled at how lucky we were to be able to enjoy this time together.

As I write this she will be getting ready to board her flight back to the bitter cold of snowy upstate New York. I’m not sure what 2019 has in store for the rest of the family here in Sydney, but the memory of these good times together has the potential to get me through just about anything.

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Birthday cake

Happy birthday to my brother! I made this cake to mark the occasion, because I really appreciate the support he has given me and my family, but also, more importantly, just for being the person that he is. He is in Scotland, and I’m in Australia, so I gathered some family together and we enjoyed the cake, and posted a photograph for his enjoyment.

[Vegan Apple Date loaf]

VEGAN APPLE DATE BANANA LOAF

1 cup SR flour

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 big ripe bananas, mashed

1 vegan ‘egg’ (1 tblspn flax meal + 3 tblspns water)

¼ C ‘buttermilk’ (¼ C soy milk + 1 teaspoon vinegar)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium apple, cored and chopped

1 cup Medjool dates (pitted & chopped)

Yields 1 loaf

————————————————————–
Preheat oven to 160 C. Line loaf tin with baking paper.

In a big bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix up the vegan ‘egg’ and allow to stand a couple of minutes. Then add ‘buttermilk’, canola oil and mashed bananas. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in chopped apple and dates. Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin. Bake for 60 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack.

[cut loaf]

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Hope & faithfulness

Two years ago, back in December 2016, I was recovering from cancer surgery. I would sit on the deck at home, reading, observing the world around me and enjoying the fact that I was still alive, although I was resigned to a life that was never again going to be as good as my pre-cancer, pre-heart disease days.

I noticed two tawny frogmouths would sit on a nearby magnolia tree branch in more-or-less the same place every day. I assume they went out hunting at night, but during the day they would just sit quietly.

Two tawny frogmouths 05 Dec 2016

For some reason I felt a strong connection with these birds. I imagined they were watching me looking back at them. We shared a time in which I gradually improved, regaining control of body functions and able to get enormous pleasure from eating my simple breakfast of banana, Weetbix, and soy milk.

It’s now December 2018. I’m still alive, and glad to be. A lot has changed over the past two years. Most notably, my mother has died and her ashes are sitting on the sideboard, waiting for my daughter, daiskmeliadorn, and her partner to visit at Christmas. We’ll scatter my mother’s ashes in the garden she loved, including under this magnolia tree which she planted in about 1975.

Last  weekend my sharp-eyed partner spotted my old tawny frogmouth friends back on the same branch of the magnolia tree in my back yard.

Two tawny frogmouths 01 Dec 2018

Optimism is not usually considered to be one of my strong points, but for some reason the reappearance of my old friends on this day has given me a renewed feeling of hopefulness. Perhaps I’m inspired by their apparent faithfulness to each other, although I’d probably also like to think they’re coming back to check on how I’m going!

I’m still hopeful of staying free of recurrence of that cancer.  I’m also hopeful that I can, with the help of my weekly dose of alendronate, gain strength in my osteoporotic vertebrae to the point that I can run again without risk of crush fractures.

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Gone

Annette 2013

On 05 September 2018 my mother died. She was 92 years old and she would have preferred to die about 5 years earlier, around the time this picture was taken. She hated being dependent on others but a combination of physical disability and dementia meant that the last years of her life were spent in a miserable existence confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home.

Her last years of living at home and her one year of living in a retirement village before she had to go to a nursing home were really good times in many ways. I had some great conversations with her in which nothing was off the table.

What I will always remember and appreciate about my mother is her complete acceptance of others – and this was a common theme of those who spoke at the funeral. We always felt her unconditional love. That experience of being loved will live on in us, even though her physical presence in our lives has gone.

 

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That euphoria didn’t last long

After a long period of recovery from a January 2016 vertebral fracture, followed by an August 2016 re-injury,  I started running again on 29 April 2018. I gradually ramped up the duration and intensity until I reached a point that last week I ran to work on four days, all in good time. I felt great!

On Friday I did feel a little soreness in my back as I ran across the Harbour Bridge, but it didn’t last long. Later in the day it got worse, however. On Saturday (already one of the low days of the year, the date of J.S. Bach’s death) I realised the thoracic spine pain was here to stay. It’s present whenever I do anything significantly active – and running is out of the question. I presume I have crushed a vertebra, or exacerbated an existing, unhealed fracture. My vertebral bone density has improved over the last 12 months, but I am still in the osteoporotic range.

So this morning I walked (fairly slowly) about 5 km of the journey to work, and caught the NightRide bus the remainder of the distance.

West St Bus Stop

I think I’ll be often standing at bus stops like this one, waiting for the NightRide bus, for quite some time into the foreseeable future. Since the beginning of 2016, every time I’ve started running again after a vertebral fracture I have had to stop again due to re-injury. I’ve recently started taking alendronate to try to improve my bone density, but the government says I should wait two years before my next DEXA scan to check on whether the medication is having the desired effect. I’d probably be foolish to try running again until there is good evidence (e.g. DEXA) that my bone mineral density is out of the the osteoporotic range, so it looks like running is off my agenda for two years, at least.

I’m not humming the Hallelujah chorus any more…I’m more likely to be singing the Bach chorale Es ist genug

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back on my feet again

It’s 04:30 and I’ve just run along The Goods Line to complete my 10.5 km journey and arrive at work 62 minutes after I left home.

The Goods Line at night, Ultimo, Sydney

I’ve done that trip, at a pace of just under 6 mins / km, four times this week. I’m taking it easy, and trying to avoid injuries.

For a while I thought I would never run again, let alone return to running the daily morning commute, so right now I am rejoicing in my return to activity. Who knows how long this resurrection will last, but yesterday my radio (on FineMusicFM) played Handel‘s Hallelujah chorus as I ran across the Harbour Bridge, and I was humming it again today. I climbed the stairs to my desk on level 10 with a spring in my step!

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