Thursday, April 14, 2005

So long Pa...

The worst April Fools Day joke ever. That's what I was hoping Dad's phone call was on the evening of April 1st when he called me to say that his own father had suddenly died. Even though I knew from the pain in his voice that it was anything but a joke.

Pa Wigg died in Sydney on the evening of April 1st, 2005 of an aortic aneurism. In effect, his aorta had been ballooning and steadily weakening for some time, and it eventually disintegrated causing massive internal hemorrhaging. In other words, the aorta pretty much went away and the heart was pumping blood straight into his body cavity. Nan was by his side and the end came mercifully quick according to her.

The following account may be innaccurate, however this is how the events were explained to me...

Apparently Greg (the husband of my Aunt Angela who is Dad's youngest sister) had been on the phone to Pa earlier in the day. Greg noted that Pa seemed to be a bit vague on the phone and he asked Pa if he was OK. "No, not really" was the response and Pa noted that he had pain across his chest. Pa called his doctor who recommended an ambulance be called straight away. When the ambulance arrived, Pa was able to walk out to it on his own, but upon arriving at the hospital he suffered the first of several heart attacks. At this point, even if staff had been able to correctly diagnose the problem, there was little that surgeons could do. The aorta was quickly giving way. A second attack hit Pa later in the evening, although doctors apparently were struggling to ascertain the nature of the problem and even indicated to the family that things were going to be OK. A third attack struck Pa at around 11pm and killed him.

The first thing my poor Dad knew was at around 10:30 on the Friday night when his older sister (Maxeme) called him to say that Pa was in hospital with heart problems, but that things were apparently OK. Now, that would obviously be a shock and a cause of great concern especially when you're 2,000km away. (Mum and Dad live in Hobart.) Imagine the anguish when Maxeme called back about 20 minutes later to say that Pa was not OK afterall, and in fact he had died.

I think the greatest cause of pain for me personally was not Pa's passing - afterall he is gone and no longer suffering any pain. Nor was it the grief and worry I felt for Nan who is now left on her own without the man she loved so deeply and did nothing without. For me the greatest pain was hearing the pure heartbreak in Dad's voice when we talked on the phone. Dad is not a "bloke" by any means, nor does he repress emotion or appear stoic no matter the situation, but he does not often cry. To hear him weeping over a long distance line was awful. There is something about a father's appearance to his child that almost conveys immortality, or at least it does to this child. Mums are loved above all else of course, and a bond between a mother and her child is something sacred in my opinion. Yet the father is different. Perhaps it is part hunter gatherer, part warrior/protector, part "knower of all things". I don't know how to express it, but a comment from a friend rang true a couple of months ago. Her own father was dying of cancer and has since passed away when he said "I'm sorry I can't be your Superman anymore". I think that sums it up pretty well. Dads are like Superman to their kids. It was a strange sensation to watch my father grieve over his fallen Superman while still trying to be mine. Perhaps it is the three generational link between grandfather, father and son - I'm not sure. But it was certainly a vastly different experience for me compared to when Mum's parents died. Maybe Sarah (my sister) felt the same way when Nan Lockley died and Sarah watched Mum grieving over her mother.

When Mum's parents each died they were both very unwell. It's not that we were looking forward to it, but we were certainly expecting their departure when it came for each. Pa's came out of nowhere. That sudden loss is almost too much to take when there are things left undone and words left unsaid. Thankfully, Nan and Pa had called in to our house about 6 weeks ago on their way back from Tasmania. (I even mentioned it here in a post.) Dad had also spoken to Pa at length the night before Pa died as well, so there was some sense of "goodbye" there for Dad I guess.

I have always looked at the "spread" of our family across 4 states (we're in Tasmania, Victoria, ACT and New South Wales) as a healthy sign of independence. On that night it was the worst source of anguish as we were all seperated from each other at a time when we most needed contact.

I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to express this clearly, but Nan and Pa Wigg were the grandparents I always felt a more natural bond with due to the fact that I grew up in Sydney and they were the grandparents that I saw regularly. My maternal grandparents in Hobart were also very dear to me of course, but as I'd only see Nan and Pa Lockley once a year when we'd holiday in Tasmania over the summer they were always a bit more special. Just as loving of course, but kind of like the special treat that was brought out on rare occasions, whereas Nan and Pa Wigg were the good ol' Nan and Pa that we saw all the time. (I was right. I can't express that clearly.)

Nan and Pa Wigg were obviously aging, but Pa's general health always seemed pretty good to me. Perhaps it was just me not being observant, but I always thought that if there was anyone in the family who would make it to 100, it would be him. It wasn't to be.

Anyway, we all flew up to Sydney on the Tuesday (5th) for Pa's funeral and cremation. It was great to finally get to Dad and Nan and the rest of the family and give them all a big hug. Pa's funeral was quite a nice simple affair held at a funeral home in North Ryde. Pa was quite involved in the IOOF and Lodge societies who both helped organise the service and helped the family a lot I think. (The IOOF have actually declared a 3-month period of official mourning which is apparently quite a big deal. Usually if they declare a mourning period at all it is just for one day.)

We all flew back on Thursday evening and it was really hard to leave Nan behind. I was worried about how she was going to cope once everyone else had gone. While the entire family was there she was being propped up (whether that's good or bad), but once Maxeme returned to Canberra, we returned to Melbourne, Dad returned to Hobart etc that only left Ian and Angela to help her through. Both of them work full time so there's only so much that they can do. Linda - in her truly caring fashion and being the angel she is - offered to stay behind with Chelsea and Kristen to keep Nan company. Turns out that Nan already had a friend coming to stay who was also a recent widow, but I was amazed by Linda's offer. She's a true gem.

Anyway, Pa is gone. Still can't really accept it due to the suddenness of the whole thing. I think the best compliment he was given was from Nan who said all her Wigg boys are good and decent men, and they all inherited that trait from Pa. That's about as high a compliment as I'd hope for when my time comes. Pa must have been proud of his achievements - a self-taught man who raised a happy and successful family and lived a full and eventful life after his retirement as a company accountant at Ampol (now part of ChevronTexaco). He and Nan certainly did not put their feet up in retirement and had only recently returned from driving trips to South Australia and outback New South Wales. I think my most fond memory of Pa will be the day that Dad, Pa and I went up to Mum and Dad's property in Swansea to do some electrical work. Dad had to return to the hardware store for some more supplies and Pa and I were charged with looking after the lunch that was already on the BBQ. Anyway, we naturally got distracted with other things and before we knew it Dad had returned and our lunch now consisted of six strips of charred material that were originally English-style beef sausages. The two of each getting in trouble together was probably the closest we'd been! :-) I'll also miss his instantaneous map references whenever I mentioned the name of some place. He would have the relevant map out within seconds... :-)

I'm going to add a verse below and I hope these more learned words can better express the emotions I felt last week...

I cannot say; and I will not say
That he is dead. He is just away!
With a cheery smile and a wave of the hand,
He has wandered into an unknown land.
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.
And you--oh you, who the wildest yearn,
For the old-time step and the glad return
Think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here...
Think of him still as the same, I say;
He is not dead, he is just - away!

- James Whitcomb Riley

Bye for now...


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Who you gonna call?

I wonder if the age of the home phone line is over?

Linda and I are seriously thinking about ditching our land line. Why? Because we never use it. We are both on capped mobile phone plans that allow for up to $500 of calls/SMS etc for $79 per month. Once you've used more than $79 worth of stuff - which we always do - you might as well go for the full $500 worth, which is what we've been doing. (We've never gotten close to $500 on a monthly bill by the way. It's my on-going challenge!) So, given that scenario, we never make calls on the home phone. Similarly, no one ever calls us on our home phone. So why pay $20 a month to Telstra for a line rental that we never use?

Problem is that others will probably get funny about having to call us on a mobile instead of a land line. Still, it's all about me so who cares what they think? :-)

Perhaps we'll ditch our current crapola dial-up internet connection and switch to broadband with all that money we save from dumping the land line. TPG have a pretty good broadband deal at the moment it seems - a 20GB monthly limit at 1.5MB/256 speeds for just $49.95 per month. Sounds like a good price. I wonder if it's a bit too good to be true...

Other stuff - not much to report apart from the fact that Kristen apparently laughed this morning for the first time. Linda and Chelsea were giving her a zubber [*] on her tummy and she chuckled. Guess the challenge is for me to be able to repeat it tonight!

[*] zubber = that thing where you blow a raspberry on someone's skin. I don't know where I got the word zubber from - I thought that was the common phrase but apparently I'm all alone. A Google search on zubber returns nothing on the subject at hand. What do other people call it?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Sorrento, Rocky Balboa and ... DEATH!

Hi Blog. Long time, no post...

First off, the good news - we had an absolutely awesome weekend down at Sorrento staying at the weekender home of some friends. Really nice weather, Chelsea and I spent most of Saturday at the beach digging holes in the shallow sand banks just of shore. (They were her "baths" that she was making...) After a baby-chino or two (and one of the best vanilla slices on the planet) it was back down to the beach for more bath-making.

On Saturday night we had some of the best tasting fish & chips I've ever come across - but we were sure paying Sorrento prices when it came to $62 for a few pieces of fish, calamari rings and chips! I nearly fainted...

Anyway, the bad news is that Chelsea was bitten by some insect down there when in bed on Saturday night and has had some kind of allergic reaction to the bite. Her right eye is totally swollen to the point that she can't open it. She really does look like Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky" but without the blood. She's been to the doctor and there's nothing to worry about, but it looks shocking. When she went to school this morning everyone was freaking out. It was quite funny - all the other kids were running up to take a look. I was tempted to start the "roll up, roll up one and all - come and see the incredible freak with only one eye!" act...

Had a mild heart attack when I heard on the news that there was a bombing in Qatar at a theatre popular with "westerners" yesterday. Qatar just happens to be where Nick is these days, and when I heard that the "British school" next door was also hit then I really started to worry. (Nick teaches at a British school where they even have to teach the British national curriculum. Not sure how many Qatari six year olds are going to remember the order of the Tudor monarchs.) Anyway, got an e-mail from Nick last night who assured me that all was fine. Good news...

Listening to John Mayer's "Heavier Things" album at the moment. (Hey, better late than never.) Great songs - wish I could write like that.

By the way - the phrase of the decade was uttered by Linda the other night. The dog of the friend we were staying with had to be put down a year ago when (out of the blue apparently) it savaged a cow at the family farm. Linda's follow-up question was - "Oh my God! Did it kill it to death?" No Linda, it just killed it a little bit and it recovered soon after. :-) Needless to say she copped a pretty strong ribbing for the rest of the night.

Today's Word of the day: spoonerism \SPOO-nuh-riz-uhm\, noun:The transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words.