Saturday, 18 February 2012

It's been 10 years since you left.

Well it's almost ten years ago, but we'll get to that in a sec, I have to go back a bit further first.

In September 2001, I was working in Mandurah, Western Australia, at Coast FM, hosting a night show which was a whole lot of fun and really where I found out what sort of announcer I would be. This is despite the fact that I was told by a guy called Mike Parry that I'd never make it in a capital city market. Less than 4 months later I was working at Fox FM in Melbourne, but I digress.

I received a phone call, at work, around 5pm from my mum, my sister was on the other line at mums place back in Melbourne.
She asked me to sit down because she had something to tell us. "You have another brother".
My sister said "I know, you already told Sandra (my other sister) and I that."
I, on the other hand, had no idea, nor did my older brother.
Long story short, I was told that mum had to give up her first child at birth, and this had eaten away at her, understandably so, but circumstances as they were in 1960, meant she simply had no choice.
As you would expect I was taken aback by this news, especially as he lived in WA, and had heard me on air over there.

A month later, after I had stewed over the news that, not only was I the youngest in the family, I was now one of 5 kids, I receive another call from mum.
If I was shocked and taken aback by the news of another sibling in September, you can imagine how I felt when mum uttered the following sentence.
"I have lung cancer."

Mum was a smoker most of her life, from the age of 16 she told me, when her dad died from a bizarre car accident (he was a policeman), whereby he was side swiped by an oncoming car, he lost and arm and died once he drove himself to hospital.
But mum had given up smoking 12 years prior to making this call to me in October of 2001.
Mum was instantly given treatment, pretty heavy stuff too, I don't really understand the stages of chemo and radio therapy, but mums was pretty full on.

I made plans to come back to Melbourne for a visit in November of 2001, and when I got home, I found that mum was reacting extremely well to treatment, oncologists and doctors were surprised with how well it was all going, and that it looked like mum would have quite a good chance of beating it.

I went back to WA a week later feeling pretty good with the situation, and kept my head down, chasing my goal of working for Austereo.

IN December of 2001, my old man called me to say that mum has the all clear for them to travel, and so they would, to Woolgoolga, north of Coffs Harbour, where they would stay in a friends shack on the beach. Not long after, I get a call from Craig Bruce at Fox FM, offering me work back in my home town. Of course I say yes, and I start to organise life for the move back home.

Due to making bugger all money in WA, and since I was living in a fully furnished place, I really didn't have much to move home, so I bought a box trailer, fully enclosed, which would be ample enough for our (gf at the time) gear.

A week before I was due to drive back from WA to Victoria with my trailer and life in tow, my car was stolen.
It was used in a high speed pursuit throughout Perth and met it's demise when it was struck by a police car. It was a write off.
I had let the insurance lapse by 3 weeks. It was agreed value insured for $11,000. It was gone. I was a broken man, I had put so much love and care into it, it was my pride and joy.
I picked it up with the help of friends, and brought it back to Mandurah, where I was able to sell it complete for $2500. That was enough to pay for flights, removalists etc.

Back in Melbourne, excited about new work prospects, I moved home with the parents for a couple of weeks until I found a place of my own, close to home so I could be near mum just in case.

I started with Austereo on the 7th January 2002.

As I mentioned mum and dad had gone away on their yearly jaunt up the NSW coast, but had made an early return when mum started getting some pain in her hip and chest.

Mum had secondary cancer in her hip, and it was spreading.

I was completely numb. Whilst I knew nothing about cancer really, all I knew was that it wasn't good and we'd lost my grandmother to it (mums side), My aunt had it (mums side), one sister was recovering from Hodgkins Lymphoma, and the other had previously suffered cervical cancer. So I knew this was bad news.

As time went on, this got worse, and I was in denial, complete and utter denial. Mum was the healthiest, strongest, compassionate, caring, selfless person I knew (I could go on with superlatives, but you get the idea) so I was sure she would win this battle. I was wrong.

Mum was moved into palliative care at Monash sometime in Feb of 2002, I don't really remember when it was, I was in denial and didn't have a clue what it was anyway.

Mum seemed to be in good spirits in hospital, so of course, I thought all was going to be ok

Mum was going to be 61 in April 2002, and as time went on, I had learnt more about her son she gave up at birth. His name was Craig, and mum and he had been speaking quite frequently now, which was excellent news. He held no resentment, and in fact was keen to meet mum, and it had been arranged for him to be here for mums 61st birthday.

Reality hit over the coming weeks, mum wasn't getting better, and in fact there were a few occasions where we, as a family, would drop whatever we were doing and rush to the hospital as the doctors would tell us there may not be much time left.

It was decided that Craig should get to Melbourne asap. And he, like us, dropped everything and made bookings to come over.

By the 11th of March, things were grim.

Craig was to arrive on the 12th.

By now, mum was pretty heavily medicated to ease the pain, and as such, didn't say much, if anything at all,  but we knew she could hear us around here due to her scrunching her eyebrows or a wry smile, if she could muster one. We comforted her, stroking her arms, chatting amongst ourselves letting her know that we were all there and that Craig would be here soon. We each had our own time with mum, and I pretty much cried the whole time talking to her when she said "Don't be sad, I've had an amazing life, it's ok." That's when reality hit me. Mum would not be coming home.

By the 12th we were pretty much in a bedside vigil. Constantly reassuring mum that Craig would be here soon and she could meet her long lost son. By the evening, mum hadn't said two words for 2 days.
Then Craig walked down the hall, it was the first time I had seen him, but he looked a part of our family, there was no doubt who's son he was. I hugged him and we all followed into mums room. "Mum, Craig's here" was said in chorus.

Mum, after no saying anything for 2 days, opened her eyes, saw Craig, a tear in her eye, reached out her arms and grabbed him with so much force I thought she would crush him. "I've been waiting your whole life for this" mum said.

I started crying and left the room. I went outside for some fresh air, and to be honest the rest of the night is a blur, we spoke to Craig, trying to make the best of the situation by making each other laugh as our family does in times like these.

When I was dropped off at home late that night, my aunt, mums sister, told me she's be picking me up in the morning around 8.

I woke up to the sound of a car horn beeping, I walked to the front door, and my dad was there, he asked if I was still coming to the hospital.
I said no.

I both regret this decision, and stand by it. Here's why.

I told dad that morning, "I said my goodbyes, I have a picture in my head of how I want to remember her, smiling and laughing, she'll be gone today, she's met Craig, I'm sure that's why she's hung on".

He understood and left.

At around 10:30pm, on the 13th March 2002, I got the call I had been dreading from my dad. Mum was gone.

If you've read this far, you're probably wondering why I've written about this, well, believe it not, I think it's important to get it out of me.
For years I've struggled with it all, the sequence of events that changed my life forever. Not only with family, but with my career.
I've written it now, because I don't know if I would have been able to write it on the 10th anniversary of mums passing, and I want people to realise how important family is. I'm lucky, in a way, my family is incredible, so supportive and accepting in every way. OF course we have differences, as all families do, but I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of people to call my own.

Anyway mum, I just want you to know that I think of you every day, we all laugh about stuff you used to do when we're together, but we miss you terribly. The pain will never go away and I will never get over losing you. I love you always mum.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

3 years on, we will never forget

I wrote the below 3 years ago after watching our state burn. 

I've just returned from Echuca, which for those international friends who don't know, is approx 2.5 hours north of Melbourne on the Murray River, the great river that divides Victoria and NSW.

I went there on Friday to watch The Southern 80 Ski Race, the biggest race in the southern hemisphere and a huge party weekend that is a heap of fun.. and this year, some mates and I thought we would camp on the river for a different persepctive as we usually stay in town.

When we arrived on Friday evening, it was 47 degrees at our camp site, that's hot, I don't care who you are, that is fuckin hot.
Luckily for us, we had the mighty murray to keep us cool, along with many beverages, tents, shady trees etc..

What happened next is still doing my head in.

We knew it would be hot on Saturday.. but we certainly were not prepared for just how disgustingly hot it got.
Putrid Northerly winds blew in on us at 100kph as we took refuge in the river before heading to another part of the river for a qualifying session of the ski race, and it was there that we realised we were becoming part of history.
The wind felt like fire against our skin as we stood in the shade watching boats and skiiers blast down the by, the kind of heat you feel when you stand in front of an open fire for just little too long, it felt like this wind could strip the skin off your body.

We headed back to our camp site and the thermometer in the Toyota Prado showed 49 degrees. And we did not doubt it.
Just before we reached out camp site, the small green LCD numbers flicked and showed something I never thought I would see.


50 fuckin degrees. Iin Victoria. Surely it can't be good.

We had set up another thermo at our camp site, in the shade, and it too read 50 when we arrived. Later, we had a phone call from other friends telling us that 52 had ben reached further up the river.

As I said, we had the river, and many bevvies to keep us cool. Yes I am burnt, but not badly.

And then we heard the news of the fires that were devastating our majestic "Garden State".
And each time a new report came on, the worse things got.

Today, as a result of these fires, the Ski Race was cancelled, because the paramedics who were on hand, were all called away to the fires, no paramedics means no race, hardly a big deal given the circumstances.

So we packed up our camp site, and headed on our way, listening intently to the ABC, getting horrifying statistics, and with each stat, our car would fall silent, followed by sighs of pure disbelief.

Once again, deliberately lit fires are decimating our country side, but more iportantly, destroying homes, and most heartbreaking, taking lives.

As many would know, Victora has been in a state of drought for over 10 years.. we've seen lakes dry up, farmers get pushed to the edge with sad consequences, water restrictions come in as a permanent fixture in our lives.. and they say global warming doesn't exist?

Melbourne has long suffered torment from the northern states about how much rain it gets.. well, I'm here to tell you, we don't get jack shit in comparrison.

Over the past few years we have seen hotter and hotter summers and I have watched and been thankful as each summer has pased, that the bushfires had been relatively 'under control', but we were all waiting for this.. we were all waiting for the day when we would se the top blow off this monster.

This weekend it happened.

We found the limit of what our country can take.

The mercury bubbled, the winds came through, and whilst 3/4 of Queensland "The Sunshine State" is under water from flooding, Victoria is burning down and suffering the hottest temps ever on record.

I still remember Ash Wednesday, the last time we really felt the true force of what mother nature can do with fire, and now, you will remember this weekend for the very same sad reasons.

It just does my head in. Where wll it end?

My fear now, is that this coming winter will be somewhat catastrophic for us Victorians.
Sure we need the rain to fill our reserves, but lets hope we can do over a few months, rather than a few days.

My heart goes out to those families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend and also praise and respect to the fireys who fight these monsters.

Swift justice to those fuckers who lit these fires, don't come bragging to me, it wouldnt be healthy.3