Today You Would Have Been 90
Today you would have turned 90. And I think you would have been fairly miffed about it.
You would have put on a happy face and sat there with good grace while we all sang happy birthday to you and fed you cake (because you couldn’t see it for yourself). But to those of us who knew you best you would have confided that you were tired, humiliated and sick of all the old lady presents, like lap blankets.
As hard as it is for me to admit it, you made a great choice not sticking around for your 90th. There would have been lap blankets for sure, and people writing you off as an old person which you never were.
You'd often look down at your hands and ask me who this old person was. It wasn't you, that's for sure.
Still, I have to admit, when I decided to view your dead body at the funeral home before your cremation I felt nervous. Nervous like standing on a beach watching a tsunami rolling in - you know you've got to face it, but you also don't know how you can ever bear the hit.
It was upsetting seeing you lying there dead, and when I lifted your hands to place a bunch of violets underneath, you felt cold and rubbery... But mostly it was a relief.
You looked peaceful, neat and serene and they did a tasteful job with your make-up (you would have approved). But my overwhelming thought was, "Oh, that's not Dot. That's just the shell she was wearing for a while".
I thought my world would end when you died.
It didn’t. And maybe that was even harder. The cars still moved, the shops stayed open and the rest of the world was oblivious. I felt angry at the world for that, and honestly I felt angry at you too. I felt like you’d deserted me, and left me out of your plans.
It's been three and a bit years now since you died. I know you didn't believe in life after death (I wonder if you've changed your mind on that now), and even though I do, I can't honestly say I feel your presence around me. But you are always in my thoughts and very often in my writing so maybe you are. I like to think so.
Either way, I'm going to assume that you are and catch you up on news - because we always loved a good gossip (I mean 'discussion') didn't we!
Okay first of all, now brace yourself... The Apple Room is gone.
I know initially you're not going to be happy about that, and I loved it too. The old grey boards, broken windows and gaps that let shards of light and rain through. The mountains and generations of stuff that was piled in its mysterious corners. But I think you'll be happy with the result. In it's place there sits an undercover dining area.
And now that I've eased you into it, the whole yard has been cleaned up. All the discarded farm machinery, fallen down buildings and broken down vehicles - gone. It's now very neat and tidy, but sad and weird too - tokens of three generations of living erased.
On a happy note, the belladonna lillies still pop their heads up each year and Meg had her wedding there.
And it was such a beautiful day Dot. You would have loved it. A big marquee out near the rose garden, the ceremony in the front paddock, colourful Japanese lanterns and a house full of happiness, love and family - just the way you liked it.
And the weather was perfect - so you were probably there weren't you? Putting in an order for sunshine like you always seemed to.
Indi and Che are growing into such lovely people. Almost every night it’s a race to see the first star. And when we find it we say, “There’s Dot.”
Do you remember that night when we were all staying with you - five little boys in the front room, and they’d all been horsing around and Che fell on the filing cabinet and cut his back? Well he loves that scar and calls it his Dot Scar.
Indi still loves drawing and we both love keeping our art supplies in the assorted Cuban cigar boxes that I guess must have been Pop's.
Now Dot, I have a conundrum…
I claimed quite a few of your garments so they didn’t get thrown out. Special things like that red and white stripy t-shirt you used to wear a lot and the blue and white shirt with the top button missing. They looked great on you but they don’t really suit me, so they sit hanging in my closet.
I feel like I should give them away so they can be of use to someone, but I can’t bear to let go of them.
What would you do? Ha! Now that I write that I realise it’s a crazy question to ask the woman who had a suitcase full of inch long pieces of ribbon... Ok I’ll keep them!
Dot, if things had been different we’d be sitting out in the garden eating fruitcake, orange biscuits and shortbread, drinking tea and doing a crossword. The jacaranda and white cedar would be flowering above us, the paddocks would still be green from a very wet winter and you’d no doubt have other family members and friends buzzing around getting the house ready for your birthday.
I'm sad that instead I'm writing to you in cyber space (which I know always perplexed you), but happy that you don't have to put up with lap blankets, blindness and feeling old.
Wherever you are Dot, happy birthday! We're all thinking of you, and eating cake on your behalf.
P.S. I would really love it if you could drop in sometime and tell me all about the other side. :)