A Contented & Satisfying Life
Termite Eaten Bones
These pages were written by Dorothy Bremner
For Ian's 70th birthday we had a small BBQ for 20 of my relatives during the week and the big party on the Saturday. 70 like-minded friends helped Ian celebrate, contributing to the feast. It was a great day. Jordan and Kathy helped him to cut the cake. Karen, John and the children were not able to come from Bega.
It was nearly 20 years since Ian and I had met and he had lived longer than he had anticipated at the time in spite of health problems and was more active than many younger people. Living in harmony with nature, having rewarding hobbies, knowing that he will leave a little piece of the earth better than he found it and that he has contributed to the community resulted in a contented and satisfying outlook.
For our birthdays we treated ourselves to "La Traviata" at the Opera House. Marvellous!
Norna arrived one afternoon when we were hurrying to finish a few things before going to vote and to a BBQ. She had blond hair, was wearing at least twenty pieces of jewellery and heavy clunky shoes. Ian could not stop himself making a comment about her strange appearance. She told us in detail about a big party she had given on her large BBQ. At the end of the evening "Everything went in the bin. No washing up. No leftovers." Why had she made a point of telling us this?
Ian was involved with restoring a tiny bush church rescued from the termites and relocated to the museum grounds. It was opened in November and Ian was duly recognised and given credit on the front page of the local paper for his part in finding matching materials and putting his skills to good use in line with heritage requirements.
We did some things independently. I did not encroach on his building world, nor he on my writing world, but more and more we were choosing to do things together. I attended meetings as a representative of the museum re the creation of Jervis Bay Marine Park.
Ian had an operation to have one of his cataracts removed and when I went back to the hospital soon after, I could hear him whistling. The second operation was a month later and he was thrilled to be able to see clearly Point Perpendicular lighthouse across the Bay without his glasses. I suggested if he wanted to drive again, he should have some refresher lessons but he was happy to leave things as they were. His peripheral vision did not improve.
We went again to O'Reilly's and this time Ian was well enough to attempt a 16 km nearly flat walk to Bithongabel and Toolona Lookouts, taking plenty of time. The ancient beech trees were a feature. I carried the backpack on the way as it was slightly uphill, he carried it part of the way back. Very satisfying. We also did other less strenuous walks and plenty of bus trips.
For Glen's 18th birthday we gave him a basic gas welder as he had expressed an interest in welding as a hobby. He told us he had hated every school he had ever been at and resisted the idea of a TAFE course but was persuaded to do a pre-apprenticeship course and as a result got apprenticed to a panel-beater at Huskisson. He then came quite often to our place to chop wood and do other jobs for us and often stayed for dinner.
We carried on with our usual involvement with the museum and the plant society. I entered our garden and the museum garden in a "Waste Busting" competition. Both gardens were well mulched and survived the drought pretty well and won their sections. I had habitually diverted water to the garden from most things except the toilet and did not use water-dependant plants.
In the winter Ian's Myeloma suddenly went up and he was tired and feeling the cold after months of being comparatively well. He was staying in bed which was unlike him, often going back after breakfast to keep warm. [He was still cooking his own oatmeal in his own special Highland way]. He had a fall at the museum, pulling out nails. He can't afford any broken bones. He had two courses of Chemotherapy.
Peter took five of my grandchildren to the Snowy. He had sometimes camped with his boys in a tent and taken them on short cross-country trips. They all came back for a few days with us. Only Kathy was not there.
In the spring APS had a plant display and sale at Fitzroy Falls and we took our turns on the roster. Then we went to Blackheath for five days and did lots of steady walks and garden visits. I did the Grand Canyon and was very proud of myself until Peter told me he had recently done it with his boys, including his three-year-old!
Ian working on the caretaker's cottage at the museum, had another fall and took skin off one arm and bruised the other. No more chemotherapy was recommended until after our trip north, so that he will have some energy while we are away.
On Thursday when we got to the haematologist Helen, the receptionist said "Did you bring your 'jamas?" She had been trying to ring us. He was to have a new treatment which involved a monthly visit to hospital for an infusion of a drug which should reduce the bone loss and the pain as the myeloma advanced. I took Ian to Hospital for the Aredia infusion, (pamidronate) which took 24 hours. I bought him a toothbrush and he wore hospital pyjamas and Paddy took his medication in next morning. He began to have a regular Aredia infusion, a drug new to his form of cancer to help reduce bone loss and pain.
Another time Helen rang me about 10.30 at the museum to take him to hospital, so I had to come home, found him asleep. After getting him to hospital, I went and collected the script from the doctor, took it to the chemist, then to the hospital and back to the museum. This time the infusion was over 12 hours, so he was finished early in the morning. I collected him about 9am, then did a bit of shopping. Ian went to bed feeling tired, and had some soup for lunch.
Broken bones were an ever-present risk. Later a four weekly, five-hour treatment was arranged beginning at 7.30am. A fixed time was a big help. The drug may have contributed to a dermatitis-type rash on his hands, blisters and a rash on his arms and dandruff or "cradle-cap" on his scalp.
In July Ian got a phone call from Norna (from work), she talked mainly about Kerry's illness. Ian said his bones were also getting very brittle, Norna made no comment, just went on chatting, reminded Ian it is Alison's birthday on Monday. Alison was doing her HSC and was hoping to do something in the music line as she had continued her interest after we gave her a guitar a few years earlier.
Kylie said she would like a jewellery box which Ian made her for her birthday. In the evening Ian wanted to watch a video on Mammoths but was falling asleep, so he rang Sean with his latest results, but sounded pretty confused being half asleep and went to bed early.
The weather was a bit cooler and Ian's lips were blue even though he wore a parka.
My three children and all six of my grandchildren were together in one place for the first time. All the children were encouraged to be good communicators, eager learners, curious, creative, venturesome like their parents. They all enjoyed the natural world, all Peter's boys were introduced early to rock-climbing. Peter took the boys to Thirroul for the night, "camping" at Jacqueline's place.
Ian's red and white cells were still below normal, but improved, but his myeloma reading had gone up to 44. More chemotherapy was recommended. He was having blood transfusions as needed and regular courses of chemotherapy, trying to maintain its effectiveness as long as possible. Too many transfusions can result in a build-up of iron in the blood. We tried to be as positive as possible, to do what we could, see what we could and make the most of our remaining time together. We would not waste time with regrets about things we could not change.
Once again we went to O'Reilly's and had an early Christmas with Peter and the boys, and another celebration with my granddaughters and their families at Jacqueline's place.
My computer broke down, I lost some work, so I bought a new one, the same brand as the museum as I was doing secretarial work etc.
Ian was working on making a desk and bookshelves for Kathy for her birthday and Xmas presents. When we took it up to Bronte I went to the Mitchell Library to do some research, met Ian at noon and went to Homebush for a tour of the Olympic Centre. We enjoyed the visit and decided to go again in a year or so. We had previously been to the site and would like to go again in the near future. It is an amazing transformation from a derelict area.
I started a story about Ian's life on my new computer as I wanted his grandchildren to know the facts about his background. Jacqueline scanned the pictures. I also learnt how to record Ian's test results in a spreadsheet.
The museum had won a major grant to upgrade the building and house the ferry, the main artefact. The architect asked Ian to make a number of plinths to display objects. Ian bought the materials, cut out the plinths and began work on them a couple at a time as he could.
In February Sean rang to talk to me about taking Ian to Kiama for lunch with Norna, he said he would not let her hassle him. I told him I didn't think Ian would agree unless there was some indication of a change of heart from Norna. Sean rang back later after Ian and I had time to talk. Ian said "No way, unless Dorothy is included." Sean persisted if they meet and talk, things could improve. How could he prevent Norna reciting her grievances again? We had a few arrangements in the next week, so Ian used that as excuse. He was very wary and knew she would not be receptive to what he said.
In April there was a phone call from Norna about 3pm (from work?) re Alison's bank account. Ian did not talk long. Norna said Alison needs money for her books for her course, Ian said he would make up the shortfall, but she should send dockets. Ian had been putting money in a bank account for Alison for many years in lieu of birthday and Christmas presents and when she had turned 18, Ian had transferred the money to an account in Alison's name, a substantial sum. He had sent her the bank book so that she could add to it herself. On Saturday morning before going to the museum, Ian rang Norna at home and told her this, also saying that Alison had never thanked him, and if the money was not there then Alison had spent it. Soon after we got home the phone rang and I guessed it would be Sean ringing on Norna's behalf. He said Norna was upset that Ian had been abrupt. Ian said she only rang when she wanted money. Alison was going on 19, Norna rang on her behalf and Sean rang on Norna's behalf!
Before we went to Lord Howe Ian had the second blood transfusion that year as his red cell count was down to 8.5. and the ESR was high but he would not take chemotherapy until our return. During the year he had three courses of chemotherapy. We had three great trips away, a week on Lord Howe Island which was different, about a dozen of us in self-catering cabins, a week on the South Coast with APS and two weeks north and to O'Reilly's Guest House. We had bought a brand new car, a Toyota wagon which was ideal for our weekly shopping, our holiday trips, big bags of potting mix and hardware for Ian's woodwork. It also had air-conditioning which we used only on the hottest days in the north, but made the trip more comfortable for us as we got older. Peter and the boys came to O'Reilly's for the weekend and slept in our room, we took them to lunch and all had a wonderful experience, enjoying the birds, the magnificent rainforest scenery, the views and food. O'Reilly's was of course familiar to us, but never the same.
Sean rang to say that Norna wants to "make up". On Monday she sent photos (from work) of Alison's "Formal", Norna with VERY blond hair, Alison looking very sophisticated. I have dreaded the day when Norna made contact, unless she had sincerely changed her attitude and wanted to make peace.
Ian started writing some "Memoirs" for Tarland which I typed. He didn't think they would want his ramblings but they wrote back that they were very pleased. Ian had things to do at LD. At lunch time a call came for Ian to go to hospital for next infusion. Went first to Pathology for blood test (red cell count down to 9.8) then to ward about 3pm.
About this time we bought a cordless phone which I could take with me into the garden and Ian could use in his easy chair. He never bothered to take it to his workshop if I was not home unless he was expecting an important call.
We watched the New Millennium Programs from all over the world, some very spectacular, Sydney's as good as any with fireworks from the Bridge, and at dawn Circus Oz "dancing" down the roof of the Opera House and AMP building. Nearly every country even those who don't believe in our calendar (which we know to be wrong anyway) put on a celebration. Soon afterwards we took my two granddaughters to see the replica of the "Batavia" at the Maritime Museum in Sydney. Very interesting for young and old. Jordan came back with us as she did most holidays. She was very keen on our outings looking at plants, birds, scenery also museum activities.
In April Ian made a cupboard for Emiko which we took up to Sydney. David accepted a two-year contract as head of the computer department in the Australian Embassy in Tokyo. Kathy finished her school year before she and her mother went over. At first Kathy found it hard as her Japanese was not fluent.
Glen told us he had a girlfriend in Bega and would like to transfer to a job there. He had lived with his father in Nowra for a while, he had not made any friends in the Shoalhaven and now lived alone. He continued with his panel-beating apprenticeship and we saw him from time to time.
During the year we continued our German lessons and bird-watching with University of the Third Age (U3A), as well as family, museum and native plant activities. It has been our custom recently to put on a big annual display and sale of native plants at an information centre at Fitzroy Falls. This year it coincided with the Olympic Games in Sydney so we had lots of overseas visitors besides the locals looking for plants to bring birds and wildlife to their gardens. The week before the Games we had gone to a nearby village to cheer the Torch on its way to Sydney and watch a "billy-cart derby" which took us back to our childhoods when all the boys including my brother had a "billy-cart".
The myeloma went up steadily and he had three lots of chemotherapy, his red and white cell counts were low for which he had a couple of blood transfusions. He was a little more breathless and tired than previously, but continued to go on trips and keep busy in the workshop, garden, museum. There were always lots of jobs on our few acres. We also went to see Kevin who was by now quite ill.
In August Ian made a cassette holder for Betty. When we went to Fitzroy Falls with APS, she came from Bowral to collect it. As in previous years we did our bit on the roster at the plant display and sales. Later in the year we went on a bus trip for five days to a mountainous area north of Sydney where a highlight was seeing thousands of fireflies, which delighted and amazed. In November we attended a family reunion in Newcastle collecting photographs for the family history I have researched and for which Jacqueline did the layout and scanned the illustrations. Then we again went to O'Reilly's and met a lot of very interesting people from all over the world. I hoped that Peter would come again, but he was having such difficulties with Dagmar with his work schedule and with the boys' visits that he felt unable to cope. I had been unable to help him and felt impotent, but I now had a lot to contend with myself as Ian got weaker and more dependent and it was obvious we would not have a lot more time together. We put each other first before our adult children. I could not impose my family problems on Ian and decided that Peter had to make his own choices, he was now forty, I was not responsible for his problems and could do nothing about them. Jo-Ann also found herself in an impossible situation with her boys and Peter's problems. Until then Peter had always been able to succeed at whatever he put his mind to. For the first time he was powerless. Until his boys are older he cannot move on. Dagmar makes the rules. He felt that men were the victims in family law arrangements.
In November Ian's friend, Kevin died. They had met when Ian and Jean came to Kiama
28 years earlier and had kept in touch ever since. Kevin was older but it was still a loss to Ian.
When Glen turned 21 he had a simple family BBQ in Bega. He was doing well in his apprenticeship. In April there was my Family Reunion and book launch at Thirroul organised by Jacqueline. I had been working on my maternal family history for years and had now decided that I wanted to get it finalised. Jacqueline scanned in all the best pictures we could find (although more turned up later) and organised a big gathering. About a hundred people came and it was great.
In May we collected brochures re Japan and Queensland but Ian decided that it all sounded too exhausting.
One day in June when Ian was having his Aredia, Norna and Sean went to the hospital, having found out when Ian was booked in. Norna arranged a flexi-day. I had gone to the chiropractor and shops then back to the hospital when I had to move the car. I got a great shock to see Norna there wearing heavy perfume and make up, especially lipstick and a VERY short skirt and brief top in spite of the weather. Sean had also been but had to leave for work. This was the first time that Ian, Sean and Norna had been together for years. Ian as usual made light of things, talked to them about trivial matters but I wanted him to tell Norna personally what he wanted after he died. When he told her, she was unhappy about his choice of a "wake" and it was plain she did not accept what he was saying, either the fact that his life was limited or that he had a wish for something other than the traditional service. Her reaction confirmed this as she said plainly "I don't like that". Then she started about me preventing her from seeing her Dad, rushing to answer phone so that Ian could not and other lies. She said she had been to a solicitor who said she had a right to see her Dad. Ian told her he had not wanted to see anybody in 1996 but she had insisted on coming even though he was not well. She said that on her last visit to Tomerong in 1998 I came and sat in the chair next to Ian (my chair where I ALWAYS sit). She said Sean was playing our game in order to have contact with his Dad (which he rarely did) and she was not going to play that game (what game? being civil to me?) She repeated a description of an incident about 1990 when Alison had not eaten her dinner when visiting us and Ian had not served her any dessert. This had come up before. Each time Norna recounted it, the details changed considerably until now I was the one who had engineered a major scene to humiliate Alison. It was completely fanciful. At least she would not be able to say that the funeral arrangements were not Ian's wishes, or that she wasn't told.
I said to Ian that we would soon hear from Sean. The call came soon after we got home. Sean agreed that Ian should plan things as HE wanted them, he would try to talk to Norna.
Ian had already been to a Funeral Director and enquired about alternatives such as a cardboard coffin or a shroud which he found were not legal in NSW. So he went back to the Funeral Parlour, prepaid and gave explicit instructions. He wrote down a statement of what he wanted and had it witnessed to remove any doubt.
I have had myeloma for several years now and as it is an incurable disease. I have made arrangements with a funeral director and paid for disposal of what is left of me. As I cannot be buried in a garden or forest where I would do some good, cremation has been opted for with the cheapest possible coffin. Even then I object to the waste of good particle board not to mention the pollution!
There will be NO funeral service, neither Dorothy nor I being religious. Upon my death Dorothy will contact the funeral parlour and they will take it from there. No flowers, no tears, but do please plant a tree, if you think well of me. If not still plant one anyway.
Afterwards there is going to be a "wake". Sufficient funds are available to give all my friends and relations food and drink. I have had a good and happy life and would like you all to give me a good and happy send-off. There will be a piper to play me home. I request three tunes in particular "My Home", "The bonnie Lass o Fyvie" and perhaps "Loch Rannoch".
The last part of my life here in the Shoalhaven has been especially enjoyable and rewarding and I feel I have been able to leave a small part of this planet slightly better than I found it. Can anyone ask for more?"
Copies of this were sent to the children so that there could be no argument.