Sunday, March 31, 2013

Perfectly ordinary

I had an ordinary week. Had massive coffees, walked the dogs, groomed and fed them, went to work, had dinner, worked some more, and came home. Perfectly ordinary. 

Oh, and I had a birthday. I found a nice cider that tastes of toffee apples. And the owner of our favourite chilli dog place by the sea gave me a birthday glass of wine. Perfectly ordinary day too, though I didn't have to work that day. Given this time last year, ordinary is good.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Late breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day -- but is it still breakfast when the first meal of the day was at 4.30pm? I got out of bed at 3pm today. The dogs stayed in bed and would have stayed there until I made the bed and tossed them out of it. Looks like I'm not the only one in for a long, lazy weekend.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mixed bag

I had just recharged my iPod so when I plugged in today as I settled down on my train ride to work, the playlist reverted to the "All Songs" library on a shuffle setting. On came Alfie Boe, followed by Guns 'n' Roses, then Vivaldi, Village People, INXS, and a Bollywood song I'd forgotten was even there (years ago I attended a Bollywood dance class, and I must have downloaded it when I was trying to familiarise myself with the music as I memorised the choreography). After that, it pretty much degenerated into 80s rock -- which just about shows you what era I'm stuck in. Still, musical schizophrenia ain't no bad thing. :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Random things of niceness

Going to work is never a nice thing, however much I like my job. So I try and make the commute nice by taking different routes to work. Sometimes the train, sometimes the bus, sometimes a combination of both.

The bus is the nicest, because it takes me down a road that has old liana-lined trees growing along the road divider. Dappled sunshine filtering through flame trees. Nice.

Lately, double-decker buses have been added to ply the route, which means that the view from an additional few feet up now includes peering over people's garden walls and catching glimpses of sleeping dogs. Nice, too.

Yesterday, as the bus approached a bus-stop, I happened to be looking out of the window while a girl waiting there happened to be looking in my direction as the bus pulled up. Our gazes met, and she smiled a shy half-smile. I smiled back. And then, both suddenly discomfitted that we were smiling at strangers, we broke eye contact. In any case, the bus pulled away. And suddenly, my workday was already getting better.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ups and downs

I'm getting a sort of PTSD from logging onto Facebook. FB was how I found out a few months ago that a friend had a cardiac arrest and flatlined before an emergency room defibrillator brought him back. He survived and has recovered. FB was how I found out last week an Internet friend in the US died suddenly. And FB this morning was how I found out a Tokyo friend has been hooked up on a ventilator in ICU over the weekend -- he couldn't breathe, the cold that took so long to shake off was pneumonia.

And all this time, FB was also where other friends, proud parents, posted pictures of their children -- a pair of twins turning one; a boy scoring for his team at a hockey match; another boy getting his taekwondo black belt; and an only child at his kindergarten graduation.

I had no idea while researching (OK, googling) the half-forgotten Kahlil Gibran quote for yesterday's entry that FB had more ironies to throw at me.

What will tomorrow bring?

Monday, March 11, 2013

The circle of life

This time last week, a friend posted an entry entitled 'The week begins' on his blog. He blogged everyday, and this was about the start of his work week. By the end of the week, we had news of his sudden death from a medical complication. We're still in shock.

This time last year, another friend fighting cancer thought she would be lucky if she made it to Christmas. As the year panned out, I didn't dare to express to her my sorrow -- she had more to bear -- as we reached the last New Year; the last birthday; the last Valentine's Day; the last spring; the last dog. But by the end of the year, she was cancer free. She cancelled her hospice booking and went home. It wasn't straight-going as that, in between there were falls and broken bones and scares. But she's alive, and life is good, she will tell you.

This time last year, I was facing my birthday alone, with L in hospital. And it was my Chinese astrological year at that. But now, L is shoving something up his sleeve for the day. Far more meaningful to me is that this year, it falls on Easter Sunday. If ever there was a symbol of renewal.

"Joy and sorrow are inseparable ... together they come and when one sits alone with you ... remember that the other is asleep upon your bed."
- Kahlil Gibran

Friday, March 08, 2013

Goodbye, friend

At some point, the kindness of a stranger makes him a friend.

And so it was with Bill. 

Oh, I've got cyberfriends -- cyberfamily, we call each other now -- people I've met on the Net through dog groups, who've walked me and my dogs through sorrow and through joy; people whose dogs I mourned when they passed on, dogs that I've never petted, never scritched behind the ears. A cyber bond isn't virtual, it's real, it's strong.

Bill wasn't one of doggy people. I never thought I'd become friends with a tax accountant on the other side of the world. Even if he seemed to like dogs. He wrote a blog about caregiving for an elderly parent, and that was what we had in common. Geriatric medication. Not the sort of stuff that you'd think a friendship would be based on.

I came across his blog as a link from someone else's. I hung around and read. And later, I posted on his comments page. All the other comments were from people who obviously knew him in some way or another. Nobody knew me. But they all made me welcome and were very helpful when I asked questions about elderly care. Bill was the leader in that circle of kindess. It must be true then, that the actions of a man's friends reflect on him. 

Later, we took our friendship onto Facebook. I still read his blog now and then, but didn't comment much. Most of the interaction now shifted to FB. There, he posted jokes and interesting vignettes. Recent entries were old photos and newspaper clippings of his parents when they were younger, businesses that they had owned, homes where they had lived. Judging from his friends' responses, the group on FB were old school friends and people he grew up with, and lived among. Family friends and relatives. No place for me there, I thought, and I never posted much more than an occasional "like" or haha-type comment at his wisecracks. But still I was made welcome, he responded to every comment.

I stopped posting much on the blog. I didn't think it was right to keep whining about the stress of caregiving. Would Bill really want to know that dad's feeding tube had clogged up again, that he had peed on the floor in a pique again. Though I knew Bill would offer encouragement enough to help me shoulder on. But I didn't want to bother him with the mundane blahs. Exchanging jokes on and sharing funny pictures on FB seemed a more positive thing to do.

Sometimes, I'd see a travel or food programme on Portland, Oregon on cable TV. There's a famous hot dog stand or something. I'd mentally file it away as something to ask Bill about. Or something to check if I ever go there. What a hoot it would be, I thought, if we ever finally met up. I'd have to go there, he told me, he didn't fly, he had a fear of flying. And went on to "like" all the vacation pix I posted on FB. Well, going to Portland would be something to do, sometime. Always sometime, some other time.

This morning, when I woke up, in that haze between sleep and wakefulness, where your minds speaks to you of what it knows is ahead, in that line between consciousness and unconsciousness, in that inner voice that is sadly shaken off when wakefulness takes over -- I knew I was going to light a candle today. I thought it was for Evelyn, one of the cyberdogs. John in Texas (I always thought of them as so-and-so in such-a-state, they're scattered all over the US, and at first when everyone was new, it helped me to remember who was where. I wonder if they think of me as that One in Singapore.) had posted a few days ago that her time had come, and I knew he was grieving.

It was for Bill. One of the friends from his blog, who became a friend in her own right, emailed me with news that he had died suddenly. There was a medical complication, I found out later, on his blog and FB page.

The man that I'd always imagined to be at the other end of the globe, sitting at his PC and uploading uplifting tales on his blog and FB page suddenly wasn't there anymore.

And suddenly, there is a hole in my life. A virtual cyber friend, but an actual acute hole.

Thank you for your friendship, Bill. RIP.


PS - I only realised when I hit the "post" button, that this is my 1,000th blog entry. Somehow, kinda apt. A key number for a key person. Bill would have appreciated it. I had to squelch a natural impulse to send him a post or a poke to let him know. I shall miss that he isn't on the other reading end of the blog.