Monday, 29 October 2012

Phuket - let's go.

Yes I stole that from a Virgin billboard - but it seems apt.

We'd arranged months ago to come to Phuket for my brother Michael's 50th. I'd even arranged respite for George so it' s just Geoff and me. It's so odd to get to the airport without kids and wheelchairs and excesses of baggage. We got into the transfer van and Geoff put his arm around my shoulders and I jumped - only because I wondered what had just landed on my arm, so used we are to wrangling so many other demands.

It's the first time since we had 5 days in Byron Bay 12 years ago that we've been away together without kids. But as the whole family is going, including my parents, Eleanor joked that my oldest two children will be there!

We have absolutely fluked the weather. They have had quite a bit of rain but no that we've seen. We had dinner at a restaurant on the beach on Saturday night - loads of Moet and great Thai food and yesterday we spend the day out on a catameran. It even had six bean bags made of shade cloth and clipped onto ropes on the trampoline that stretched over the hulls at the front. The weather started off lovely and finished up perfect. We sailed to Raya Island where we dropped anchor. We swam to shore, kayaked and snorkelled and clambered back onto the boat for more great Thai food for lunch. On the resturn trip - a good couple of hours - the water was so still that in the sunset it looked like mercury. And just as the sunset on one side, the full moon rose on the other. A glass of white wine and the company of family and my new (brother's) friends and it was an absolutely glorious day. A huge contrast to the 9 degrees and rain we'd left behind at 4am on Saturday when we finally flew out of Melbourne.

Here's a couple of snaps of the ridiculously luxurious villa my brother kindly has us staying in.

View from our room

View from our bedroom

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Organ Donor-ing

I was reminded by one of George's teachers that he told one of the blind kids at his school, “Damian, when I die you can have my eyes.”

He always was generous.

We were asked to consider organ donation for George in the States - specifically his kidneys -  and we agreed. Then after an assessment, they decided he was ineligible after all.

I almost wondered why they didn't start with the assessment... but I guess that may come across as being pushy.

Organ donation is a huge gift and one I'm sure George would have been proud to make.

For Australians, I am a supporter of 'opt out' rather than our current system of 'opt in' for organ donation.

So while it's top of mind, if you're not an organ donor and think you should be, jump on and register  here now.

If George could be that generous, we all can be.

George - at about 15

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Sandals

There's something about grief that makes you want to clean, tidy and de-clutter everything.

My brother popped down from Dubai on Sunday for the day and as we strolled to brunch, I was quite overjoyed to see my flat bronze sandals in the front window of the op shop, with a $3.50 sticker on each one.

Is that $3.50 each or for the pair, Michael mused.

Dropping more stuff off yesterday, I was going to get a photo for you - but they'd already been snapped up!

Here's kind of what they didn't look like....

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Matthew Flinders

When George was about 9 or 10, we were meeting a couple of other families for dinner at a local pub called the Matthew Flinders.

As we headed in Geoff said to George in passing, 'George, did you know Matthew Flinders was an early Australian explorer?'

'Really?' said George. "I just assumed he was a big drinker."

Still can't believe he's gone....

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

"No offence, but..."

There was a real theme around George's life celebration, in particular his ability to be breath-takingly honest. I don't think any of the speakers failed to mention his preemptive "No offence, but..."

And because I still want to just think about George right now, again, being totally self-indulgent (isn't that all bloggers??) I wanted to share what I said about him last Friday.

Twenty years ago, I said to Geoff  “we really should start trying for a baby. It could take us 2 years to find out we can’t.”  It took us 2 weeks to find out we could.  And that was George.

George’s travels started immediately as just a few weeks pregnant, we headed off on a 5 week backpacking trip of Mexico. But he was actually born on Saturday June 12th 1993, a freezing cold day in Melbourne with snow on the Dandenongs. And so began his amazing, charming, funny, joyous 19-year life adventure.

We moved from Box Hill to Malvern when George was 18 months old. His crèche wrote up George’s routine and preferences for the new crèche, suggesting he be encouraged to be more assertive. And it wasn’t long until – as George shoved toddles from moving trikes so he could take over – their wish was granted.  He did find his equilibrium and his tribe, being Georgia, Pete and James (who all made it to his 18th birthday party last year) and the social life of those pre-schoolers rivaled most teenagers. George was, frankly, incredibly popular and happy.

He was a gorgeous little boy. In fact, we were in Queenscliff one weekend and George was running ahead of us on the street past a group of cool young 20-somethings. As they past me I overheard one guy say, ‘when I have a kid he’s going to be just like that.’

The start to school was unexpectedly shaky. Although socially adept, he wasn’t fast to catch on to the skills of reading and writing. In fact, after Grade 1, it was decided that he should repeat. George wasn’t that happy – until he found out he was repeating with a couple of his besties.
However his fine motor skills began to deteriorate and it became increasingly obvious that something wasn’t right. George was diagnosed with NPC aged 9. But once we knew that, school became a whole lot easier. Toni joined George as his integration aide and the expectations of his abilities were adjusted accordingly making it a happier time for all.

George had a memorable presentation in Grade 3. Lifted directly from Bart Simpson, he opened with “Ladies and Gentlemen…. Prepare to be dazzled!” After which it probably didn’t matter much what he actually said! What he may have lacked in academic achievement he certainly made up for in entertainment and charm.

He had a happy time at Malvern Central School and with Toni’s help and good humour, stayed on until year 8 after which he moved to Glenallen.

Like Jaz, we worried about the move to Glenallen, but he loved it. Vivienne will tell you a bit more about that later.

George has always been philosophical about life and his lot.  Like my friend Kate, when faced with the unchangeable, he’d say ‘Well what can you do,’ – it was statement, not a question. When Jaz died 3 1/2 years ago, George asked to speak to her boyfriend Dylan at school. ‘It was just her time,’ he told him.

Our friend Penny reminded us this week that in Africa last year, as she coughed and told George she hoped he didn’t get her cold, he grabbed her arm and said ‘Penny, if you spend your whole life worrying about what might happen, you’d never do anything.’ And finally, to my work friends at the Glenallen School art show when they introduced themselves by saying ‘I work with your mum’, he said ‘I am soooo sorry…..”

His sense of humour and dry wit were well known and often used to break an awkward moment. When his teacher Michael, who later admitted he was a bit nervous, rambled on to the class on day one of school, George raised his hand; ‘Michael…. What the hell are you talking about??”

His charm was on occasion a veneer to mischief which I don’t believe was all together innocent. Anything that started with ‘No offence’ was bound to be. Like when he said to a staff member at school, ‘No offence Christine, but your moustache is really glistening in then sun.”

George did love a family holiday. He and I loudly ‘dah dah dah!!!ed” the theme song for Indiana Jones as we entered every pyramid and tomb in Egypt. It was his fascination with the ancient Egyptian gods in the Pokemon cards and the Indiana Jones movies that decided the destination in the first place. His love of animals took us to Borneo to see orang utangs, proboscis monkeys and turtles, to Africa to see rhinos, giraffe and lions and Thailand to pose with an enormous tiger, have snakes slung around his neck and ride elephants. He loved the birds of prey show at Healesville and even the Melbourne zoo was always a good day out.  On his last day in Yosemite, he was completely enchanted with the squirrels that came right under our chairs as we had lunch.

And of course, it was on our last holiday in the US was where George left us. We’d helicoptered into the Grand Canyon, rafted down the Colorado river and caught a couple of shows in Vegas before we got to the beautiful Yosemite national park.

As many of you know, he’d had a tough year so it was great to be doing what we all love best – exploring somewhere new and just being together.

George was a funny, thoughtful, caring, gentle soul . We were extremely lucky to have had him.  Even though it was far too short. We will love and miss him forever.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

My gorgeous George

Gorgeous George

As some of you may know, the reason for the sudden holt in the ART series was that when we got to Yosemite, our gorgeous George stopped breathing. His heart stopped. We did CPR and called 911 who were remarkably responsive. They managed to stabilise him and get to the local hospital before he was airlifted to Modesto hospital where he had the most attentive and professional care we could have hoped for.

But after three days on life support, it became apparent that our beautiful boy was not going to wake up. He passed away on Sunday afternoon, September 30th, 2012.

I'd like to thank Ginny in particular, the amazing ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurse and Mark, the respiratory guru for holding our hand throughout. Also ICU nurse Rachel, the understanding soul who wrangled Sass.

We held the celebration of George's life on Friday and I wanted to share the video my friend Sarah pulled together from family photos that captured him so extraordinarily well.

Like his sister Jaz, had he lived forever, we couldn't have loved him more.

The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly. ...