It was Grumpy Grandad's birthday yesterday.
Only my youngest sister, K, was there to visit him. I feel bad about this but a couple of days earlier he had told me that he was sick of people reminding him about his birthday. Funny, I remembered him asking my father a few days previously if he thought he would make it to his next birthday. It was important then, when he was scared that he was not going to survive the amputation.
K told me that he mostly dozed through her visit except when he woke to grouchily accuse her husband, a sensitive and gentle man, of 'wanting something' because he had the audacity to say earnestly "Pat you're looking so much better, it's really good."
This is a young man who came in alone to the hospital on the night of Grandad's operation, after he finished work, to sit quietly by his grandfather-in-law and hold his hand.
Good God, I said to K. Did Grandad really say that?
Yep, said K. And in a really loud voice too so everyone in the ward heard and T went bright red and felt humiliated.
So... Grumpy Grandad in fine form, really.
A director I worked with once told me that the human brain is like a waiter carrying six bowls of spaghetti on a tray.
He can only balance six at a time and if he tries to load on a seventh the whole thing tips and crashes. Pasta disaster, as it were.
And so this week, juggling my six bowls plus the salt and pepper and a wedge of parmesan and one of those microplane grater things and a bottle of very rough red on my emotional tray, I decided to quit. Grandad was in a short term better place, my surfie-traditional-chinese-medicine-masters-student sister had flown back north, my dad resumed his holiday down south and that left me and my youngest sister K holding the babies.
And I felt exhausted and sick and on the edge of tears constantly and so it seemed a good time to head back to Sydney and the warmth and noise and exuberant energy of the Big House and the (not so) Naughty Nephews. But also I decided that I can't actually work during this time, that I had to let go of the Monday new play deadline and the eleven script assessments and the meetings for next year's productions and just sleep and rest and mother my son.
And to see my friends and their children.
And eat better.
And look after your feet, T the surfie TCM sister told me sternly. We die from the feet up.
She is not speaking literally, I don't think, although for diabetic one-legged Grumpy Grandad, it is almost true. These latest events began with an evil little ulcer on one toe, unseen, unfelt, untreated.
But the real beginnings, the diabetes, the lifestyle choices, the crappy diet that lays the foundations and points the way for our life journeys... he was a slum kid from Elephant and Castle in London, he was a soldier in the army in WW2, he moved to Australia in the fifties with his wife and kid. My sister-in-law N tells me that the first generation of children born to settlers and convicts alike in this country were significantly taller and larger and healthier than the equivalent aged children back in the mother country. And that was despite being malnourished.
Sadly for Grandad he was already too old at thirty-something to benefit from the miraculous air and sun and water of his new country.
Yesterday when I caught up with Operasinging Mummy and Screenwriting Mummy I saw how they had lovely neat feet with polished toenails. Whereas mine, with their split nails and hairy toes just looked uncared for and unhealthy.
You should massage your feet every night before you sleep, said T. And even pedicures are good, she added, because it draws your attention to your feet and makes you mindful.
And so I mindfully defuzz my toes and massage in the L'Occitane cream and think very seriously about booking a pedicure as a little Christmas present to myself.
And I laugh to myself as I hear Tricky playing hide and seek downstairs with his cousins and shouting wuntoofee coming weddy o nott!
Tricky and I go back to Newcastle today, refreshed and rested and with much nicer feet. Hopefully C will be able to meet us there after a big week in Country Town. I will be encouraging him to massage his feet too. And to briefly just...stop.
Sometimes it is very good to put down the tray, and maybe just dance around the tables a little and juggle the cutlery.