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He doesn’t want to go.

His eyes are slightly open when he sleeps, leaving the windows to his soul ajar, so death can escape. His eyes are slightly open, letting the light in so his heart does not beat in the shadows of the tumour that’s rising like a boulder, hardening his belly.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His rosary beads dangle from his branchlike fingers, a purple lifeline he winds around him. He turns breath into prayers and they bubble silently from his lips, seep into the air we all breathe.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

He holds my daughter’s hand, walking her around the lounge room, their feet shuffling. Grounding them in a moment that will fade from her memory but not her skin.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

So his body is on trial. His veins flow with new medication, testing his limbs while hope burrows inside him, promising one more day. To breathe his wife in as they lie on the makeshift bed in the lounge room that does not close in on him.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

So he eats with his mouth but he tastes with his eyes. He imagines the flavours bursting on his tongue as he spoons my plain fried rice into his mouth. He remembers the streak of spices that he washed off plates in Paris restaurants when he was a new groom, and the leftovers he packed in containers to share with his wife.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His wife goes to Mass and brings home the Body of Christ wafer in a gold rimmed box. It melts on his tongue.

He wheels my daughter around the lounge room on the seat of his walking frame, his wife shadowing his fragile steps.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His son massages his head, his skin collecting like grooves in the sand.

His daughter makes chicken vegetable pie that he eats with enthusiasm. It tastes of love on his tongue.

His son in law listens to him as he speaks of his childhood in Pakistan that smelt of worn out plastic shoes.

His wife dusts his worries and his fears and collects them inside her.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His beanie keeps his head warm as the nurse sits beside him in the lounge room and drains fluid from his stomach.

He swallows the pain as his belly deflates. I massage baby oil onto his skin and it sucks it up like chapped earth.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His smile lifts his tired eyes as he gives his family hoarse instructions on how to make Nihari, his signature dish. He directs us from his bed with gloved fingers. We scramble about, writing down his recipe, frying the meat, letting it simmer for hours, so that once a year we can recreate a piece of him.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

So he swallows the medication, knowing it will get caught in his throat.

We rub his neck, lift him up, knead his back to coax it down.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

He clings to his son’s neck as he lifts him up off the bed and onto the couch. The heat pack loosens the knot in his stomach as he writes his own prayers in a yellow A4 notebook. We are penciled between the pages and he breathes us out every night when he prays, even after his mouth stops producing sound.

 

We don’t want him to go.

“I’m tired,” he mouths, his hand caressing his face in slow motion. He signs the cross on his chest and lays his head on the pillow. We sit by his side, hold his hand, and wait, the air thick with our tears and singing.

 

In loving memory of Stanley Lobo

RIP – 29/12/1946 – 13/8/2018

 

 

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As I write this, you are kicking and shimmying inside me, stretching me out of my skin, preparing me for your birth and mine.

Your moves are jerky and random like your father’s dancing. You may or may not inherit his cinnamon skin or my crazy hair but I know that we will inherit much more from you.

I promise to try and not look for pieces of us in you. You are your own person. While you’re a part of our flesh, you are not us.

You are human, and have within you the wisdom and knowledge of the universe and I will help you uncover who you are while you teach me what you know.

I promise to help you unfurl your wings but won’t push you to fly.

I will show you that happiness can be found in doing what you love but will be your cheer squad if you go searching for it elsewhere.

I will lead by example and show you how creativity and passion can set fire to the soul and light the way to a fulfilling life.

I will teach you that kindness is a form of prayer and it starts with the gift of your smile.

I promise to keep these promises. But if I slip up or lose my way, if I smother you with unconditional love or add some conditions, please be patient with me. Mum’s learning too.

Recently, I ran a creative writing workshop with teenagers in Melbourne’s north. We wrote a collaborative story on a topic of their choice. Below are the inspiring and unrelenting voices of our youth.
 

 

Why do people think it’s wrong?

            It’s still love.
            I get why Catholics or Christians think it is because they believe in their religion and their God. But why do the others think it’s wrong to be gay?
            I’m angry. Sad. I’m so disgusted that my stomach feels like it’s eating itself.
            I can’t even kiss my girlfriend in public because of these people. Just today, someone walked up to me and said, “please don’t do that, it makes me feel sick. It doesn’t look right.”
            “Deal with it,” I said. “You’re not better than me.”
            Love is love, be it with a girl and girl or boy and boy.
            There are all sorts of bizarre things in this world. Some people worship cows.
            So how is our love wrong?

He engraved his goodbye on a silver bangle. ‘Thanks for the smiles,’ it read. He gave it to me as a gift on my graduation and walked away. It  would be seven years before we saw each other again.

We met on July 20 1999 when I sat next to him at university. On that day I drew him a flower and he kept it in his wallet for 13 years. It was the symbol connecting our names on our wedding invitation when we got married on July 21 2012.

At uni, I wrote his essays and he wrote of his love in my 21st birthday book. He bought me a dog to prove how much, I pushed him away. He wore his heart on his sleeve. I bubble wrapped mine.

It was so much safer to love within the pages of a romance novel. I didn’t have to search for happy endings, they were already written. I didn’t have to sift the hearts of others to find a match.

I was never good at it. I hid my crushes in jokes. I dated in my daydreams where I coordinated candle lit dinners and wrote the script. I was smarter, more sophisticated and my words came out in the right order.

But years undid the careful wrapping until I was left with a transparent heart that needed more protection.

So I continued writing fiction while fate wrote me a different story.

When the dog he bought me died in 2011, he walked back in to my life, with a heart as transparent as mine.

Melt into my lips

dilute me 

with you

Money

Divides people into cents and dollars, adds them up, and subtracts their worth. I despise its calculating ways.

 

Love

Is an intruder that can’t be prosecuted.

 

Fear

Those that listen with their ears and not with their hearts.   

 

Food

Count your bites, not your calories. They are easier to swallow.

Chew heavy words well. Let them digest before you spit them out.

 

Courage

Is to walk where  fear follows.