Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Tag: Childhood

Your Breath

Watching you stumble from one breath to another, I'm trying to breathe for you. I want to Inhale the oxygen, and pass it through my lungs into yours. And from there into that heart that I love so much. And take your breath and exhale it all for you. But I cannot. All I can do and it seems of no use at all is hold your hand. And wait and hope. We always wanted you to grow to a fullness that would exceed ours. But right now I don't know if that will happen. And my fear is that you'll catch my doubt. A doubt enough for youto quietly slip out that door with perhaps barely a nod to us as you leave.

As for your mother, she doesn't know. And that's what she cannot handle. A little uncertainty perhaps which can be overlooked or postponed. But not the uncertainty that is now resident. She worries that it will take over and we will be living moment to moment. She can't say that to me as it would betoo great a worry. She won't say that to you. Or even afterwards. No matterhow things turn out.

You're not as tough as you thought you were. This illness is your companionnow and ours too. I could advise you:  if you can do something, don't worryand if you can't do something, then do nothing and don't worry.  I can't 
take my own advice. I simply don't know how it will turn out. And I can't 
tell anyone, least of all you.

So I should make myself comfortable I suppose. I try not to look at the numbers and zig zags on the machine. Me being me, automatically I try and analyse them to determine a trend. The numbers seem unchanging like a clock that keeps time but never tells it. I grab a spare pillow, wedge it against myplastic hospital grade chair and find a position of least discomfort. 
Unlike yourself.

Tubes run into you and out. For a moment, I hope that it's all unreal, thatjust for fun, they've attached them to your skin only. I'm really waiting for someone to rush in and say it's all been a joke. And you'd wake and 
laugh with me too, until we thought of how to tell your mother. But she 
might see the fun in it too.

There's no change in the numbers or the fuzzy lines on any of the machines.
The door opens. Men and women rush in. Your eyes flickers open. I'm raised to my feet and quickly shoved outside. A joke? No a sarcastic cosmic one. Ishout out in my head, that was a random thought, I was idly thinking, 
I didn't mean it. Much as a child, I fear the horrible thought made true.

I wait for news and fear the over calm manner of those who deliver it.

Baby Crush

A bald head crowned by a few curls peeks out. Two eyes large and watchful wait and see what I might do.

I’m not moving. I stand silent. I’m a daddy statue.

Tiny hands cover her eyes. She tries to catch my gaze.

No way. I’m having no part of it. Not yet.

She opens them. She peeks carefully at me. Then covers herself with the blanket.

“Peep bo!” The blanket speaks.

That’s my moment. My eyes close. Although I keep the good one only an eighth open. Enough to cheat. Enough not to get caught.

Each time she closes her eyes, I open mine. Each time I see her open her eyes, I close mine!

Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. “Peep Bo!”

“Peep bo!” I say again. Before the blanket went on.

I chuckle as the blanket giggles and rolls on the floor. Then smile at her laughter while she wriggles her way out. Usually she beats me to it. Then as she unwravels…

“Peep Bo!” She got me that time.

The blanket again wraps itself up. It giggles and rolls on the floor. Then she crawls out. And stands a little taller than this morning. Now her jumpsuit is too small for her. But that’s no matter now.

Two arms stretch to the sky. She starts to waggle her fingers. Twinkle twinkle? Yes i’m happy to sing that with her. But no peeking. Otherwise she’ll catch me lip syncing.

Then she stops stock still.

No. I was lucky there. Then not so lucky.

“Jump game.”

Oh no! Daddy workout time.

Arms stretch high. “As high as the sky.”

I squat down. I waddle towards her. I put my shoulders under her arms. Then my hands around her waist.

I lift her up. Until her head is level with mine. Her eyes are already laughing. Daddy’s doing the heavy lifting now.

I stand up and throw her high into the air.

Giggles, then laughter.

I stop just before I let her go. I’m not a dad, I’m an astronaut trainer. Besides she’ll never get vertigo from me!

“Again. High as the sky.”

More deep squats. More overhead presses. My knees ache. My shoulders sing. I sneak a glance at my burden.

She’s frozen in time!! One arm up, one arm out, frozen in a ballet pose.

Carefully I shift her to my stronger arm. I lean forward, most weight pushed backward and draw back the coverlet, sheet and blanket. Then i place her in her bed as if one false move would be the last. She slumps flaccid in her bed. I cover her up. I start to lightly leave…

Her hand finds my finger. And crushes it. I hold my breath. I listen to her breath slow and deep measuring eternity one second at a time.

I Can Talk To Strangers

I like to talk to strangers. It’s fun. But my mum and dad don’t like it. They told me not to.

When I asked why, they said bad things could happen to me. When I asked what the bad things they wouldn’t tell me.

I didn’t like that. I kept doing it. They kept stopping me.

Then I found out how smart my mum and dad are. Everybody still tells me not to talk to strangers. Well almost everybody. Mum and Dad stopped telling me.

I still talk to strangers. I still like it. Strangers say funny things. I ask them questions. Sometimes they tell me stories.

Sometimes my mum and dad laugh too. When I’m grown up I’ll know how to talk to strangers when mum and dad aren’t around.

Lost Underfoot

I looLiftarn_Adult_and_child.svgked up. All I could see were legs. Masses of moving legs. I looked down. I saw shoes and thongs and skirts and legs and trousers. But were they attached to anything? I didn’t know. I felt even smaller. It was like a centipede that’s been shopping was walking over me!!

I couldn’t see faces or arms. I couldn’t see that high. I just held on and let myself be dragged through them. I held tight to my show bag too.

Then the hand holding me let go. I didn’t know which leg to grab. They all looked alike. But none of them were mine. Mine was gone. And the crowd moved me on.

What Did He See?

He was standing in the lounge room. He was pushing against the glass of the wooden framed back doors, fortunately closed and locked. I thought for a moment how strong he was and yet how he could topple over and fall so easily. He appeared to be watching something. Perhaps a kangaroo or wallaby had appeared and was now grazing in the backyard. The floor boards creaked as I walked across from the kitchen.

He heard that. And then he saw me. He waved and pointed to catch my attention.  I watched as he listened to the rough floor boards under my tread. When I arrived, he looked up at me. Then he pointed outside. He had not spoken a word. I was used to that. Yet he seemed to understand more than he could say.

He said, “I saw a big yellow man.” I stopped in shock. He had only just learned to speak clearly. And only one or two words at that. Not whole sentences. And now he was seeing things too. As for me, I hadn’t seen or heard anything. But that was about to change.
A few weeks earlier, my wife had claimed she had seen an apparition leave the kitchen broom cupboard. My five year old daughter had agreed she had seen it too. Yet neither could describe it in any detail.  I took that as an excuse to discount their story. It could’ve been the wind blowing the cupboard open again.  I didn’t believe in such things. And now this.
I looked where he pointed. Through the two doors that led nowhere, I stared into the backyard. I tilted my head to avoid the reflection of the lounge room and the glare of the afternoon sun. I could see one of our water tanks on my right. Then the mix of grass and poorly tilled soil left after the clearing. In the middle of the yard, I could see the thoughtlessly located septic tank.  A no-name missile silo. Leading away to the right,  I could see the pumpkins that were the sole inhabitants of our first vegetable garden. Then the reed grass, thin wiry scrub and the gum trees that bordered our property.

I looked carefully for what I thought was there. But I couldn’t see a yellow man. Perhaps the sunlight had coloured a tree gold and he had mistaken that for a man.  But I couldn’t see that either. Yet my three year old son was insistent. He raised his hands and indicated a height. My intuition wanted to speak with me. I didn’t want to listen.

Instead rational thought intruded. Right now I’m experiencing a significant moment in my son’s development, I thought. He is about to tell his first lie. With that thought in mind,  I began composing the normal parental response. Within seconds I would be saying, “It’s nothing: It’s just your imagination.” But unexpectedly I bristled at my own thought. I felt a surge of anger. Why would he lie? Who could have taught him that? How could he lie?

And then my intuition finally arrived. He’s telling you that the man was taller than the trees. After that I began seeing things too…

How To Get A Baby To Sleep

This is a speech I gave many years ago for Toastmasters. I’ve decided to post it due to an interesting Twitter exchange as follows:

Capture

Here’s the speech where I play the role of a trainer for a post-natal class!

Welcome to today’s post natal class. Today we’ve come to the hard part. You’ve calculated feeding formula in your head and changed nappies in your sleep. Now we’re going to learn how to put baby to sleep. And still stay awake.

Did you all bring your baby dolls ? I have.

But just something to remember…

What’s an alarm clock ?

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

It’s a device for waking up people in a childless household.

Almost always, the alarm goes off once one has fallen into the deepest sleep. Then one finds that the quality of post-natal sleep is great . It’s just the frequency is rare.

So here are some helping tips : what not to do : to get you through “those sleepless nights with your bundle of joy”.

First thing, never ever rock baby to sleep in a rocking chair. It works too well. You fall asleep first.

First baby, first hour…As every new parent knows, the only method that is said to work is the rhythm method. But you have to find the right rhythm. First child, first hour is very gentle, almost as if grandma has the child. As the hours wear on and you don’t find the magic formula, the rocking becomes faster and faster until. WHEN WILL THIS BABY EVER GET TO SLEEP?

One child I would walk the hall sentinel style until he just was starting to fall asleep. He seemed to wake up just when I turned to go the other way. Now he is older I do the same thing and then hold him up , “are you asleep yet ? “

And he remembers, he’s three. I wish I didn’t.

Or catch baby’s eye and slowly , slowly close your eyes. And he or she does too. Or he is supposed to. By which time one is a micro centimetre from total sleep. Problem is you don’t know if the baby is asleep.

The other problem is now you really can sleep standing up. One combats this side effect by leaning against something like a cold hard brick wall.

So in desperation, put him in pram and rocked.

First standing up and pushing pram back and forward. Just like mowing the lawn. Sleep inducing for the male of the species as mowing the same blade of grass over and over again.

Next hour, next baby, then sitting down and pushing pram back and forward. Then lying down and pushing with foot. One knows one’s tired when you can’t move a pram with your big toe. Not without falling asleep anyway.

Inglesina Otutto Pram

Or holding the child’s hand. This meant lying down on the floor next to the cot or bed. Then I would wait for the grip of the hand to loosen and the breathing to become steady. Once I was asleep, the baby must be too ! The side effect of this was that I can sleep on any hard surface (with my hand in the air!).

The hardest child was lulled to sleep by talking shop.

As I work in information technology, I decided to explain the intricacies of computer software and hardware.

And it worked ! Only problem is that six years later the child in question wants to take apart the computer and put it back together again and he wants the administrator password of the computer !

But the best thing I learnt was this. Once you’ve gotten through putting a baby to sleep, you develop a calm and peace even in the most vexing crisis. After all what else matters ?

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