Bring Him Home


Do you remember the first time you heard a song? The song that each and every time afterwards…

The question…and my answer…

That night I had the TV all to myself. The children were asleep. She was asleep. I wasn’t going to disturb her that night. Just dust out on the couch till morning. I channel surfed until I stopped the remote in mid-note…

Les Miserables : The Dream Cast in Concert was my solace for the night. The best of the best singing their way through perhaps the most touching musical ever.

Except…I only knew of it. I had never heard Les Miserables in full.

Which makes me probably a pretentious Philistine. 

And it was nice, and enjoyable and took my mind off my worries.

Until I heard Bring Him Home.  Even the first words are confronting. To anyone who believes and has been let down in the faith. To anyone who cannot believe. 

As the song melted its way through me, I realised who it was for.  Six weeks beforehand I’d heard the news that a former workmate had died quite tragically. It had happened while I was interstate. It was too late for me to pay my respects to him.

That song went straight through me. I cried for my friend that night.
Everytime I hear that song, I remember him and weep a little less.

The Happiest Dental Patient Ever

Was this the last one? I went to the surgery door and called his name.

He looked up at once. And his eyes twinkled at me. And he smiled as if he had been in last week! 

He walked in arms swinging by his sides as if it was too easy. Tall, thin and vaguely familiar. But he wasn’t on my books at all. He couldn’t be. He was a walk-in as far as I was concerned. 

I didn’t know him from elsewhere in this town. Today was just my second day. I still was remembering more important matters. Such as which room was mine, the name of the receptionists, where the autoclave was, in case my assistant forgot to bring in the instrument tray. Which saving my anxiety, she did.

But this guy! He swings into the chair like a test pilot promoted to astronaut! And I think to myself, is he another one too? Another professional? If he is he’s pretty confident in what we all do!

Unlike me. I make a bad patient. And I’m even worse, now that I lecture. And  worst of all, provide expert advice when things go badly. If it was me, I’d be jelly.

And I ask,”What can I do for you?”

He says, “Just a check-up, ma’am.”

And I laugh, and ask, “ma’am. No one says that anymore!”

He says as unbidden, he swallows, swishes and spits, “The school librarian made us say it.

And while he’s drawling, he puts on a posh accent, “Don’t call wimmen Miss, Ms, Mrs unless you know if they’re married or not. And she said never call them Madame. And never said why. Reckoned I worked out that one!  But our French teacher wouldn’t answer to anything else! Reckoned ma’am is the least worst thing to say. Yeah. no. It’s okay most times except when I say it to the really young girls. They hate it. They scowl at me and swear under their breath while they’re texting!!”

Between us the ice is broken. And it seems familiar somehow. I laugh, and ask, “What do you do?”

He said leaning back and opening wide, still talking like a Northern Texan, “Professional bludger. Tell people stuff they don’t need.Write documents no one ever reads. Better get started, eh?”

And that’s the giveaway. He’s from the deep north of Queensland like me. Even with his mouth wide open, he still makes each word twice as long like a native. And that “eh!” That’s a deadset giveaway right there! And then I laugh to myself. Sometimes I still lapse back, I think. Just because I shifted states.  Another lapse now too.

Meantime, the work begins. I peer into his mouth with my mirror and sickle probe. I check and call the numbers and state to my assistant who scribbles dutifully. He’s as patient as Job. Except a lot more silent!

I say, “There’s a small hole in your back molar. We could leave it for another appointment. Or we could whiz through it now. It will only take another half hour.”

It didn’t matter, I thought. He was my last patient for the day and I was running half an hour early. My husband still had his lectures tonight so time didn’t matter.

He nods me through.

Drill, chip, wash, clamp, check, double check, tighten the clamp, fill, let set, wash and clean. It’s like doing dentistry on the Dalai Lama, I suppose. He’s so composed and relaxed. Simple and straightforward. By the book, I thought, the textbook. Which made a refreshing change from the day I had. 

And then a memory returns to me. “Didn’t I do a root canal on you?”

He just laughs, “Yep you sure did, wasn’t the once-off either, took a couple of goes, if I rightly reckon.”

And I remember, he didn’t flinch an inch that time either. That’s why I know him but he’s not on my books. 

I say, “You would have been my easiest patient.”

As the filling sets, he laughs and tells me why (out of the corner of his mouth of course). 

“It was easy,” he says, “I had the full metal jacket as a kid, a couple of teeth removed, wired up, that mouth guard thing and braces. Thought it would never end. Always knew this would!”

From Melbourne to Sydney

 

One often says of oneself as a child, this is where I grew up.  But to me, at least, one doesn’t realise that one has grown up until one leaves that place and returns.
Yes I grew up in Canowindra (New South Wales). I grew up too in Kiama (New South Wales). And then Canberra and Brisbane (although I will never make it as a Queenslander!). And now that I have returned to Sydney that I realised I had grown up some more in Melbourne. And for that much like Mary Queen of Scots feels towards Calais I will be forever grateful.  For Melbourne will be forever in my heart.
That’s not to say I have lessons to be learned. I’ve learnt about the love and honesty (sometimes searingly so) of family and the support whether near or far of friends. I’ve learnt about friendship found false and true. I’ve learnt more about my own heart. I’ve learnt about resilience and faith. I’ve learnt how true it is that the universe both conspires to hinder you at every turn and consummate your hidden wishes once you turn towards it.
The last year or so has been difficult, financially, career wise, mentally and spiritually. Yet in the midst of those not so good times there was joy to be found, comfort within myself and people around me ultimately leading to a path of hope. The secret for me at least was to find out what was most important to me and step by step (in fact fingernail hold by fingernail hold) move towards it everyday. And in doing so, I had to be prepared to lose everything to gain that hope. For faith isn’t mere belief or suspended disbelief: it’s progress towards an unseen goal with absolute certainty that it’s the correct course with absolutely no certainty that it will happen.
But in the past four or so weeks I’ve seen my close family again, changed jobs, moved house, gained a glimpse of a new direction professionally and continued a current direction personally.  But I still have much to learn and still so far to journey.

Through The Eyes of a Child

This is a speech I wrote and performed  during my time in Toastmasters.

See podcast on SoundCloud

See transcript:

One more story. One more story. One more story. Please.

PLEASE. I’ve already read you 3 or 4 stories already and its late.

What time is it now ? Story time daddy.

I’m tired. Sleep Time. Good night.

Another story. Another story. Well, maybe I’ll tell you one.

 

A little boy wakes up from a dream and sees the world for the very first time. He sees the seconds becoming minutes then hours and then to days and weeks. He’s too little to think about years yet. He wants to hurry up and grow up. After all grown ups have it all.

 

Like you, the little boys asks lots of questions, He wants to know everything and now. But no-one tells him all the answers. After all grown ups know it all. He doesn’t see them asking questions. But he still wants to know.

 

He gets a little older. He gets hurt as children do. But sometimes its too much to bear. And so he looks to his grown ups. When hurt comes they don’t flinch. So he does the same. He sets his face like flint.

 

But sometimes, something catches his eye. Like a flashlight behind his head.  Seeing a sunrise. The orange glow then the sun popping its head over the horizon. Watching the waves break tall, the spray cloaking the lighthouse. Like a flame around a match.

 

In time, his delight died. Now older more wiser nothing could touch him. He had seen it all.

Now he was grown up. A rational being. Just the facts and figures. Everything in black or white or shades of grey.

 

But life’s a stream that flows. He tries to send love away but it sneaks in even when he is watching.

The boy now a man, fell in love and married. Is this all ?

 

The river of love carries him forward. The boy now a man becomes a dad. At first being a dad is just another job. Deadlines to meet, tasks to do. A fairly demanding boss.

But sometimes something catches his eye. His daughters first smile. Or something tickles his ear. Her first laugh as he picks her up. And then it happens.

 

Cooped up in the house. Its raining. So loud on the roof that he can’t hear himself think. The air so close like a wet towel that doesn’t dry you. The baby crying of course. Must stay calm. If I’m calm the baby will be calm. The rain stops. The sunlight through the window  Need a breath of fresh air. The sun has just come out. The rain is gone. And she turns and looks. Then she points. “What’s that ?”

 

Just the facts. “Well after it has rained, the sun shines through each raindrop. Each raindrop splits the white light into its constituent colours. This is called the spectrum” And she stops him. She turns and looks and says “What’s That ?”

 

And he stops and looks and sees for the very first time. It’s a rainbow. And it has many colours. Red, green, yellow, blue, purple, orange. And (gasp) it is beautiful. And look closely. It’s a set of colours that seem to weave in and out of each other. Yet each colour is its own. And you could almost reach out and touch it.  And it delights him.

 

I thought I had seen it all. I was blind. I see the sun dancing on green leaves and gilding them gently. Like Icing on a cake . Now I know what gold-leaf truly is. A breath of breeze changes it all and its still icing on the cake. The painting in motion that is a sunset. First the wispy pink clouds in the east turning to purple and then dark . While the sun pours out golden glory in the west

 

And I know like a child that through such things comfort will come. Beauty is always waiting to be found. To steel yourself inside against such things is to steal yourself from the beauty, joy and sometimes ugliness that is this world. At least now I’ve stopped playing hide and seek and can come out to play.

 

But I don’t know it all. Like a child I want to know more. I always did. And there still are questions that cannot ever be answered. But they still have to be asked. Children ask them. Adults should. So do I.

 

I thought grown ups have it all. They don’t. I don’t. I’m just a borrower. Like a child when I see something beautiful. I just want to pass it on.

One day I saw a rainbow coming home on the train. And it was perfect. And so coloured. I was the only one that noticed . Everyone had their heads down. “get up everyone, look at this rainbow”. I wish I had said that. Later on I realised. It doesn’t matter. The rainbow was just for me. All I have to do was pass it on.

 

When you see through the eyes of a child, one sees the world for the first time. When you see through the  eyes of a child, one knows the world was crafted just for you. And then you know what it is like to hold the hand of GOD !