My sympathies lie with the businesses that were affected by Telstra’s latest outage last week. My own family has been at their mercy for the past two weeks, effectively in lockdown.
Any parent will tell you that there is no greater pain than watching a child suffer, and that is exactly what we have been forced to endure during the outage. While for the old man and myself – hardcore Generation Xers who were brought up on The Famous Five, Cats Cradle, conkers, and – dare I mention – books, it has proven to be more of an irritation than a personal loss, our two young adults have experienced immeasurable grief.
While Kurt’s body has completely lost the ability to function – withdrawal seeing him pace the house like a caged animal to metamorphose into a frightening hybrid of Gollum and the Hulk – NC has refused to come home or return my calls.
And yet, perhaps more terrifying than the sight of two young adults in a perpetual state of despair is the grey pallor and twitching of the parent that is responsible for fixing the problem.
Suffice it to say, the old man has been forced to use his home blood pressure monitor more than usual over this past two weeks. So, when a friend caught him chained to the fencing of the golf club, refusing to go home, and promised him that “cable is three times faster than anything else, mate,” desperation forced his hand and he made an uncharacteristically impulsive decision.
He ordered cable.
In hindsight, I will admit that our expectations were stupidly unrealistic, not helped by the events of the night before during which Kurt managed to use up five precious gigabytes of data within the space of an hour – apparently, that is a lot in data-speak, particularly in a house that prioritizes data over food. So it was with bated breath that we watched cable guy do his ten-minute reconnaissance of our joint and set to work, first in the lounge, and then up a pole on the other side of the street – which foolishly, I interpreted as a positive sign.
And when, finally, he placed the magic card in the old man’s hand with our new passcode – which, it is no exaggeration to say, was the equivalent of Charlie’s golden ticket, (so much so, the old man has since tattoed had the number tattooed his chest) – I can only compare the euphoria to seeing Buble perform his complete collection of Christmas songs live…and naked.
Obviously, being ever the practical one of the family, he held cable guy captive a little longer as he tested and ran through every nuance of the new technology with him, and cable guy was generous enough to humor him, even when he asked some (frankly) very stupid, Generation X type questions.
But I will admit that the sound of my husband’s whoop of joy upon his discovery that the new speed of our new internet thingy, (insert appropriatetechnological jargon here), far exceeded our expectations was a beautiful thing, comparable I would say to his reaction to the births of our children – although he didn’t do a celebratory lap around the block naked either of those times.
In fact, we remained high on life even when cable guy left our home to save some other poor family in similarly dire straits.
Until, the call from upstairs the wild, that no father wants to hear.
‘DAAAAAAAAAD! The Internet doesn’t work on my phone!’
We are back in lockdown. An immediate state of emergency has been called in which we have hourly meetings to discuss possible emergency action such as new routers, a different bedroom… perhaps even a new house?
I am confident that we will work through this difficult time, folks, but in the meantime, we would be grateful for your prayers.
Apparently, I was not alone in being psychotically anxious to see the back of 2013 on NYE. The old man and I have always been highly suspicious of ‘odd’ years and this year did nothing to disprove our fear of impending doom.
As many of you will know, 2013 was dominated by a kind of ‘coming of age’ of our son Kurt, and at times the year felt distinctly bleak.
Sixteen year old boys can be a challenge. Sixteen year old boys with ADHD can send you to the funny farm.
Thank God for medication – MINE, not his.
But when asked to put the year into perspective, (several times during the distillation of my New Year’s hangover and before the real fireworks began), I realised that it hasn’t all been bad.
The move to Gotham has been positive overall. Imagine how fucking HUGE it was moving down from the safe provinciality of the Beaches to the Lower North Shore (darling).
Admittedly, some of the changes have taken some adjusting to. But after completing a year of living closer to the edgier side of life, I am now able to sleep through the perpetual rumble of trains on the bridge, the inane chit chat of drunks on a Friday and Saturday night (who seem to all agree that having a piss and a chit chat in front of our house is great), and the tempting and lingering odour from the local Thai restaurants and fish and chip shop.
I like having the excitement of the city on our doorstep, being a five-minute train ride away from the best retail therapy ever and the buzz of the multi-cultural mix of people in our new neighbourhood. I feel more inclusive, more cosmopolitan, dare I say ‘alive’ again, as though my eyes have been opened and my horizons have been broadened – (rather than narrowed by the limitations of ageing, like my arteries).
Unfortunately, our foray into pastures new has moved Kurt closer to the source of illicit teenage experimentation and a more liberal and freethinking crowd who sometimes forget that he does not possess the same Dopamine levels as them – levels that enable him to think about the consequences of his actions.
But the move has also given him a taste of independence too, a better sense of belonging and the education to create a bong out of any type of bottle with a piece of garden hose – (apparently Iced Tea bottles are the best).
Kurt has been a fantastic enabler for me this year, socially, too. He has helped me meet and form alliances with an abundance of diverse people, from therapists, to psychiatrists, several school principals, teachers and many over-critical parents. All have formed opinions of my son – some good, some bad. All have been happy to confirm mine and the old man’s secret belief that Kurt will either end up a huge success in life… or in prison. He is a person of excess, and normality and isolation terrify him.
His drumming has tested my hearing, his impulsivity has tested my nerves and his emotions have tested my heart.
The old man’s brush with the courtyard paving mid-year put his personal goals into perspective too. It was a bloody reminder that ‘shit can happen’ and to live every day as if it is your last, rather than worrying and saving for those rainy days that we may never see. It meant that we both got our first ride in an ambulance and could make our first claim on our private health insurance which secretly gave him a thrill, but his change of heart has not impacted me in the way I had hoped – as of yet, no funds have been released in an uncharacteristically rash demonstration of philanthropy or love, although he has stopped calling me every time a new transaction goes through our online banking system if it has not had prior approval.
In times of crisis, links can be broken and bonds can be weakened. Luckily, ours seem to get stronger with adversity.
NC has blossomed this year. Leaving the often bitchy and judgemental microcosm of high school and having the time to discover who she really is, she has continued to excel in many areas of her life. Her life’s work continues with the cataloguing of her private rock collection, her manipulation of her father (particularly in the area of family finances), the re-styling of her bedroom from a pit into what now resembles a South American waste pile, and her attempt to control ‘relationships’ to avoid hurt – relationships are a very foreign concept to someone with Spock’s perception of the world.
NC has been my rock at times when the going with her brother has been particularly fucking tough – her reassurance that the cocaine I found under Kurt’s bed was in fact crushed ADHD meds springs to mind – and in spite of her fraternal distrust of brother, she is often a mature and fair sounding-board for her over-anxious parents.
And my personal year has been a year of further education and learning. I have learned more about writing and have achieved some consolidation of this passion of mine. At times the power of writing has served as my saviour. I have learned how to make a bong out of a plastic bottle, I have found new friends on-line who have calmed me and made me laugh out loud at low points, opened my eyes to greater knowledge and increased my thirst to learn more. I have discovered that my husband can still make me laugh even when the proverbial shit hits the fan, does listen to me occasionally and eventually acts upon my words of accusation. So that I continue to trust him.
Many of our family and social circle have experienced real crises this year such as illness and loss. They appear to the outside world to be healing, but we all know that we store pain in our hearts and it only dulls with time. They appear strong to the outside world because life has to go on and it is too mentally invasive and emotionally taxing to demonstrate a broken heart publicly. I hope for them that 2014 is a year of recovery and new hope as they strive towards some inner peace. If they don’t realise it now, the pain has made them better, stronger people that we all secretly admire from afar.
I hope that by this time next year we are all still healthy, that I have finished my fucking book, that Kurt is still in the school he starts in January and has begun to respect some of society’s ridiculous rules, and that NC continues to radiate the inner happiness that gives me and the old man the hope that we did something right. I also hope that our friends will have tolerated us for another year even though we are shockingly unresponsive friends.
What I Learnt in 2013:
The medication works.
Never to go clothes shopping after the weekend.
To abandon all parenting manuals because every child is different.
That the weight battle continues to be a real bitch in middle age, and I mustn’t allow it to consume me. I am cutting my losses this year and going for the more realistic approach of ‘maintaining my weight’ rather than trying to lose it. Buying clothes a few sizes larger so they feel loose remains a good mental coping strategy.
That you can scaffold your teenagers but at some point they have to take responsibility for their own actions. Removing all sources of funding, vanquishment and consumption of their illegal stocks of alcohol can help alleviate the pain, as does ‘time out’ (by locking them away in the attic) and corporal punishment