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Sunday, October 2, 2011

An hour, partings, and the village idiot

It's Sunday, the first day of daylight saving. So far we've saved an hour, and given that it's just 9 am on Day One, that's a good start.

  Well, I hope that's the way it works. Mathematics was never my strongest suit.

  Daylight saving has always created problems for that part of my family living on the Gold Coast, straddling the Queensland-NSW border. Parents work in one State and their kids go to school and sporting events in another. Think work and social appointments across one-hour differences, in buildings just 100 metres apart. If you've never had to juggle that, I invite you to consider the problems the time difference causes.

  Fortunately, they've had many years of dealing with the time difference to come to terms with it. In the end it's basically a First World Problem. There are worse ones.

  I was going to tell you about yesterday morning, when the girls left, after visiting for a week. I call them 'girls' but won't give away their ages. That's their business! They'll always be girls to me. 

  I find these partings difficult. In fact, I don't much care for most of the rituals of parting, and never have. It's not that I don't feel the emotions they evoke any the less keenly, but I prefer them to be private. The parting itself should be just a kiss and a hug, and a wave and a smile, if we can get away with it.

  As you can imagine, every parting has a special poignancy for me these days, and they don't come any easier as time goes by. I wasn't expected to make it this long, yet the condition makes for the possibility of a very quick ending. The clot in my thigh hasn't dissipated even though I have now had about 500 injections to control it. A portion of it could travel at any time to my heart or brain, and that could be it. Or I could remain alive but with no quality of life, which would be vastly worse for everyone. 

  Brian, my unfriendly brain tumour, could spring back to life from his comparative dormancy with sudden vigour and aggression just when things seem to be ticking over with little indication of change.

  These are simply facts in my existence and in the lives of those around me. Nothing to get hung (up) about, as that beautiful Beatles song goes. Strawberry Fields Forever. It's how things are.

  But it means partings are different for me, and for those dear to me. In the past, before December 2009, partings had the expectation of auf weidersehen, not goodbye. Till we meet again, that is. 

  No-one is certain of meeting again, but for some of us, not doing so is a daily thought. We go to sleep with it, and we wake with it.

  Fortunately, for some of us, we don't dwell on it.

  It does make meeting again a special miracle - one born of the love and care that cocoons me, and the determination to make the most of what's on offer for the remainder of the time we share.

  I wrote very briefly on this in January this year, when I was fairly certain I wouldn't make it to this point, musing on a couple of T'ang poems reflecting the sentiments of parting friends of that era, over a thousand years ago.

  What I was leading up to was that I can't get to the train station to say goodbye - not easily anyway, so we have our partings here at the house. We all know the score. We make it easy on the other. See you next time!

  That's good.

  So, they bundle into the car, and we wave goodbye. 

  There's one more thing. The train-line to Sydney goes within fifty metres of our house. I can stand on the footpath outside our high hedge and wave goodbye to the little figures I see fleetingly inside the carriage, at the window, waving back. 

  Sometimes the train driver thinks I'm the village idiot, standing on the footpath, a grown man waving at the train. He (I guess there's no reason why it couldn't be 'she') often gives a long blast of the horn in response, which the village idiot in me finds pleasing.

  So, yesterday I hang about outside for the train to come by. It's cloudy, windy, and threatening rain. Too cold. What I'll do is go inside, wait for the train to blast its horn when leaving the station, which I can hear easily, hear the second warning blast at the Markham St road crossing, even closer, and hobble out, down the three stairs, up the brick pathway and out the gate, and be visible just outside, and we'll have our ritual.

  I become aware while sitting here inside that there's a rumbling noise. The train is going past, and there's no chance I will get outside in time.

  It's gone. For the first time ever, it has not signalled with a blast of the horn leaving the station, nor the rail crossing. I hear it every day, sitting right here. How could that happen?

  I feel cheated. Such rituals shouldn't be denied. 

  Not this time, anyway. But it proves a point. Even in such little things, how can we rely on rituals?


  1. You missed the train, and that's sad -- so poignantly put, Denis. It must be gut wrenching for everyone when your daughters depart. Good-byes are not my strength, either, and possible final good-byes are too painful to even contemplate, let alone have to face.

    But my mind is on other things at the moment, with regard to you and anyone else reading your blog who finds him/herself in the same unfortunate situation.

    Word for word from the NewScientist, Sept 17 p 19

    "Gut drug halts cancer seizures:

    A drug for Crohn's disease is proving adept at blocking seizures caused by brain tumours.

    Many people with brain cancers called gliomas experience epileptic-like seizures. Fits occur because the transport machinery that gliomas use to move an essential amino acid into the tumour also secretes glutamate, which causes surrounding neurons to fire uncontrollably.

    Harald Sontheimer's team at the University of Alabama in Birmingham injected human glioma cells into 14 mice. Eight were given sulphasalazine, a drug which blocks the transport machinery; the rest a control.

    Sulphasalazine halved the number of fits (Nature Medicine, DOI: 10.1038/nm.2453). Since sulphasalazine is approved for treating Crohn's disease, and well tolerated by patients, it could be used to treat glioma immediately, says Sontheimer."

    You have to be sorry for the mice, but perhaps some good will come out of their unwilling sacrifice. I hope this unpronouceable drug is readily available. No harm giving it a try.

  2. Thanks, Joan, on all counts. As to partings, we accept what can't be changed, and move on. I don't get hung up on such things but it's good to write about immediate reactions to such events. It's as much a self-indulgence to do so as anything else, but Spartan behaviour also has its limits.

    I thought you interesting comments warranted a separate piece. Here it is:

    Time for bed for me!
    Tuesday, 4 October 2011 12:40 AM.

  3. Oh, I meant to say that I asked my daughters about the train's aberrant behaviour. They told me that at the departure time, there was no announcement at the station that the train was about to leave, no STAND CLEAR, no long blast on the horn, just the doors suddenly closing and speedy departure. Nor, as I said was there the usual warning at the road crossing.

    The crew must have been having a Day of Silence, like Damodar sometimes did. But that's another story.


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