On top of all this infertility drama going on in my life, a dear family friend passed away last week (we found out the same day as we found out my eggs hadn’t fertilised no less). It was a bit of a shock regardless of the fact that it was in some way expected. I guess when you know someone your entire life you just don’t imagine them going, especially so young. As much as it hurts when grandparents die, it’s something you’re somewhat prepared for, whereas this just blindsided me. Being the reflector that I am, the news didn’t really hit me for a few days. For some reason I take a while to process things, being level-headed when the news breaks only to crumble later, usually when I’ve made it home and am alone (thankfully). Unfortunately this hit me the day of his funeral, not ideal as this isn’t a day about me. As the proceedings started the tears began to fall – I know, not unusual at a funeral but this time it was a constant battle to keep them under some kind of control. I just wanted to run to the car and bawl my eyes out in a place not surrounded by other people. The photo slide show towards the end nearly broke me, especially when the photo of C at our wedding appeared. So hard. I was teased for being a crybaby but I bet most other people there had already had a good cry about C’s passing, I hadn’t. Anyway, this isn’t post about me, it’s a post for C, and a post for his wonderful family.
A university friend of my parents I have literally known C my whole life and what an impact he, and T, have made on it. As a child, my brother and I would look forward to visits from C & T who were living overseas at the time. Always armed with a ridiculous amount of presents for us it was like Christmas come early. While this is exciting for a kid, C & T’s visits were more than just presents. Their visits were always times of fun and laughter, where all the adults seemed to relax and life paused for just a fraction of time. I will never forget C’s crazy magic tricks, pulling coins from behind our ears while we squealed in delight and begged him to do it again. Or the amazement at how he managed to stop a toy syringe plunger from being pushed down (or pulled up) by us only to achieve it easily himself moments later – a trick I have used on many kids since.
This is a man who, with his beautiful wife, paid for me to fly solo half way across the world to stay with them in Hong Kong as a ten year old. A man who when I suffered from jet lag and was homesick, sat up with me at 2am instructing me in the the ways of solitaire and other computer games. Who when I felt tired at a restaurant, left the party with me to take me the long boat ride home distracting me the entire time with silly jokes and interesting conversation A man who in Hong Kong, and many other times too, treated me to endless fun, shopping, and love. Endlessly generous, I still have many of the gifts bestowed upon me from this trip and from the various other visits over the years. I’ve stayed with C and his family in Hong Kong and Belgium and have lived rent-free in their beautiful Italian villa more than once. There are so many of my life experiences that I owe to this man and his family that I will never be able to express my gratitude enough.
I’ve written about gifts and I’ve written about experiences but C (& T) gave me so much more than that, they taught me that it was ok to be me. I grew up with another girl, another family friend, who being only 4 months older than me, was a constant companion throughout my childhood years. Confident, creative, and loads of fun, I never felt like I measured up to her. Forever the shy child I never quite managed to come out of my shell, I was often quiet where L was boisterous, withdrawn where L was extroverted. How I wanted to be like that so much (and sometimes still do)! While most adults got frustrated, C & T never seemed to, at least not in my vicinity. I can’t even really put my finger on how, but they made me accept that this was me and this was ok. As a child that was enormous, and as an adult it is immeasurable. Feeling worthless is the worst thing in the world and to have someone make you feel like you are someone, and can be something, is life changing.
I also owe many of my interests to C. He, along with my Dad, sparked my interest in photography, a hobby which led me to a photography degree upon leaving school. I remember the excitement in the small darkroom tucked away in the back of the garage, as images appeared like magic in the developing tray, the beauty of the black and white picture upon the page. When hunting through old photographs for C’s funeral photo board we struggled – he was always the one behind the camera, capturing the ever-changing world around him. One of my favourite shots of him is one I took aged ten, a look of surprise on his face as I snuck up and photographed him. I remember feeling so proud that I’d managed to capture him on film – the one and only photo I have of him from that time.
Another interest sparked, again along with my Dad, is my fascination with history. This again led to another degree, a Bachelor of Arts with a history minor. I loved perusing his shelves of history books, specifically those with World War Two or Chinese subject matter and spent a lot of my time at uni in an Asian studies class or a Chinese or Japanese history session. From his tales of the Orient, to teaching me to instruct the taxi driver to “please stop here” in Chinese, to history books on a shelf, it’s hard not to believe that my fascination with Asia, and history in general stemmed, at least in part, from C and his life overseas.
There’s so much to say about C, to be grateful and thankful for, that I just can’t fit it all in a post. There is one thing however that I really can’t leave out, and that’s the infamous C interrogation. Anyone who knew C will be able to tell you about his curiosity with the world and other people in it. This is evident in his multiple degrees, his love of technology, and in the constant questioning of everyone around him. Not a visit would go by without C sitting you down and grilling you about one thing or another. I remember warning my friends before we walked through the door, “you’ll probably get interrogated by C but don’t worry about it, everyone gets it”. I have such a chilled out, easy-going Dad (which is fantastic), I always felt like C covered the role of the stereotypical father figure, grilling my boyfriend’s to make sure they were acceptable. While mostly fun and interesting these interrogations were occasionally a little frustrating….but what I wouldn’t give to be interrogated now! It’s sad how you never truly appreciate anything until it’s gone.
I kept expecting to see C at the dinner and drinks we all had following his funeral. I’d catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye only to turn my head and see someone else, or even worse, no one there. It would be nice to think that C was there with us and could see how much we all loved him regardless. I could just picture him out on the deck with the pipe he was inseparable from, lecturing us all on how we should finish with a grappa or limoncello (thanks for introducing me to them C – well, thanks for the limoncello anyway, I’m still not sold on the grappa), perhaps a little Whiter Shade of Pale playing in the background.
I tried a number of times to write this post and each time I struggled with what to say, where to start, and I had so many IT issues that I was starting to think maybe C didn’t want this written, and was using all his technology skills to stop me doing so. Nevertheless, I got here in the end. It’s one of the hardest posts I’ve ever had to write and I”m sure my garbled writing reflects that. Apologies C, I know you’d be horrified, but sometimes you just can’t edit stuff out.