What’s going on?

My husband has a slight tremor in his hands. The first time I noticed it over ten years ago he was at the airport handing over his passport for inspection before boarding a plane for Berlin where he planned to meet our daughter and her partner for a four week holiday. At the time I put it down to anxiety and it surprised me.

Like my daughters I’ve tended to put my husband on a pedestal, one inspired by his intellect and extraordinary ability to tackle so many different things. I’ve listed these before.

My husband turns wood, he bakes bread, makes Kimchi, smokes bacon and salami, preserves olives, he makes sauces and relishes, he silversmiths, blows glass, is a photography buff, a gardener, an inspired cook who prefers to experiment with foods from yesteryear such as tripe, all things offal, mixed grains, duck and goose fat. My husband experiments in paper making and bookbinding.

As a source of relaxation, my husband sharpens knives for friends and family on a revolving stone in his workshop.  He makes jewellery, knife and chisel handles, spoons and designs solutions to the problems of broken doors, window sashes and all manner of handy man stuff throughout the house.

By day he works as a lawyer. All these other activities happen on weekends and holidays and in his spare time. Perhaps this accounts for the anxiety.


A necklace carved out of silver as an example of his artistry.

My husband goes through phases. At the moment he’s back into making Kimchi, which he eats with every meal. He read somewhere it’s good for your gut. He plans to tackle sauerkraut next, which he imagines will please me given my Dutch origins.

Not that the Dutch invented sauerkraut. I think it belongs to the Germans and Eastern Europeans, but my parents ate it from time to time with rookwurst and tongue.

I’m not so keen on Kimchi myself, nor sauerkraut despite their health giving properties. I prefer to have Tarama with my meals, the salty rather than the sour.

My husband moves from one activity to the next and it troubles me because with each passing experience he begins to look out for a new one, and his skills pile up too fast. He complains because they do not develop beyond that first flush of fun.

It must be hard to be a man of many talents, always looking to settle on something specific, something that might engage him in an ongoing way so that he will persevere beyond the first successful batches into the unsuccessful ones and from then on to even better ones.

Creativity involves the making of a mess.

One of my brothers who had begun what I thought of as a promising career in writing, along side his day job in computers – he had two or three short stories published in literary magazines – told me that he had given up when it became clear it was hard to get published, too hard for him it seemed. He could not stand the disappointment.

When we were children, this brother was the family genius, another man who seemed able to tackle anything, anything intellectual that is. I’m not sure about what he could do with his hands, apart from win at Chess. Unlike my husband, who is both intellectually able, an avid reader of history and all things political, as well as someone who enjoys thrillers, and is also at home in those physical pursuits I listed earlier. My brother, on the other hand, at least when we were young when he was dux of St Patricks College in East Melbourne, was brilliant at Physics, Chemistry and Maths, at languages, French and Latin, at English and virtually any other subject the school offered.

I admired such capacities.

To me skills as these are far more appealing than athletic abilities or looks, not that looks are a skill, though maintaining them might be. Not for me the glamorous people, the ones who look as though they might live forever with the aid of Botox and the like, nor the footballers, cricketers or swimmers. I get very little pleasure out of spending hours watching Olympians strut their stuff, not that I can’t acknowledge the fortitude and perseverance that go into these activities.

My husband hurt his back last week. He felt like a ‘crock’, to use his words as he hobbled outside to the tram stop to get to work. He visited a physiotherapist who used her elbows to dig into painful places and begin to set things right. She was concerned though at his tremble.

Could there be something else going on? He thought not, though behind the scenes he was worried, he told me.

But my husband is a frequent visitor to doctors over the years and not one of them, as far as I know, has remarked upon this tremor. Though doctors often seem to deal with different bits and pieces of his body. The one attends his heart, which seems to be in fine shape following a heart attack over ten years ago. Another attends to his ‘plumbing’.

When he was a small boy my husband had an accident of which he has no recall where he must have smashed his penis against the bar in the middle of his bike. It was only a slight injury but it caused scarring and nearly twenty years ago he observed that he was not peeing well, and that he was prone to urinary tract infections.

An observant urologist detected the scarring problem and once a year my husband visits him for a ‘re-bore’, whereby the doctor shoves a metal probe into my husband’s urethra – I can see you all squeeze your legs together – and this helps tidy up the pathway so that he can pee freely.

And then there’s my husband’s back, which break down periodically. In fact, if I think of it, his ailments match his skills. Not one for one. He has many more skills than he has ailments.

My husband’s tremor settles when he is not anxious or stressed, and when he is not concentrating on a task involving fine motor skills. It settles as he sleeps and reads and relaxes.

Why has it taken so long for him to tell me about this tremor and why has it taken me so long to acknowledge something I first noticed over ten years ago?

Wilful blindness, denial, a fear of persecuting him or a fear of worse things to cone.

And then of course there’s my own heart which races from time to time in a flutter that feels adrenalin fuelled as if I have out of nowhere had a great shock at times when there is nothing shocking around, other than the general stress of life.

It was worse before Christmas and has settled down of late.

These bodily ailments we choose to ignore, perhaps as signs of things to come, our inevitable mortality, our slide towards ill health, old age and death.

A grim thought, and one we might prefer to ignore, and focus instead on the creation of something new.

Death is round the corner

My head is dizzy and not just
figuratively.  Either I’ve copped a
virus, or else I’m having a stroke.  Or
maybe I have a brain tumour or some other sinister event is taking place within
my body. 
The hypochondriac in me tells me
this dizziness signals disaster.  The optimist
reckons its nothing short of a virus that will pass. 
But I’m surrounded by illness and
it can become contagious. 
A friend rang this morning to ask
my middle name, she’s making out her will and needs such details. It’s a
comfort to imagine she might be planning to remember me in her inheritance, but a grim thought to consider she might die soon.  She’s just turned 85.
And then there are other reminders
that death is around the corner. 
I scan the death notices most days,
looking for signs that people I once knew have died, but we only subscribe to
the Age and most of the names that
appear there are those more conventional Anglo-Saxon types who also subscribe
to the Age

To read the fuller death notices in
Melbourne you have to subscribe to the Sun
where hundreds of notices from different nationalities ring out the
news.  It’s a depressing thought. 
One day my name will be included in
those notices, just as we included my mother’s name last year and my father’s
before her some thirty plus years ago.
My niece on the cusp of forty may be dying from a rare form of cancer and the very idea fills me with  grief. 
Too young, too soon, and yet she has told me, when she goes to the Peter
Mac Callum clinic for treatment, she’s not a rare case.  The waiting room is filled with people and
many of them are under forty. 
To me, under forty is still
young.  Too young to die. 
The longer you live, the older
you’ll get, the statistics tell us, as if that too might be cause for comfort.
These grim thoughts need an antidote.
In the shower this morning as I
reflected on my night’s dreams, two things struck me. One is the degree to which
the babies in my dreams, and I often dream of babies, are a mixture of infant
and adult, as in they can talk fluently, they eat adult food, and they can sometimes
walk even under six months. 
I drag these babies along with me
in my dreams and they tend to fit in and survive.  Make of that what you will. 
Then the other feature – a pleasure
in my dreams beyond those occasional dreams in which I find myself flying over
rooftops, elevated above the ground simply by willing it to happen – I find
money.  And not just small amounts of
There’s a fifty-dollar note I see
tucked behind a rock.  I pick it up and
there’s another and then another. I stash them into my pockets keen to gather
as many as I can. 
But this money belongs to someone
else. I should not take it or else I must grab it fast because soon they’ll
return and lay claim to it.  I’ll be
caught out. 
Adam Philips writes about ‘guilt as
the psychoanalytic word for not getting caught’.  I write of the horrors of getting
caught.  Of being found out and then of
having to suffer the consequences. 

I can’t trick my body.  It knows when something’s wrong, but whether
or not I pay attention is another matter.