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. 

An untimely death

My cousin died ten days ago from leukemia.  She was only three weeks older than me
with twin sons, my youngest daughter’s age, and an older daughter.  
In my book she was too young to die and
her family are in a state of shock.
We were close as children.  My sister and I stayed with my cousin’s family often during the
holidays, holidays that for me were some of the best times of my life – to be away from the troubles in my own family, to be free of fear, and for once, however briefly, to live with a ‘normal’ family, or so
my cousin’s family seemed to me at the time. 
The best of it, in my child’s mind, my cousin’s family lived in a double
storey house with a laundry chute in the upstairs bathroom that ran all the way
downstairs and outside into a washing basket under the back veranda.
I never dared, but I liked to imagine myself crawling into
the chute and sliding down through the house into the ether.  
The chute began as a box on the bathroom floor with a flat lid.  It held a mysterious quality.  From outside in the
laundry I could look up at the exit.  To me it offered a whole other
dimension, rather like a sanitised poo hole.
To add to it, my cousin’s father kept indoor tropical fish.  He installed a rectangular fish tank in an internal wall between two rooms so that,  as if by magic, you could see into
the tank from two directions.  
My sister and I spent what now seems like hours watching these tropical fish in iridescent blues,
turquoise and yellow as they swam in everlasting circles through their fish tank
 I felt a strange thrill whenever one of the fish released a thin black strand from what I imagined to be its bottom.  Fish
shitting.  The longer the strand the better.
My cousin was older than me by only three weeks and yet
she seemed much older.  She was a
first born and assumed an authority I lacked as sixth born.  She bossed us all around, not in an
awful way as I recall but with the clear authority of her first born and
sisterly status.  
I might have
resented it at times but in those days I was too timid to stand up to anyone
outside of my own family.
I can see the fish tank still and my aunt giving
instructions to my cousin to whip the cream for dessert.  My cousin was masterful in her ability to whip cream; to get
it just right, the firm texture with just enough sugar and a splash of vanilla
essence, but now she is gone and all I have are my mottled memories.