I've been living in my own backyard for the past six months. Well, not literally. What I mean is that I've had difficulty coming up with thoughts that, somehow, don't include my son's senior exam results and my father's death.
Sometimes there doesn't seem to be room for much apart from issues in your own backyard. I've tried to focus on asylum seekers, the global financial crisis, Afghanistan and other bigger thoughts, but I keep being dragged back to waiting and loss.
This is, of course, a waste of whatever mental capacity I have as I can't do a single thing about either event, but still they feel like milestones and mill stones.
Often things get down to numbers. My son's secondary education will certainly be boiled down to one final figure. And I've had to come up with stats about Dad many times: 85 years old; married to Mum for 56 of those years; father of three, grandfather of 12. Sometimes you get to make other, brief, additional remarks: he served his community; was warm and wise; his was a good life, well lived...
I believe it is now incumbent on me to "get over it". Having your first brush with grief at 48 apparently makes me lucky. There is so much sadness about and people everywhere have to deal with situations that are unspeakably painful.
Members of my family have responded in their own ways. My brother finds himself graveside. My sister sobs while jogging. Mum can't cope with going to church without him. At first, I was unable to hang out washing without tears. My laundry issue has now passed, but there is another trigger I don't think I will ever overcome: bagpipes.
Dad played them, you see. And while you may think it is easy enough to avoid pipe bands, highland gatherings, lone pipers and military tattoos it seems that, just like Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition, bagpipes tend to appear when you least expect them. The first time I realized I had a problem was at my kids' school carnival. At the sound of the first bad note that denotes filling the bag with air I rushed out from my post at the silent auction to watch a local highland band. But then I was struck, winded, lost, upset... Bloody hell, what is this?
The bagpipes are emotive; they speak of heritage, highlands and hardship. They were also very much part of Dad's story. He left school at 13; his parents needed him on the farm. He didn't want to leave school but had no choice. Around this time, a new Presbyterian minister arrived in the district, in western Victoria, and decided there was a need for a pipe band. The minister then set about teaching the local boys, first the chanter (the recorder-like centerpiece) and then the pipes themselves.
Many of the boys were grandchildren of Scottish settlers