Month: September 2015

Unexpected turns 2015

There is a difference between changes you expect and those that catch you out of breath.  You expect things to go the way you want, not the opposite.  Those surprises do not have to be terrible but often the mind has trouble accepting regardless.

Certain life events are necessary but also beyond comprehension. To be specific, a death in the family.  Between 2013 and 2015 we experienced more setbacks.  My father-in-law Merv Little passed away in March 2015.  He had been sick for about a year but was coping well.  The last trip to the hospital did not seem like that.  And then things turned for the worse and then it was a short time after that when he died.

Here is what I wrote about him for his funeral:


Mervyn George Little (Dad)

There is so much to say about Dad.  Even though he was a quiet and gentle soul, he had a side that was also mischievous and funny.  I first met Dad in 1997 when I arrived in Australia.  He was a different man back then since this was before he had a stroke.  But, even though I was worried about him accepting me, he was very welcoming and made me feel like part of the family.

Dad had a knack for playing tricks on people.   Nothing hurtful to anyone but he always enjoyed surprising people.  Many stories have been retold about how he used to pull pranks.  Some of the more obvious stories involve turning on the cold water when people were having showers and pouring salt into people’s hot drinks.  He also loved to shake hands and squeeze hard.  It was an extra bonus if he was able to grab the other’s hand in just the right way to be able to squeeze harder.  He enjoyed rough housing with his sons.

He loved seeing family come over.  He loved cooking BBQs and putting everything there was on the grill.  He loved being in charge of the BBQ and making sure that everyone would get something that was just a bit overcooked.  He loved getting good presents for his birthday and Christmas.  He also loved to hand out presents.  Often he played the role of Santa for the sake of Girl Guides or for the family.  He loved the idea of winning the lotto.  He played religiously every week with dreams of winning the big one.  He loved taking care of dogs, and especially poodles.  Having a dog follow him around was one of his moments of happiness.  He loved watching the news.  He knew all the times when the news was on and would find ways to maximize how much news he could see.  He loved taking big drives.  Always observant, he would notice things which had changed and report this to other family members.

He could be accident prone.  Apparently he was more likely to have injuries when he was younger but would still have minor injuries from bumps and falls as he got older.  The oldest accidents sometimes involved bicycles and when he was in the military.  He was more likely to bruise later in life due to a blood condition called factor five.  Shaking hands with him sometimes resulted in him bruising on the back of his hand (when we were squeezing harder than usual).

He had a number of conditions of the years that greatly affected his health.  Between his factor five, heart attack, stroke, and finally lung cancer, he had so much riding against him.  Each time he fought back and rallied to live again.  Even with the cancer, he lived beyond what was expected.  He spent around four times a year in the hospital in the last several years.  It seemed like clockwork sometimes.  Except for the last time, he would often come home stronger, and almost as if nothing had ever happened.

We took several trips with him and Mum.  The biggest trips were to America.  He loved going there and decided that he was really from Chicago.  He enjoyed exploring new areas and finding and climbing the steepest hills.  In his native New Zealand, we once walked the hills of Wellington.  He had the rest of the family beat even though he was in his 70s.  We could not believe how much energy he had and that just made him love it even more.  In America, he and his wife were there when we married in 1999 in Las Vegas.  It was great to see him there and he really enjoyed being part of the service.

Dad did not like speaking much to anyone outside the family after his stroke.  He was not comfortable saying things that might come out wrong.  At home, this did not bother him and he would take the time to say what he wanted.  This always proved that he was a very thoughtful man.

It is very hard to say goodbye to a man that I call Dad.  Even though technically he is my father-in-law, he always made me feel closer than that.  He never treated me like an outsider and was always kind.  It is a family tradition to say that if you are teased, you are loved.  Dad teased me heaps and I enjoyed teasing him back.  He was a bit of a mischievous soul but he never meant this in a bad way.  What I will miss is his smile and handshake and his ability to put things at ease.  He had a knack for making you feel welcome.  I will also miss messing up his hair.  He used to hate people touching his hair and he would quickly pull out a comb to fix it up.  It was part of a larger game to see who could tease who the most.

Goodbye Dad.  I love you.  I wish you did not have to go.  At least I will see you again eventually.  I am looking forward to seeing you again.


Since 2008

This was written in 2013.  Finally publishing in 2015.

Four years have passed since I last wrote here.   Quite a bit has happened.  I have put off updating this blog for so long that it is hard to get started again.  The most important thing to mention is three different people in the family have died.  My Grandfather, Harvey Diamond, passed away late 2008 in Hallock, Minnesota.  He had a stroke in 2003 and never fully recovered.  His wife, Helen, passed away earlier that year from cancer.  They had been so close for so many years, and I figure that he understood that she was gone even though it was so hard for him to communicate.  It seems that the lack of her visiting would have made this clear at some level.  The second person to die was my brother-in-law Andrew Ludwig.  Early in 2009, he was in a one car accident while driving towards Beenleigh, Australia.  He lost control of the car and slid into a tree.  It was very tragic and he left a wife and three children.  Even though they are doing much better now, some things will never heal.  It was so unexpected and was a shock for the entire family.  Just thinking about it now reminds me of the pain felt in the early days.  The last person to die happened this year on March 8.  My father died from a number of complications triggered from his smoking.  He had several close calls before this, and this time there was no warning he was about to go.  He was 71.  It was a surprise to hear this news.  He had been waiting for the end for some time.

Meanwhile, there has also been life.  In the last three years, there are two new kids in the Australian family.  Being an uncle is becoming second nature.  Our kids are growing up so fast and seeing kids that young reminds us of our own early family life.  We smile at the thought that we do not have to do those things again.  And, if we do, it will only be for the sake of grandchildren in the future.  The kids are doing well in school and life.  There are certain things that they love that are slightly different from the other kids.  As they mature, they are also finding their own interests.

Back in 2010 we visited America for a big six week holiday.  This included driving from coast to coast in both directions.  I do not know what we were thinking.  It was simply too much driving in too short of a time.  Most of the family from here went there.  Lots of novelty for the first time America travelers.  Simple things like going to Seven Eleven became an adventure.  Just driving on the “wrong” side of the road became a topic of conversation.  Everyone had a great time with one of the highlights going to Legoland between Los Angeles and San Diego.  Many typical tourist places were visited like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo.  One of the favorite places for my sister-in-law was the Florida everglades.  She figures that she will move there one day and live in one of those houses on stilts in the glades.

During this trip I spent some time with my Dad.  At that point, he was in the hospital.  Over time, he had lost the ability to control his hands and feet very well.  It meant that he could not walk with balance.  He also could not hold things or write.  He had good spirits considering his condition.  As usual, he flirted with some of the nurses and generally spoke his truth.  When I first saw him again in 1999 after not seeing him in 1984, he had changed quite a bit.  His hair was white and he had a beard.  He smoked enough that he had nicotine  stains on his beard and fingers.  He was no longer the same person I knew when I grew up.  He had weathered some rough storms over the years and was no longer the parent I knew.  There seemed like some sadness in his eyes and even perhaps some regret.  This was probably just me reading things wrong.  He expressed very little regret for the things that had happened.

In 1977, he left.  He decided he wanted to live a new life in Albuquerque.  Being a pilot for TWA enabled him to be based from anywhere in the USA.  It was a shocking event.  We had no idea that it was coming.  Even though I would have been only 12, I still remember him telling me that he was going.  We had just finished playing a video game together when he said he was leaving for awhile.  I knew that this was not the whole truth.  It felt like it was forever and that feeling was correct.

Mom was in shock about all this happening and tried to keep life normal.  Unfortunately she could not keep things running on track with the bills and work so she realized that we would have to move.  She gave Dad about a year and a half to come back but ultimately she started a divorce, sold the house in Woodstock, Illinois, and moved us to Tucson, Arizona.  We had taken a tour of 4 different cities in the southwest before this but my sister and I had only thought they were holidays.  Mom planned to go back to university to get a bachelor’s degree in business.  She had a 2-year degree from North Dakota but she did not see this being enough to get the job she wanted/needed.  It was a very scary time for her due to the greatly reduced income and so many things changing at once.

So, we found ourselves in a hotel in Tucson when we first lived there.  Mom was busy trying to find a house to live in.  Unfortunately it took longer than expected and after two weeks we had to move to a cheaper hotel.  This was my first glimpse into our potential future.  We had changed from a middle class family to a much poorer version.  I eventually started to resent Dad not sharing with us.  At that point, I don’t think he would have cared that much.

Anyways, this is all ancient history.  The main thing to take away is that his decisions back then had a huge impact on our family.  For many years I was angry with him for many deep seated reasons.  Essentially this anger lasted between 1985 and 1999.  I built him up to be something quite terrible.  It was only the birth of my first daughter that showed me that I needed to reach out to him again.  And, he surprised me yet again, but in quite a different way.   He was no longer the father he had been or anything like the father I had created in my mind.  He was different.  Even though parts of him had not changed, the parts I could not stand were gone.  In a short time, I got to know him again.  We would chat on the phone for ages between Australia and Arizona.  Things were a lot different than before.