reflections of an interesting life

My Dad

I started this post on Fathers Day. It seems appropriate to talk about my dad on this day.  He’s been gone a long time but he is far from my thoughts. I know that I was a great disappointment to him. Getting pregnant at 20 probably didn’t help much. I often wonder what he would think now. I am his only surviving daughter, I don’t have much money, never have, but I am happy with my life choices.

When I was little a song came out, sung by Paul Petersen, he was the kid in the Donna Read Show. : it was called my dad and I remember singing it at the top of my lungs. I even  remember most of the words.

My dad, now here is a man, to me he is everything strong things cant go wrong my dad

my dad now he understands, when I bring him troubles to share, he’s always there my dad,

I looked on You Tube on Fathers Day. It was there like almost everything else. As it  played, I cried.

The reality was, he wasn’t really that kind of dad. I wasn’t his favourite, my sister Carol was. In fact, I felt pretty invisible around him. What he really wanted was sporty kids and none of my mother’s kids were sporty.  And sometimes he said some pretty awful things to me.  And those words stay with me forever.  When the news of President Kennedy assassination came over the radio, he was in the garden. I went out and told him and he told me I was lying.

One new years eve in Hawera, two kitttens appeared. He sent us around all the neighbours to find out who owned them. Admittedly my brother and I didn’t look very hard and didn’t find out where they came from. We called them Bubble and Squeak. A few weeks later, our old cat got run over. I was really sad. My dad told me that it killed itself  because it thought we didn’t love it any more. It is the first time I had ever heard of someone killing themselves on purpose. I suspect  it was the beginning of my dark passenger.

He had a very sharp mind though and was quick with an answer when needed.  One Christmas, I got up at midnight to go to the toilet. I took a peak in the lounge and saw Mum and Dad putting presents under the tree. In the morning I got up and said, that boy was right, Father Christmas isn’t real, I saw you last night putting presents under the tree.  He just smiled and said, Father Christmas got suck in the chimney and he passed the presents down to us. And I believed him. I was totally devastated when I found out the truth, My dad had lied to me.

Dad wasn’t home a lot but I do remember him coming home from work and getting in the garden. He always had a vege garden.

Dad was his mother’s only surviving child. His older siblings, twin boy and girl died soon after birth. I don’t know a lot about his family. But I know he was a bit of daredevil. He raced motor cycles under his mothers maiden name so my mum didn’t fine out.

I remember hearing about the big flood, I am too young to remember it, but we almost lost Nana and Uncle Ian. Some sheep we being washed up against the fence and drowning. Dad got into the water and started lifting them over the fence. It was dangerous work but it needed doing.

He was also a returned service man, though he certainly didn’t talk about it, Not because of the horrors of war though. He joined the air force  at the end of the war and at some point flew outside the three mile limit technically meaning that he been overseas. It was quite embarrassed about it really.

After the war, he joined the post office. he started by delivering telegrams, and ended up as Senior Chief Technician at Tauranga. He could of gone higher but he liked Tauranga, so he used the excuse that his daughter was pregnant and couldn’t go.  My stepmother was not very happy about it, every now over the years she would bring it up, how Dad could have gone out on top, it only I hadn’t got my self pregnant.

Dad really loved technology,We had a television much earlier than most people. When we moved to Hawera and Greymouth, he was involved in lobbying for  decent reception.  I often wonder what he would make of all the modern things we have now, when he died mobile phones were as big as bricks and just as  heavy.  Computers were just coming in though very expensive and not for home use.

My parents split after we moved to Tauranga.  It was a really tough time. I was fourteen.  He eventually remarried to another Margaret  who again he met at work and they had a  son, my baby brother Anthony of whom I am very proud. He is a really nice guy. Younger than Suzanne and older than Simon. he was an uncle when he was born. And he was sporty, a fine hockey player. Unfortunately Dad died when he was 11, so he missed seeing it.

I would go and stay with him and Margaret off and on in my teenage years and when I moved north, he was able to find me a flat.  He wasn’t very happy with either of my pregnancies. He was even unhappier Marty and I moved in together.  To top it off, he was not impressed at all when I told him that we were having a BYO wedding. Not that he offered to pay for  it.  But they came anyway.

In his early sixties, he got prostrate cancer. My mother’s family called it poetic justice. But it was a cruel jab at a man who died a very painful death. I didn’t see much of him in his last years, mostly Christmas and birthdays. I felt out of place, he had a new family.

He hated illness, avoided it as much as he could. At his funeral, the celebrant talked about how he nursed his mother when she had cancer. Reality was, Mum nursed her. He stayed away as much as he could. At his service, it didn’t even feel like they were talking about my dad.  They mentioned me and my brother but not where we came from, or my mother, who he was married to for nearly twenty years.  But it was a huge funeral, one of the biggest I had ever been too.

Because everyone liked my dad, including me.



My Black Dog

I haven’t been writing much lately, My black dog snuck out and crept up on me as he usually does and it is taking a while to get him back in his kennel. He is almost back I think but I will have to be vigilant a little longer just to make sure.

The thing with my black dog is, he doesn’t suddenly escape the confines of his kennel. He is much sneakier than that. He quietly finds an escape route and stealthily crawls though that he can squeeze through, finding my vulnerabilities and making the most of every opportunity.

This time, for a while I tried to ignore him hoping he would go back by himself but he didn’t.

I always have a low period in May, I have written about it before. It is the anniversary of Suzanne’s birth and I try hard to plan for it so that I don’t let my black dog out.  I try to be kinder to myself, and rest  and relax and so hopefully by mid June I am back to my old self.

This year,I didn’t bounce back up. My mood stayed low. I told Marty in early July that I was worried my mood hadn’t lifted and then got back to life, hoping that i was imagining things,  ignoring my black dog, hoping he would stay put. But he obviously found a weak spot.

In mid July, there were other priorities. My uncle Ian was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I supported Mum by Skype as much as I could and kept insisting I come up to be with her. By the time, she allowed me to come, my uncle had died. It was great to catch up with family and spend time with Mum and it gave me something else to think about besides impending doom.

I probably cried off and on for three days. My dark passenger started telling how easy death would be, that nobody would miss me, in fact  my death would make  the world  a better place. I finally went to see the doctor. Well more like Marty insisted I go to the doctor and he gave me the medication I had the last time my black dog was here.

But it does take a while for the meds to take effect. The side effects aren’t great either. Instead of bouncing out of bed at six I sleep until well after 8. My whole routine is out of whack and I am not getting on my Wii as much. As a consequence, my legs aren’t happy, I am getting quite bad pins and needles down one side and a lot of muscle pain. It’s enough to make you crazy. Hang on I am already crazy,

in the middle of all this, I turned sixty, There was no fanfare, not even a birthday cake. It would have happened it I had organised something but my black dog was already sapping my  energy. I was hoping someone else would think of it but no one did. We did have a lovely DVD day with the grand kids though the weekend before which was lovely. I love Star Wars and the grand kids have become fans. Even if Nana cheated and we only watched the first and the last movie, I just love Ewoks. .

On the day, Marty took me to a movie and we had a lovely meal out and Mum send me some money to buy a plant and I had lots of Facebook messages from family and friends.

But my black dog told me nobody really cared about me and I had achieved nothing in my sixty years. But I know he is lying, he is just trying to find a way to prevent me from put him back where he belongs. He has lost this round, and I am on the up,

Things can only get better from here.


© Barbara Hart 2014



The black dog and the dark passenger

I haven’t been writing much lately. It is a combination of things, there is still so much to say but I really haven’t been in the mood. Which brings me to my strange title.

Most people know about the black dog. The expression is old English though references go back to Roman times. It is most commonly associated with Winston Churchill. He would talk about his black dog to describe his depression, though I read somewhere that in his dark days he actually saw one  

The dark passenger comes from the TV show Dexter, if you haven’t seen it, you should, It is one of those rare american gems, Dexter is a serial killer who lives a seemly ordinary life. It describes the level of “darkness” and instability in each person’s personality that could either control them or be contained.

I have both in my head. The black dog and the dark passenger. Mostly quiet but I always know that they are there.

The black dog came first. I have always had him. I have been  depressed for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t supposed to be. I was supposed to be grateful. I was the lucky one, the one without an impairment, the one who grew up. I was so good at pretending that everything is fine so no one noticed my black dog.  Besides there was too much other stuff going on in my family, that really nobody had time to notice.

My dark passenger, suicidality came around when I was about twelve when I had my first suicide attempt. It was pretty pathetic really, I ate some poisonous plants. It didn’t even make me sick.  I was so upset. It reinforced everything that I knew about myself. I was totally useless.

And so I have travelled through life with these two companions.The black dog tries to get out of his kennel often enough to remind me that he is there, always ready to bring me down, always ready to pounce. He has no subtlety. He is just there waiting for me to trip up. Looking for signs of weakness, anything he can use to escape.

The dark passenger is so much more subtle. He just lurks about, looking for a tiny chink in my composure. . Small whispers in my sleep, or loud yelling when things go wrong. Always   offering a way out. 

Back in the late nineties, they did their best to overpower me. There strength was such that I ended up in hospital having ECT. But I survived their temptations. I realised then that I had the power. They did not win.  

But I know that they are still there, waiting and watching, ready to take charge, ready to offer suggestions on how to make it all go away. But I ignore them. I still have too much to do. 

Sometimes, when things go wrong or my mood is a little low as it is now, their presence is more obvious. My dark passenger whispers suggestions and the black dog tries to get out.

But mostly they are just there. I know it and they know that I know it. 

© Barbara Hart 2014



Respite Blues

Suzanne’s residence had a couple of respite beds for children whose parents needed a break for a while. I had no problem with this at all but sometimes there were problems.

I knew the children who stayed with Suzanne, I had known many of them for years, since Suzanne started at CDU. But I also knew how vulnerable people like Suzanne were when it came to their more able bodied companions. 

There was one girl, I will call her Sandy. She was a biter. I know that many children bite particularly when they are around two or three. The problem with Sandy was, she was over eight so she had adult teeth. 

The first incident I heard about involved Mathew one of Suzanne’s flat mates. It happened at school. When staff were busy, she bit him so severely on the face that he needed hospital treatment. 

I knew that Sandy stayed at Suzanne’s place so I  talked to Prue about it. I was worried that Suzanne could be at risk. While I recognised that Sandy’s family needed respite, I wanted to make sure that Suz was safe. She assured me that all practical precautions would be taken. 

Then Sandy bit Cameron. More worryingly, she had gone into his room after bedtime and pulled him off the bed behind the door so any staff passing would be unaware of any problems. He was bleeding quite badly when staff found him.  

When I heard about the second incident, I went and saw Prue again. She said that they would be more careful. There were no other respite places available and Sandy’s family really needed the break. They thought perhaps Sandy was frustrated because these non-verbal children didn’t talk back to her. 

Staff would be more vigilant she said. They would work with Sandy to help her understand why there was no response when she talked to them.  Staff let her help bath the children and even feed them. I said she had one more chance but if Suzanne was hurt she would certainly know about it.

One day, I was at kohanga  and Prue arrived. She looked terrible and my first thought was that Suzanne had died. She hadn’t. She had been bitten and was at ED. On the way to hospital, Prue told me what happened. 

Suzanne was in the van on her way to school. Somehow Sandy had good out of her seat belt, pulled Suzanne’s shoe and sock off and started biting her toes. She was getting back into her seatbelt as  the van arrived at it’s destination. The van driver noticed blood on Suzanne’s foot. And blood around Sandy’s mouth. It wasn’t until staff saw them that they realised what had happened.

Suzanne lost two toenails and spend a night in hospital. Once I knew that Suzanne was fine, I thought about Sandy’s mother. How awful to know that your child could inflict such pain on another child. 

Sandy didn’t come back to Suzanne’s place for respite. They made other arrangements. I didn’t even have to fight them on it. They realised that the risk was too great. 

Fortunately there were no lasting effects for Suzanne. It was just one of those things. But heartbreaking for everyone. 

© Barbara Hart 2014

Going to Class

Doing the MACCESS course made a huge impact on our lives. Learning to drive of course was a major but just having that little bit of extra money really made a difference. 

We brought our first microwave, Video player and a 14 inch TV for the bedroom. They were al SAMSUNG. My brother told me that I had wasted my money buying Japanese junk. He brought Phillips VCR. He said, it was so much better quality. He was wrong of course. It player was back in the shop in a couple of months. 

All three of them lasted for over 20 years without incident. The video player eventually wore the head outs long after DVD’s were in vogue. We up dated the kitchen in Malfroy Road and brought a smaller one. We  gave the still working microwave to someone who needed it. And the same with the TV. The remote stopped working but the TV went to a new home as well. 

It also meant going to polytech for Maori classes. There were people from kohanga all over the region. I was a bit nervous going to the first class. When I walked into the room, one of the women looked at me and said, we may as well give up now this pakeha is going to be top of the class. 

I looked at her square in the eyes and I said, you have been brought up on the marae, you have heard Maori spoken all your life, how on earth can I compete with that. She smiled as she saw my point. After that, we got on to the business of why we came. I was so difficult, but I persevered even after the money ran out and we stopped getting paid, I kept going back.

In then end only a few of us finished the course and I finished somewhere in the middle, certainly wasn’t top of the class.

Things at Kohanga were moving too. We got permission to have a small parcel of land at the back of the field to build our own building. The building was designed like a wharenui,  though the windows on the sides would be bigger than usual. It also meant the kohanga became split.

I don’t really remember how it happened but it definitely done along tribal lines. locals and others. As I have said before, because the kohanga was on a school and not attached to marae we weren’t tribally based. The majority of people who came were from out of the area. There were some local mothers as well.

When the outside of the building was finished it was decided that one group was do the inside decoration including the tukutuku panelling for the walls  and the kowhaiwhai for the ceilings. The local women decided to do this. They were also really good at art and crafts.The plan was that they would leave their children with us while the worked but eventually they took their children with them. 

It was a about the same time that Manuhopukia decided that she was going to retired and she looked around for a replacement. Amongst us was a primary school teacher from Gisborne way. Both her and her husband were fluent in the language. She seems an obvious choice but the locals wanted one of them to run it. That deepened the split between us even further. 

Effectively there were two kohanga running at the same time from the same funding.  the principal of the school backed us. It was really difficult. Simon was almost five by this stage so it wouldn’t belong until our kohanga days were over and it wouldn’t be my issue any more.

Of course, now I could drive, I could visit Suzanne when I wanted. I usually went on Sunday afternoons. But I still felt guilty about abandoning her. But she was happy and well cared for. The staff were mostly young and they brought a whole new range of experiences for Suzanne. After Reuben’s death Cameron moved into the house. 

Life continued on it’s merry way. Unfortunately life for me is never simple and there were clouds on the horizon.

© Barbara Hart 2014

Uncle Ian

My uncle Ian died on Wednesday. He was my mother’s baby brother. He had a short battle with cancer but it was long enough for his siblings to get together and spend time with him.

I wasn’t able to see him as I got there the day after he died but I  was able to support my mum through this difficult time. And to see the family again. 

To be honest, I have had very little to do with my mother’s  family since I was child. None of my mother’s family met Suzanne once we left Upper Hutt when she was a baby and  only Aunty Dot had met Simon prior to Mum’s eightieth birthday bash. In reality, I was born between the generations, not much younger than my mothers younger siblings and much younger than my cousins, In fact some of my younger cousins are the same age as Suzanne and some have children the same age as my grandchildren.

I remember Uncle Ian at the trotting stables in Moonshine Road, He was always smiling. He loved life. And his exploits were legendary. There is an underpass in the Hutt that has huge gouges into the concrete quite high up.. They were made by uncle Ian, He fell asleep at the wheel and flipped his car making those marks, Amazing he wasn’t seriously hurt. 

He also got swept away in a flood and chopped his leg badly while wood chopping. He married Pat and had two sons. both fine men, Stephen is my famous actor cousin and David works with computers. 

Once Granddad died and Nana left the stables, the family split up, the brothers eventually going to the Waikato and the two girls ended up in Canterbury.  Nana followed the girls after her mother Nana Alsop died. And I of course I moved between the Hutt and Tauranga so there was little interaction between us. 

The funny things was, I always had flash backs about Uncle Ian. Every time I saw those dirty looking white daisies on the side of the road, I could see Uncle Ian and fire, It didn’t make sense.  It was really strange. I asked my mother about it and she had no idea what I was talking about. 

About 20 years ago, I met up with him at a family funeral. I asked him about it. He looked at me quite stunned. He said you are too young to remember that. And I said, I don’t really remember anything, I just see him surrounded by fire. Nothing else, no context, nothing, just him, those horrible daisies and fire. 

Well he said, I was under a tractor trying to fix something  and the grass caught fire.and my back was burnt. The reason the grass caught fire was due to the fact that the grass had been sprayed with grass killer which dried the grass. Friction with the dry grass and the gravel on the drive cased a spark and ignited the grass.  But he reiterated, I was much to young.

Obviously I wasn’t, After our conversation, I felt much better. More importantly I stopped having flashbacks. I had the answers I needed. 

© Barbara Hart 2014

New Skills

After Suzanne left home we got back into a new routine. Simon and I were still going to Kohanga every day. One day Manuhopokia came in very excited. They were  going to set a course to train mothers to work in Kohanga. 

Back then the government had Access courses for people to develop new skills in a wide range of areas. This was slightly different it was called Maccess and targeted to Maori. She wanted everyone to apply. The training would run from the Kohanga though there would be language class up at polytech for one day a week and that was open to all the Kohanga in the area.

I said, well that rules me out, I am not Maori, but she said no, it is open to anyone who has children at Kohanga. I went home and talked to Marty and came back the next day and applied. I was really surprised but I got it. We were paid $100 a week to attend.

Marty and I talked about what we should do with the extra money. That was easy, I would finally learn to drive.

I had had driving lessons when I was in my late teens. The instructor was awful. At one stage it started raining and he told me to turn the windscreen wipers off. I watched them and waited for them to get to the bottom before I turned them off. He started yelling at me, turn them off. What he didn’t know was, I didn’t realise they were automatic, I was trying to hit the button at the right time. So I gave up.

Hilary’s sister Barbara gave me a couple of lessons and Marty gave me one but it just didn’t seem to work. I rang the companies in the book. I wanted a calm lady instructor who would have lots of patience. I found someone really lovely. 

I must have had about 12 lessons in the end. It was hard trying to do everything at the same time but she had lots of patience and skill and finally I was ready to sit my test. The written test was fine but I failed one of the oral questions. Just never occurred to me that you could have a stop sign and a give way at the same intersection. But you were allowed to miss one question so I passed.

The instructor knew how things worked in Tauranga. She made me apply at the County Council rather than the City Council. This meant that I was have my test in Greerton, rather than in the middle of town. I was really nervous, but the officer was nice and gave me simple instructions on what he wanted me to do. Mostly I didn’t want to stall on the roundabout. 

I didn’t stall, and everything went quite smoothly. Once I was through the roundabout, we went into the racecourse and drove around there. It was actually very easy. especially parallel parking with no other cars around to hit. Probably haven’t done a parallel park since mind you. 

Once I had my licence, I used the money I was getting to buy a car. It was Heta’s old mini. It was pretty old and battered but it was mine. Just after I got it, I had my first of the only two accidents I have had. 

I was driving down Cameron Road in rush hour. I hated Cameron Road, I was coming up to the hospital and there was an idiot on my tail trying to pass. He finally got passed and sped off, though the traffic was so thick he didn’t get far. A man in a wheelchair was going onto the crossing. He fell out of his wheelchair and everyone but me stopped. I went into the guy in front. 

I followed him around the corner and burst into tears. He was really angry but I managed to give him my phone number and told him that my husband would sort out the insurance stuff. I think he felt a little sorry for me.

I went home still crying. Marty thought something terrible had happened. Well,  I thought it had. He was very sympathetic as usual and sorted out insurance and stuff, The mini had very little damage.

Being able to drive made a huge difference. For the first time I had the freedom to go where I wanted to without depending on others. And I love driving. I will drive anywhere and everywhere. I can even drive in Auckland on the motorway something I never thought I would ever do. I do get lost sometimes, even with a GPS but eventually I find my way.

But I have to admit, I have had a few speeding tickets. And I hate throwing away money. So I try really hard to stick to the speed limit. 

Driving is and always be pure pleasure for me and I hope it will always stay that way.

© Barbara Hart 2014

. . 


Things worse than death

After Suzanne left we settled into a new routine. I lost the home help of course and no nappies were delivered to the house any more. And there was so much less to do. And at the drop of a hat, we could be off on new adventures. It is surprisingly easy. 

Not that I didn’t miss Suzanne. I felt there was a huge hole in my life.  We visited regularly and she was fine. I got to know the other children in the residence. They really weren’t now to me, as I had met them all at CDU. One little boy broke my heart.

To be honest, for the life of me, I can’t remember his name, and if I went through Suzanne’s stuff, I would find it. But really I don’t know that his name is that important. What is important is his story.  I will call him Reuben.  

Reuben was an only son. He had a loving Mum and Dad and  sisters. When he was four, he was riding his new bike at his Nana’s house. Look at me Nana he yelled as he went down the driveway, straight into an on coming car. 

His injuries were horrendous. He was rushed to hospital and her parents were called. He was unlikely to survive the doctors said. And there is severe brain damage. But Reuben kept breathing. His parents stayed at the hospital with him, and he kept breathing. 

Eventually, his parents went home, Several times they were called in and told Reuben was dying, but he never did, he kept coming back. 

After about five months in hospital, he came to live with Suzanne. He was completely immobile  There were no visible scars. But the real difference between him and the other children at the residence, was  stark. There was no life in his eyes. He was really just a body that kept breathing.

He had severe kidney failure so had to be given fluids all the time to ensure that his kidneys kept working. He didn’t make sound. One day he stopped breathing. IHC staff gave him CPR and called an ambulance. When they got to the hospital, the nurses asked what happened. 

the staff told them what they had done, and the nurses said, why did you bother. And they said, because we don’t have a choice we can’t play God, we just have to do our job. And the nurses did too. He survived and went back. 

One day he died, very quietly at the residence. Suzanne and the other children were very subdued, staff said but they looked very happy. It was Father’s Day, 18 months after the accident.

At the funeral, some one said to Reuben’s mother, now you can start grieving. And she smiled  said, no, now I can stop.  After they thought about it, they agreed. 

It is a tough question. Sometimes I think that medically we can be too clever and save people who in hindsight would probably be kinder if they didn’t make. But the problem is, how can you tell. There are stories of miracle recoveries all the time, that from the outset seem bleak indeed. So of course doctors have to do all that they can. 

Our road fatality statistics just talk about the people who die, and it is a very sad things for all those families friends. But there is never any mention of the survivors like Reuben. And sure I know that many people out there will say, well his parents probably learnt a lot from their experience. Perhaps  they did. But what a way to learn. 

I remember years ago, watching Oprah. They were talking about turning off life support. There was a big case in America at the time when a family wanted to turn a woman’s life support off and her husband didn’t. Oprah talked to a woman in that situation.

As her husband was in court fighting to have her machine turned off, she came out of her vegetative state much to the surprise of medical staff.Oprah said, don’t you hate your husband, he tried to kill you. And she said, no, I love him more because he believed what he was told, that there was no chance of recovery and he did it out of love. And I may be sitting here looking wonderful, but it has taken five years and  a huge toll on me and family  to get me here. And there is still so much to do. In fact, in some ways,  it might have been better if he had succeeded, 

The reality is, sometimes there are things worse than death. And personally if I am every in a situation where I can be turned off, I would be very happy if someone would love and respect me enough to do it. 

© Barbara Hart 2014

Heart ache

It was a tough decision and I talked to as many people about it as I could. Most were very supportive, and  felt  that giving Suzanne up  was the right thing to do. To me it was a head heart problem. My head was telling me it was the right thing to do, my heart kept saying no. 

One friend at kohanga was not supportive. She told me that if I was Maori I wouldn’t do it. It was real pakeha thing to do, giving away a child.  No Maori would send their child away, they would find another way. This confused the hell out of me. I had been  to Tokanui. There were Maori children there, lots of them. Their parents had given them up. 

I talked to Tepora about it. She said my friend had a reason for feeling that way. Her sister died in Tokonui. She was send there after their parents died and only lasted a few months. My friend obviously felt really guilty about it. But she was only a child herself and couldn’t take care of her sister as well as go to school. The choice was taken out of her hands.

But the choice was mine and only mine. I went and had a look at the house. It was lovely just across from the Mount library. It was very spacious and had big bedrooms. Work needed to be done to make it accessible and while they said November, the possibility was it could be longer. 

It took me a while to work through everything.Visiting her often would be difficult. I still couldn’t  drive and the Mount was to far to bike to. She would still be at CDU so I would be able to see her there though being at kohanga every day would make that difficult. 

Looking back now, it was a the right decision. But then I was full of doubts and guilt. My friend certainly didn’t help. She kept telling me how terrible I was for even considering it. 

Once however, I had decided Suzanne should go, I wanted her to go. I looked forward to spontaneity, Just hoping in the car and going somewhere without a thought or a plan. Life would be so much simpler, I wouldn’t have to worry about lifting or cooking special meals, in fact we could go out to eat. Now that was a novel idea. 

IHC however weren’t ready. The work was taking longer than expected. That made it so much harder. I had made the decision and was mentally prepared for what would be such a difficult thing to do but now, I had to wait. It just seemed so unfair. I had made the hard call and now I had to wait for them to be ready. 

It wasn’t til the end of January, that she finally left home. I cried buckets. I doubted my decision. I wondered how I could do this. Prue was great. She understood how I was feeling and how much I was going to miss Suzanne. And it was ok to feel that way. 

Suzanne was the oldest in the house. There were three others. Their parents had made the hard call too. I was grateful, we had her at  home almost eight years longer than the professionals said I could manage, though I have to admit, they stopped suggesting Tokanui once Marty was on the scene.

Marty pulled the bed down in the lounge and we had a bit more space. We moved Simon into the girls room so he had more space as well. It was the start of new part of our lives. Suzanne would always be a part of us, but she wasn’t with us. 

And I was really sad about that but the realist in me told me it was for the best for all of us. it still seemed bloody unfair but I had made the decision.

Now I had to live with it.



Facing the Facts

I didn’t want to but I had to face the facts. Having Suzanne at home was becoming more and more difficult. It impacted on everything. And I was tired, so very tired. I didn’t know what to do, I hated myself for even considering sending Suzanne away. How could I abandon my own child. She was almost 12, I couldn’t image being without her. 

IHC contacted me and said that they were definitely opening a children’s home in November and they offered her a place.It was going to be in Miro Street in Mt Maunganui. It was an existing building and fairly new. They had appointed a manager, Prue Grant who would be happy to come and talk about it.

Marty and I talked about it at length. Finally he said, this is your decision. I will stand by what you decide but I won’t make the decision for you. I said it should be joint decision, we were married after all. But he said no. I don’t want you blaming me, if you later you decide that you have made the wrong decision. It has to be yours and yours alone.

The day Prue came to see me and meet Suzanne, I was a wreck. My stupid body was playing up and I spent most on the morning on the toilet. She was very nice. She spoke kindly to Suzanne. She talked about the house and how it would be run. She assured me that we could visit at any time. But mostly she assured me that Suzanne would be safe and well cared for and most importantly, she would be  loved. 

And then she left. I cried a lot. I am crying now, just thinking about it. It was an impossible choice. Now, our lives were so restricted and I knew that Simon was missing out on a lot of things, boys of his age did. But Suzanne was my baby, we had been through so much together. I had had to fight so hard to keep her and now I was considering giving her away. 

The other thing that bothered me was, Suzanne couldn’t tell me if thing were wrong. She couldn’t ring up and say, they didn’t feed me today, they are mean to me, they left me in wet nappies for hours. There would be no way of knowing that she was okay. I would have to trust strangers to do that right thing.  

And that was scaring me the most. 

© Barbara Hart 2014