Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Year It's Been.

I got a plastic compass in my christmas cracker this year and thought cool, now I'll know where I am. But it turned out to be broken which is entirely fitting.

I text mum that whisk pic at Christmas lunch, asked if it would take seventeen years to whip the cream because that's all we had? She said it would ... but muscleman guyo Tim is here and did it in five minutes. Hilarious.

Here's my festive table, assembled at the last minute under the carport next to bikes and tyres. Again, entirely fitting.

Dave gave me some Marimekko Converse, and some beautiful dresses. "Ya gotta get outta wearing black hon, you promised!"

I gave him a thick ring made out of steel, which may be as strong as him.

Many selfies on my phone from this guy. He was upset last night so I went in and spooned him, rubbed his back, told him I understood. Then we went for a walk. He needs some extra lovin' at the moment. I forget that life is hard for kids too.

Mum had a sleepover here, with all the boys and mess. We sat in the sun and talked about whatever we wanted to. Which was a lot. I'm going to her house for a sleepover soon. We're going to go through a lifetimes worth of photos together and we're going to get very upset.

I'm upset now - for three days straight I've been really, REALLY feeling it. I don't want it to be the last day of the year. I saw Cam this year. And last time I checked, he's not going to be in next year. I didn't want him to be alone for Christmas so I brought his ashes to the beach house. Put them on top of the pantry and threw caution to the wind and took off the electric blue velvet pouch. So he's just sitting up there with his name showing and everything. Probably making a few people uncomfortable but I just didn't want to hide him. This is my brother. This is what happened. Never noticed how much we quickly sweep grief under the table. My grief is getting bigger better stronger more. Wrapping my head around what the actual fuck did he do?

Mum and I had fancy mineral water out of the scotch glasses I was given for Christmas. I love the scotch glasses and I'm allowed to use them if I want to.

I haven't had a drink or taken any drugs because there is nothing available that could dull this fucking pain. Not even on the streets. Not even in Columbia. So I may as well feel my feelings as best I can and hope, one day, one year ... that it doesn't hurt this insurmountably much. It burns my soul. If there even are souls, who knows.

Cam, how gorgeous you were! If you're reading this .... remember when I told you that if you killed yourself I would be completely fucking devastated? Well I'm completely fucking devastated. And mum, and Linda, and Leigh. Remember that phone call you were going to tell me some "particulars" aka things you wanted done after your death? Well, I did all of them. I'm even dealing with a solicitor and you KNOW I'm not good at that shit.

Just kidding - of course you're not reading this. Your eyeballs melted in their sockets, remember?

Anyway if you *can* tune in Tokyo, I just wanted to tell you that you're a fucking motherfuckingful fucker of fuck. And I understand. But you never gave yourself the chance to get better. You could've gotten better - I did. Am. Kind-of. And so happy new fucking year, brother. My love for you is pouring out of me every day, in every way. You're the first person I ever loved. Love never dies. Love HURTS. You should've stayed and made beautiful babies. Doing that shit kind of gives some meaning to life.

I love you a million. I know you're not actually sitting atop my beach house pantry. I don't know where you are. Lost.

I'm lost too, Cam. My compass broke.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Hey, You.

Thank You.

For coming here this year and reading, offering your words of support and comfort and love. I feel really loved by so many of you and I don't care how corny that sounds but I send love back to you in return.

It's been a shit of a year. Hospital twice and then Cam .. I'm barely hanging on. Sometimes I can't go outside. Sometimes my boys force me to go outside. I cry a lot. Think a lot. Hurt a lot.

But that's life, really, isn't it? It's never what you expect. It's hardly ever what you want. And we make do with events, and loss, and situations.

We're keeping it so chill and easy for christmas this year that I don't even know what the menu is yet.

It's just me, Dave, and the two boys at the beach house. Then a few days afterwards hopefully his other kids will join us and we'll all squeeze in and talk and watch horrors and get burnt at the beach and I'll watch Dave be the dad of five kids.

I'll be having some sleepovers at my mums house because she lives close by. We're going to go through a lot of old photos together and laugh and keen and shake our heads and talk about how if we were only better people, Cam would have stayed. Which is bullshit but that's how it feels.

I cannot articulate how much I miss my brother. It runs too deep and there are no words. I want to grieve him forever. So I will.

I hope you can find some solace this years end. Some cooking, knitting, baking, writing, dancing, painting .... us humans are made to create things. Do it. Today I'm going to pick a garish colour and paint the crumbling outdoor patio concrete while Dave is away.

Lastly, I need to thank the anonymous person who sent me this inscribed silver bangle made by Belle Fever:

"I have a brother. A brother like no other. He got soul soul soul ... sweet soul."

Lyrics from a U2 song. Completely lost it when I opened it ... thank you, beautiful person. Thank all of you for coming to this strange thing called a "blog" ... to read my heart and open a bit of your hearts up in return.

As my beautiful friend wrote on her christmas cards this year: "Love What Is."


Friday, 20 December 2013

Deconstructing Gingerbread Houses The Riley Way.

Rocco made me buy one of those gingerbread house kits. Couldn't WAIT to build it.

                                    (Assembled incorrectly until I fixed it.)

                                  "Is it ready yet? How long does this take?"

Ok so the whole reason Rocco was so excited about doing the house is because I told him he could bash the crap out of it when it was done. I told him I was filming it, and to try knock it all down if he could. I thought it would take him a few goes. I thought he would go gently. I forgot I was talking to Rocco.

I don't know *where* he gets it from *COUGH* - Mine was filmed two years ago ... make sure you watch at 2.25 when it all starts falling apart ....

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

We Found Him In The Bra-Fitting Room.

Confession: I'm scared of Rocco. Mostly when we're out in society, where ANYTHING can happen and often does. He's run off more times than I can count. You know when you lose your kid, and you look around and your palms get sweaty and you scream their name and you just KNOW that you'll never see them again and you'll be on the six'o'clock news? Yeah. I've lost count of the amount of times Rocco has done that to me. Probably about 30? 40? He's a runner. He shaves years off my life but he also saves my life, with those blue eyes and baby hands, blonde hair and beautifully crazy wild imagination.

We traded in Cams car yesterday to pick up the new car and I didn't want to let Cams go. I cleaned everything out, heavy-hearted .... but left the almonds in. I liked sitting where Cam sat, my backbone where his backbone used to be. Felt like he was giving me a hug.

So we're at the car dealership and Rocco gets bored and starts weaving himself in and out of the cars, climbing under them commando style, getting filthy. I kept losing him and panicking. You know when you're in public and you don't want people to know you're losing your shit with your kids? I bent down low to his face and told him to come and get in the car right NOW, in my best cat-strangled voice. He did. Then announced to us and the car dealer that he needed to do a poo.

The other day we needed to go shopping for a nice shirt for Max's year six formal. Max and I were in the changing rooms going through them and then .... surprise surprise, Rocco had done the bolt. The amount of times I've been in a shopping centre screaming out his name.

"Rocco. Rocco. ROCCO!!!"

"I'm in here mum, quick!"

I ran to his voice to find he was in the bra-fiting rooming. Of course.

"Mum I'm doing my exercise. Take a photo."

Jesus help us all when this guy hits adolescence.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Little Boy Blue.

Cam was the apple of my mothers eye. And his fathers. He was just so HAPPY .... cruising around the house with that blonde hair and gorgeous energy. My sisters and I never let him get over how he'd always take a dump in the spa bath. We'd always have to scoop it out. He was so gorgeous and beautiful and cute that my heart could hardly stand it. I was so in love.

There's been a huge amount of turmoil in my family. Mechanisms, dysfunction, unfairness ... and just plain old BULLSHIT. It was a really hard family to grow up in, but we all did. Cams dad killed himself in 1988, an event which seared Cam to the core for the rest of his life. I think I'm only now realising the impact it had on him.

There's a few reasons for Cams suicide. Some we'll never know. He never sought help until it was too late. In his suicide note he told me how well I was doing, to keep up things like interviewing "the fucking Prime Minister Eed!" And then in another sentence saying how he simply cannot go in to a treatment place or get help ... "because of the stigma." Is there stigma for men to seek help for mental health issues? I'm starting to think yes. What a deep shame that is. Cam had undiagnosed stuff going on - definitely chronic depression. Relationship issues. Feeling worthy as a man. Being too fucking smart for his own good. We'll never know completely because you can't get diagnosed when you're just a box of finely-ground bones sitting atop your sisters kitchen hutch.

It was two months yesterday since he's been gone. That two-hour drive Dave and I took down to my mothers work to tell her that her son had taken his life was a long car trip. I was ill. I kept falling into sobbing fits. Dave told me how we should tell her - call her outside, hold on to her, and tell her we need to go home. I can't remember if I said the word "Cam" or if she just guessed. Her only boy, her youngest child she'd spent so many years thinking and worrying and praying about. Mum doesn't even have Jim there to lean on ... seriously, who loses a husband and a child within one year? How do you deal with that?

I worry about her and she worries about me. Life has not been fair to her ... the fathers of her children kept opting out so she alone was left to bear the brunt and cop the blame. She's the eldest of six children, her own childhood was bloody hard too. But she gets through the days, does stuff, makes an effort. She's hurting like she's never hurt before. Same. I think I'm still in shock.

On the weekend Rocco sat up at the table and wrote out envelopes for all of his friends, complete with a drawing of their "favourite thing" and a candy cane inside. When he finished he asked, who else mum? I told him to do one for Ma. When it came to her "favourite thing" he paused and said,

"I know, I'll draw Uncle Cam for Ma."

My clued-up little guy, my own blonde-haired sweetheart, started to draw. Then looks up and says,

"Will I draw Uncle Cam sad or happy?"

"Happy, sweetheart. Draw him happy."


Mens Line Australia: 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Who Sat Down Beside Her.

The thing about spiders is, you're minding your own business going on with your day and BAM. No warning, one is just suddenly right up in your face. For example, I was standing at my bedroom window, opening the blinds and came face to face with this guy. (Kelley my love, look away now.)


                                   YOU'RE WELCOME, AMERICA!

Spiders make me doubt the existence of a Divine Creator because why. WHY? I literally came face to face with this guy, screamed, turned, fell over, kamikaze crawled, got up, and bolted from the room. There was nothing else to be done - I had to ring Dave and tell him to come home from a busy day at work and deal with it. The whole house was soiled.

Dave gets SO annoyed by my arachnid terror.

"You're creating what you fear, hon. You're drawing them to you."

To that I simply say - BULL. SHIT. A series of unfortunate spider events happened when I was a kid, with an extremely terrifying stint stuck with one while I was sitting on the toilet for about half an hour. I couldn't move and couldn't speak.

Dave was a champ, came home straight away because he heard the terror in my voice. I made him kill it, which I do feel bad for but if he just lets them outside they come back in.

He took all these pics while I was out in the hall, wringing my hands.

"See hon ... it's tiny!"

Again I say, BULL. SHIT.

You scared of anything?

Monday, 9 December 2013

Four Almonds.

I've been up since 3.30am. Worrying like hell because who will be the next person to die? I've had a fair few nightmares lately. The morning light streamed in so I got up and cleaned the kitchen and made a pot of tea with real leaves and took it back to Dave who was all, what the hell hon?

We talked for a few hours about life, work, christmas, cars, death. Then Rocco was up, clanging around the house. We got up and Dave made porridge from rolled oats. Max needed a few gentle reminders to wake:


I had the weekend here by myself which was interesting. At this point I'm not sure if it's depression or grief. I slowly started making my way through The Wire. My therapist lends me series to watch because he's pretty fucken rad. The Wire happens to have been Cams favourite show, he had McNulty as his Facebook profile pic for years. Until he deactivated his Facebook account, on his journey of removal.

I watched a documentary on cremation. Bodies go in one at a time, spend a few hours in there under insane levels of heat and flame. Then, the door gets opened and some parts of the skeleton and skull are utterly burnt to a crisp, they just haven't fallen to dust yet. So the cremator person gets out a "flattening tool" and gently nudges the husks down. Last, all the bones are put into a container but they're all different sizes and shit so they get put into a grinder to whizz them all down to a uniform size. Then given to the relatives.

Cam wrote: "... take my rattling bottle of ash to the beach."

The veggie patch is going gangbusters. Standouts include the strawberries, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes. When I go out to water it at sundown, I usually have a certain five-year old scoot out after me and beg to water it. Even though I like doing it, it's a pleasure watching him hold the hose and do each one very carefully. If dad is around, a whole new thing happens.

Minutes after this photo was taken Dave stripped down to his bright green undies and old man slippers and hosed himself off like a boss.

I'm still driving Cams car. It's a silver Holden Cruz sedan and he bought it in July and I don't know why. To impress someone? It's now home to quite a few toys - Batman, Spidermen, the crap toy from a McHappy meal. Rocco sits on the back seat in his booster chair. How bittersweet it is to see Cams car full of kids. Once I was driving home and looked down and there's one two three four almonds, wedged between the middle console and driver seat. FOUR ALMONDS my brain screamed. FOUR ALMONDS IS OF VITAL SIGNIFICANCE and why is it significant? Because it was further proof of Cam in the world. Suddenly I realised I had to stop doing this, keeping a tally of things I find like it's a fucken treasure hunt where the end is a postcard from Cam in the Carribean. "Eed! I'm safe, on a deserted island. It's awesome!"

If I was having a conversation with Cam and I just interrupted and said hey, I watched a doco on cremation do you even know how they DO that shit? He wouldn't bat an eye because that's how we talked. About anything. I keep going to call him, like it's something that's I've forgotten for ages.

Our Christmas tree was lost in the move. Public service announcement: If you buy a Christmas tree on sale at a supermarket for ten bucks, you get exactly what you pay for. At least Rocco's excited about it.

"Mum, I can ask for ANYTHING from Santa because Santa doesn't need money. So I can get everything I want. I want every single Skylander and a PS4 and just lots and lots of toys."

Grief is part of my life now. It just is and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to stifle it or compartmentalise it. This may mean I'll be grieving Cam until I'm eighty. I'm gonna feel what I feel, with no right or wrong. Grieving doesn't mean I'm not still living, weeding, parenting, recovering, doing christmas, cooking meals, cleaning the toilet. It just means that all of those things are harder.

I spent most of the weekend in bed, getting up only to piss and eat. I was pretty low but that's how it rolls. I did get Cams ashes down from his vantage point and sat in a chair and listened to a song I thought might be nice to scatter them to. Played it over and over again. Howled. He's about the weight of an infant again now. Felt this huge desire to put him over my shoulder and pat him like a baby.

So I did.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Sometimes you find yourself doubting every goddamn thing. Big gods, small gods, all the ones in between.

One day you find a set of light brown rosary beads smack in the middle of the road outside the hospital. You were weeping and faithless at the time but picked them up anyway, took them back to your ward. When you wear them they go straight down your cleavage.

Ever notice that everything hums, everything speaks to you? *Especially* mandarins.

Some days you're so broken you can't make sense of anything. Or find a reason. Or remember your faith. Adrift. (Just remember that the days you look around at everybody else who seem to have it all figured out - they don't.)

Lastly: no day ever gets worse by eating a cupcakie with a dear little face and sprinkle hair.

And days always end. Thank god, the days always end.

Monday, 2 December 2013

On The Twelfth Year Of Max.

Twelve years ago, this little person entered the world.


When Max and I first met we were all, hey how you doin'? I felt a lifetimes worth of pain and dysfunction fall away, and I fell in love. Love can feel better than drugs .. who knew?

We were completely inseparable. Slowly, my family and friends realised that some kind of big shift had occurred and I wasn't going back to my old ways, old behaviours. Love can cut through everything.

                                                 A bath from big bro Tim.

I've rode on Max's coat tails for years. Probably still am. Twelve years is a long time, but it's also just the click of a finger.

He's thoughtful, steady, caring .... and incredibly vague. (Gets that from me. Drives Dave NUTS.)

                          This morning, holding a store-bought cake that he chose.

Max I know I'm the parent and I'm the one that's done so, SO much for you these past dozen years. But you've kept me on the straight and narrow. Thank you. I love you. Cannot WAIT to see the man you are becoming.


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