December 1 2012

A Slow and Sedate Half Century

A long time ago someone decided that it would be fun to photograph my brother, the Martian, and me on top of a fifteen metre high waterfall. We were very young kids at the time so we trusted the adult that took us up there. What could possibly go wrong? Slippery rocks, a fast flowing river and an unsteady adult, that’s what. The result was an impromptu thrill ride which I still remember quite vividly. I don’t recall being scared but my parent were terrified since I remained underwater for a long time and, after a frantic search,  was given up for dead.

An even longer time ago I displayed remarkable snake handling skills to my horrified parents. I had toddled into the house with a baby cobra dangling from one hand. The cobra was very much alive but I had somehow managed to pick it up by the neck, just like the professional snake handlers do. Today I rival Indiana Jones when it comes to a pathological fear of snakes. You can join the dots any way you like.

I managed to survive both those events and here I am. The man in the mirror is grey and weathered and paunchy. His mind isn’t the sharp instrument it used to be and it takes a little longer to retrieve items from the memory banks. He is now prone to a more profound grumpiness at the many morons that inhabit the planet. The man in the mirror is fifty years old today.

(Raises a metaphorical cricket bat to acknowledge the polite applause.)

Thank you to the wonderful people that have shared moments in my journey through life. May you be there as I stumble through the next phase.

Get off my lawn.

October 19 2012

He’s An Adult Now

My firstborn son is excited. Not about the momentous milestone of having lived eighteen years on this planet. Not about the fact that he is now officially an adult – in fact he doesn’t like the thought of being an adult (and who can blame him.) He is excited because of the presents. And the feast. There’s much more than usual of both presents and feast in honour of the momentous occasion. Momentous for the Librarian and me, at least.

Was it really eighteen years ago? I sit here with a tear in my eye and only a small part of the tear is due to the emptiness in my wallet. I still remember that day vividly.

(Cue wavy, going back in time effect.)

He was comfortable where he was – he didn’t like change even then. The powers that be declared that he was not going to budge without a little inducement. The powers that be set a date and so the Librarian and I got to the hospital on the morning of the 18th of October. He resisted the first two attempts at inducement, a pattern that would be repeated often through the years. We waited. For hours. And hours. Eventually, late into the night, I was sent on my way home to get some rest. I drove home wondering when our first child was going to make an appearance.

The bed was welcoming and I crawled into it and fell asleep almost immediately.

The bed was welcoming but I woke up and crawled out of it almost immediately. Thanks a lot little one. You could have let me sleep more than ten minutes.

I was driving back to the hospital as quickly as legally allowed. (Honestly! Although I did make the trip in record time. Wonder how I managed that.) When I got to the maternity ward the Librarian and I were whisked away to centre stage and we patiently waited for the arrival of the star. Well, I waited patiently but elsewhere there was much pushing and pain and cursing. That was the doctor. After a lot more (and I do mean a lot more) pushing and pain and cursing, from the Librarian this time, the top of the little tyke’s head made an appearance.

But that’s as far as the little tyke wanted to go. No amount of pushing and pain and cursing could make him budge. Never fear. The doctor had a solution. Let’s just say that the rest of the little tyke appeared courtesy of a medical vacuum.

What an incredible moment. This tiny little thing. My son. I had actually become a Dad.

(Cue wavy, going forward in time effect.)

So eighteen years have gone by since that day. We have watched him grow from that little bundle into the strapping young man he is today. We have endured moments of pure frustration and basked in moments of pure joy. It still takes several calls before he answers. He still doesn’t like change. And he still fills me with pride and joy.

Happy eighteenth birthday, my dear, dear son.

December 23 2009

Happy Birthday, Master Builder

We picked up our bags, bundled the Game Guru into his car seat, and headed off to the hospital. No hysterics; no panic; a stroll in the park really albeit one of us enjoyed it a lot less than the others, what with the contractions and all. We were pros at the birthing game. The attending doctor wasn’t.

Let me rephrase that. The attending doctor – young as he was – had experience in delivering babies but his attitude crossed the line to the unprofessional side. He was in a big hurry and wanted to expedite the delivery instead of letting it run its natural course. He obviously had something better to do with his time. The Librarian’s mood darkened by the minute and she gave  the doctor an earful. Let’s just say the Librarian didn’t care if he hadn’t completed his Christmas shopping yet (I thought it was more along the lines of a nurse and a broom cupboard but that’s just the way my mind works.)

The replacement doctor was much better.

Eleven years later the Master Builder opens his birthday presents. His unrestrained happiness at receiving a huge Transformers set and yet more Lego is a joy to watch. At times like these it is easy to forget that Master Builder is high functioning autistic.

His enthusiasm continued unabated throughout the day as he absorbed the events: lunch at Whiteman Park, dinner at home and an ice cream from the Cold Rock ice creamery at Hillary’s beach.

The smile was still on his face when he went to bed to dream of Christmas just two sleeps away.

October 19 2009

Fifteen? Really?

The Librarian did all the hard work, of course, while I just stood there feeling quite useless and very much in the way of the doctors and nurses. My occasional entreaty to push didn’t actually help the Librarian in any way, I’m sure, but saying it was better than not saying it. Oscar Wilde would, no doubt, agree with me. So I said it a few times while I gently squeezed her hand. She squeezed back. She wasn’t as gentle.

We became first time parents that day but only after a good deal of persuasion. Our first child wasn’t too keen on leaving his home of nine months. Or maybe he was but, being a large baby, found his progress impeded by a less than ideal path. The attending physician finally decided that some assistance was in order and brought out the medical equivalent of a vacuum cleaner. And so – fifteen years ago – Game Guru was literally sucked out into the world.

Time passed. The little human being shifted and changed. Along the way he contributed a great deal to my grey hair. There was the time I found him attempting to discover the effects of electricity. We had the foresight to cover all exposed power points so he was in no danger of getting a shock. In fact the shock was all mine until I realized that he was safe.

A much larger shock came some time later. The Game Guru and I were alone one morning and he had grown weary of my company (hard to believe, I know but even Saucer has his off days.) The inevitable happened and he became Little Monster, arch nemesis of Daddy Man. Ranting and raving ensued. I finally gathered together all the dignity an adult could muster and left him alone in his room but not before telling him something I promised myself I would never say: “if you don’t like the rules in this house then you can go find another house with better rules.” Things quietened down after that. A lot. It was very, very quiet.

I was frantically searching our neighbourhood when the Librarian returned home. She had a little passenger with him. I can’t describe the sense of relief that surged through me when I saw that little face. I don’t think he has ever received an embrace quite like the one he got then. The Librarian told me that she picked him up some distance away from the house – at least it was some distance for his little legs. The Game Guru had gone looking for the house with better rules.

His contribution to my grey hair collection, however, is miniscule compared to his contribution to my facial wrinkle collection. Those wrinkles are direct result of the smiles and laughs he has given me in his fifteen years. How can I ever forget, for example, this:

“What sound does a cow make?” we ask.

“Moo!” says he.

“What sound does a dog make?”

“Woof!”

“And what sound does a chicken make?”

“Sizzle, sizzle, in the pan!”

So here, filled with love and pride, are hugs to him even though he towers over me now. Happy birthday, my Son!

February 12 2009

Happy Birthday, Sir Charles

If Charles Darwin were still alive he would be celebrating his two hundredth birthday today. Celebrate with him by catching up with his story and reading On the Origin of Species and other works. These manuscripts should be perused by supporters and detractors alike, especially those who believe that the banana is proof of intelligent design (I’m looking at you Mr Cameron – obviously had some serious growing pains.)

Here, in Australia, the capital city of the Northern Territory is named after Darwin. The city boasts a park, Civic Park, that is dedicated to Darwin and students can study at Charles Darwin University. It is only fitting, then, that the city should celebrate the double century in style. The celebrations apparently includes a re-enactment of the voyages of the Beagle which sailed into Darwin harbour in 1839. Also on the schedule is the unveiling of a life-sized statue of the great man and Civic Park will host several replicas of the Beagle‘s bronze bells.

As for us mere mortals in Flying Saucer Jones’ abode we will eat some cake in Darwin’s honour. Happy birthday, Sir Charles. You don’t look to be two hundred.

December 25 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone

The 25th of December. A day that commemorates the births of Youngest Bro, Isaac Newton and a fictitious character or two. A day that begins with a grand opening of presensts followed by a breakfast party at the house of Uncle E__ and Aunty C__. This year, though, the day began with a phone call from young T__ asking us to call his mum, K__, because her car had broken down.

I woke The Librarian and explained the situation to her. She groggily made the phone call. Apparently K__’s car had broken down while she was driving back home from work. The car obviously wanted a Christmas break and expressed its discontent with a billow of smoke before shutting down a few kilometres away from us. The Librarian and I hurriedly got dressed and hurried to rescue K__ up. She looked like she was fed up with the world. Poor K__ hasn’t had much go her way. Hopefully better things are in store for her.

We got back home after dropping K__ off with time to spare before the Christmas brekky. Both kids were up by then so we decided to open presentsall of which were big hits; not surprising really since the kids had prepared comprehensive lists of indispensable items. By the time the Librarian and I headed off to breakfast both Game Guru and Master Builder were busy living up to their names.

The breakfast was a more relaxed affair for me this year. Christmases past saw Game Guru with me while Master Builder stayed at home with the Librarian. This year, however, Game Guru decided that he didn’t want to face the crowd anymore. He was happier staying at home with Master Builder as long as we brought food back with us especially the kiri bath and katta sambol. This is a much better arrangement for all concerned and I was able to enjoy the company much more. I especially enjoyed the entertainment provided by Middle Bro and family, a recital of the Christmas story using chocolate bars as props. The kids were cute and funny which helped me overlook the religious message.

The Librarian and I took the time between breakfast and the family dinner to catch up on some sleep. I almost never have a nap but my body insisted on this occasion. The kids just continued playing with their Christmas bounty.

Dinner was wonderful. There were no curries but the barbecue and salads were great. We were all stuffed by the time gift giving began. Once again Mum had chosen well and all the kids enjoyed their presents. The Master Builder loved the Bionicle he received from his Nana so much that he took it with him when we trooped to the park across the road. He had a good chat with his Nana while the rest of us kicked a ball. Game Guru surprised himself when he found that he actually kicks quite well. It was a fantastic evening and I felt quite sad when it came to an end. The drive home provided some distraction because we wound our way down side streets to see the Christmas displays provided by some households.

The Librarian called her Mum later in the night. I made a few sleepy comments and talked to Master Builder for a while before I found my body insisting on sleep.

Merry Christmas everyone.

December 23 2008

Happy Birthday My Dear Master Builder

Have ten years gone already? I still remember the day Master Builder was born and all the emotions that we have experienced since then. Those tiny little fingers have grown into the digits that deftly put together Lego pieces today.

It was a slice of heaven for the birthday boy. He received a huge Lego City set from us and an equally huge Bionicle set from his Nana and Pa. Spongebob DVDs from Grandma and Papa T__ and a gift card from Middle Bro and family rounded out his bounty. Master Builder handled the crowd very well; there were no histrionics at all. He even cut his cake in front of everybody although he banned the birthday song.

Master Builder and I had a fantastic time assembling his Lego City set. He did most of the work and I enjoyed watching him. His good mood continued even when the Boss Man showed up to give us a Christmas present.

December 1 2008

And Another One Bites the Dust

What a great start to my 47th year! It didn’t matter that I had to work; there were so many rewarding moments:

1. The Cricket

Australia demolished New Zealand in the second and final test match. It was good to see Brett Lee back in some form. He was fast, accurate and a joy to watch. Even better was Ricky Ponting’s one handed, diving catch which ranks as the best I have ever seen. Even better than Derek Randall’s screamer a couple of decades ago.

So it’s a 2-0 whitewash and we look a little better than we did a the start of the season. With a little luck and a lot of guts we may beat South Africa and retain our number one ranking.

2. Presents Delayed, Advent Calendars Opened Instead

The Librarian told me that Mum and Dad had contributed to my birthday present so I decided to open all my presents when they arrived in the evening. This was disappointing to the Master Builder but he was mollified by the fact that he could open the first window on his Lego Advent Calendar. That was a real treat for him. Each window contains a lego piece which is much better than the bargain basement calendars we usually get.

Master Builder also wanted a different edible treat each day (inserted into the now empty window). He said that he was disappointed that last year’s effort saw practically the same thing every day. The Librarian has endeavoured to meet the request for a different daily treat, Master Builder in his Lego Calendar and Game Guru in the calendar we purchased last year.

3. Sri Lankan Food

We were invited to Uncle E__’s for a birthday celebration; we share the same birthday. There were sandwiches, cutlets, pancake rolls, lavaria and love cake. I haven’t had lavaria in a long time so this was pretty special. I even managed to get the Master Builder to come into the party room although he didn’t eat anything.

Master Builder did have a moment, apparently. I was helping G__ with Wii Music when Uncle E__ came into the room and announced that he had received a stern drubbing from Aunty C__. He had tried to engage Master Builder in conversation which didn’t go down too well. In the end Uncle E__ and I had a good conversation about the hills and valleys in life.

4. A Gathering at Home

We went home in the evening and Mum joined us a little later. Dad was arriving by bus so I decided to wait a little longer before opening my presents. W arrived before Dad did and, eventually, we decided that I should go ahead and open everything. So that’s what I did.

Youngest Bro provided me with the means to purchase my own present and I will do that in the near future. Game Guru gave me an Iron Man Blu-Ray disk which is something I really wanted. I was really pleased, especially since he used his own money. Librarian, Master Builder, Mum and Dad gave me the biggest surprise of all – Lego Mindstorms. I was a very happy forty-six year old fart. The Lego will have to wait for batteries but that’s just something to look forward to.

The day almost ended on a sour note because Dad took his time getting to our place which infuriated Mum. There were daggers stared and harsh words spoken. Dad was also in a selfish mood, wanting Youngest Bro to copy disks from work before he left. I told Dad that it wasn’t fair on Youngest Bro or the owner of the software but he kept interrupting to say he’s done it for years. In the end I found an old copy of Microsoft Office which we don’t need anymore and that appeased Dad. In the end it all turned out fine and Youngest Bro can go to Mauritius on Wednesday with a clear conscience.

A big highlight of the evening was the cake made by my beautiful wife. The Librarian concocted the best ginger cake I have ever tasted. It went down a treat with everyone. Even Master Builder liked it. I’m looking forward to many more of this delicious treat.