My younger brother met a lovely woman last year and recently proposed to both she and her six-year-old daughter. It all seemed to happen rather quickly, from my traditionalist point of view, and I admit to being a little worried. Suddenly, my brother had gone from living a single and carefree life to being a hyper-responsible man with a ready-made family. After our first meeting, I had an unknown child calling me Aunty Caylie, and was being confided in by a woman I hardly knew, who seemed to care a great deal for my brother. Talk about a swift change of dynamics that I felt totally swept up in, with little control and not a lot of consultation.
I see my mother every six months or so, which is disconcerting at first because I am always shocked at how much she’s aged. After our first bear hug, she goes back to being Mum again, but I still watch her behind worried eyes as she walks a little slower and struggles with increasing joint pain.
I must admit, I often fear the future and the unknown. I have been known to get hog-tied in nostalgia – replaying old 80s songs ad nauseum, pining for my old Kodak wind-on and doggedly refusing to give up pen and paper… Yet I also love the technology that makes my life so much more interesting. I watch the world racing ahead and worry about losing my children into cyber-space, yet I revel in the new skills I am learning in multi-media and the digital world. I live in the juxtaposed life between old and new, keen to keep up with technology yet desperate to hold onto how things were ‘when I was a child’, perhaps forgetting that they weren’t necessarily better times.
Change demands grief. It can happen slowly and insidiously over a long period of time, or it can occur fast and furiously. Either way, the change will occur if it’s meant to, and it’s how we manage that change that makes all the difference.
First comes shock and denial, followed by anger. Then, as we feed our minds with knowledge, those feelings recede and are dealt with. There’s perhaps a little bit of bargaining in an effort to cushion the worst effects of the change, followed by a significant amount of sadness for that which has been lost. Finally, and hopefully, comes acceptance.
I am grieving for my mother’s lost energy, youth and strength. I have been fearful of opening my arms to the relative strangers of my brother’s new family. I can’t control the ageing process, nor can I dictate how my brother manages his relationships. Yet the one thing in life I can control is the way I manage the stages of my own grief and loss. My feelings about change are totally different to anybody else’s under the same circumstances. Some like a gentle transition whereas others prefer their bandaids to be ripped off quickly. Either way, there will be pain, loss, scarring and healing… all at different rates.
When I went to my brother’s engagement party last weekend, I had reached a level of acceptance that I was about to gain some special people in my life. I saw how much he and his fiancé loved each other, and when a celebrant appeared in the midst of the picnic to give us all a surprise wedding ceremony, I sat beside my mother (who looked beautiful, strong and proud at 72) with my new niece on my lap and we all wept with pure joy. I will never forget that moment.
And despite her age, my Mum was the first one by their side after they kissed – and I was the second. I did the only thing I could do. I embraced them all wholeheartedly. Because I had weathered the change, come out the other side and accepted the inevitable tides of time and love.
My next challenge is to get my head around my children and their relationship with technology. I know that with self-education, community support and time to reflect, I will come to understand and accept what can and can’t be changed, and the world will right itself once again.
Caylie writes weekly essays on her blog, Distractions of a Busy Mother, to help people feel less alone through shared laughter, tears and inspiration. She works to transform everyday events into vivid sketches, showing an understanding of what parents, women and people in the community are going through.
Her first book, Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers, is now available for purchase online, at selected books stores and via her website.