There was a bit of that opening scene of “Four Weddings and A Funeral” at home this morning. Tress and I both forgot to set our alarms and when I woke and saw the clock said “6.33” I said (not fuck) “Oh My God” and jumped out of bed. Tress parroted the “Oh My God” (not fuck) bit and jumped out of bed too. We each said “Oh My God” a couple of times more before quickly going through the motions.
On a workday, I’m up at 5.10. Tress gets up about 5.45. So 6.33 is somewhat an overslept morning and I skipped my push ups and readings. Tress rushed through her routines and we were out the door 7.03, instead of our usual 6.33.
Thankfully it was the school holidays and also an RDO for the tradies so the roads were clear. I got in around 7.40. While not overly late, the frazzled start meant I felt I was running behind. And so when a colleague walked into my room for a chat, I tried not to show I was a little bit twitchy.
K said to me straight away, that his 18 year old son was suspected of having cancer. That chat very soon became a 25 minute conversation…
K had 3 children from a previous marriage. The 18 year old is his second. He lives with K 2 days a week, as does the third, a 15 year old. The eldest is 20 and he occasionally drops in to see K. K said he first noticed his 18 year old had a growth on the left side of his face, a few weeks ago. It has now grown considerably and last week a biopsy was done. The results are out on Thursday and it is very obviously something that has been on K’s mind a lot.
When K’s wife left him, they had shared custody of the 3 children. He had them for the weekend. He said his friend told him he was stitched up, having the kids on the weekend. But he was working full time, and still is. Because his weekend was with his children, he could not find another partner, he said. So he got himself a mail bride, from Vietnam. He’s very happy now, he says, as far as having a life partner is concerned.
He’s been to Vietnam to see his in laws many times since. His Vietnamese in laws also visit them here. 2 of them are here now, staying with him. I asked if he was the only one working. He chuckled and said yes. He has 2 children from his present marriage. His wife works when she can find it. She hasn’t found anything in weeks.
He’s a senior engineer in my workplace, but he cares for 7-9 persons.
I asked more about his 18 year old. He then said that wasn’t the first cancer scare. His 5 year old daughter had cancer too, when she was 6 months old.
I told him about my friend Steven, who was at our home for dinner on Sunday night. Steven was from Klang too. He too, had cancer. I told K about Steven so he could perhaps be hopeful. I told K about a very full life Steven now has. Steven works hard, and has a wonderful wife and 4 great kids. One of them is training to be a doctor in WA. The other 3 were at our home on Sunday night too and they’re great kids. His wife is a warm, funny and lovely person. At our home on Sunday night, she told stories which made us laugh till we cried. Jason and Mel looked embarrassed but they had a good laugh too. Steven’s life now appears to be very full, and normal.
K nodded when I said that while the immediate future looked challenging, life can assume a great deal of normalcy after some time.
I offered to pray for his 18 year old and he said thanks.
We talked some more about how life is so unlike in days past. I said to him when we first came to Melbourne in 2004 and I looked for a school for Kiddo, enrolment forms in schools hit me between the eye. Spaces for details for “father” and “mother” were replaced with “Partner 1” and “Partner 2”. I said to him I wonder how much more complicated it must be today, when society is on the brink of recognising same sex marriage and gender neutrality.
He told me about some of his ex colleagues who were contemplating suicide and infanticide, because family has become highly stressful. Paternity suits, shared custody, alleged inequality of care and resource demands, are breaking down individual and collective lives. I said to him I wonder if the Family Law Act – no fault divorce – hailed by many when Lionel Murphy first waved them through in 1975 now still looks like a good idea.
I wonder if K thought about this before, but as we talked some more about how he would go about sending his son to the doctor on Thursday and how this week would pan out, I said to him again I would pray for his son.
He said his wife is superstitious. I said I can be too. I told him how my blue Swatch was no good any more – it didn’t help the Hawks when Tress and I watched them torn apart by Dangerfield and the Cats at the G yesterday. I said we laughed about the watch and he laughed. He accepted I was superstitious but no longer am.
I said I would pray for his son.
He appeared to be a little bit consoled. Could be he needed someone to talk to. Could be he thought prayers could certainly do it. Next time I need to be able to say to him it wasn’t about the prayers. It’s about God. It’s about Jesus.
I was even later to start my work but it was a very good morning conversation with K.