Roadside Chats (24)

I can hardly wait! This is going to be so much fun! I know what you’ll do first! You’ll check your emails! You always do! But you’ll especially check this morning because today is May 16th, 2016. It’s your 65th birthday &, here’s your first surprise; a pirated Roadside Chats!

I’ve been watching you prepare for this day for some time: Your trip to the WINZ office in Blenheim last week; signing up for superannuation; your reflections on your working life.

You tried to figure out some sort of ritual to mark the passage from ‘working life’ to ‘retirement’ but you never quite organised it. But I’ve plotted & planned… & all I needed was the opportunity… & you gave it to me! You forgot to turn your computer off when you went to bed!

I can hear you snoring in the bedroom. You’re oblivious to the possums playing on the veranda. & so this is my time to tell your work story.

Your first ‘job’ was to ride your trike down to the corner dairy & buy your mother smokes. You loved that job! It made your mother very happy & that made you happy! You were four years old.

It was your father who introduced you to the working world. Your dad really knew how to work! You marvelled at the way he would split the log off-cuts he brought home from the Fletchers factory in Mandeville Street. You soon had your own list of ‘jobs;’ mowing the lawns; feeding the chooks, cleaning the henhouse.

Of course, it was unpaid work; family work. You’ve puzzled about unpaid work. Your unpaid family work never felt like ‘work.’ It was your practical way of loving your wife & children. The highlights were the huge Christmas vegetarian dinners you would cook in Brooklands & the beautiful Brooklands garden you created, mostly to see the joy & surprise on your wife’s face.

Paid work was something else.

Your most physical job was your first job, in a grain store in Moorhouse Ave. It was the school holidays; a part-time job. You were 16 years old. The heavy sacks felt far beyond your strength, but you hung on in to join the world of paid work.

Your most dangerous job; was working as a shunter’s assistant on the Melbourne Railways. You clung to the sides of cattle waggons while cattle kicked shit over you, knowing full well that one slip from your frozen hands or slippery boots could mean death or serious injury. You were 18.

The most pot-smoking-job was at the Auckland Parks & Gardens. It was a wonderful way to work; puffing a joint in the early 70’s, watching bees pollinate the hibiscus shrubs.

Your most sleep-on-the-job was when you worked as a nightshift orderly at Princess Margaret Hospital. On quiet nights, you would slip away to snooze… only to be rudely awoken by the beeper summoning you to the orderlies lodge. You would pick up the emergency trolley and sprint to the lifts, then onwards into the Wards where a patient would be suffering a heart attack.

The job with the most potential for violence; was managing the Showground’s Motor Camp. You met many good & decent people, but there were also drugs… alcohol… relationship turbulence… criminals… thieves…abuse & the potential for an explosion of unforeseen violence.

Your most laid back job; was working as a pastor at Addington Baptist. The church was a lovely mix of students & beneficiaries. There was an innocence about it, & lots of practical caring.

Your most depressing job was working as a pastor at Kaiapoi Baptist Church. The church was very dysfunctional & a group within it opposed your commitment to equality between men & women. It was your personal Vietnam. There was lots of camouflage & snipers everywhere.

Your most sacred job was working as a family counsellor at Home & Family. One part of your work involved supporting mums to keep their babies. Some of these women had suffered horrific sexual violence. You felt deeply honoured by their trust & openness as you worked together.

Your most fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants job was working as a trauma counsellor in the recovery centres following the quakes. Nothing could have prepared you. You had to trust the life within you, moment by moment, as you supported adults & children in overwhelming stress & trauma.

Your most joyous job was working as a children’s quake counsellor at Halswell Primary School. You loved those little ones, who put so much trust in you, as their school was rebuilt around them.

Your final & most challenging job was working as a support worker with vulnerable customers at Southern Response. You were the meat in the sandwich between traumatised angry customers & an insurance system which was attempting to meet targets & goals. You did so much good; you advocated & battled far beyond the call of duty; though health-wise it cost you heaps.

So there you are; a sliver of your ‘working’ life! Now let’s celebrate! Let’s also celebrate what lies ahead! You now have the (paid) time & space; to be the poet you’ve always wanted to be! I know you’re appreciative. How about we begin the day by singing the personal version of Amazing Grace you wrote last week? I’ll sing along with you.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That lifts a man like me
Beyond the struggling masculine
Into the Goddess tree

It’s grace that brings me to her side
Where beauty does abide
Within the Sacred Feminine
My heart swings open wide

Through many dangers, toils & snares
It’s to her life I cling
Upon the earth where she gives birth
To every living thing

& She has promised good to me
Her queendom does include
The sacred realm of poetry
In which I am renewed

When we’ve been here ten thousand moons
Upon her ball of blue
She’ll still our song and passion be
Our conscience & our rune

Roadside Blessings – your friend – Memory

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