Births, Deaths, and Marriages

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (also known as Births, Deaths, and Marriages) sent us a letter last week, kindly (but firmly) reminding us that we had to register the birth of our new son and henceforth choose a name.

This hadn’t caused us any grief with the previous children, as we always pick the names months before the baby arrives. We’ve been tossing up between several combinations and second guessing ourselves this time though.

The letter is now sent, and our son is now saddled with the names we have chosen for him. Grumpy made the final decision and we’re sticking with the original choice: James David Leonard West.


So that’s done.

This evening I’ll be home on my own with all four kids. We’ll watch movies and eat popcorn together after I pick Daniel up from his drum lesson and ferry them to the mall so I don’t have to cook. Grumpy is out at a work party and then wants to get the 3D printer that’s been collecting dust for a long time now up and running.

Not ground-breaking stuff, I realise, but all this humdrum is mortar between the bricks that build my existence. I have mine, and you have yours, and that mortar is kind of what I want to talk to you about today.

Where was I?

Ah yes.

Mother in law was around a couple of days ago to hold James while I attempted to get a little bit of work done. While she was over, I mentioned that we’d all be coming to her house for dinner and to play cards with her and my father.

My mom and dad and mother in law all live together in a big beautiful house that we call the old folks home. It is only a few blocks from our house. For the most part, they cohabitate quite comfortably, and my mother in law and dad are both quiet and gentle types who like to watch sport and don’t make a lot of noise or fuss.

“News to me.” She said in her trademark soft but cranky tone.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about dad getting older and his mortality.” I said nonchalantly. “The way he talks, he expects he’ll be the first of all of you over there at the old folks home to go. He’s probably right too, as you’re too miserable to die and despite her food choices and hypochondria, my mother is as healthy as a horse. I adore my dad and want to play more cards and file more memories while I can.” I said.


My father is absolutely one of my heroes. Despite, or perhaps because, of the fact he had very little to do with me until we got here to New Zealand. He’s non-demonstrative, humble, patient, and works tirelessly helping others in countless capacities. He’s the closest thing to a living saint we have in our family, and he’s the last person to have any clue we all feel as much awe and respect as we do for him.

“He’s not well at the moment.” She shook her head gravely and filled me in on the terrible ongoing cold he’s had.

She then said something that I am still trying to process.

“And you know what really pisses me off.” She said. “Marie has gone and died.” She fumed.

Now, I need to take you back a few dozen steps and explain the relevance.

Mother in law has a group of women who she has known for decades. They’re a collective of artists and potters. They’ve seen each other through good times and bad. Mother in law is the eldest remaining member of the group by far, and recently the numbers have been dwindling.


She never tells us when one of them has passed and suffers through her grief quite on her own. I don’t understand it, however, she’s been a tough and independent woman her whole life, and I guess we all do what we know. She knows how to soldier on in silence. I don’t.

I adore this group of women on countless levels. I coined them “The Ya Ya Sisters” over a decade ago, as there was a movie about enduring friendship with that title.

Marie was an amazing woman and I was very fond of her indeed. I’d just seen her at our re-wedding, and news of her death was a shock. She’ll be missed.

It was strange that mother in law chose anger as the emotion of choice when she told me. Upon reflection, however, it seems very plausible that this was, and often is, the stage and emotion she cleaves to in times of grief and sorrow. She’s not one for pity parties or soft, squishy emotional stuff. She’s getting more comfortable with this stuff with me as a daughter in law though. I am all about the soft and squishy.

So this weekend we’ll be attending a funeral, a housewarming, and two young children’s birthday parties as the bricks and mortar of my life, and the lives of the people I love are built higher and stronger every day.

I don’t want to go into a big existential or philosophical rant or anything. I do, however want to take the time to say every moment, no matter how seemingly dull or insignificant, is fairly precious. I can’t say how far through the journey any of us are, and I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.

Sitting here listening to my husband snore and our son seemingly giggle in his sleep as I bounce his hammock and write this blog, I can’t help but smile and feel very much at peace indeed. They’ll both wake up soon and annoy me in their own expert ways though. Grumpy will likely say something that will hurt my feelings several times before he heads out the door and to work. James will do what all infants do and demand food and Love and completely obliterate any plans I have for being productive today. Then the children will walk in the door of our home and be noisy and messy. They will fight, and whine, and push my buttons and I will rant and rave and probably swear at them for it. And then they will settle down and snuggle with me in our big cozy bed and watch a movie. I’ll hear “I Love You” dozens of times and say it just as many today, just like every day.

All of this beautiful and complex chaos is life, which is punctuated by births, deaths and marriages and all of the moments in between.


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