5 May 2016

So. John.

In 1992 when I was 17 and half years old, I went with a bunch of other Scouting types (aged about 14-21) to Russia. It was a couple of short years after walls and curtains had collapsed around communist regimes and the youth in Soviet countries were starting to find their feet in the shining light of democracy (ahem).  Which was basically just chaos. You could still see the soviet imagery behind the freshly painted facades of hotels and camps, and the churches built without any kind of metal were still boarded up and pockmarked with iron nails in the forests around the Volga.

It was a crazy, idyllic and emotional few weeks. We dashed into Lake Lagoda on a 38 degree day and dashed back onto the sands where it took us about 12 hours to recover. The waters between Russia and Finland are cold even in summer. We canoed up the Volga, wandered around Red Square, examined the gold leaf papering the walls of the Kremlin, billeted with local families, delighted in the seven towers of St Basil, marvelled at the restoration of the Summer Palace, spoke terrible Russian, decided that a dead Lenin wasn't worth queuing up for, ate Macdonalds in what was the biggest Macdonalds we had ever seen, taught Russian youth Australian slang, tasted caviar, experienced our first Russian sauna, ate strawberries dipped in vodka. Friendships were made, some started dating, one guy came out. We took photos, wrote letters, send postcards, bought vodka.

Drank it all in Rome and had the photos of me sleeping in a bath surface on my 21st a few years later.

That trip was also the start of an easy friendship that lasted almost 25 years. And ended with John dying earlier this week, unexpectedly and entirely without notice, aged 45.

The big happy heart that made John such an easy friend, a loving and committed husband, an affectionate and proud dad, a brother, a son.... well that very same heart took him away.

It is entirely without irony that I say it is heartbreaking.

The same guy that introduced me to alternative Australian folk rock, that swam across the shipping lanes of the Volga without getting hit by a ship, that moshed so hard at the ANU he gave himself whiplash, whose face always smiled when he said his wife's name, who made sure everybody in the room at my 21st saw my 17 year old self asleep in the Roman bath, who chatted and cavorted at our wedding, who always greeted you as if you had merely been in the next room no matter how much time passed between visits, who delighted in his children's mischief and their achievements, that same guy is gone. Just like that.

There he is in the middle of it.
 And my husband is the one doing blue steel at the back.
If it is incomprehensible to me that this world no longer has him in it, it must be even more so for his wife, children and family. It's not the milestones I grieve on their behalf though there will be many. It's the every day moments. The skipping of his daughter on her way to school. The shrieks in the backyard when the boys can't agree. The grazed knees. The bedtime stories. The wild tales so full of bullshit. The end of day wines. The deconstruction of a dinner party on the drive home. Somebody to blame when the sunscreen isn't packed. Somebody to laugh with when the youngest child says something completely inappropriate. The quiet moments when nothing is said. The hand holding.

He wasn't perfect - not one of us is. But he was joyous and so few people have that generosity of spirit that lets people be their own selves no matter what.  I am a firm believer in remembering people in technicolour - their faults and their virtues both.  And the most annoying thing I could come up with for John is that he voted Liberal.

A lot of my friends do.  I try not to judge generally but if technicolour is required, technicolour is required right?

So. John. It was awesome. But dude, It was not long enough. Not long enough at all.

Much love. Go well. x

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