Day 2 of the Boxing Day Test: white wine in the sun

by Grant Fraser

 

I’m looking forward to Christmas
Though I’m not expecting a visit from Jesus

 

I must admit that I was never really sure about Tim Minchin – and not just because he is a ranga. The eye liner, the spikey hairdo, the “I think I am cool but I will play it like I appear not to think I am cool…which makes me really cool” affectation.

 

But then a friend of my wife introduced us to a song he performs, and it put him in a new light. A song that moves me to tears whenever I hear it played.  A song about Christmas and those you hold dear.

 

I’ll be seeing my Dad
My brother and sisters, my Gran and my Mum
They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun

 

It was about that time my wife’s father, who was the centre of her family’s celebration of Christmas, suffered a serious deterioration in the cancer that would kill him a few months later. And it was the time that I decided that wherever I was in the world, and wherever they were in the world, my children and I will always meet at Gate 2 at 10 a.m. on the second day of the Boxing Day Test so we could have lunch in the MCC Members Dining Room. So, notwithstanding the pall that hung over the family, my elder daughter Courtney, son James and I commenced the tradition. Their sister Alexis, now nine years old, will join us when she can last a full day at the cricket without driving us crazy.

 

Nearly three years ago, in the week before Christmas, my mother-in-law found out she may only have a few months to live. Cancer – oh no, not again. We were fortunate that the dire predictions proved pessimistic, and she survived to see the birth of her second and third grandchildren (no, not mine). Number two arrived a couple of years ago…just before Christmas. In the end cancer got her, as we knew it eventually would, in July this year.

 

With all of that going on having my own mother pass away on 8 June 2016, the day before my birthday, kind of took us by surprise. She had been afflicted with dementia for at least a decade, and when we saw her for Mother’s Day she only knew me for about fifty percent of the time. Thought I was her dead older brother, silly old thing. We didn’t realise that the extra confusion reflected one of a series of little strokes that she had, and would, experience. Got to the point where the pain from her bung hip meant morphine twice a day, then hourly, then every thirty minutes. And doped up on morphine means you are out of it and can’t eat. So after nearly a week she just slipped away.

 

We kept the memorial service small – just her children and their children. Staggered, of course…can’t have everyone in the same room at the same time now can we. Too many issues. Families are funny. But sitting in a small room with a few chairs, some flowers, and a white box containing what used to be my mother made me reflect on what is to be a son, and what it is to be a parent. How you make your call on how you are, and where you are, at any point in time based upon what it right for you at that time. But you can still feel bad, can still feel the guilt, when reflecting upon it later. And you can use this to think about how you are with your kids – how it is when the boot is on the other foot. How what is right for the young adult causes pain for the parent, even though you know there is nothing malicious in it. You just want to be with them, and long for the feeling they want to be with you.

 

So sitting in front of the flowers, and the little white box, I broke the silence and the sobs with a promise that I would try my best to be a better father to them than I had been a son to Mum. To tell them, and show them, I love them. To be there and not take things for granted. To make the effort. And in a little voice I said “and it starts with always being there for Day 2 of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.”

 

And this year it is to be The Ashes…the Poms, in a home Test. I get the regular emails from the MCC, reading with interest the recommendation to “get in early as visitor tickets are selling fast”. Not to worry – no rush. I can always pick up two passes for the kids on the morning.

 

But this year it almost didn’t happen that way. This year there was nearly no queueing up, offering the bag for a quick look by the man in the yellow and blue jacket before being waved on with a smile, extending the arms wide so the “magic wand” could be waved around me. Because two weeks ago, for three minutes, I was dead.

 

One morning on our annual fly fishing trip to Millbrook Lakes, near Ballarat, I woke with tightness in my chest that I thought would go away. It did, but returned that night when I went to bed. Fast thinking friends called the ambos, who whisked me to Ballarat Base. Upon arriving in Emergency I started dreaming of a tranquil, peaceful scene surrounded by friendly faces. “Funny”, I thought to myself, “I don’t remember going to sleep”.

 

Whack went the nurses open palm on my cheek.

 

“Grant, Grant….”

 

“What happened?” I asked.

 

“Your heart stopped” came the reply.

 

“WHAT! You are joking??” I responded, incredulously.

 

How could that happen? How did that happen? Upstairs and into theatre, tube up an artery in my right wrist and up goes the little balloon. “Inflating….deflating. Inflating….deflating”. Five times she repeated this mantra, and then the stent was deployed. I was shown before and after shots on the big screen to my left. “See how the blood stopped there, and how it now goes aaaaall the way around?”

 

I could not have had a better outcome. Only one blood vessel affected, the others fine. Many, many tablets – some for months, some for the rest of my life. But I am here, I am still here. Given a chance to re-evaluate a few things, and to educate friends and family that it could so very easily have been different, and they need to do everything they can to minimise the risk.

 

So now, to be safe,  I have purchased my visitors tickets. Come December 27, 2017, at 10 a.m. I will be standing outside Gate 2, as usual. Maybe holding the hand of my nine year old blue-eyed girl, waiting for her brother and her sister to come…waiting…waiting…waiting in the sun.

 

And if my baby girl
When you’re twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You’ll know what ever comes

 

Your brothers and sisters and me and your Mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun
Whenever you come
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your Mum
We’ll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Darling, when Christmas comes
We’ll be waiting for you in the sun
Drinking white wine in the sun
Waiting for you in the sun
Waiting for you…
Waiting…

About Grant Fraser

Best known as a lumbering full forward for the East Doncaster U13 & U15 Reserves premiership teams. Proud to say that daughter Alexis was born in a premiership year like her Dad. Elder daughter Courtney has returned to the broad church that is the Hawthorn football club. Will never give up hope on luring The Boy (James) back from the clutches of the anti-Christ in red and black.

Comments

  1. Peter warrington says:

    Eek. And oooh.

    Hope you get to see Cummins rip them a new one on a bouncy drop-in, like Tremlett and co back in 2020

  2. Mike Darling says:

    There but for the grace of (insert belief ikon here) goes any one of us.
    Grant is an amusing, healthy looking, larger than life character, full of life.- the last person I would expect to suffer from an episode like the one described.
    A personal favourite of mine once said “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.
    He was (and is) correct : so get out there, make friends, repair relationships and live, ‘cos there are no guarantees.

  3. What a story. Thank you for sharing. Enjoy the test with all of your family this year, lets smash the poms!!
    Regards,
    Anna Pav

  4. Spot on Grant. Now in my early 60’s I go to too many funerals (it used to be 21’sts then weddings) but in a funny way I always come away inspired and resolved to “be a better man”.
    Our golf 4 got together for the first time in 5 months on Saturday. Initially broken by my (trivial) ladder fall torn ACL, but in the ensuing months 2 of my partners have commenced nurturing loved wives through major cancer treatment. Gulp. But just good to be together and enjoying the sunshine.
    Great resolution of yours with the MCG Test. For 10 years I have been saying I will take in an Adelaide Test with Dad one more time. Time to act!

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Grant thank you and likewise you have made me think and act over a few issues all the best

  6. Rick Kane says:

    Lovely reflections entwined with Tim Minchin and how the Boxing Day Test brings your family together. What a wake up call Grant and thankfully not too big a whack. As I mentioned on FB we need you in the trenches in 2018 geeing up our mighty Hawks to greater things. Stay well.

  7. Grant Fraser says:

    Thank you for your thoughts to all those who have commented. Lessons for me, but also lessons for others.

    And Trucker – can’t check out before at least 4 duets of the club song at Almanac releases. #hawkpornwulkreturn

  8. Grant Fraser says:

Leave a Comment

*