THE SISTERS' SONG coming in January 2018 from Allen and Unwin. Sign up to be the first to know. x Louise

This is my husband:

Walking to the shark cull protest, Feb 2014

With our dog

He also looks good in a suit:

DSC_4899

When we met in May, 1991, he looked like this:

Douglas Apsley National Park, Tasmania

Douglas Apsley National Park, Tasmania, 1991

He looked good in a suit back then, too.

Medical Dinner early 1990's

Med Dinner, 1993

We met on a pub crawl, as you do when you’re medical students and in your early twenties. I held a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. To this day, I have no idea what he, a non-smoker and rare drinker, saw in me. Luckily for me, something sparked. We chatted and he made me laugh. I liked him. A lot.

The following week, I ‘bumped’ into him in the corridor of the medical school. I found out later—years later—that he’d left a note for me on the glass door to the medical school but I’d walked past it without noticing. So, he looked up where my lectures were, and when I walked out of the lecture theatre, lo and behold, he happened to be reading the notices on the board just outside.

He asked me to a movie. I said ‘Yes’, and floated through the rest of the day. When he arrived to pick me up, he withdrew a folded piece of newspaper from his pocket—he’d torn the movie section from the local paper.
‘Which movie do you want to see?’ he said.
I smoothed the creased paper, and pointed to one of the movies. No, he didn’t want to see that. I kept pointing and he kept declining, until only one movie remained: ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. Yep, our first date was with Hannibal Lecter … 

Despite that, we continued to see each other. I started looking forward to each day. I’d see him at lunchtime, and we’d meet up at the end of the day and walk home together. He was the opposite of me—quiet and studious, responsible, organised—all of the things I wasn’t but wanted to be. Within two weeks, I knew I wanted to marry him. (It took him a little while few years longer …)

c. 1993

mid-1994

After we’d been going out for a few months, he said to me, ‘I wish you didn’t smoke.’ Then he added, ‘Because I don’t want you to die … I really care about you.’

I quit smoking. For the first time ever, I was enjoying my life. I was springing out of bed each day, and I could see a happy future for myself. I didn’t want to die either.

Another day, a year or two later, he said to me, ‘Why do always do that?’
‘What?’
‘Drink until you pass out …’

Others had said similar in the past, but it hadn’t really registered. This was different. I didn’t want to lose this guy, so I began to cut down on my drinking.

As students, we didn’t have much money, so our holidays were in a tent. Besides, we loved the bush and the ocean.

Friendly Beaches, Summer 1991/2

Friendly Beaches, Tasmania, 1992

I did my elective in Alice Springs and we had a camping holiday there:

Uluru at dawn

Uluru at dawn, December 1993

Uluru at sunset

Uluru at sunset, December, 1993

He finished his degree and we announced our engagement:

Scott's graduation dinner

His graduation, December, 1993

We wed:

Just married, 17/12/94

Just married, December, 1994

Bridal waltz

Bridal waltz

I almost immediately fell pregnant, so while he worked long hours and studied for his Fellowship, I worked part-time and gave birth to four children. It was tough, and we were tired, but never once has our relationship faltered or our commitment to each other wavered.

Two girls

As a young family – City Beach, 2000

Still a young family

Two girls and pregnant with #3 (a boy)

In the early days, I wasn’t always a nice wife. I threw tantrums for stupid, selfish reasons. I said hurtful things that I shouldn’t have said. I yelled at him for things that weren’t his fault, I just wanted to yell at someone. I hurt him with what I said and how I said it.

He let most of it wash off, but he also stood up to me. I remember saying to him, ‘If you don’t do (whatever it was that I can’t remember now), I will get really angry with you.’
‘Well, you’ll have to get really angry with me then,’ he said.
He didn’t do it, nor did I get angry with him. What he said made me realise what a dickhead I was. He might have been quiet and not complained much, but he was no push-over.

He doesn’t feel the need to tell people about his achievements. I knew he’d been a good runner at school, mainly because his mother had told me and had shown me his medals. In 1998, seven years after we met, I asked him if he’d ever run in the Nationals.
‘Yes,’ he said, and kept on with what he was doing.
It hadn’t occurred to him to tell me that before.

He’s not a flower or jewellery giver, but I don’t need those. Every morning, he brings me coffee in bed. Over the years, he’s listened to me go on and on when I get on my soapbox, his eyes only slightly glazing over. He’s held me as I’ve cried. He’s lain beside me in the middle of the night, stroking me and letting me squeeze his hand until my anxiety has eased. Every day he’s there, solid as a rock, year in, year out

Each morning he wakes in a good mood. He goes off to work and works hard. Every evening he comes home in the same mood as when he left. Every night he climbs into bed in that same mood, wakes the next day, and does it all over again.

We’ve fought—the last time was just before his birthday in 2011 because he wouldn’t let me buy him an iPhone. (Yes, he was the only person on the planet who didn’t want an iPhone—it was beyond my comprehension, too.) Our last argument before that was in 2008, but I’m not going to tell you what that was about because I’m too embarrassed …

We only ever argue over little things—we seem to agree on the big ones. Often on a Friday night, we watch TV over a glass or three of wine, and discuss issues and world events. By the time Lateline comes on, we’ve solved most of the world’s problems, if only the government would call … We care about the same things—about family first and foremost; about social justice; about the natural world. Our values and ideals match. Of course, this leaves only the little things to argue over …

I must say, I’m not sure he fully understood what he was letting himself in for when he married me. He knew my faults—they were obvious. He knew that I was left-of-centre and not a round peg. But he, like me, believed that he was getting a doctor as a spouse—writing wasn’t even on the horizon. However, he didn’t miss a beat when I said I wanted to take it up … 

Together, we’ve grown out of youth and into middle age. I like to think I’m a nicer person now, and he’s the main reason for that. Our years together have been the best years of my life—meeting him was when I really started to feel happy—and each year gets better. I’ve learned so much from him—about self-discipline and just getting on with what has to be done; about self-confidence, being true to yourself, and not worrying what other people think; and about what caring for and loving someone really means. 

Without his support, without him as the solid ground underneath me, I wouldn’t have become who I am. He saw something good in me when I couldn’t see it in myself, and he’s continued to love me as we’ve raised our beautiful family. 

Happy Birthday, Scottie.

 

'The Sisters' Song' is coming in January 2018.


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