John Marsden Writing Topic #232
Nothing else matters**
How We Got Here
Chapter 4: Cassandra (Cassie)
Congratulations! Your big day has finally arrived and for the first time in ages, all twelve of us are together under one roof! I wonder when we’ll ever get together again. With Michael’s and Gwen’s babies on the way, especially with the due dates being close together and not far away, we’ll probably be all getting together for christenings soon. How does it feel to be an impending grandmother? I know there was a close call with Christi a decade ago and I know you weren’t that pleased, but now that it’s actually happening, how does it feel?
I’m hoping that Michael and Gwen have the christenings either at the same time or close together, while getting everyone here has been pretty smooth this time around, especially with the twins and Carrie managing to meet up and fly home together, it’s too hectic to do too many times. I know I’ve got nothing to complain about as I live in town, but you always feel the stress.
I know you’ve been checking up on me to make sure I’m okay with being around Suzanne and Gwen and all the baby talk. It’s not like I’ve never been around pregnant women mum and I made peace with my situation years ago. Out of all us to end up infertile, it might as well have been me. While I’ve loved (for the most part) being part of a huge family, I’ve never been maternal, I’ve never felt cut out for motherhood and even if I did, I’ve never had any desire to have children. However that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt when I found out.
As you know it was ten years ago when I found out, only a year after Christi lost her baby and the school nurse had a Sex-Ed talk with all of us girls and told us to start having pap smears when we were 18 or sexually active, whichever came first (I appreciated the fact that the school, or at least the school nurse, didn’t kid themselves). I went to our gynaecologist and she ran further tests and I knew as she was giving me the ultrasound that something wasn’t right. It was in her tone, her look and her overkill in gentleness. Until that point, I never had the experience of anything being wrong with my health and knowing that the doctor knew something was wrong.
When I got a call from her at school a week later to come in, I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. Since she bulked bill, I decided to go it alone, I didn’t want to tell you or anyone else because I didn’t want you trying to tell me to think positively and simultaneously internally catastrophize like you always do at the same time. I also didn’t want the girls bouncing diagnoses off each other. I just wanted to deal with whatever the issue was by myself.
I didn’t expect it to be infertility, while I was 18, focused on finishing school and had no desire to have children, I felt like something was taken away from me. It wasn’t literally the problematic body part, but more like a piece of my life, as it would be a piece of life that I would never have the opportunity to experience, that I was always told I could. Ten years later and not only my siblings but my friends are starting to get married and have children and as I said I know I don’t want children but I can’t dismiss the effect of knowing I can’t, as much as I use to.
With a heap of siblings who are bound to have children of their own at some point, I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be able to keep this a secret for long, but for the same reasons I didn’t tell anyone about the extra tests, I wanted to keep this bad news for myself, just for a little while. I wanted to deal with the news and what it meant for me and the rest of my life on my own, before anyone else gave their obligated pity, two cents worth and alternative options. However that plan was unfortunately and inadvertently foiled by Travis, as he was seeing his dentist in the same medical centre where I was and we ran into each other on the elevator.
Being the wonderful fatherly figure that he was, even though he had only known me for two years, he was concerned and asked me what I was doing there. I tried to lie to him and tell him I was just seeing our GP because I had a bad cough, but he didn’t believe me as we all just spent a weekend together and I didn’t cough once, and the fact that it was a specialist medical building didn’t help. I tried to give him a vague explanation and tell him that I had a “lady problem” hoping, like with most men, he would know what I meant, feel disgusted and all too happily, leave it at that. However he wouldn’t budge, he told me that he knew it wasn’t any of his business but that he couldn’t undo seeing me, knowing that I was there, because something is medically not right with me and that he couldn’t lie to you. My respect for him went up for him significantly in that moment, even though he was interrogating me a little and I wanted him to back off. I gave in and told him the truth and that I would tell you, but that he had to keep it a secret until I did as I needed time to process it. He apologised, hugged me and told me he would respect my wishes and that he was done interrogating me.
I know you know all of this because I eventually told you the truth about my problem and that Travis was accidentally the first to know, but I wanted to tell you about this moment because it was the moment that I well and truly not only respected Travis, but also loved him as a stepfatherly figure. At the time, I felt guilty about it because I was lucky enough to have 12 years with Dad and it made me sad that Travis reacted in the same way that I know Dad would have, and it made me miss him.
I also wanted to thank you for all the love you provided me when I finally told you the truth. I know you were only upset because I kept it from you for longer than you would have liked. However I also liked that you managed to calm down a little to tell me that because I was 18 and officially an adult, that as a parent you were now walking a tightrope between still being my mother and respecting me as an adult, which meant respecting my decisions, even if you didn’t agree with them. Ten years on, with all of us now officially adults, with Bethie at the same age I was, and with more experience under your belt with Michael, Lucas and Gwen in their thirties, and me and the triplets nearing thirty, is it easier to walk that tightrope or harder?
Were you upset that Travis knew about my problem before you did? Did Travis ever tell you his perspective and feelings on our little encounter? It would be interesting to get his insight on it, although not just that, but on our entire family.
I remember you told me that just because I couldn’t have children that it didn’t mean I wouldn’t be able to meet someone or follow my dreams. While I’m yet to meet the right man (although I’m in no rush), as you know I followed my dreams and became the newsreader I always wanted to be. I love being close to you, especially since most of us have moved all over the place, however I do have some career aspirations I want to explore over the next few years that will take me away from home. I hope that doesn’t make you sad, especially on your big day, but since you’ve always encouraged me to follow my dreams, I thought I should tell you now so that you’re prepared, especially with Bethie moving out in a couple of months.
By the way, when you called me to tell me that Travis finally proposed I was so excited I nearly blurted it out on the air! That would have been hilarious, embarrassing and awkward, considering that everyone you know would have found out all at the same time.
I can’t wait for the wedding, as you told me to follow my dreams, I hope you and Travis follow yours, wherever they make take you.
Congratulations and lots of love always.
**Reference: Marsden J 1998, Everything I Know About Writing, Pan Macmillan, Australia.