The Hand of Time

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”

Pico Iyer 

A curve ball.  A stumbling block.  A bump in the road.  A spanner in the works.  Phrases that sound quite trite, derisive, insensitive even.

While we have been congratulating ourselves at our cleverness planning and preparing for a winter north in Cranky, exploring beaches, rainforests, playgrounds and trails, Fate or, Fortune, has stepped in.

Where our temporal season is fleeting in the scheme of life, a fall has precipitated the final season of life to arrive at my fathers door.

While we might, selfishly, be initially disappointed that our plans have come unstuck, we are also coming to terms with the impending loss of dad. We are discovering that like a garden, a cake or a pregnancy, this season, dying and death, has its own time frame. But one that is clear in its outcome.

Dads wish is to stay at home.  He has rejected formal medical care as a palliative option. This has in turn opened the can of worms that is, palliative care in a rural home.   Mum is younger than Dad so, it has never been a question of who goes first.  It has always been a given that it would be Dad.  And for Mum and Dad, it has always been a given that Mum would be his carer to the end.   A career as a remote area nurse in the days of yore and an intimate understanding of His Royal Grumpiness’s quirks stand Mum as the ideal candidate.  From our outside platform, we worry about Mum in this role.  It is not just a responsibility born of love and matrimony but a weight.  Our observation is that being wife and carer, is a ponderous and isolating role.

Yet the phone has never run so hot as the wagons circle to keep Dad company.  Voices that he knows so well pass the day in nostalgia, whimsy, pride, laughter, inevitably grumpy, and dreaming of what will be, in a future he won’t see.  Quiet tears escaping as 86 years of tightly held emotion and words are shared as his voice becomes weaker, softer, increasingly impatient yet, more accepting of fate.  Some of the content of the conversations is muddled in the relay, like static disturbing the clarity of a radio station, but each offspring is checked off as they touch in.

The whirlwind of the past weeks has been tiring, with anxiety levels running high but, we’ve also had the opportunity to look on the bright side. When handed lemons, learn to make lemonade.  The salt and tequila option is appealing but, with two small children, the thought of a hangover negates the fun . Snippets of conversation with Dad, where it is more than apparent that he has squeezed three lifetimes into one will be a memory that I have. DHB has had one last beer and heard the same story, one more time.

Instead of a northern winter sojourn it will be a spring one.  We do this planning with mindfulness that the current upheaval will by then be part of our past.  DHB has entered Blackall50, an event we hadn’t previously considered because, theoretically, we would have already been as far as Brisbane in the winter. Now, we can aim for a little further than we had considered and explore the Sunshine Coast and maybe, Fraser Island.

So we look to the coming months differently.  There are other little opportunities to be grateful for.  A crack at Raffertys Coastal Run with friends for me.  DSX will have the opportunity to defend his Wallaby Run title at Mount Arthur. Opportunities to explore the Blue Mountains in winter and have time on course readying my legs for the Hounslow Classic in October.  Maybe even a Mount Solitary traverse with friends. A chance to wrestle the vegetable patch into submission before spring and do things around the house and farm we hadn’t planned.  Instead, the chance to enjoy some of the delights of our own backyard.  A start we have already made, with a fresh fire circle established at the ‘Escarpment’ for billy tea, exploring rocks, wallaby tracks and marshmallows. Plans are afoot to ‘free camp’ up the paddock and scope out some local National Parks and attractions.   We cast a drift net over Mum and make room at the table for one more, more often.

In the recent whimsy Dad said clearly, “The best thing a young man can do is travel.” before drifting off into the story of how he hitchhiked to north Queensland for work as an eighteen old with not much more than a change of clothes and his rifle slung through his rucksack.  I guess, DHB  and I have already introduced our boys to the joys of travel.  Cranky is a commitment to that end. Maybe, when and if, they get the chance to reminisce, they too will agree, that travel is where you find yourself, your loves and make your memories.

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