My cousin Wendy arrived here yesterday. Wendy is my older cousin. Yes, she beat me into this world by a whole 3 weeks. I love to remind her of how much older than me she is. I don’t ever remember meeting Wendy. She just was there. We lived miles apart. Almost at opposite ends of the state, yet we spent nearly every school holidays together.
We were talking about that last night over a glass of wine. For whatever reason, our parents encouraged our friendship and one would drive us up to the others house and the other would drop us home again. Now back then, when we were at school, with lousy roads and slow cars, that trip was a 5 -6 hour trip each way. Neither sets of parents were well off, both raising large families on very low wages. Yet they always ensured we got to spend those times together, thus cementing a life long friendship.
My mum and Wendy’s dad were brother and sister. I will have to introduce you to all my aunts and uncles one day. Out of a family of nine kids, there are only two girls left. Mum and Uncle Bob (Wendy’s dad) died within a short time of each other. Each and every one of these nine kids of my beloved Gargie were characters in their own right. Chalk and cheese, some of them, yet sharing the same pride, self respect and generosity of spirit. They were a family to be reckoned with.
I think their own strong friendships with their brothers and sisters and only one cousin, made them more determined to encourage us all to be friends. They succeeded. Gargie had 33 grandchildren all up and I think all of us had at one other cousin around our age that we were friends with. As I’ve talked about before, in my own age group, plus or minus a few years, there was Julie, Maureen, Wendy, Me, Kerrie, Ronda, Deb, and slightly younger again, Dianne and Gail.
Wendy and I have always had a really strong bond and have somehow known when the other needed us. It might be five years since we’ve spoken or seen each other, then at a family event, the conversation starts as if it had never stopped. We just continue the dialogue. We even used to look alike. As we got older, she grew petite and I didn’t lol. So if she were to go skinny dipping, I would have to go chunky dunking. That never mattered. We never really saw the physical in each other. It was a much stronger bond.
Although we had always lived about 300 kilometres apart and could go ages without seeing each other, one year, out of the blue, Wendy phoned me to say she was coming down that weekend and wanted me to look for a house for her as she was coming to live closer to me. Oh how I rejoiced. I couldn’t wait for her to get there. I found a house for her straight away and she was able to look at it that weekend.
That night, I took her to a party and as it happens, it was the fateful and awful night that my beautiful daughter was killed. She was standing right beside me as I was given the news.. She sat in the police car with me as I was being driven to the hospital… She sat with the rest of the family as the nightmare unfolded, feeling helpless. She went home the next day as arranged, then was back a few days later for the funeral, then home again to pack up a house and relocate to about one kilometre from me.
We will never know what suddenly made her decide that she was going to shift nearer to me, but she had a very clear idea that it’s where she needed to be. And boy was she needed. She was the other mother when I wasn’t coping, whisking my boys away to her place to play with her kids, Emma and Joe or taking them all on an adventure, deflecting their attention away from the desperately heartbroken mother that was losing the plot. She helped make their childhood so much happier than it would have been without her around to distract them.
They went on drives to the beach and out into the country. They reversed over speedhumps just for fun. They just got to behave like normal kids, away from the dreadful situation their home life had become. She distracted me too. We could talk the night away about the serious stuff or just act like idiots if that’s what we needed to be. She smoothed that part of my life out, just enough to make it bearable.
When my beloved Mum got cancer 3 years later, she was still there. She was one side of mum and me the other when that wonderful lady crossed over to a more beautiful place. It was only about a year or two later that her own father (my Uncle Bob) was diagnosed with a brain tumour and fought a very short battle till he too joined Mum. This time, we comforted each other, as we tried to live our lives without these two incredible people.
She eventually shifted away again but after those life changing years together, we kept in touch more often. Last year she asked if I wanted to go to Alice Springs with her and her brother and his wife to see their other sister Maureen. Of course I jumped at the offer and bombarded this blog with my photos of the trip. Time spent with my 3 cousins was one of the most precious memories I will have. We had a ball.
Late last year, after Alice Springs, I told her I was considering going to Ireland in March to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. It was all up in the air really, just a suggestion in fact. Life has a wonderful way of making those suggestions a reality and we are now heading off in 6 weeks to the Emerald Isle. Neither of us can remember a time in our lives where we didn’t dream of going to Ireland and we talked incessantly about it. Just as I can’t remember actually ever meeting her, i can’t remember a time where we weren’t planning our trip.
Well at the ripe old ages of 52 (with her 3 weeks older), we are heading off on March 9th. She had a few days off this weekend so decided to come up and we could plan our trip as it’s all pretty sketchy so far.. Our flights are booked as well as accommodation in London, Belfast and Dublin. Other than that, we have nothing planned, so these few days felt like a great idea to start planning a more in depth itinerary. She got up here late afternoon on Saturday, so we had a quiet night. Sunday we got up, had a leisurely breakfast and as it was a miserable day weather wise, we put a few chick flicks on and lazed around in our pyjamas.
Then in the afternoon, we decided to stop being lazy and got up and went to the Three Sisters in Katoomba where we walked the Giant’s Stairway. We went to the supermarket and picked up a few things, then back here, a quick dinner, sat down to watch another movie and both fell asleep. The last of the party animals these days lol. I woke up first and decided to start writing. She woke up not long ago and got off the couch and went to bed.
Tomorrow we start to put some real effort into our itinerary. It’s not that easy though, as we are both “fly by the seat of your pants” type people. We have the basics already mapped out, so now we’ll do a bit more detailing but mainly, we’ll probably pour a wine and talk about how we’re going to feel when we finally achieve our lifelong dream of setting foot on the same ground our beautiful grandmother Gargie walked on. We’ll talk a bit more about how we both know we’re going to have a cry the moment the Emerald Isle becomes visible from the ferry. We’ll discuss which pub we’ll drink our very first Guinness in. Most of all, we’ll just talk.. It’s what we do the best.
So for now I better get some sleep or she’ll be up well before me and I’ll waste too much of the short time she has left here before she heads home again. Then folks, the countdown begins to Ireland. I may very well drive you crazy over the next few months, with the build up and then the trip itself but when you’ve waited this long to fulfill a lifelong dream, you have to make the experience matter. I hope you’ll all understand that if I start to annoy you with my Ireland obsession.
Happy dreaming… Livvy 🙂