ON a hot summer day last year I was going to Bondi for a swim when the news arrived.
hope my letter from the bush reaches you. grey nomads on the road they call us. selfish baby boomers using up our kids’ inheritance. hope you don’t feel that way. things never turn out the way we expect. down the road you turn a corner into a fabulous adventure or a tragedy. who knows? should’ve told you sooner we were leaving in the campervan. we had to get away. insight can’t be taught and we’ve no time left to fail. mother faye is off bird watching while i sit down to write and she’ll be taking pictures so i’ll enclose some snaps. she’s fond of the strangest things to photograph. concrete laundry tubs and a box of radiant soap powder in a communal laundry or driftwood on windswept sand. old shop signs at a grocery store − wooden fresh eggs or a faded bex. please wash sand off feet before entering dressing room. faye is ok though her feet hurt. so depressing to see the drought dries everything to dust and then comes the rain and the land suddenly changes red to green. just like traffic lights eh? we had a narrow escape out coonabarabran way. we were bogged and had to be rescued and then wait in convoy until the floodwaters went down. stayed in a local pub they’d just wallpapered. a dirt line was half way up the walls where the water reached. a man drowned diving to fetch a keg from the basement. imagine. must have been desperate. glad to hear your life might return to normal now that dad is on the wagon. mother faye is happier than i have ever seen her. up early with a thermos and out into the day with a smile. sometimes we go off to a riverbank and fish. been tinkering with the old van and it’s working fine. listening to a singer on the radio croon “oh how she could dance back when we were beautiful.” how nervous i was on our first whirl around a dance floor. she gave me such a long hug as if she’d never let me go. want to set down some facts. dear daughter mother faye and i love you very much. i guess someone inspires us all and you are our inspiration. held your head high and though you copped some flak from workmates and old friends you didn’t flinch or hit back. you maintained your dignity. hurtful things they said. what bullies do. marginalise you. gang up and make you the butt of their jokes and then say they were only teasing and you’re expected to laugh at their joke at your expense but when the time was right you had your say without anger you said your piece. faye said yesterday that she felt she’d neglected you as a kid off at work with important meetings that now don’t matter a jot and hopes you forgive her for the way she behaved back then. she wasn’t happy and lost herself in work. we wouldn’t see each other for months. the fights. a bombardment of accusations and resentments but beneath all that controlling anger was fear – fear of losing your mother. “in the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” revd. dr martin luther king jr. he said that. i know you did not stay silent and that is the way
further to my phone call sadly i finish your other mum’s letter. i held her hand and said farewell to my darling joy. she looked peaceful. we all live with dreams unfulfilled but she made mine come true. stood up to the old bloke and got us away on the road. i am so glad he has sought help with his drinking. we knew joy’s ticker was dodgy. sorry that we didn’t get to say goodbye the way we would have liked but we didn’t leave things unsaid. that’s the main thing. am so sad cannot write more now. will soon bring her back home. you take care now. love and best wishes. your mother faye.
Autumn leaves and then winter faded. Green shoots sprout in the garden. My mother is still grieving our loss. I hear her cries in the night. I am staying for a while.
Read the winning entry of the 2013 OutStanding Short Story Competition here.
**This was also published in the October issue of the Star Observer. The November issue will hit the streets on Thursday, October 16. Click here to find out where you can grab your free copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional areas.