I went caravanning with the mates down south over the Christmas/New Year break a couple of Christmases ago or what is more than that actually it may have been a good few decades because we all had time off work back then us being part of the Union and all and I sat with my mates to respect the old year as it took a bow and joined the setting sun then dipped my hat to the new one as it came around again like a refrain and we all sang along and thought of things we should have done but that’s alright because in that caravan you’re on the open road and there wasn’t really a sense of urgency to betray us in the dark at all except that maybe the hot and sticky rainy season told us to clear off from our outside barbeque to sit and play cards inside and far off on the horizon a bright white stiletto hit the earth and thus began Australia’s seasonal light sound and water show so lucky we took the time to patch up the leakage problem in the caravan before we set off because the rains that came down that year were phenomenal
but now I don’t even know what day it is let alone when New Year’s comes around these days I mean what year is it now?
I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m doing sometimes I silently melt by my window and peer out over suburbia and think to myself *sigh* because the path forward is a desolate one but quite frankly sitting by the same view day in day out fails to bother me actually for my prior life saw me gaining a birds-eye view in the skies of Papua for king and country and all that
to begin at the beginning I helped build and fly aeroplanes and my beauty was the Jewel in the Sky and when in that freedom I must admit greying hair grimy faces gritty half-smiles don’t count for much at all because from up there the fear is not in the falling but of the impact after tumbling dipping dropping then plummeting
so maybe I never actually held the substantial weight of a weapon of destruction or felt the wall of pain as the jolt from a backfiring gun explodes up my shoulder and I never had to decide if a life was less than what its worth by demolishing hope in a skerrick of a second
I am still considered a war hero because of my war effort
is it something to be proud of? I remember the heat of the camp as storms made the fields steam like a kettle and I remember the deafening roar of a thousand monsters being woken prematurely to hunt and feed and I remember the blood spray encrusted on the faces of those loved and lost is it really something to be proud of?
I also remember that those I fight I do not hate those I guard I do not love
except Stella Stella Stella she is a beautiful shining star which glints and sparkles in the night sky and stars in Van Gogh’s colour-by-number the one that’s up in the house I built in the Mountains she holds a musky air moth balls from our wardrobe but also has a sweetness that not unlike Nanna’s sugared figs that looked like frosted garnets so Stella she comes to call on me and also my daughter I love her too she comes sometimes to take me to Mass on Sundays and this is good because although sometimes she can’t steer my tub chair around sharp corners with her wrist her daughter comes to help and aids my trip to Mass instead and I remember in the cool of one morning a while back she leaned intrusively down and peered at me through thick black eyelashes to examine my face and announced:
-We’re going a different way today
because the nursing home got a new elevator
and so she took me in the new lift and what a smooth ride it was! The metallic box whirred and purred and slunk its way from the 4th floor to the ground yet I hardly noticed we were moving until I saw the doors open to a widening gap of light but next to the orange glow was an old old old man staring at me with papery thin skin and wrinkles like a road map and he looked at me through smeared lenses with thick brown frames that reached from his bushy white eye brows to midway down his cheeks and his eyes were an eerie pale blue that looked through me and he had the same shaving scar that I have and I wondered why this old old old man was examining me but I saw that he moved when I moved and
and then she took me past a stairwell where everything was washed in a dreamlike golden light but it actually wasn’t coming from anywhere because it was just a muted glow from the amber stained glass then as I was being pushed there I wondered why there was stained glass down here and not in other areas of this nursing home and I drew upon my knowledge of building and architecture and I thought about how the stained glass must have been down there for many reasons like-
AND then I saw a majestic statue of Our Lady and she looked simply ethereal she had a snowy veil an ephemeral snapshot in all its glory that held every crease and fold since they day she was carved- her white gown sustained elegantly behind her she just stood there as a powerful presence that filled the whole stairwell and she looked bigger than me but I used to be tall didn’t I I used to bump my perfectly slicked hair-do on the doorframe but when I looked at Our Lady she looked bigger than me because-
maybe she’s holding everyone’s problems
maybe I just got smaller
I’m not sure any more and so Louise wheeled me past her on our way to the chapel and I went to Mass and since then I’ve only been back that route to the chapel once and that was actually just last week and as a matter of fact I enjoyed the ride of the new lift a whole lot more because I closed my eyes it was like listening to a slide trombone effortlessly flow from one fluid note to the next and I relished it all the more because I knew I was going to see Our Lady and that made everything that morning all better that morning I remember that I was having problems with:
- the nursing staff on duty because one of the nurses took my watch off to bathe me and I don’t like that because if someone does that I can’t remember the time or the place or the date or anything and so it was not a pleasant experience at all
- the night prior to my being wheeled to the chapel I think Iris came to sit by my bed side and she looked a little paler than usual and she mentioned one of her relatives passing to the other side so I think she was a little sad about that and that it’s all coming to a close
- I had heard someone shuffling down the hall that morning mumbling of the woman in the room only two doors down from me and how she passed away silently that night To be honest I hadn’t noticed because that woman has a very loud clock that ticksandtocksandticksandtocks but even as the undertaker came in the clock still ticked and tocked
so everything was just grating on the frayed ends of my nerves and I sat and thought that all was lost all hope all meaning all reason to try all reason to stay all reasons to give up were
-Gone. This place is seriously hopeless.
my thoughts exactly wait- erm- how could Louise answer?
-Our Lady! Her statue’s gone! Oh, well, I didn’t expect much more from them.
Indeed she was missing
and I wasn’t too sure what to think
and then Louise stopped wheeling me for a bit and she put the journey on hold so that I could just sit and rest for a little while under the stained glass glow and it was very nice to sit in the warm sun even if it wasn’t that warm at all and I liked to sit there and count maybe all of the little dust motes that floated around in the sunlight and I think I got up to about 47 and then I lost count again because I was side tracked thinking about something else and then Louise came back to me pushing a very large mass that I think was Our Lady but she was not the same her figure was a little different and that’s because I noticed her hands
both of them I think were jagged and coarse not the same colour as her skin They were raw perhaps broken off
and I wonder if that was because maybe she was trying to carry too many people’s burdens in her crumbling hands and maybe like me her arthritis took its toll and maybe she literally cracked and just fell apart it was very sad to see that very sad indeed because she looked so strong and then I felt a little chilly so I pulled my crocheted multi-coloured blanket up
and then I went to Mass and when I went to Mass I thought about how:
I didn’t want to be there
I didn’t want to be there at all
I didn’t want to be left there all by myself
I didn’t want to be separated from my family
I didn’t want to be separated from my family by my family
I wanted to be home back home in the home that I actually built for us in 1954
I wanted more than anything to be out of this place