I had expected to sit in her garden and drink champagne and cups of tea and chat. Perhaps a lunch out at the local cafe, but really just spend some time hanging out with her. On the second morning she asked if I'd like to do something. I have waited a couple of years to finally hear these words, and I was a little taken aback when she finally uttered them.
You see, back in 2012 my Dad died. We all had a really complex relationship with him. He is part of the reason I have my sense of humour, but also responsible for the anxiety I feel around loud, confrontational people. I wrote a post (Ashes) explaining the horror of finding out Mum and some friends had scattered Dad's ashes without me. Without even mentioning it or asking me. He was gone.
Mum and I talked at the time when she realised how upset I was by this. She said she would take me and show me the place where it happened. But time went on and anniversaries never offered up this information to me. We placed flowers at the memorial plaque at the small cemetery in Torquay, but the section of beach where his ashes went remained a mystery. I never wanted to push Mum. She was obviously dealing with her own stuff, being freed from an emotionally bullying marriage and the mixed feelings of loss, grief and maybe relief.
Whenever I visit, we always talk about Dad. This time Mum shared information about how they got together and what he was like when they were first married. She also said that he finally told her he loved her, as she cared for him in those final months of his life. He was a man who never spoke of emotions and very rarely gave praise to any of us. So I can imagine Mum's response to his words, so very close to the end of his life.
It saddens me, as I am a lover of love. A huge fan of feelings, of opening up and being honest. Of cups of tea and chats. Of listening and sharing. Perhaps I am this way in response to my Dad being the opposite.
So over breakfast Mum asks if I want to visit the section of beach where Dad's ashes were pushed out into the waves in a paper boat. She took rose petals from her garden (A rose called Ralph, my Dad's name) and we jumped in the car. She drove us to Cosy Corner and we kicked off our shoes in the car. The sun was shining and the breeze was cool. Kite surfers were out and the tide was out far. Little shallow pools of water in the sand were warm from the morning sun. We walked until the cold ocean water licked our toes.
With hands full of petals we laughed at our attempt to cast these into the water. The strong wind blew them towards us and along the sand. We smiled at our conspicuousness amongst the beach goers. We gave each other a hug and looked at the pink and red petals strewn along the beach. More hugs, lungs full of sea air and sand on our toes. We slowly walked back to the car.
I have reread how I felt at the time and my attempt to get over something I could not change. I guess, just over two years later, I can report back. Time is a wonder. It gives space and perspective to things. It lessens intensity (sometimes) and can help put things in a better place. In a way I'm glad I waited. I didn't do any personal farewells to Dad which were suggested at the time. I realise too that my relationship with Mum has always been the strongest and it was worth the wait to share that moment with her when she was ready.
In a way, these moments and anniversaries about Dad have become time and memories I share with Mum. We talk about him, but I am talking with her. I don't know what Dad would make of this. The irony of him bringing us closer emotionally. In spite of his outlook on life, I am a crazy sentimental fool who is not afraid to love...and say it out loud.
I took photos (and video) with Mum that day on the beach. I love them, and I love her.