I sleep badly, my nose streams and I snore like a freight train derailing. Apparently I have left the glass front sliding door open, and the cold night air streams in from under the curtains, to where I sleep on the floor. When I wake at 5.45am to see John off to Bowen, my cold is worse, far worse. I could cry with misery.
As he drives off I softly call the Torres Strait Islander greeting - Yowah. Goodbye. Yowah John. We three siblings wave.
It takes me a full 3 hours to feel clear enough in my chest to visit mum, 3 hours of blowing my nose and hacking. Driving to the hospital I notice two old men, really old, in-their-eighties-at-least-old riding fairly new looking 3-wheeled bikes. One front wheel, and two large wheels either side of a trolley basket. Their veined legs slowly push the pedals as I pass them in awe. What is it with Rocky men? There are at least three huge car-wash centres, (it’s what Rockhampton men do on Saturdays) and they just love their vehicles, even these bikes look pretty spiffy.
As I enter the main road to the new bridge, I pass a crushed car surrounded by a disco of lights from the various support vehicles. Police, fire brigade, ambulance, tow trucks. He must be a stranger.
Low tide in the Fitzroy River juts up large black rocks, they seem to float above the waterline. The 10am Jetstar flight is late, hauling its passengers over the rooftops of the Range area at 10.20. I take the opportunity to slowly drive around the suburb and photograph the colonial beauties I see peering from behind the clipped mock orange. Rockhampton holds many secrets, all you need is a prudent gardener, and a hedge.
Affectionately knows as Shirley-and-that, I wonder if Mum has conversed some more with her old market friend, Shirley. And-that. Now an elderly woman who has worn out two good knees from years of toil, Shirley adds ‘and that…” to most of her sentences.
“My son wrote to me, and that,” she starts. “He studied hard, and that…” Mum and Carolyn and I smirk in delight. Later we recount the story to June on the phone, bursting with “AND-THAT!” and we laugh at our own silliness and Shirley speech. We find it perfectly charming, a delight.
Another resident is a simple countrywoman, who weaves stories which engage my mother. Have you ever thought of writing a book, mum enquires? I did start to write, she says. She reminds me so much of my own mother, mum says softly. I find her stories of growing up on a dairy farm so entertaining. It’s the way she tells the story mum says. The countrywoman does not say “and-that".
In the morning residents are required to do physio in the gym. Mum rolls her eyes. A gymnasium she puffs. Clearly she is unimpressed but she still does the leg exercises set for her.
The needs must when the devil drives she tells me, grimacing in pain as bone grinds against bruised flesh. She has the world’s largest bruise on her inner thigh. June explained it as a shockwave of pain, emerging to discolour the inner leg, as well as the outer thigh. I haven’t seen it but both sisters suck their teeth back when they speak of it. Mum’s bruise. She is being very brave, but continues to roll her eyes and loll about with mock horror at the thought of movement.
She quotes again: The needs must when the devil drives, and shuffles her fractured leg up…slowly…slowly…and down…easy…hold hard Ned!
That makes three Pearl, another 20 to go chirps the young Physio. The only real exercise mum is doing is her eye rolls.
“I don’t like it, and I don’t want to, but I must, I must” she chants to me, her eyes squeezed shut with determination.
I rub her cold feet, and leave for home.
To be continued…