“It’s over.” “My ordeal for the day is over.” Mum looks relieved, and exhausted. Her ordeal is the breakfast, bathroom, shower routine.
She leans back into the recliner with the footrest which refuses to stay upright: closes her eyes.
Dreams of Lockhart and Wild Apple beach.
She once told me, “I always dream of you children, when you were younger, I love it. Chris is there too, he is always in my dreams.” (He was my older brother, killed in 1971, aged 21.)
We quietly take her washing to be done, leaving fresh nighties and clothing. It’s become our new routine. Now familiar nurses come and go. A busy woman calls to collect mum’s menu choices. She hasn’t filled them out.
“I’ll help you lovie.”
No, coffee please.
Cereal? Weetbix? Porridge?
A small bowl of porridge, I don’t like it, but if I must, I must.
Toast dear? Do you want any toast?
No, thanks, just some fruit, peaches perhaps?
I look at my mother’s face; holding her soft cheeks in my hands in my mind. Her teeth are loose, she can’t manage too much, but she is at least eating. At least she is eating!
At the airport, I am ready to fly out. Wearing my mother's black socks, my sister's black scarf, I honk my nose, again and again. Wishing I had brought the Weekend Australian for the magazine section. As I sit, I noticed the current issue magazine on the chair. Thankyou I say, to the universe.
Ask, and you shall receive.
I read it cover to cover, as our plane rockets towards Brisbane in the pitch blackness. We shake and rattle and glide our way there, the usual one hour trip taking a speedy 40mins with the giant tail wind. I blow my nose every 2 minutes, worried my ears will pop. We fall with grace from the sky, and land.
Mum is moving much better in her walker. She rests her arms on the contraption and away she goes. Shuffle, limp, shuffle, limp, but it’s progress. Doctor says she will be assessed next week. “Wonderful,” she says. “I’ll be home next week.”
Carolyn is filled with dread, as are we. The house isn’t ready. As much as we want our mother home, we also need her to be safe, and looked after. Time will tell. There are things to be done first. Safety things. A new bed. Better seating. Safer bathroom entry, the tiles will trip her up. Phone calls are made.
Physiotherapists. Assessors. Doctors.
Backwards and forwards to family members. Emails fly in cyberspace.
My mother sleeps, and dreams of Lockhart, and her young children, running along the beach.
A dit on my mobile: Thankyou darling, love you 2.
My mother writes sms lingo.
Nephew Ryan has bought her a new Nokia. This will be her 4th mobile phone. We always call sms messages “dits”. Here’s why, in her own words:
During one of my sleepless nights recently , I thought that I had made one of the best decisions of my life when I decided to learn Morse Code, in its various forms--key, flag and light. I think this would have been early in 1940. My Dad and I would often sit up late at night in front of the big superheterodyne radio, straining to catch the broadcasts from London and get the latest on the war news, and all the time the Morse signals would be coming through, loud and clear and very fast. How I longed to understand it!
I had heard of a lady in Sydney, a Mrs Mackenzie, who had graduated from Sydney University with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I believe she was the first to do so. She decided to get together a group of young women and teach them Morse Code, the elements of Electricity and Magnetism and similar subjects. She named it the Womens' Emergency Signalling Corp (W.E.S.C.) designed a nice dark green uniform, military style patch pockets, brown leather belt and green forage cap--very snazzy! If you want to actually see it, look at the blown-up wedding photo--I was married in it.
Mrs Mackenzie could see that the time would come when Australia would have to reform and expand its armed forces, Navy and Air Force and she realised that the communication arm of all services was practically non existent, so she trained this small band of young women to become expert in these fields.
War had been declared at this time, so she trained us, and by the time the armed forces realized that they need men to be trained, we were all ready to train the men. It was situated in Clarence Street Sydney, the 1st floor of a very old shipping company.
Young people like myself would do a days work (in paid normal civvy jobs) and then at night we would go into the city and then train the army and naval men to do the signalling. In the beginning we were still being taught ourselves, but we soon became proficient enough to be able to pass on our skills to others.
Around this time the navy was the first services to create the womens arm of the services, the WRANS, then the Airforce also formed a women’s group, the WRAAF, and finally the Army formed the AWAS (Australian Womens Army Service) With the whole idea in creating these womens services, was to release the men for active duty, active service.
One of the ways I dealt with Morse code, was on the way home from work, or being at the lessons, going home in the bus, and I was read all the advertisements, and in my mind, I would read it and say it in Morse Code.
Dit dit, dah, dah.
TOSCA = dah dah dah dah, dit dit dit, dah dah dah dit, dit dah.
I still remember it so cleary to this day. Anything and everything I would read it in my mind and my right hand would tap out the code.
I loved it!
My father at this time, was completely self taught with radio and electricity, and he bought me a Morse-key, and hooked it up to an oscillator so that I could practice in my bedroom.
Up in my wardrobe, sat this oscillator, with its glowing valves, and I practised nightly, with my own head phones, so that I could hear the sound, but I didn’t disturb the rest of the household.
At the WESC rooms, we had girls from every walk of life there, learning, and teaching. Clerks, factory workers, schoolgirls, office workers like me, generally women who were motivated to do something to help the war effort.
Many of us in time, went on to join the Womens Services ourselves. I joined the Army, and became Lieut. in the Army, but more of that later!
To be continued....