For the third time this week my Eldest son has become my hero. On my birthday earlier this week he tidied my garden and blew the huge lump of wet leaves in the courtyard; saying to me in his quiet, deep voice: “That’s what I’m here for, mum,” and a little piece of my heart breaks. I don’t want him to just be here to serve me, but boy am I grateful that he is.
He places his arm around my shoulders, and when they rise and fall with a gentle sob he holds me until the noise subsides.
Earlier this week he climbed onto the roof of the kitchen, in the belting rain and pitch black night to replace a broken roof tile. Our kitchen ceiling was in huge danger of collapsing under the weight of rainwater and to cut a long story short, he saved us, he saved me, and he saved the house.
Today he came with me to see his grandmother’s house, and how it had fared in the flood. We gingerly step here, and there; picking our delicate way through the mud, careful not to slip, careful not to step on some unknown broken thing hidden within the brown.
He takes photos for me. Holding my camera he grabs images, noting a straight horizon, and focusing in on the subject, as I have taught him. It’s almost funny to see my mother-in-laws house now.
“Is that a tree in the kitchen?”
“Yes, why yes! That IS a tree!” I mock, and at any moment I expect someone to wake me with a pinch and a hearty: “KIDDING!!” yelled in my ear. But that friendly, silly yell never comes, only the shocked silence of us both trying to comprehend the enormous force of the flood waters. How the hell am I going to get a tree out? Perhaps it will float out, as it floated in, on the rising tide.
In the distance, through the unbroken window panes and past the bending, yielding mangroves, you hear it. The roar of the water. The Brisbane River gallops past us like an unbroken stallion, a monster of a beast, it’s back hunched with fury and a wild, untamed mane of foam and flotsam.
It’s sheer madness to watch!
Once home, my son wordlessly empties the dishwasher for me. He has lived in his own flat for the past 4 years, and I am too tired and grateful to fight him. To my delight, he then goes to my front deck and begins to remove the last of the Christmas decorations. I had taken down 80% of them but then we had the drama of the flooding kitchen, and the great flood of 2011 to deal with. Thank you for helping me today son. I loved watching you become the man I always knew you were. My hero!
At home my cat sleeps behind me, dreaming in the soft way that cats do, as I work on the computer. Suddenly he starts awake with a loud hiss and his eyes bolt open, craws dug in deeply to the sofa. Even he is having bad dreams. He’s shaken and unsettled, and I peer around my kitchen for ghosts or spirits. Perhaps my father-in-law is back, angry we left his bed to the flooding waters. I am so sorry Dennis, we did our best. We did our best. We saved so much, we simply couldn’t get it all. I stroke my cat back to sleep, until I too, am settled.
When mothers age, we speak to them less. We still talk, of course, but we tell them less real information, as it only worries them. My voice is still cheery; really you wouldn’t know that in my lounge room a step ladder has taken up semi-permanent residence.
That my blue sofa is now green with mould.
That I’ll have to throw away my husband’s favourite cushion.
That my back garden is ruined, my young son’s bedroom is ruined, the kitchen ceiling is stuffed, whole interior walls will need replacing from water damage and mould; really you wouldn’t pick it at all.
“Hi mum, yes, we’re all fine,” I lie, but really, we are all fine.
I just have to remember that.