What a very busy week it's been here in southern Tassie! On top of work there was a trip to Hobart with Mum and a lovely day out with Dad. Mum and Dad live happily together, and I often pop in for a cuppa or a brief chat on my way home from work, but I really enjoy spending time with them one on one. Maybe I'm a little greedy enjoying their company all on my own...but I figure none of us is going to live forever and I'd prefer not to have those awful regrets that creep in when opportunities have been missed or put off until too late.
I've been a bit slack lately about days out with Dad. When I was staying with them a year or so ago, we managed a few little sojourns to town for coffee and cake or hot chips on the river. A day out with Mum reminded me that I haven't had a day out with Dad for ages, so that was it. A spur of the moment phone call and I had a date for 1 o'clock. When we have a day out these days, I do the driving. Dad's driven me places enough over the years - to school, parties, dances, hockey practice and to feed the horses or to friends' homes for visits. It's cool that I can return the favour and let him relax in the passenger's seat. He was hanging on tightly to the vinyl hand hanger thing at the top of the window for most of the trip, but I'm hoping that was just a comfort thing and not 'hanging on for dear life'! I explained that since I've written about Double White Lines and crossing them, I'm being super vigilant with my driving because I'm sure it will be noticed if I take any shortcuts or heaven forbid break the speed limit. So he was perfectly safe and I was driving very carefully. But still he hung on...hmmm.
We chatted on the way about this and that. He told me a few of his old stories. You have a lot of stories when you're past eighty years old, but some of them become favourites. I suppose when I think about it, that they are the ones that have been defining moments in his life. The stories are ones that tell of forks in the road of life; when decisions had to be made and when the influence of others made him take this path or that. Sometimes it sounds a bit like he wishes he had taken other paths along the way. I think he is explaining how and why he ended up here, in this place and this time. I wonder if it gives him some sense of comfort in revisiting those times...but they are not particularly happy stories. Often they are tinged with a sense of almost apology, as if he wishes somehow he had done more, or done better. There is sometimes a feeling of helplessness in those tales. I suppose a young man is at the beck and call of his father in many ways. A father may appear to be giving his son a set of options or choices, but he will phrase the choice in a way that makes one option the clear best choice. It may not have been the best choice for the son, but it would have felt like the only one at the time; like any other choice would be fairly silly. I sense a tinge of regret. Perhaps if he'd taken the more difficult path, he might have been a master builder. Instead he went into business with his father. I wonder if there are lessons in the stories...not just for Dad, but for me too as I listen. The easiest and most obvious route is not always the best perhaps.
Grandad, my Dad's father, was a big part of my life during my primary and high school years. He too drove me many places. Nanna and Grandad lived with us for a time, and as Mum and Dad both worked, my grandparents featured largely in life. I am surprised when Dad tells me stories about Grandad. To me he was always a big loving lump of a man who loved to feed kookaburras and who made me doll's furniture! The only time I ever saw him angry with me was one time when I cast the top of this best fishing rod into the river and then cut the line when I couldn't retrieve it. He couldn't believe I was stupid enough to cut the line.
I was fishing with my then boyfriend and we had borrowed fishing rods from Grandad. He had several and he took great pride in whipping the eyes on with fine coloured thread. They were truly beautiful things. Well, I was his only grand-daughter and until I lost the top of his fishing rod, I do believe the sun shone out of my rear end in his eyes; I could do no wrong! Alas that was not the truth. Quite innocently, as I made a huge sweep and cast the hook, carefully baited with chubby pink worm, into the middle of the river, the top of that beautiful hand crafted fishing rod sailed after it and presumably speared itself firmly into the soft mud at the bottom of the river. Or perhaps wedged itself between some rocks. Regardless, the river refused to relinquish it despite long and persistent pulling it this way and that and walking along the river bank this way and that to try from every available angle. Filled with despair, it seemed the only thing to do was to cut the line.
Later, after a very nerve wracking talk with Grandad, it was made clear to me that the sensible thing to have done would have been to tie the line to a tree or bush or something similar and then to have come home and fetched Grandad who would have found someone with a boat who would have helped him to rescue the rod. But it was too late. I had done the unthinkable and it couldn't be undone. Golly gosh. I've just realised that I still feel guilty about it all these years later! But how can we be guilty for not having that wisdom we gain only by making mistakes? Experience itself is the best teacher, is it not?
I wonder if that's what Dad's feeling when he talks about things that happened in his life. I wonder if he feels a bit guilty about not having that wisdom back then. Surely that is the value of reflection through life. Ahhh, what we all might have done differently if we'd known what we couldn't know. What we know now. Anger, despair, regret...for not choosing differently. Perhaps all these can be signs that we have learned the lessons we needed to learn. The mistakes we've made have shown us what we couldn't have known otherwise. That wisdom gained by living and getting it wrong sometimes, when we remember to use it, can help us later. Sometimes, though, we have to make the same kind of mistake many times before the wisdom comes.
I look at the lives around me...being lived in so many different ways. There are so many choices; so many decisions for us to make. It's easy to see how other people ought to do things; to judge others for not being wiser. Choices and decisions are hard. Make them in a second or agonise over them for weeks; still you must live with the consequences. Choices...which reminds me to tell you that Bloody Lovely Cake, a delicacy available in my favourite coffee shop, is always a good choice. Once long ago, my lovely daughter said to me when trying frozen mango sorbet, "Mum, you know how everything has a good side and a bad side?...well this has no bad side!" Bloody Lovely Cake is a bit like that. I had a Berry Smoothie to go with mine, and Dad had a Lime Milkshake to go with his. Good choices all round. Yum!
PS Dad came out with me for the afternoon even though the cricket was on the television...the Ashes...I feel so very loved!!