At last, my wife is with me and my boy and his family in Brisbane. For ten months I have been visiting my son in the spinal units of three different Brisbane hospitals. During this time, my wife has been working hard at her job and mine, in Mercury Bay. Now, for the next two weeks we are together and then I will return with her to Whitianga. Hooray!
Yesterday, we had a joint appointment in the main Brisbane hospital. I elected to drive as I knew the route to the hospital like the back of my hand. But this led to an enormous explosion. The problem was I travelled the route to the hospital from our old apartment. In the last month we have relocated to a completely different suburb. But my auto pilot had not registered the change. Without thinking, I proceeded to our old address and onto the hospital from there.
The journey in our temporary un-airconditioned car was slow and hot. When my wife looked up from her constant companion,(her phone) she realized what I was doing. Then there were multiple explosions - Wham! Bam! -and this unlocked my wife’s warchest of my past failings.
Realising I was taking this old, slow route, in between many other incendiary comments, my wife demanded, “Why are you doing this? You don’t live there any more”. Absolutely right. She nailed it. I had moved physically but not mentally. My auto pilot had not been re-calibrated to our new address. That is not an uncommon failing.
In a week or so, I will be living in Whitianga but, it will not be the Whitianga I remember. What I mean is this. Friends have been telling me they will come up for a day visit. No they won’t; the problem being that for them, Mercury Bay is no longer a two hour journey. I am told it’s a 4.5 hour marathon. Whitianga hasn’t moved but the rest of the world has!
As a 16 year-old, I loved to take adventurous bike rides. Covering one hundred miles (around 130K) on a Saturday was not unusual. With my cycling friend and paper maps (no GPS) we would plan our Saturday explorations. Our lunch stop was always important. Chips and/or a pie or both after a fifty-mile ride were always delicious. On one occasion, we set our sights on a place named ‘English Corners’, in the middle of the scenic Strzalecki Ranges. I loved the sound of the name – ‘English Corners’. It brought to my mind villages from my ‘Boys Own’ English magazines. This magazine featured a cycling adventure in every edition.
The road to English Corners was a tough up-hill ride, mostly on unsealed roads. Our imagination of a quaint country town with a pie shop kept us going. But when at last we reached English Corners that was all there was - a corner - a sign post;no pie shop, no fish and chips, no houses – nothing. It was a further two hours of tough riding before we reached a tiny settlement with a shop.
There is imagination and there is reality. Imagination is grand for dreaming. Reality is the earth wire which grounds every dream. We may imagine Mercury Bay is the same as it’s always been. No it’s not. It’s on the move but so is the rest of the world.
I tend to live in imagination. In the real world, this can lead to disappointments and at worst, failures. When it comes to visits from friends, the reality of living in Mercury Bay will be different from my imagining – at least for the foreseeable future. This is just one of the factors we will have to take into account. No doubt there will be more tricky realities that we are yet to consider.
Neither my wife nor I could have predicted how this last year would unfold. For the first time in forty years, we have been apart for almost a whole year. We could never have dreamed of the disaster which overtook my son and his 10 months in hospital. But we have survived. Now his future is more hopeful and I will return to take up my life in Whitianga.
Circumstances have changed for Whitianga and district. This is a fact, and we must face it. The present reality is not the same as it was before the highway washed away. However, our future, though different, is still full of promise. Resilience is the name of the game. We live in a gorgeous location and are still amongst the most fortunate people on the planet!