My parents have become Grey Nomads. In the planning stages of it all I was quite happy for them: after all, they’ve worked hard enough to fritter away my inheritance on a whimsical trip around Australia. Until they actually went. Until they literally sped off the front lawn in their enormous caravan, tears in their eyes at the enormity of the goodbye and perhaps just a little feverish at getting away from my fighting children. Then, tail lights receding, my thoughts were simple: “What a pair of arseholes.”
Just so you know, derogative endearments are part of my family vernacular. In other words, calling each other awful names is a sign of love. For example: “Hey dickhead” means something like ‘My brother, I see you, I know you.’ Conversely, my three brothers address me as “Oi bitch-face”, meaning ‘My sister, light of my life, bringer of happiness, what bidding may I do you?’ It’s really quite poetic.
Referring to my parents at that stage as ‘arseholes’ was a mixture of love, jealousy and
joyous expectation. Fiela and I travelled around Australia two years ago and had been excited for my parents on their impending trip. They’ve worked hard all their lives and now they were going on a boundless holiday around what is one of the most diverse and beautiful continents on the planet. How awesome is that?
Arseholes. (see what I mean?)
Tonight I called them for the first time in a week or so. They sounded really bloody tired. Exhausted even. Which concerned me automatically- they were working too hard, making this trip laborious by travelling too fast, not taking enough breaks, doing overnighters instead of relaxing in one spot for a few days… It concerned me down to the pit of my stomach.
All for nothing mind you. They were buggered because they’d booked a fishing charter that morning in Karumba, a fishing mecca in Central Queensland, and, for the first time in probably a hundred years, were out of practise at getting up at 5am. Mum caught a 2 kilogram threadfin salmon, Dad a kilogram bream. They saw crocodiles, the mouth of the Norman River as it empties into the Gulf of Carpentaria, had their hooks baited time and time again and had morning tea provided for them while their guide regaled them of the history of the area. So, you know, they were tired from all that touristing about. Tomorrow they’re going to the pub to watch the sunset over the water at Karumba Beach, Queensland’s ‘Outback by the Sea’. Frickin’ arseholes.
Underpinning it all is a poignant feeling of loss. And before I go on, I’d just like to say this comes from a privileged point of loss. People I hold dear to me have actually lost their darling mothers and fathers to cancer or old age. Some have parents who are living but are such feckless wonders it’s less heartbreaking to remove themselves from those feckless lives than be in them. My parents are just travelling a long way away. But I’ve always been the one to move away; to go on a year-long trip, to extricate myself from the country. Now they’ve done it to me and for the first time I’m feeling just a snippet of what they did when at 18-years old I moved interstate to university or when I made the pilgrimage to Europe on an indeterminable working holiday.
Where’s this post going? I miss my parents. I miss that familiar knowledge that they’re ‘just down the highway’ should I need them. If it all goes pear shaped they’ll be here in a few hours. That I’ll see them in a few weeks when we go to visit them or vice versa. That the roles we’ve played for 39 years have shifted ever so slightly, like tectonic plates grinding about where they’ve been rock solid for years. They’re Grey Nomads now and that is massive for people who’ve worked and saved and sacrificed their adulthood to the demands of children and mortgages. And that is truly marvellous. A little scary, but truly bloody marvellous.
Anyway, we hung up and Sussie piped up: “Was that Nana?”
When I said it was she replied, “Her spaghetti bolognaise is better than yours. So are her crumbed fish.”
Just like that. Arseholes.