Many years ago (about 50 or more) my Mum decided that our family needed to have a beach holiday. She had been a stay at home mother of 3 kids until my baby brother was school age. It was then that she went to work as a cleaner of private homes and doctors rooms, solely to give us a family beach holiday. This continued for around about 40 years! Yes! My Mum cleaned for the same people for 40+ years and each of those years our family had a beach holiday. In the end, all of us kids were married and some of us had moved away but Mum & Dad still went to the same place for their beach holiday until about 10 years ago. My Dad became too ill to travel to the beach any more, although right up until his death, he, Mum and the family, still spoke with love and laughter about those beach holidays.
My Mum loved the beach. She would live in her togs from morning to night and always smelled of sunscreen. She tanned as brown as a berry and loved to sit on the shore and watch us kids swim, play and boat in the safety of Arkles Bay. It was a great place to swim, with no dangers and this was important because Mum could not swim! Oh, she loved to cool off in the water but I never once remember Mum getting her hair wet.
Fast forward to 2014 – my Sister suggested that we take Mum for a beach holiday to somewhere warm and relaxing. Of course, I agreed. We decided on Mana Island Resort, Fiji because my Sister had been there before and knew it would be suitable for a beach loving 84 year old, who has had two knees and a shoulder replacement, and who can’t swim but will want to cool off! It was with much anticipation that I arrived from Australia and they arrived from New Zealand to begin our 10 day memory making adventure. It was about a year since I had seen my Mum and I was struck at how well she looked after a few trying years with her health. However, I couldn’t help but notice that she was, at times, quite unstable on her feet – especially on uneven ground. She always took our arm when walking outside and was very careful with where she walked.
The first day or two, was spent travelling and settling in. We had a beach front bure to live in, that was only about 50 metres from the sea. It was spectacularly beautiful but after watching Mum get around, I started to wonder if she would be able to enjoy the sand and sea. Would we ever be able to get her into the water, as I was sure she would want? I didn’t say anything, as I was certain my Sister would know what was best but I began to dread the moment that would surely come when Mum would say “Let’s go for a swim at the beach!” Well the time arrived and my Sister left Mum and I to get into our togs while she wandered down to the water for a reckky to scope out the lay of the land and to claim some beach sun lounges for us all. And so the adventure began …… with me carrying the bags and Mum’s arm tucked safely under my Sister’s arm, we slowly walked the 50 metres to the edge of the sand and managed to guide Mum down the slight rocky incline. Yes, there was some hesitation – by Sister and me – but Mum wobbled her way down with not a care in the world. We got her safely onto a sun lounge and Sister & I decided to go swimming to check out the water and the reef that lay below. We were hoping that the sand before the reef, was flat under the waves …… but alas not!!!! There seemed to be hidden rocks & shells everywhere, the sand went up & down and the waves were breaking but not huge.
Time to take the bull by the horns! My Sister went up and slowly walked Mum down into the water. It had been 10 years since she had last been swimming and she was not expecting the tropical paradise to have such cold water! But there was no turning back. By this time, both my Sister and I were supporting an arm, as her unsteadiness was amplified by her inability to see where she was placing her feet. Suddenly, the laughter came bubbling to the surface of all 3 of us; at the same time as a wave came and Mum decided to take her feet off the ground! Whoosh!! In towards the shore floated Mum, dragging my Sister and I behind – desperately trying to anchor our feet in the sand as well as not lose grip of Mum’s hands! Whoosh!! Went Mum, back past us, as the tide took her out to sea …… still dragging her anchors. The giggling and laughter became hysterics as we thought of a young Mum & Dad swinging their children along between them on a walk. Only we were two 50+ year olds swinging our 84 year old Mum!! We felt like kids again and the joy shared between us will remain forever.
Yes, we went beach swimming three more times with Mum over the 10 days. Each time was just as hilarious and fun. We also, went pool swimming and by the end of the holiday I wore with pride the bruises on my arm from Mum’s grip!
But the thing I am most proud of was that we never let Mum’s hair get wet!