Mana From Heaven!

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.

Arkles Bay

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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My Sister!

I need to talk about my sister.

She’s quite different from me.  She is shorter than me and older!  She thinks before she speaks and she’s wise.  She’s my only sister and because she lives in New Zealand and I live in Australia, we don’t see each other as often as we would like.

When we were kids, we shared a bedroom until she got married.  We had difficult times sharing that little room!  You see, my sister was bossy and tidy and organised and generally calm and quiet!  I, on the other hand was sloppy and messy and all over the place.  I was not calm and quiet – I was loud and in your face and played rock music all of the time.

I think we loved each other but often we didn’t like each other very much!  We each just wanted our space but it was not possible growing up – so we shared.  I wished she would be more like me – at least she could have liked Rod Stewart or hung one poster on our wall!  But she wasn’t!

Time went by and we both grew up, married, lived in different countries, had babies, lived our lives and saw each other occasionally when holidaying.  We always enjoyed being together and found we had much in common.  We liked each other!

About  10 years ago, something huge happened in my life!  My husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer!  Survival for myself and my boys became my only focus.  Getting through the days, nights, hours and minutes was my goal.  I couldn’t work.  I wanted and needed to be there with Adrian, for however long we had.

While I was surviving those hours and minutes, life continued on.  With bills to pay, food to prepare & sport practises to get kids to.  But how do you do that with appointments & clinics & hospitals & radiation & chemo etc?  Especially when you are sloppy and messy and all over the place.

Well, something I haven’t mentioned yet, is that my sister has a husband and they are a TEAM!  She sees a need and he says GO!

I needed bossy  encouraging and tidy and organised and calm and wise!  Over the final 3 years of my husband’s life, my sister came, did her thing and went back home.  Only to come again and again and again …… I have lost count of how many times.  Her TEAM gave of themselves in time and money and love and prayer!  My sister made my three year long goodbye to Adrian manageable.  She was my rock, my anchor, my strength and my eyes, ears & hands when I could no longer manage alone.  After Adrian’s death, my sister continued to help with all those things that had to be done like finalising business details and eventually selling my home.

A couple of months ago, my sister & her husband came to stay with me in my new home and then we went to the beach for a few days holiday.  I wanted that TEAM to stay with me just because ……no other reason.  We had fun!   It was to be the first of 2 holidays we were to share this year.  We had not holidayed together for years.

The second holiday we had, was last month in Fiji.  My sister suggested that we take our 84 year old Mum for a holiday in the sun, while we could.  It was the best idea ever.  There will be more posts on this another time.

What I saw in Fiji was the total love and care and organisation and encouragement my sister shares with my Mum.  They live near each other and I am so glad.  Not because I don’t want the responsibility but rather because I would be sloppy and messy and all over the place!  Like the time in Fiji when it was my turn to take Mum to the buffet to get her dinner and I forgot about her!  I was so entranced by the array of food that I left Mum at the table!!  I love and care for my Mum but my sister is the BOMB at love and care!

Caring is my sister’s gift!  She gives of it so freely and in a way that makes the receiver feel empowered!  As family and  friends of my sister, aren’t we lucky to be on her radar?  We can’t repay her, but we can be more like her and maybe pay it forward.

I love my sister and I like my sister and I’m so glad she isn’t like me!  But I do wish she would like Rod Stewart.

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