A month ago my son and I caught the train down to Sydney. This involved getting the bus from Belmont to Cardiff Station. The recently introduced Newcastle bus timetable is horrific for some routes while being beyond excellent for others. It was a lovely trip around the lake via Warner’s Bay and a lot of the passengers were elderly.
The train from Cardiff is excellent for disabled people as there is a lift and the GAP between platform and train is very narrow, while the entrance to the train is practically level with the platform. I did have to get on fast though, the train did not wait long and there were a lot of people with big piles of luggage waiting to get on.
We were picked up by my son’s fiancé at Central Station and stayed with her for the night. It was the first time I had seen Chanti in two and a half years. She is the Burmese cat we had for over a year to help us heal from all the trauma we had been through. Her role in life seemed to be as a healer but I was so shocked at how aged she was that I buried my head in her tummy and cried. She looked around as I said Chanti, it’s mummy Kate, but though she knew my voice she could not see me because she appeared to be blind.
Gen had kindly gifted her to us as she had two other cats but I moved to a cabin in a park in 2015 and I was not allowed to have an animal living there. My son tried to look after her but being unwell himself and needing to spend half the week with me he could not. So Chanti moved back to Sydney to live with her original family who loved her to bits too.
One reason we wanted to go down was for a trial run on the train for me to see how I would go at getting trains after having injections through the Royal Hospital for Women into my damaged areas. Those involved the area where I have to sit! The other main reason is that my dear friend who is more of a sister to me lost her Sister in Law the week before. Her children are like my nephew and nieces and this was their only aunt, I had to go and give them all hugs and tell them how much I loved them. It had been over two years since I saw them at the eldest daughter’s wedding. It was beyond time, and now that I was off the walker achievable.
My other dear friend who I had not seen since we left arranged to meet me at the shopping centre where for so many years we had met on Fridays. And most other days of the week too! We always talked about fashion and quilting, our children and life. We were quite the philosophers. I missed her and her family a lot.
We arranged to meet at 2pm so I toddled off to the bus stop to get the five minute ride to Royal Randwick Shopping Centre. On the way I started getting panicky, my heartbeat became very fast as the bus passed so many familiar landmarks. The church where we lived and worked for ten years. The school my son attended in Primary School. I realised I had to take some deep breaths, it had been five years since we left here, traumatised, barely able to put one foot in front of the other.
As the bus pulled up outside the shopping centre I continued to breathe deeply, trying to block the memories. Walking through the centre was really hard and hardest of all was sitting at the table at the coffee shop. I was early as usual and tried to cover my shaking hands by having a coffee while I waited. I texted a good friend and my son telling them that it was really hard.
Then I saw her beautiful bright smile beaming at me from the other end of the centre and just like that, all was as it ever was. True sisterhood and friendship knows no distance or years. It is all in the heart, in the soul. I got up and hugged her. And she allowed it. She is the most hands off person ever, even to her own children! We chatted about family, losing our mothers, missing them. How nasty our own brothers and sisters can be. Nothing is ever off the table in our relationship. Though I hurt her once, gravely, over a beyond stupid internet meme. Being right about such a thing was not worth the cost of the friendship. I apologised and until now our friendship was never the same. Now though I think it is better than ever, we have both suffered greatly for doing the right thing by our families, and of course we would do it again. It’s who we are, sisters in spirit and pain and joy too.
Around three o’clock my dear bereaved friend arrived and we two girls who have had much loss, comforted her by being outrageous, chewing gum like aged slappers, though beautifully and expensively dressed ones. We drank coffee, reminisced, caught up and laughed ourselves senseless. So much so that the lovely Indian waitress came over and asked how long I was staying. I had no idea who she was but told her I was going back to Lake Macquarie the next evening. My friends beamed at me and said she remembers you Kate. Five years and so many customers, and I was struggling to place her. As we left she said how happy she was to see me looking so well. Then I finally remembered that the owner was her husband and I had gifted her lots of lovely clothes when she was pregnant with their first child, who must be four now!
We said goodbye to Leah and I headed to my bestie in the whole world’s place to see her children. Her place looked stunning, very comfortable and warm, she had just moved out of her family home of thirty years when we left Sydney. Her daughter and I wrapped our arms around each other and we would not let go. And then a huge hug and gasps of incredulity at the wonder that was my proxy godson’s partner’s hair. It was dyed the sort of grey I would give my eye teeth for, and he is so pretty I could not take my eyes off him.
Eventually my son and his fiancé and her son arrived and had a great catch up. My proxy godson came out after a sleep, looking pretty shattered. His aunt and I being the mentors and most beloved women in his life in his early teens. I hugged him and said he is stuck with me as proxy aunt too now if that was okay. He smiled and said he had missed me.
Eventually we left as the family were going to see Black Panther, a good release for them after sitting Shiva and being at home so much. We started back to Belmont, stopping on the way for KFC for our little boy. Quite a lot packed into the day, after one half day of travelling to get there. I semi dozed on the way back, thinking how different all our lives are now. Fuller, richer in some ways, while the loss of my mum would always be present her Alzheimer’s had shown me how to really love, to really value and show that love in the present. Am so glad I conquered my fear and panic, I feel I came out of it a richer person for the time with beloved friends who are family and coffee shop owners who had become friends all those years ago.
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