Flood of Emotion

By , April 14, 2013 6:36 am

IT’S been two years since I stood in disbelief on her cream carpet, watching the muddy Brisbane River swirl around my bare feet. This is really going to happen! My elderly mother-in-law’s home in Indooroopilly will go under in the flood. We nearly cry, but don’t; it’s pointless. You can’t stop Mother Nature and it’s only a house.


I can't believe it's going to happen

(This article was published in Courier Mail)

In the distance, through the windows and past yielding mangroves, you could hear it. The Brisbane River galloped past like an unbroken stallion, a monster of a beast, it’s back hunched with fury and a wild, untamed mane of foam and flotsam.

We weren’t rescuing stuff, we were rescuing memories.

Another pontoon breaks loose. A very expensive speedboat is perched on it, gaily sailing down the river; sightseeing, spinning slowly.

She will lose the house her father built, the place she raised their five children, the house her husband passed away in; it will all go under, but not her memories. I’ve packed it all away in boxes, for now.

Today my mother-in-law sits in a unit at the Sunshine Coast, reading books until she can motivate herself to look once more at her house plans.

Don’t get me wrong, she was one of the lucky ones. Her insurance company paid up promptly and she has alternative accommodation at the coast. But her age – she finds it harder each passing week to remain interested in the rebuilding of her new home in Brisbane. She’s over it.

The broken house was bulldozed, allowing weeds to cover the vacant land. Bamboo grew back, unchecked.

It’s heartbreaking stuff at 78, to start again, but finally she started building in January last year.

“That house would have seen me out,” she says.

“I have to make so many decisions, I just don’t know any more.”

To cheer her up, I make margaritas. “To my margarita mother-in-law and your new house!” I exclaim. We toast her good health, savouring the iced tartness of home-grown lemons.

Originally the builder told her she would be in by August. We looked at the calendar in dismay as weeks and months ticked by and there was no sign of the house .

“By Christmas, for sure,” he cheerily responded to her growing concerns about moving back, to reclaim her life and live once again among friends and neighbours.

We had planned a wonderful Christmas Day, complete with celebratory drinks in her swimming pool. Alas, no swimming pool completion. No poolside margaritas.

If you ask her about her new house, she will look at you with the saddened eyes of a woman who has been through too much.

It’s heartening to see other flood victims already in new homes; it’s a special part of our human spirit that we can regather and rebuild with enthusiasm and energy.

Rebuilding takes an enormous amount of decision-making. What sort of light switch? Where do you want it?

Every day requires more energy, more decisions that, once made, cannot be undone. It’s exhausting.

I admire people who can make the most out of what nature and life throw at them. People who live their lives with gratitude, and who hold a glass-overflowing attitude.

I look at my margarita mother-in-law’s glass. Her glass isn’t even half full. It’s just empty. And the lemons remain unsqueezed.

Patty Beecham is a Brisbane freelance writer.

One Response to “Flood of Emotion”

  1. KRidwyn says:

    Hi Patty,

    This is a truly lovely piece of writing. Thank you for sharing it with us at Writers’ Group this morning.

    — KRidwyn

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