Posts tagged: rain

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.

Country rain – from Switzerland to Nigeria.

By , December 8, 2011 12:54 am

Driving through stinging rain. Grey clouds hang like a shroud, whilst further to the south, sweeping sheets of white cover the hills and fields, causing small streams in paddocks to run, puddling at fence lines.

Today I am going to film a small country funeral for a Swiss woman, who so loved her family that she travelled each year to stay for a 3 month visit. This year she celebrated her 80th birthday, and then passed away very suddenly.

Today and forever her heart will be part Australian.

Already, I am lost. I drive swinging to the right, as I watch open mouthed as my turnoff to Toowoomba veers to the left. I’m confused by the prolific and complicated road works that jam the Ipswich highway. No matter, I have plenty of time, and I take the opportunity to drive through Ipswich and have a good look around though my sweeping windscreen wipers. I’ve heard that Ipswich has changed a lot – a dynamic mayor with his tea cup collection – and innovative city changes, but today I can’t really see anything new. It’s the same old highway, same traffic, same curious collection of white rocks stacked into a pyramid to my right hand side. Very odd. I don’t get it.

Pulling over to the side of the road, I stab at my new android phone for Google maps, and a strange woman’s voice tells me which way to drive. With my phone propped up within the dashboard, it leads me out of this town and back towards the main highway, where my little Astra competes with huge and fast-speeding semis and trucks.

Water everywhere. Thanks goodness for new tyres. Eventually the turnoff to Laidley appears, and I pull left and enjoy scenery. I always imagined living in this small town, I’m not sure why, something about it pulls me towards a slower life. Children in bright gumboots digging within a muddy garden. Cats sleeping in warm window nooks. Dark grey pigeons abridge rooftops watching the town centre. No sooner had I read all the Christian signs and anti abortion posters *country dream popped* than I am driving out of Laidley, heading towards the small crematorium and chapel.

The rain doesn’t ease, and the paddocks surrounding the gorgeous little cemetery are filling with rivers and brown streams of water, anxious to travel and flow. I hop from my car, from small island to small island of mud. My shoes are already soaked. It’s going to be a long day. A large gregarious caretaker called Barry meets me and together we chat for the next 30 minutes about this and that. He tells me of speeding through the cemetery (no clients of course) and how three special black marble headstones glow in the dark. I shiver with delight. “It’s just reflecting the building lights of course” but I won’t listen, I want to hear how they glow and my goose bumps build up and down my legs and arms.

Eventually the family arrive, huge umbrellas are shaken and stored, and raindrops are dusted off black coats. We’ve lost our Catholic priest, a new young man, fresh from Nigeria. A few phone calls later, it seems he has driven to the Plainlands cemetery instead. He’s on his way. We sit and fiddle, adjusting my video angles, rehearsing. Paula, a young blonde Funeral Arranger, tells me that in her experience, a lot of priests “give these families nothing. Nothing! No comfort, nothing.”

Grosse Gatt wir loben ditch plays. Our young priest arrives with an embarrassed face, he quickly changes into his priestly garments and the Service commences. Firstly, a long explanation and deep apology to everyone for keeping them waiting, and soon we all warm to this likeable, sensitive young man with the dark skin who travelled from Africa, performing the Committal rites to an old woman who travelled all the way from Switzerland to die. I love the journey!

He gives them comfort, and hope and faith. He gives them everything!

The widower speaks no English, and seems happy although a little dazed. It must be a shock: she went too quickly. I am there to film so he can take his wife’s memory back home, and show his neighbours that “he did the right thing.” In thirty minutes, it’s over; we exit the Chapel to Ave Marie. Outside, the hugging begins.

I film as gently as I can, without intrusion, and then head back inside to photograph the detail of the flowers. He wants everything preserved in my camera, and I oblige, clicking petals and the silver Cross and the details that catch my eye. The family are so relieved I’m there, and grateful. Umbrellas are popped open and dribs of black-dressed families huddle together, making their way to their cars. Someone takes my own umbrella, by mistake. Oh well, it can be my gift to them.

They are driving now to a local pub, where a long afternoon of schnapps and toasts will begin; and I leave them to their memories, and drive home; through the concrete canyons of Ipswich Road, past the wonky bridges and enormous overhead highway signs, winding my way through the suburbs to arrive to my own home and find a roast pork dinner – complete with homemade apple pie – all ready to be thrown into the oven. Thank you to my son and his girl, for being so thoughtful. I squeal with delight as I see my kitchen, with dishes full of salads, bowls overflowing with potatoes ready to be roasted, the seasonings, the flavours that beckon. Bottles of red wine are opened, and my husband and other son arrive for dinner.

It’s a perfect ending to a lovely day.

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