“I don’t want another cat.”
I said it, and I meant it.
Our beautiful old boy had died after 21 years and he couldn’t be replaced.
Then along came Miaow, a cat like no other.
She found us one cold winter’s night, sneaking into the pantry to snack on the farm dogs’ biscuits.
She was perilously shy. One whiff of human and she fled.
Hunger drove her back. I’m not quite sure how she dared to stay.
Over the years we’ve come to an arrangement, she and I.
I feed her every night. Once in a blue moon she will graciously allow a pat. I can tell she’d love more, but she just can’t bring herself to accept them.
Miaow patrols the territory she’s decided is hers. There’s no sign of a mouse in the pantry during winter, when she curls up in the box of farm papers appropriated as her bed.
The hayshed is home over the summer months. Hidden in the hay, she keeps a close eye on the ducks nesting between the bales. She may be the bane of sparrows and mice, but I’ve never seen her pounce on a duckling. Early on, the ducks and Miaow declared a truce.
There’s no ignoring her when she calls. A piercing miaow leaves me in no doubt that food is required NOW.
She is possibly the world’s most unrewarding cat. And yet, I’m proud that she trusts us enough to stay. I wouldn’t be without her.
Our house sits on top of a hill, alongside a gravel road and nestled behind a row of tall, leafy eucalyptus trees planted by my father-in-law 40+ years ago.
Eucalypts — otherwise known as gum trees — are a very hardy group with plenty of annoying features. They’re not pretty trees: they don’t change colour in autumn nor have blossom in spring. There are no lovely scents or delicious fruits appearing on our trees. The bark peels off at the drop of a hat, it seems. Great swathes of the stuff, which blows all over what passes for our front lawn. Accompanied by myriad dry leaves, these cover the grass and blow into the carport every time the wind picks up.
Gum trees are vigorous. Their roots suck the goodness from the ground all around, and those pesky leaves create a mulch through which very little will grow. That’s my excuse for not having a decent garden.
In autumn, winter and spring, the tall shadows slide over the house, blocking out the precious sunlight far too soon. On the other side of the row it’s bright and breezy. Behind, in our garden, cold and grey.
And yet we will never chop these trees. For their good far outweighs their bad.
When the wind is howling along the road, stirring up a choking cloud of dust, there’s not a speck on our side of the trees. During summer’s scorching heat that early shade is a welcome relief. So many storms have beaten on those trees: they’ve withstood every one. No windows have been broken, no trampolines tossed, no rubbish bins rolled: the trees are our protection and shelter.
So here’s to the gum trees. Long may they stand.
I don’t remember a summer as consistently hot as this one has been. The month’s temperature map on the TV last night showed it clearly: the South was red (extreme) all over.
It’s weeks since I rolled shut the tunnel-house vents. Inside our house, everything that can be open, is. Most days the temperature is 30ºC or more. We’re tough, of course. No air-con here!
The HRV temperature gauge shows clearly that you wouldn’t want to be in the roof cavity in the afternoons — it registers 50+ºC whenever the sun is out.
Now I’m not actually complaining about this. I much prefer having a dry, hot summer than the dry COLD summer that we had last year. That was horrible. And I know it could be worse. At least I don’t have to play tennis in this heat.
But for the first time ever, this summer, I bought a cooling electric fan.
And for that, I am very grateful.
Every time I fall into my cosy, warm bed, I remember how lucky I am to be so comfortable.
There are so many people in the world who have lost the place they called home. Whose beds are buried beneath the rubble of earthquake or storm-smashed buildings. Or worse, in bombed out ruins. Man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds.
Closer to home, even in “Godzone” there are people living in cars, crammed into sheds or on the street.
There but for the grace of God…
So every night I pause to think, and thank God for my lovely bed.
“No pressure,” I said to all my daughters.
“Take as long as you want. Only have kids when you’re ready.”
Translation: THERE’S NO WAY I’M READY TO BE A GRANDMA!
Then along came Harvey.
The little miracle who undid all my fears and captured my heart from the moment I held his tiny, tiny body in my arms.
He was born 7 weeks early, and right from the start he proved he was a winner.
While other babies struggled along with oxygen and drip feeds, Harvey broke all the records for independence. He lapped up his mother’s milk. Tore out the drip feed line from his nose. Waved his arms and refused to be wrapped. Slept, fed, grew and came home after only 3 weeks in hospital.
Now he’s 6 months old. His solemn gaze when I first appear, and the gradual smile that spreads over his little face when he realises it’s Nan – they just melt my heart every time.
What a lucky little boy – to have such wonderful parents, learning and growing with him; To be a fighter and a winner; To have so many people who adore him.
Today I’m grateful for Harvey. Who said I’m not ready to be a grandma?
Every time I trot down the stairs at the Remarkables Mall I remember that once upon a time this was an impossible dream.
Once upon a time I would slowly dot-and-carry down the unending staircase, clinging to the rail for support.
And every step was pain-full. Each step brought the possibility of failure.
My knees were so sore that ordinary, everyday activity was a trial, and actually getting fit a far off dream.
At least once a week I had nightmares about being caught in the middle of traffic (with no clothes on, lol) with my knees just refusing to move.
I was 55 and, as my 79-year-old mum remarked, I was even more decrepit than her. (Thanks, mum.)
And I am thankful beyond words that those days are behind me. It has been a long road to recovery, without medical intervention, I might add, because although it felt so bad and limiting to me, I was nowhere near bad enough to consider any sort of surgery.
So with a combination of supplements , shoes, exercise and most recently acupuncture, I can do the aforementioned stair trotting any old time I please.
And that’s why I’m so grateful, today, to go up and down the stairs.