Saturday, February 14, 2015

When it's time to say goodbye... by Sheila Claydon

At the end of my last post I promised to introduce you to Lady Sippington. Unfortunately she has proved to be a little shy and has begged me to keep her secret for a while longer. She will feature on the Books We Love blog eventually, however. In the meantime I'll carry on talking about Australia...well the tiny part of it that we are visiting...and the lessons I'm learning.

We have just returned from the small coastal village of Tea Gardens, a place delightfully and eccentrically named after a failed attempt by the Australian Agricultural Company to grow tea in the area. Situated on the Myall River, it is the southern gateway to the Great Lakes, and its waterfront meanders past sculptures and paintings by local artists, a war memorial that actually plays a tune, huge Norfolk pines, blue, blue water, and an eclectic mix of boats. It's a holiday area too, so thousands of visitors swell the small population of residents in the summer season, filling the restaurants and spending their dollars in the local shops.

We didn't go as tourists though. We went to visit friends who retired there a few years ago and, as is always the case with old friends, we picked up where we left off when we last saw them in 2010. Their lovely dog was the same. She came trotting up with her ball as if we'd only thrown it for her last week.

We did all the usual things you do with old friends: went out for a meal, raised our glasses in various toasts a number of times, talked about family and mutual friends, reminisced, and exchanged views about a whole lot of things. We also learned that they will be leaving Tea Gardens next year and moving into an apartment in a busy town about a hour's drive away. Age and illness are driving their decision and when they first told us we thought they would be sad.  Far from it. They are both excited about the prospect of planning a new home, replacing worn furniture, and leaving behind a garden that is becoming too big for them. They are looking forward to living close to shops, theatres, cinemas, a hospital, and the clinics they will need as their health deteriorates. Their attitude was inspiring and one I hope I can emulate if I ever have to do something similar.

I'm always intrigued by how differently people react to difficult life situations. Some are overwhelmed, others, like our friends, amazingly positive. Only by looking at what has shaped people's lives can we know why they react in the way they do. Our friends have lived  in many different countries during their time together, rarely staying in a house or apartment for more than five or six years, so their hearts are not entwined with their home. What about others though? What about people who have lived in their house for forty years, nurtured their garden with love, decorated every room, seen their children grow up, buried pets, grown old do they move forward? It must be one of the most difficult decisions anyone has to make.

Knowing when to make it is also crucial. We have friends who have left it too late and who rattle around in a home that is far too big for them, fretting about the garden and the housework, but not able to gather the energy to make such a major move. We have others who moved too soon and who feel constrained by their new, smaller home and the fact that they no longer have a garden, and sometimes resentful of each other for making the decision. Then, of course, there are those who have lost their life partner and have to make such a decision alone. I don't know whether that makes it more or less difficult. Only someone who has had to face it knows the answer to that.

I was still ruminating on why and how people respond as they do and wondering if I would ever write about it when I remembered that I already have, in Saving Katy Gray, Book 3 of my When Paths Meet trilogy. Although it's a romance, there are important secondary characters in the book who have to make just this choice. I hope I got it right for them. This and many of my other books can be found at