Gunnedah- hot, super country and the hometown of Miranda Kerr. It’s been a long time since I have been to this place but the memories and smell of the country and the heat were all still fresh in my mind. It wasn’t until I entered the dry, brazen countryside town that all of these connections came flooding back.
For as long as I can remember my grandfather George has been ill. Initially it started with heart problems resulting in a countless number of heart attacks and a pace maker being inserted in his heart. Then there was prostate cancer. All of which he battled through. But most his health has taken a turn for the worst. After a mystery source was robbing him of his blood, depleting all his energy and landing him in hospital on many occasions, the doctor’s advised him that options had become limited and in frank terms, there wasn’t much more they could do for him. His body was simply giving up.
After hearing this news last week, despite my lack of closeness with my pop, it was still a shocking blow. He was never the most warm or affectionate pop, but was always full of cheekiness and good humour. And the thought of me not seeing him before he passed on to the next world was a thought I could just not bear. After 3 years of not seeing him, I knew that I needed to make the effort to visit him in Gunnedah and spend some valuable time with him, regardless of his ill state.
I will admit I was nervous at the prospect of seeing not only George, but my Nan and relatives, particularly after being so slack with keeping in contact and not visiting them over the past few years. But if there was one thing I had come to value more after getting sick, besides the importance of health, was the importance of family. And no matter what had happened in the past or kept us apart there was no reason that future relationships with my family needed to be distant ones. I knew I needed to make more of an effort, especially now I was on the road to recovery, and this was going to be the first step.
After hearing that my Dad was travelling to Gunnedah this weekend, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to see George and family and enjoy some quality time with them in the town that I once knew so well. So many holidays had been spent up there, playing with my cousins at the local pool, horse-riding and going on many country adventures but I knew this time was going to be completely different. It was the first time as an adult, from what I recall, that I had been back to visit and I knew the dynamic would have changed.
The four hour and half hour trip there was just as I remembered. Long, arduous but full of beautiful country scenery. I remembered all the little towns, the nostalgic landmarks and the long stretch of road as if it were yesterday. How excited I used to get on the family trips to the country and the prospect of summer adventures with my cousins. But the greatest memory I had was my Christmas’s there, going Christmas light looking on Christmas Eve and eagerly waiting for Santa to come on Christmas mornings. I remembered the joy and happiness when I visited and the amazing time I had with all of my family. It is amazing how one place can just make you feel so much.
Despite all of the scenery being the same, as I expected the energy had definitely changed. George looked so ill laying on his fold out chair with a wet towel on his head, gaunt and yellow, and my Nan, while still healthy and alert looked exhausted. Not only had his ailments taken there toll on him, but as his carer, they had taken there toll on my Nan too. With no energy and minimal life in him, my Nan had to do everything for him and despite the love in her heart and selfless nature, the look in her eyes screamed that it was all too much. But with the vow of marriage comes the vow of being by your partners side in sickness and in health.
Regardless of the depleted energy that was present in my Nan’s house there was one thing that was still there- love. Nan with her considerate nature and desire to make everyone feel comfortable and George, despite his dry sense of humour, with his jokes and cheeky remarks. And the greatest thing, on top of this, was getting to see my Aunty, her husband and my cousin Matt after so many years. Talking to them about life and growth and laughing made it feel just like old times. Despite years apart there were no hard feelings and it just felt like I had seen them yesterday. I guess that is the great thing about a great family. Time moves, but love stands still.
While it was a very emotional trip, being possibly the last time I will see George, it was also absolutely wonderful. I got to spend time with my beautiful people. I got to embrace the memories of the past. And I got to enjoy and savour the beautiful countryside. And it made me realise that all the resentment and ill-feeling I felt that my family had towards me was all in my head. I knew I was sick and dealing with my own issues, but I had placed this unnecessary burden of hatred on myself for my lack of communication with them.
Yes this may not have been the happiest reason for the trip, but I am so grateful that I was in a position in my life where I could just take off and for the valuable lessons it taught me. Not only do I know now, to a greater degree, the value of family but I know that I need to make much more of an effort with communicating with them and all my family more regularly. We only have one life and you never know what day could be your last so spend as much time as you can with your loved ones and embrace every moment. What is worse then a life of regrets?
If this is the last time I see George, I can proudly say that the rest of our time together was special and monumental. For as long as I live, I know that I will remember this weekend and the times that I had. But I know that like the rest of us Wattons that George is a fighter and despite all his suffering, he is refusing to give up. It could be strength, it could be stubbornness, but I know that when he is ready to let go he won’t go out without a fight.
So Teaghan’s little life lessons from this trip: Firstly, spend as much quality time with your family as you can and if you can’t then make sure you keep in touch in other ways. Secondly, don’t let what you think other people are thinking get in the way of what you want to do. I thought my family would be annoyed or angry at me for not communicating with them in so many years and hence was hesitant to see them for so long. But this time I sucked up the courage and just went for the opportunity to see them all. The result- some great memories and an amazing time with my wonderful family. Thirdly, listen to your heart. If your heart is telling you to do something, do it. And lastly, live with no regrets. Life is precious. Embrace it!
Peace and love