I’m back. Well, sort of. I’m currently out in the Dandenongs and staying with my grandparents. It’s beautiful up here: the air is clean and fresh, yet still weighty with the scent of eucalyptus, mud, and jonquils. It’s a good smell, an Australian smell, and a smell that I hadn’t realised I’d missed until now.
I really just transited through Melbourne for a couple of days, picked up a new phone, caught up with a couple of my close friends before heading out again. As the one thing I have right now is a flexible schedule, I decided before I arrived that I’d head out to see my family as soon as I could. Both my grandparents were hospitalised almost simultaneously while I was away, and I really needed to see for myself that they were actually back, that they were still mine.
My grandmother bared her wrists and showed me the red, puckering scar that ran up her forearms, a reminder of the time three months ago when they removed some arteries and inserted them into her heart. She opened her collar and showed me the seam that ran from the base of her throat to her stomach. She had a quintuple bypass and is still shocked that she feels tired, and that she has to nap sometimes in the afternoon. She still seems in awe of the fact that she, of all people, was for a while helpless and hurting and unable to maintain her sense of humour.
She is still here.
My grandfather was hospitalised on the day my grandmother went home. He was shunted into an isolation ward as they thought that the TB he contracted as a teenager may have resurfaced. Then they thought he had cancer. Today we found out that he will cough and hack until he dies, but it won’t be that which kills him. So we drank a bottle of champagne, of which he would only have half a glass. But he is skinny now, turtle-like, and his head extends more tentatively than it used to from his rounded shoulders. Now when I hug him, his vertebrae feel like dinosaur bones. My Omi tells him to go outside when he heaves and hacks, as the sound is not nice to eat with.
He is still here.
They live on a hillside block in an Austrian-style, A-Frame house in a town they moved to twenty years ago because it reminded them of their home in Slovenia. They live here alone, drive, do their garden as much they can, and, despite it all, still need to be convinced to substitute low-fat yoghurt for cream in their meals.
They are still here. It’s good to be home.