Fri, 7 Sep, 2018
Why my trip back home unexpectedly filled me with pain and confusion
Ray Thomas left his family farm in South Australia when he was in his 20s and moved to New Zealand. He has always loved writing short stories and watching sport. He married an amazing woman 16 years ago and they both retired three years ago. They love family life, travelling, spending time in their large garden and fostering young children.
It all began innocently and without warning. On a recent trip to my home state of South Australia, I had visited a niece and her family, and then my older sister, in the same day. Surrounded by the once familiar countryside, now almost drought-like after months of virtually no rain, pain and confusion slowly began to build within me. Initially, it felt like a small fire that I thought would soon burn itself out.
After spending time with family, I began to realise the importance of being around family members. It started simply by talking about family members and loved ones, both past and present, which were reinforced when looking at old photos. Memories of family members I had not thought about for decades suddenly became very real, and for some reason, extremely important to me.
Why now? Why after leaving the country of my birth more than 45 years ago? I didn’t have the answers, and to this day I still haven’t, but I knew the confusion to be real, the pain had not yet set in.
Little did I know that during the remainder of the trip, the fire would not extinguish. Rather, it was like a wind had caught it and began to totally consume me. Staying with very dear and close friends, and spending time around my beautiful home city of Adelaide, did nothing to quell the fire. In fact it only inflamed it even further.
A short time later, we were staying at my brother’s house at Port Elliot, and spent many happy days there, and nearby Victor Harbour, both places I knew really well and enjoyed. It was here that the pain began. The pain of possibly never again spending time in that part of the state with its magnificent scenery and memories was very real.
Then we visited my parent’s graves at Mundalla and a chance to “talk” to them and former friends/neighbour who are resting nearby. Suddenly, an absolute realisation I was home and the pain and confusion really began which I could not understand but knew to be genuine and real. Now, I knew and accepted that the bushfire which had been burning strongly within me was totally real which while being frightening at times, also contained a sense of inner peace. Several precious days with my elderly, frail brother, his amazing wife and several members of their family, capped off an amazing trip.
Upon returning to New Zealand, I have accepted the trip had a profound effect on me, left me feeling confused, with a very strong sense of being called home. The pain of wanting to return home is palpable, as is the confusion of knowing what to do next.
Do I allow time to take its course, with the possibility that the strong feelings will disappear? I sense not, but this is a remote possibility.
What I would like to do, is not rational, and totally unfair on my amazing wife. I could visualise us buying a house in Victor Harbour close to, or with views of the beach. A house with a large garden, because we both love gardening, would be ideal for us. We would obtain a cute, little dog which we would take for daily walks, along the many beautiful, picturesque walkways.
However, realistically at our age to suddenly move to another country with all the associated issues involved with shifting, and adjusting to the scorching summer heat would be difficult, but problems we could overcome. The biggest issue for my wife would be moving away from her very close family, friends which would not be fair on her. As much as I would love to return to live, realistically I have to acknowledge that it is highly unlikely to happen.
So what options do I have? There are several, but none that totally resolve the problem. Until this has happened, with me being an Aussie but now married and happily living in NZ has never been an issue, but now it is. I love everything about New Zealand. Over the years, it has been very good to me, including marrying my amazing wife. I love the magnificent scenery the snow-capped mountains during the winter time, the lakes and the comparative short distances between towns and cities.
Driving across the South Island is approximately the same as driving from Adelaide-Bordertown. To drive from one end of the island to the other takes approximately the same amount of time of driving from Melbourne-Sydney. There is nothing NOT to love about this beautiful country, but it is NOT home. I usually describe Australia, in a general sense, as being “too flat, too dry, too boring, you travel great distances, to get anywhere”, but it is ultimately home.
Many years ago, I purchased a plot at the local cemetery, near to where my wife will lay next to her first husband… the “love of her life” and the father of their two incredible children. The thought of resting reasonably close together has always been comforting for both of us. Now, however the pain and confusion becomes very real, not only to me, but my amazing wife.
Do I forsake that or consider the option of having my ashes returned home to be close to loved family members? The thought of not being with my wife pains me a great deal, as does the thought of not returning home and being close to family.
I have discussed my pain and confusion with her, and although she has not said a great deal, and doesn’t want to influence my decision, I sense she understands my desire to return home but saddened that after countless years of happy marriage, our final resting places may be separated by a great distance, rather than the close proximity we had always envisaged.
With time, hopefully I will obtain total clarity and know what to do. Thereby my pain and confusion will cease, and allow my fantastic wife and I to live our (hopefully) long and precious lives together.
A few weeks later
Time is not necessarily a great healer, but it does allow a chance to reflect. At the time, my pain and confusion was very real, to the point that it was affecting me mentally, and physically.
I have looked at possible alternatives regarding my burial, but have decided to not pursue that, at least for now, because it is too painful to think about and where there seems to be no perfect solution.
It has become obvious, that returning to South Australia to live is no longer a viable alternative. The time has come, not to entirely forget about the pain and confusion, but not allow it to totally consume me, like it did for several painful weeks.
I have needed a distraction, something else to focus my life on, and with the help of my amazing wife, we are about to do just that. We are both excited about what the future holds for us.