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It so happened that Nina’s Grade 2 class teacher at her new school was desperately asking her students if any of their mothers could draw. Quick as a flash, little Nina’s hand shot up to volunteer my service (in her mind, I could do just about anything, I suppose) and she came bounding in after school that afternoon with a note from her teacher. I popped into her classroom the next morning and came home with tubes of water-colour paints and several pieces of pre-written nursery rhymes on cardboard posters that needed some illustrations done. I set to work the very same night and completed the project within a matter of days. From then on, I became a regular “helping mum” with reading classes in both Sharon’s and Nina’s classes. Somehow or other I also got roped into helping out in the school tuck-shop. The bonus being free lunches for my kids on the days that I was on duty. On my first morning of duty, little Nina excitedly said, “Ooh, mum, you’d better tell me what you’ll be wearing so I can recognize you at little lunch!” Upon hearing her request, I couldn’t help but chuckled to myself as I was the only Chinese mum in the whole school!
Most of my time were spent caring for the kids, helping out at their school and grabbing any odd job that came my way, leaving me with little time and money for socializing. By tightening my belt another notch, I was able to save up enough money to trade-in Wayne’s small fridge (with his permission, of course) and upgrade to a larger one. I felt a sense of achievement as I took delivery of the valuable appliance. On the personal side, the only highlight in my life back then were the infrequent visits that Wayne managed to squeeze in in between his flying duties. During one such visit, a very excited Deej came home from school with the news that he was one of a handful of students who had been selected to attend a computer course for beginners. I wanted to empty my piggy bank and buy him a Commodore 64 package as an incentive reward and flatly refused to accept Wayne’s help in the purchase. However, common sense prevailed and in the end, I reluctantly agreed to accept half the cost from him. The result was one very happy boy…
Time seemed to drag as I nervously waited for the compulsory counselling session at the Family Law Court and by the time I had to front up for the appointment, I was a nervous wreck. Fortunately, Wayne managed a quick trip to Brisbane so I had a shoulder to cry on. After a Serapax-induced sleep at the insistence of my doctor, Wayne accompanied me to the Courthouse the next morning and patiently waited at a cafe while I faced Rick in the counsellor’s office. Individually at first, then as a couple, the counsellor listened to our reasons as to why we wanted an end to the marriage, all the while observing our hostile interaction and body language. It became only too obvious to him how incompatible we were as a couple and the session finally ended with “Irreconcilable” firmly stamped on our file. Quite sad that after almost 14 years of marriage, we couldn’t even bear to look each other in the eye…
Wayne was keen for me to renew my passport so I could go to Port Moresby for a holiday during one of the periods when Rick had the kids. Accordingly, I had my passport renewed and waited with great anticipation for the event. However, for one reason or another, it never came to fruition. With the sorry state of mind I was in, I began to look at our relationship through different eyes. My cynicism towards men grew stronger and I became less and less optimistic of ever finding happiness again, even vowing to never re-marry! “MEN! Huh! They’re only interested in ONE thing!” I’d mumble to myself anytime a guy tried to chat me up. It remained so until the day a certain Karl H. W. came into my life…
When the kids were with Rick, I divided my spare time between spending it with Bev when she wasn’t working and with Helga at her home. I was invited to a BBQ to celebrate her July birthday so armed with a few dozen sticks of home-made chicken satays and a wee present, I fronted up alone. (The kids were with Rick.) As is typical of most Aussie BBQs, the menfolk tend to automatically gravitate towards the BBQ area with beer in their hands while the womenfolk prepare food in the kitchen. Armed with various salads, lamb chops and sausages, Helga and I finally joined them in the backyard. I was duly introduced to one of their guests, a workmate of Gunther, named Karl. We began making polite conversation until somehow, the subject turned to birthdays. By a strange coincidence, it turned out that we shared the same day of birth. “No way,” we said in unison as we pulled out our driver’s licences as proof. Indeed we do share the same birthday, except he came into this world five years after me. He was easy on the eyes, a bit of a hunk, actually – 6 ft tall with an athletic physique and brooding good looks… Now where was I? Oh yes, back to the birthday BBQ – Gunther came up to me and asked, “What are these meat on sticks? I ate one but I think the meat’s a bit on the raw side…” Helga interjected with, “You probably didn’t cook them long enough!” The BBQ hadn’t even been lit and yep, feeling rather merry after one too many brewski, Gunther had grabbed a stick of raw satay and chomped on it without a second thought! Later on in the evening while enjoying a slice of the birthday cake, Helga gave me a nudge, giggled and told me she noticed that Karl couldn’t keep his eyes off me. I would have to be an iceberg if I didn’t find the attention flattering. What a lovely ending to the day…
Not By Chance Nor Happenstance
(Helen Steiner Rice (1900-1981)
Into our lives come many things to break the dull routine.
The things we had not planned on that happen unforeseen,
The unexpected little joys that are scattered on our way.
Success we didn’t count on or a rare, fulfilling day –
A catchy, little melody that makes us want to dance,
A nameless exaltation of enchantment and romance –
An unsought word of kindness, a compliment or two
That sets the eye to gleaming like crystal drops of dew –
The unplanned sudden meeting that comes with sweet surprise
And lights the heart with happiness like a rainbow in the skies…
Now some folks call it fickle fate and some folks call it chance,
While others just accept it as a pleasant happenstance –
But no matter what you call it, It didn’t come without design,
For all our lives are fashioned by the HAND THAT IS DIVINE –
And every happy happening and every lucky break
Are little gifts from God above that are ours to freely take.
I have always been a firm believer in Fate and Destiny and I believe that young Karl was meant to enter my life when he did. We seemed to hit it off almost immediately and we both began to spend a lot of our spare time socializing with the Wenzelmaiers. Once again, I began to feel like a woman and not merely a mother of three. I began to take an interest in my appearance and slowly but surely, the spring was back in my step. By the time our mutual birthday came, he was a frequent visitor at my unit. My heart would beat a little faster each time I opened my door to see him standing outside with his guitar and flowers or some food he had bought for me. I’ll always remember him serenading me with John Denver’s “My Sweet Lady” as he strummed his guitar… Many an evening were spent singing country songs together like a couple of lovestruck teenagers. Whenever the kids were with Rick and I scored work at the restaurant, I’d come home late at night to find Karl waiting for me with supper on the table. He was such a sweet and caring companion and I found it hard to believe that someone like him would want to waste his time with an old bird like me…
It was Rick’s turn to have the kids for Christmas and New Year this year and I declined an invitation to spend Christmas with Jilly as I had scored a waitressing job at a restaurant in Buderim for Christmas lunch as well as dinner. It was well past midnight by the time I got back to my unit to find Karl patiently waiting to keep me company just so I would not be alone that night. On New Year’s Eve, we were invited to join the Wenzelmaiers for dinner and after toasting the new year in with several glasses of champagne, the Wenzelmaiers insisted that I crash down at their place for the night instead of risking the drive home. I was to sleep in their spare room while Karl was given the couch. They then headed off to bed and left Karl and me to amuse ourselves. It was a lovely night and as neither Karl nor I were ready for sleep, we went for a long romantic stroll along the beach. We talked about many things – about life, love, our hopes and dreams for the future, kids, my impending divorce and finally, the “M” word. He told he loved me and my kids and that he was hoping I would wait for his return from a short trip to Germany to settle a business matter.
Despite the fact that there was mutual liking all around and he got on famously with my kids, I woke up from my reverie as soon as he began to talk of marriage. It was decision time for me – do I continue to live in the hope that Wayne and I would be together someday or do I grab at the chance of happiness with sweet, romantic Karl? I tried to imagine a future without Wayne in my life, to never, ever see him again, to never know where he was or how Life was treating him and I realized that I just couldn’t bear the notion… I also considered another important factor that was impossible to ignore. Despite his protests stating otherwise, I knew there would come a day when Karl would yearn to have a baby of his own – a desire that sadly, I would not be able to fulfill. After a week of time-out and many sleepless nights, I gently and sadly told Karl of my decision to end our relationship, giving the baby factor as my main reason. Blinded by love (or was it merely infatuation?) he insisted vehemently that the thought of fatherhood never crossed his mind but eventually, he reluctantly accepted that it was over between us. A true gentleman that he was, he respected my decision and did not persist in relentless attempts to make me change my mind but it was heart-wrenching to see the sadness in his soulful eyes. I thanked my lucky stars that he wasn’t a stalker! A couple of weeks later, the Wenzelmaiers and I saw him off at Brisbane airport and as we exchanged a final kiss, I handed him my good-bye note and bade a silent farewell to a piece of my heart… He phoned when his plane landed in Sydney, “in case I had a change of heart” and several times more from Germany, with the same hope but my decision remained the same. Karl never returned to Australia.
“How do you say good-bye
to someone you shared a love with…
To someone who brought
so much joy and fulfillment…
How do you say good-bye
and let go of that which you once held…
to comfort and to nourish and to love…
I don’t think we can ever really say goodbye,
anymore than we could say good-bye to our hearts.
We will survive,
we will feel love again,
but we will never forget each other.