So near and yet so far

by Bea Toews

I live near the ocean, about eighty kilometres from the city of Melbourne where my son and his family live. I have not seen my son and his family (except on messenger) since March 16. Neither have I seen my sister in law and her family who also live in Melbourne.

That’s not a long time: I am often abroad for much longer than that. 

However, there is a grandson, just 80km away and I can’t reach him. He has just decided, to become a naturalist. The first animal on his list since he decided on his career, two days ago, is a possum. 

He has the equipment – a bag, a torch and a water bottle (and a beanie, as the nights are chilly here as winter approaches). He has a notebook and pencil just in case anything needs writing down. He is ready to go. He really does not mind the lockdown and being out of school, as he is the centre of his family’s attention and that is always wonderful for a six year old! I would like to go exploring with him.

It’s pitiful for me that he is so close and he is as far away as if I was in Bangkok. Could I sneak into town to see him? Apparently, we are not to be driving out of our postal zones and the fine is 1,600AUD. The Aussie dollar is very weak right now, but still? 

And when/if I reached their home in Melbourne, would my son and his wife let me in? I’m in the over 70 bracket and another older grandson has contact with the public. They sent the photos I have included and they phone often and we FaceTime: but it is still not the same. 

Not only that, but as an ex teacher I could be teaching the child while his parents work. But no, I am here alone with a list of things to do to keep me occupied.

Not far from my grandson’s home is the home of my sister in law. She and I walk the beach near me, do jigsaw puzzles and play Sudoku, cook and eat, talk about family – do all the family things for women of our age, in short. I am very fond of her, initially because she reminded me of her brother (my husband): now for herself. Her husband had his 86th birthday and I could not be there. His visitors came one at a time and sat 2 metres from him. He had a cake for two. Quite unlike the other family birthdays for which this family is famous.

One of her grandchildren is my goddaughter. She cannot drive out here and I cannot get into the city to see her. We had a conference WhatsApp call on Easter Sunday but that is as close as we have been sadly. 

Would I have been better sheltering in place elsewhere? Perhaps. If it was a warm place, certainly. Would I have been as safe? Perhaps. If I was self-isolating, certainly. 

But here I am! So near, and yet so far from some of the ones I love. 

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