Our buried treasures

“I’ve gotta go Dad, there are some policemen at the window,” I said, hanging up the phone.
I walked curiously to the front door, remembering that the doorbell was broken.
I was living at my Aunt Lorraine’s house in Melbourne with a then Master Three.
It was a Sunday night and Dad had interrupted my ironing with his phone call.
Now that too had been interrupted by this visit.
When I opened the door, the officers asked if this was my aunt’s house.
When I said yes, they asked for my uncle but I told them he hadn’t lived there for years.
Satisfied that I was the only person in residence, one simply said:
“Lorraine has died.”
It was possibly the most absurd sentence I’d ever heard.
I’d spoken to her the day before, when she was busy packing for her overseas adventure.
To hear her name, ‘Lorraine’, and the word ‘died’ used within half a second of each other simply didn’t make sense.
I looked the men up and down.
Were their uniforms real?
Was this a practical joke?
While their sudden appearance at my window hadn’t triggered any alarm bells in me, it did with my parents back in Tasmania.
The phone started ringing.
I clearly remember thinking: the only people who have this piece of information are me, the two officers, and the people on the plane on which Lorraine had her heart attack.
I also remember thinking: if I keep this news to myself, then her brother (my dad), her children, her friends, won’t know.
They can continue on with their happy uncomplicated Sunday night, unconsciously secure in the knowledge that their sister, their mum, their friend, is alive and well and on her way to Europe.
But of course I told my mum the moment I picked up the phone and the news began cascading through my family and Lorraine’s gigantic network of friends.
Almost two years later, on Master Seven’s fifth birthday, came the news my dad’s brother had died, also of a heart attack.
The Oigle, as we called him, was claimed quickly in his sleep, lying beside the love of his life.
His dad, my grandpa, had passed away several years before Lorraine.
My grandma didn’t last six months after losing the second of her four children.
My Dad’s family had been slashed from six, to two, in a viciously short space of time.
For me, the biggest tragedy in losing Lorraine and The Oigle was the cruel stripping of their rights to be grandparents.
Gentle and funny, Lorraine had clearly been a mother-in-waiting long before she had children.
And, after popping her three boys out, she was immediately a grandmother-in-waiting, this time for a handful of girls thanks very much.
In the four years since she died, her three sons have each married, producing three daughters-in-law she undoubtedly would have bonded with, though each for their own beautiful and individual personalities.
And, as fate would have it, Lorraine has also acquired three granddaughters – cute as cupcakes and clever to boot.
If life had been a little kinder, she’d have been able to buy them little dresses, brush their cute curls into pigtails, and been the guest of honour at their tea parties.
It’s the same for the Oigle and the little tribe of backyard cricketers he would no doubt have one day acquired and captained.
And it’s no different for the late Lady Diana, with news her eldest boy Wills is about to parent her first royal grandbaby.
One who’ll only ever know his grandmother from the plethora of pictures and stories.
I didn’t start out with a reason for sharing this story.
But reading back, I guess it’s simply to say:
Treasure your grandkids (for most of you nanna’s out there I’m sure that’s no problem).
Appreciate your parents for all they do and want to do for your children.
And, if you still have an oldie in your life, pay him or her a visit.
Because life can change very quickly.

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