25th - 27th
Forgive me if I lump these days together. Compared to the daily grind of riding, these were relaxed, rest days catching up with emails and replacing worn bits of bike. Incidentally, I have run through one set of shoes (they were five years old when I arrived), one set of cleats, one chain, and three touring tyres.
We stayed with Sharon Emmett. She lives in a house built by her late husband, Don, a master builder, and if walls talked, as they sometimes do through Mrs. Emmett’s stories, they told of a house created with every whim and then some she did not know she had in mind. We quickly fell into a routine of breakfast on Australia’s own Wheet-Bix, toast with gum tree honey from her son’s place on Kangaroo Island, and fruit followed by tea.
Talk often shifted to Don, Anthony’s grandfather. It told of stories and memories of life that make up a family’s mythology. Having lost my own grandfather recently, it felt good to see Anthony’s come to life through Mrs. Emmett’s words. He was a big man; when young, he was tall, dark and handsome - clearly a presence of a man. I gather he was pragmatic. Mrs. Emmett, when in her new house, she suffered from a downsizing of kitchen space. Upon spying a kitchen cutting board on wheels that could act at a kitchen island, Don measured it. After outlining the size in tape on the kitchen floor, he assured Mrs. Emmett that she would have one if she avoided stepping on the tape for the week. Needless to say she now has that lovely cutting board.
No doubt, he was strong-willed, only dying after several years of enduring difficult illnesses. My grandfather was lucky; he suffered only mild illness, if any, throughout his life. When death came, it was quite sudden. Nothing about death is good, but I’m glad he did not spend his final years in a nursing home. With the exception of a short few weeks at the hospital and hospice, he went out traveling.
He would be tickled to know that in Mrs. Emmett’s house, on the far side of the world in her small workshop adjacent to the garage, sits a Hanson bathroom scale, faded green in color, its measurements in kg and stone (14lbs = 1 stone, it’s an older form of measurement still used by older generations in England Ireland and Australia). It was made in the "Republic of Ireland." For those of you who don’t know, my family made scales for nearly five generations. In the 1960s, my grandfather made a bold move by taking the whole family to the west coast of Ireland to the little town of Sligo where "Hanson Scales" became the major employer for over 40 years. One of the places they exported to was Australia. This scale, now with a few rust spots, is still keeping weight for Mrs. Emmett. They were imported by a gentleman named Peter Marich. He also died recently. On my last trip to Australia, I was the guest of his son, Rob, and Rob’s wife, Jan. We went surfing at the Palm Beach Surf Club where Rob and his family are members.
To come so far and to see something that my grandfather designed and manufactured in an unexpected place brought him vividly back to me. I held the scale and then stepped on it. It still kept weight. I thought of Grumpa Stan. He would be proud that his work is still around and keeping weight.
I did not want to talk of death with Mrs. Emmett. I don’t know if I mentioned that my grandfather had died, but I was happy with her stories of Don, her memories of the man who meant so much to her just felt good. She did not know she was giving me more than food and shelter, so much more.