I always associated the words spare parts with cars. That is until my charming and endearing old dad many years ago and aged well into his nineties, while resting on his bed chatting to a friend, made a crack about having so many spare parts. He was, of course referring to body parts, in his case, first hearing aids, much later false teeth and a pace-maker and finally, aged ninety, a hip replacement (a fine recovery he made too, assiduously and uncomplainingly doing all the follow-up exercises, a very disciplined gentleman!)
All this brings me to the anticipation of my first ‘spare part’, since in four weeks I too will receive a new hip! Naturally, I anticipate this with a little trepidation, having always enjoyed excellent health and never having been hospitalized for more than a day, and that, only once as an adult plus a tonsillectomy at the age of three. However, it is time and I plan to take a leaf from my father’s book.
The slow deterioration of my hip, first noticing reduced flexibility in my early ’40’s, has been mostly manageable and not really affected my life other than brief moments or periods, but since returning from visiting our ‘family’ Bali in February, I have noticed a marked deterioration. A once agile gardener and walker now finds bending painful, sometimes impossible as bone grinds on bone; likewise manicuring toe nails, reaching into low kitchen cupboards or picking anything up from the floor. For months now I have been dependent on several painkillers daily and sleep disturbance is often present. And much to my consternation, my regular daily walking routine has in recent months reduced to a few rather slower minutes up and down the street. And I have probably managed to walk on our lovely beach only once or twice this year. Favoring the other leg has now impinged on the so-called ‘good’ hip and both knees. So while the mind feels young, the body lags behind and I am definitely not ready to accept this as a permanent state of affairs! So we wont even mention hearing deficit, what did you say, I can’t hear you!
And so to the little girl on the beach who’s comment a few months (see my blog A Certain Age) was somehow prescient, an omen. Well, when asked how I feel, my I now answer is, I’m fine but my hip doesn’t share my feelings! Perhaps aided and abetted by all this, the sense of time passing, the awareness that way more is now behind than before me, I find myself increasingly drawn to thinking about the past, wanting to reconnect with people from long ago to learn of their life’s journey and see how they are doing now. And from this, and not for the first time, through some recent clever detective work, I succeeded to track down my Belgian friend Marie Claire, precious in my life in Rome fifty two years ago. We exchanged a few long emails and then the wonders of Whatsapp took over. I had thought perhaps emotion would overwhelm me and that I might cry when first talking with her, but instead laughed and talked our way through undoubtedly the longest phone conversation of my adult life. By the time we hung up, two hours had slipped by.
The conversation reinforces for me the notion that people’s essence changes little, with exceptions allowing for unforeseen traumatic life events. Though naturally age has changed our appearance, her essence remains just as I remembered, that of the young woman with long dark haired framing a classically fine-featured face, wrapped in a gorgeous crocheted yellow shawl, indoors or perhaps walking in the rain, bringing serenity and sunshine wherever she went. The paths we have taken in those intervening years may have diverged in ways but clearly have correspond in others. Creativity, music, travel with our respective partners, all important to us both and we both need and appreciate a quiet life surrounded by nature, tending our gardens. And, as if speaking with one voice she says she is really fascinated by encounters in our lives, how we meet and how it evolves, what makes you go or not go, yes, fascinating. So, many parallels.
Though my late teen and early adult years were emotionally turbulent, they encompassed some amazing experiences – the 60’s music scene; the outpourings, creative and political as a result of the Vietnam war; avant garde art events in London; discovering my creativity, a life changing experience resulting in leaving behind a decade working as a student counsellor to become an artist; and some remarkable travels, including an overland trip from England back to Australia in the early ’70’s. Quite unconnected to this, my oldest university friend Janet, ‘returned’ to me letters I had written to her in the 60″s and 70’s when living overseas. And now the synchronicity, as the 60’s letters refer to Marie Claire and her poet songster partner (now husband) Tucker, both really significant in my life.
In recent months, I have felt the urge to write another travel journal based on the above-mentioned overland trip, the six months in Africa in particular. I started working on it a few weeks ago and contacted Bruce, my friend (and husband of the time) with whom I shared this journey, as my memory of these travels is extremely fragmented. I had no photographs or diary writings to refer to but thought he may have. And now in possession of some diaries, letters and photographs, with colour transparencies still to come as he discovers hidden treasures in his Covid lock-down Melbourne home, I am, and will be even more able to piece together these ‘spare parts’ of life’s experiences. May be a while but stay tuned! Hope and trust you are all well.