As with every set of school holidays, the kids visit with family for half of them. The first hour after dropping them off is a strange passing of time. Every so often one of us yells out, reminding the kids to be quiet, purely for the childish glee of watching the other jump with fright, having settled into the peace of a vehicle carrying only two adults and a dog.
We knew that this would be ‘down time’, as everyone across the country is unsettled during school holidays, either as a traveller, or someone having to cope with the extra traffic on the road during their everyday commute.
Maryborough was our destination for a couple of days. It’s a pleasant town, and the Maryborough Caravan Park is situated by Lake Victoria. Danny was good enough to give us a discounted rate for our stay, and a site near the new and stunning camp kitchen/amenity block.
It was a peaceful stay, and we even enjoyed a sleep in or two! A walk around the lake was relaxing – with newly hatched ducklings keeping their parents busy, and a couple of comical black swan cygnets waddling on land before collapsing on their bellies to eat the grass around them.
Luna proved popular again, and at one stage a lady brought over some leftovers from her bbq, and asked if Luna could have them. This lady had lost her German Shepherd, and it was those fond memories that lead her to seek us out. Anticipating a positive response, this gorgeous lady had already chopped a large amount of steak into small pieces and wrapped them in foil. What a treat for Luna!
Paul was approached by a couple of campers, who had already “googled” us to see what we were doing. They were interested in the FPV & Mongrel Gear stickers that Paul was putting on the Legend, as they had just observed a drone flying over the campground. It’s a field that has taken Paul’s interest, and he chatted with them for some time.
We moved on to picturesque Creswick, for a change of scenery. Frank runs the Creswick Calembeen Lake Caravan Park, and loved what we are doing. He gave us a great rate for our stay, and told us the kids stay for free once we picked them up that weekend.
The resiny scent of pine in the air, mingled with spring blossom, was intoxicating. Kirstine found herself breathing deeply and enjoying the sweet fresh air.
Creswick brought people to us, who needed to share.
One neighbour, and older gentleman who’s been coming to Creswick since he was six weeks old, told us of his brother who went to Vietnam and was “not right” when he came back. This man, perhaps uncharacteristically for his generation, encouraged his brother to talk. His brother’s response was that “those who have been over there, don’t want to talk about what they’ve seen”. Interestingly, this man recognised that frontline military service has always resulted in some coming home and not being able to cope, though the naming conventions may have changed – shell shock, post Vietnam syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder. His brother sought help, and has found a way to cope with his condition. Paul was given a genuine invitation to join this gentleman for a counter meal at the pub, if Paul felt he needed to chat. Sadly our plans didn’t fit in to make this happen, but Paul was nonetheless touched by the support being offered.
Another visitor came past to pat Luna, and ended up visiting us three times over the course of our stay. He was genuinely concerned for Paul, as he had experienced a mate who had a breakdown after years in the ambulance service. His mate one day walked into a freezing cold river, and couldn’t be coaxed out, but had to be physically returned to shore for treatment. This man knew then that not only is it emergency services staff that are vulnerable, it is the men in small communities who hold important public roles and feel they can’t “show weakness” by admitting they are upset by things they experience. Paul was surprised when this man hugged him, in an utmost show of empathy and compassion for our situation. Our visitor also went to great lengths to make sure Kirstine was taking care of herself, knowing the pressure that carers and family experience in supporting someone with mental illness. When we eventually left Creswick, we were certain that this man had more of his own experience that he wanted to share with us, but hadn’t quite gotten to that point before we left, instead focussing on making sure that WE were okay, and that Luna had plenty of belly rubs!
While making coffee one morning in the camp kitchen, Kirstine got into conversation with a lady regarding assistance dogs and the life changing effect they have on those with mental illness. This lady told me that her teenaged daughter suffers from PTSD, and struggles to function without her mother near her in public. Sometimes her daughter will take the dog and go for long walks, and they seem to calm her anxious mind. The mother acknowledged the frustration that carers can experience, in having to assist with even simple tasks when away from home, but said that since she went to counselling with her daughter, she understands now WHY her daughter becomes so stressed. It has helped the mother to exercise more patience, and she was very interested in how a mental health assistance dog may bring her daughter more support and confidence. Kirstine reminded this lady to also take care of herself, and find a way to replenish her emotional energy stores. Caring is very much a labour of love, and it can take its toll.
Paul’s nightmares disturb his sleep every night, but they seem to abate so that he sleeps more peacefully in the hour or two before dawn. Kirstine is usually retiscent to wake him until she needs to. With the children away, and Paul sound asleep, Kirstine spent a quiet half hour with a coffee and a piece or two of chocolate at a picnic table, watching the ducks drifting about on Calembeen Lake in the morning light. A simple pleasure, but add in that pine scented air and quiet of the morning, and you have a recipe for self-care, and contemplation of the many in depth conversations we had during a “week off” as parents. Whilst we share our experiences with those who ask, we’re always ready to listen to those who need to talk.