Mark J. Keenan
In September 1994, I was 24 years old.
Karen and I had married the previous year, spent our honeymoon traveling around Australia, and were now living in a rental unit in Tuart Hill. We had my nanna's old couch in the lounge room - the yellow and brown cushions matched the curtains - and a TV Karen had bought when she was 18. We’d been given a secondhand fridge and had bought an IKEA dining setting which we would keep for many years. My boxing bag hung outside the kitchen window, under a pergola, in a brick-walled patio directly adjacent to Main St, and a Nissan Pulsar sat in the carport, replacing the 1974 Landrover we’d circumnavigated the country in.
A few months earlier we had signed a contract, with a 19 percent mortgage interest rate, and our future house was being built in a new estate at Quinns Rocks. We drove out there regularly to walk around the site and imagine what it was going to be like.
Karen worked as a receptionist at a pump manufacturer, and I was working as a graduate engineer, for a design firm, on an iron ore project. Both workplaces were located in Osborne Park, which made it easy to get there.
We’d had a fake pregnancy earlier in the year - a blighted ovum - where a sac and placenta start to grow, even though there is no embryo. Karen was now three months pregnant and, while this time we’d had confirmation of the baby, we were waiting for the twenty week ultrasound, and we didn't tell anyone.
Except my mum, that is. We told her about the baby. And we told her the names we had chosen, for a girl and a boy. We told her, because we knew.
We knew she wouldn’t get to hold them. She would never kiss them, play games with them, or read them stories. And she’d never get to feed them cream biscuits from her secret stash.
Mum passed away on the 7th September, 1994.
Twenty five years ago!
Somehow, I’ve now lived just over half my life without the woman who brought me into this world; without the person who taught me about Elvis Presley, how to read and to iron shirts, and why I should fear the plastic soup ladle; without the one who made me....well, me!
I feel sad. I miss her still.
And I feel like crying (okay, I am crying!).
But most of all, I feel grateful.
Grateful for the connection we had, and the love we shared. For what she taught me about about hard work and grit. For the confidence she gave me to be myself. And for the ability to be open and caring, to hug and kiss the people you love often, and to strive to be the best husband and father I can.
Over the past week, I’ve wondered what it would be like to talk to her again.
What would it be like to have her here with me, even if it was just for one day?
So much has happened, what would I say?
Where would I start?
If I wrote a list, would that help?
Of course, I eventually realised I wouldn’t need to say anything.
She would already know! Because mums always seem to know, don't they?
I am running a 50 kilometre trail event on this coming Saturday, 7th September, 2019. My mum will be there; carried by the wind as it shifts between the trees, fills my lungs, cools my skin, takes me forward; in my thoughts and in my being.