What others see as beauty

2014-09-12 00:00

THERE are some stories that are told often, with ease. And there are other stories that are far too painful to be remembered, told or written. But at some point, the most difficult stories need to be told. And this is mine.

I was an overconfident, underexposed 13-year-old. My biggest problem was which high school I would be attending and whether or not I had practised my clarinet enough. When my family decided that we were going to Mooi River for half-term, I was anything but enthusiastic. It would be three days in a wood cabin with my infuriating brother, my controlling mother and my outrageous father. I had selected four books from the school library and was contemplating never leaving the cabin.

The plan was to go tubing the next day. My mother, who found the whole tubing notion about as torturous as I did, agreed to go cycling with me, rather than brave the dejected tube which my brother and father had left for us. I would have much rather stayed on the couch and read my book. However, I was forced to accompany my mother and so was in a dreadful mood. I said goodbye to my father and brother who walked off with their tubes balancing on their shoulders. Most memories have a tendency to be embellished and romanticised over time. This one was no different. In my mind, I remember stopping my father and telling him that I loved him as he walked off. This probably never happened, but it feels much better than the alternative which was saying goodbye for the last time to my father in a huff. And so I have convinced myself to remember it the much easier way.

The initially arduous bike ride put me in a much better mood and we crossed the bridge at the bottom of the river to the other side of the bank. My mother, who was being kind, let me take a break and we looked across the river at the house we were staying in. We watched my brother floating down the river and in a moment of confusion I exclaimed: “Mum, why is David on two tubes? Where’s Dad?” My mother, in her usual panicked state, started running up the river bank to try to meet my brother and ask him what had happened. I could not hear their conversation. But my mother looked nervous. In my head I immediately thought that my father had died and I came up with a number of scenarios. But for each one I thought: “Goodness Kate, you are honestly being ridiculous.”

My mother was clearly disturbed by my father’s absence and so we rode back to the cabin at a speed I was definitely not comfortable with. When we arrived, my mother rushed in willing my father to be standing in the kitchen drinking a beer. When he was not, my mother snapped. She ordered my brother to walk up and down the path and to try to find him. She, despite the tiring cycle ride she had enforced upon me, had enough energy to set off on a sprint along the river bank. And I was informed that I should just “stay home and read in case Dad comes back”.

I thought this was definitely the better deal but after about half an hour, I realised that I was in the worst moments of my life. My father was missing and I was just sitting there doing nothing. Many scenarios flashed through my mind as to what could have happened. He had fallen and smashed his head and had walked in the wrong direction coming home. He had broken his ankle and my mother was trying to carry him home. In one desperate moment, I even convinced myself that he was upstairs the entire time and had fallen asleep on the bed.

But he was not. I checked.

Over the next hour, I began to seriously worry. When my mother and brother returned, they were clearly disturbed. We walked to the nearest house to borrow a phone. We called my sister and my aunt. My aunt was to pick us up from “the Mooi River” garage and take us home. My mother was far too shaken up to drive. I was disorientated. My brother put his hood over his head, put in his earphones and covered up his sobs while we sat in the car returning home missing one person we should have had.

It was some days before my father’s body was retrieved from the river.

The unaffected river continues flowing. The “beautiful river” which to me, is anything but, remains a reflection of beauty to all others.

I AM a Grade 11 pupil at The Wykeham Collegiate and have been at this school since 2004. My family is incredibly important to me and my two older siblings will always be my favourite people in the world. I play clarinet, guitar, piano and I am a member of the choir. I love to write and can spend hours reading and often re-reading books. I detest organised sport and physical activity; however, I consider myself to be an experienced hiker for my age. I am probably too sarcastic for my own good, although my teachers and friends seem to appreciate it. I would not survive without my friends and they encouraged me to write this short story.

“Most memories have a tendency to be embellished and romanticised over time. This one was no different. In my mind, I remember stopping my father and telling him that I loved him as he walked off. This probably never happened, but it feels much better than the alternative which was saying goodbye for the last time to my father in a huff.”

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