One of things I enjoy so much about travelling about is opportunity to meet a stranger and share a moment in time that you know will never be repeated and yet it will impact your life going forward in some way – on how you think, or act. It’s weird, but chance meetings on public transport or in public places often lead to light bulb moments in my own life.
I had one of those last week when I was standing at a bus stop in the half dark waiting on a bus at Rolleston to take me to the airport. The first leg of the journey was part of a logistical challenge I found myself whilst completing a bucket list trip to the west coast I have been trying to get ticked off for some time that would see me returning across the main divide on the TranzApline train.
Always watching my travelling dollar, I was lucky enough to score a rental car that needed relocated to Greymouth. These relocation's are generally no cost, there is always a few days flexibility with the delivery times and they come full of fuel, cleaned and exactly as they would if you were hiring them. The real cost is the $4000 insurance excess that you have to wear as part of the package should you have an accident. You can buy your way out of that by taking insurance it you are not comfortable with the risk. The cars can be returned empty so the only other costs you will have to bare are the speeding fines you may be unlucky enough to incur along the way. Watch out for a little rotund copper lurking in the Arthur's Pass area that I made my acquaintance with! Taking the car allowed me to drive one way, stay the night in Hokitika and do a bit of touring before taking the 4-hour train journey back to Rolleston the next day.
The pretty lady in the bright pink lipstick at the bus stop had thick auburn hair that flowed down her back and in the half dark I wondered to myself where she would be going so early on such a cold frosty morning? While her and I were fighting off hypothermia on the side of the road, the majority of normal people would be tucked up in be of a frosty Saturday morning? We made small talk in-between the “brrrrs” as we waited on the bus. I learned she had been catching the bus for 13 days straight, making the journey to Christchurch Hospital maintaining a bedside vigil to be by the side of her 19 year old daughter who remained unconscious the Intensive Care Unit at Christchurch . Her daughter was a Bipoplar sufferer who had left home earlier in the year to attend University in Canterbury. She had gone progressively downhill over the year with all the changes in her life , lack of usual support and stress of a university workload and when her relationship with her boyfriend ended had tried to take her own life with a cocktail of prescription medicine. Only that very morning at 4am, had she started to rouse for the first time from the unconscious state she had been in since the incident and began asking for her mother. The hospital had phoned the mum at the time to inform her. The first bus into town leaves at 6 am and mum was standing at the bus stop wracked with guilt because she had accidentally slipped back to sleep for a half hour and missed it. She lives in a small rural town at the top of the south Island so she is some way from the comfort and security of her own home .She was staying with friends in Rolleston because she hated driving in Christchurch and so the rental car she was using spent up to 13 hours a day parked by the bus stop in the country as she used the public transport system to commute to and out from the hospital . There is no doubt in my mind that when she had slipped back to sleep earlier that morning, she would have been experiencing a mixture of emotions, amongst them being relief and sheer exhaustion. She was a solo parent, trying to do her bit for her child at a huge cost in so many ways. She had realised over recent days that that the man she was engaged to marry (having never had children of his own), was always going to be as useless as tits on a bull in the support arena. He had visited her for a few hours of the first day but was overwhelmed by the whole process and so here she was contemplating a different sort of future than what she had envisaged a few weeks before. A future that may have seen her relocating to be closer to her daughter and without him. Her own life had been thrown into turmoil and she was faced with having to make some huge choices that were largely beyond her control. I was an empathetic listener, as a sole parent I have had to make some of those choices over the years in my own family, I could relate to this woman. She was at a time in her life when she should be reclaiming some of that lost freedom and choice that she had invested in raising her family – something most parents are prepared to do for their children.
Mental health and well-being are so integral in a world that is continually testing us with good, bad and wonderful every day. I have learned to manage my own brushes with depression over the years, but can only imagine the challenges that mum faces as she walks beside her daughter in the minefield of unpredictability that comes with living with bipolar disorder. As I got off the bus, I said a silent prayer for that mother and daughter. We are all only human and sometimes the ones who appear to be the strongest in crisis are indeed those most fragile. I hope her daughter recovers well and there is some silver lining to come from this awful time she is going through because I felt overwhelmed for her.
When I met my lanky 23-year-old son a couple of hours later after I had picked the car up, I silently said a big thank you as he wrapped me in a big bear hug. It’s not easy raising kids. You have no idea sometimes how you are going or how things will turn out. There is no rule book but, in that moment, the memory of all the prick acts that I have had to bail him out of over the last two decades melted into oblivion. I forgot the time that I had flown to the Huka Falls to watch him kayak down them only to find he had done the run 30 minutes before my arrival, forgot the time that I followed him to California to catch up for a few days and haven’t seen him yet as he was stuck up some gully with a kayak and paddle chasing white water in the middle of bum fuck nowhere and cherished the moment that we were in right then.
I didn’t want to let him go to be truthful as I felt so lucky. Lucky that I have two great kids in my life and I haven’t had too much grief so far. For 36 hours I felt like the only woman in my son’s world. I indulged him, laughed with him, danced with him , drank high class liqueur and sang karaoke in a seedy bar on the coast until the wee hours. Busy as hell racking up wonderful memories all the while pinching myself for being so lucky.
“Cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey.” “To love is to accept a soul entirely, not wishing that the person was otherwise, nor hoping for change, nor clinging to some ideal past.
Depression Helpline : Free 24/7 Help & Support 0800 111 757 Text 4202 www: depression.org.nz