February 20, 2013
Marsden Cove, New Zealand
We’re back on Sel Citron, after four months back in Sydney.
My mother, Corinne, was diagnosed with secondary cancer last year, just as we’d bought the boat, stopped work, rented out the house and were preparing to leave. They gave her six months to two years. We were torn – wanting to stay, but geared to go. Mum was adamant that we went – and so we planned to get her out to the boat in Fiji as soon as we could get there.
We had twice-weekly Skype calls from the boat and, as we were hit with one delay after another, we watched on screen as Mum’s health steadily deteriorated.
I went home for two weeks in August, at which time she was still strong enough to take on the bush turkey destroying her garden at Hawks Nest, and the two of us shifted about a tonne of dirt in the process of dismantling his nest mound.
But the continued rounds of chemo were taking their toll – and the cancer continued to spread.
Damian and I gave up on the idea of getting to Fiji, and started making plans to go home to be with her. She wanted to maintain her independence as long as possible, which we respected, but when I suggested that Damian doing a yacht delivery would be good timing for me to come visit, she agreed.
When I arrived home, she’d just been admitted to hospital with pain in her hip. That hip subsequently fractured and the medicos recommended a partial hip replacement, which seemed ludicrous at the time. We thought we were going to lose her at that point, but 40 years of yoga stood her in good stead and she made a remarkable recovery.
After 44 days in hospital, we brought her home and Damian and I moved in and endeavoured to spoil her rotten for the next seven weeks. She’d been on chemo throughout the year, so she’d either had no appetite or food actually tasted bad. But chemo was finished and her taste buds had revived, plus she was on Dexmethasone which (as a side effect) stimulates appetite.
Ironically, she was feeling so much better than while she was on the chemo, so we had a great, ‘gourmet’ time. All through her life she’d watched her figure and been careful about what she ate (in the photo, above, she’s 78). Bugger that! With nothing to lose, chocolate was on the menu at any time of day. (Chocolate-coated strawberries for breakfast, anyone?).
I was cooking all sorts of gastronomic delights and Damian was in charge of gin and tonics and ‘pudding surprise’ each evening, when he’d turn whatever goodies he could find in the fridge/cupboard into some, er, ‘exotic’ dessert delight. Always good for a laugh, but always delicious, too.
Corinne was very frail, and it wasn’t long before she could no longer stand or feed herself – but, undaunted, she could still suck a G+T through a straw!
Fortunately, Damian and Corinne always got on really well – truth to tell, I reckon she actually flirted with him – and she always had a great sense of humour, which stood her in good stead through all the awful indignities of her illness.
We had so many great belly laughs – tears streaming down our faces – at the most ridiculous, stupid things, and it was those that got us through and, while it was a terribly sad time, it was also an incredibly special time, one that we will treasure, and I am so grateful that we were able to be there for her.
On New Years Eve she was struggling to swallow, and we were advised to get her into hospital in case something went wrong over the public holiday. She was admitted that afternoon and I think she decided she’d had enough.
She died on January 4.
The next month was just a blur as we sorted through 46 years of ‘stuff’ and two houses. We renovated both houses (family working bees), ready to go on the market, appointed agents and did all the things you have to do in such circumstances.
We were under added pressure as we have to get the boat out of New Zealand by the end of May, or face importing it (and a tax bill of NZ$100,000 or so) – but we’ve only sailed the boat for a total of about three hours. So from a safety point of view at the very least, we’re desperate to get out on the water and get to ‘know’ her before we head offshore.
As of today, our new navigation equipment is delivered, but not yet functioning – before we left in October, the marine electrician installed it, but couldn’t get it working. We thought the chart plotter might be a lemon, so we sent it back to be bench tested while we were in Oz and it’s now back on the boat with a clean bill of health.
But the sparky is still scratching his head…
And, just to add to the fun, the generator – which was working perfectly before we left – won’t start, no matter how nicely we talk to it.
Here we go again…
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