The Beauty of Second Chances

There is something special about second chances.

Over the weekend we had the privilege of flying to Sydney to attend my Uncle’s wedding. After my last flight experience with Ivy you could say that I wasn’t thrilled to repeat the ‘holding a screaming, writhing baby for the entire descent’ saga, but we braced ourselves – loading into the car and onto the plane. The travelling mostly went without a hitch – although we did leave Eli’s treasured textas on the plane, arrived at the car hire place only to discover none of the car seats had been secured into the vehicle and then managed to get caught in the midst of the Sydney carpark road system which was beyond peak capacity despite not even having reached 4pm on a Thursday. Nevertheless, we made it to Baba and Deda’s house and let out a sigh of relief.

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Baba is still in hospital, after experiencing a stroke in April – learning through pain to walk again, use fingers that refuse to function, and find some hint of positive despite being trapped in a disabled body. Deda is manning the fort at home, and managing to excel in looking after himself and keeping the house in order. You would think that eighty years of having someone perform all the necessary daily tasks for you would ensure complete helplessness when left to one’s own devices, yet Deda has conquered the art of frozen meals, will tell you how to cook two minute noodles (apparently four minutes with a touch of Vegeta is the realm of greatness) and can handwash delicates like a pro. Deda handled our whirlwind of chaos with minimal complaint or parenting advice, though he couldn’t quite help weighing in (or completely retreating) at times, and the kids took to him with gusto. Mum and Dad were also staying in the tiny house with us and we managed to make some great memories together – cooking up a spaghetti feast on day one, consuming vast amounts of strawberries, playing versions of soccer all over the huge backyard, and going for ‘rides’ in Baba’s shopping trolley. It was so nice to spend more time with my sister and her husband as well. Even though we live in the same state, sometimes it takes being in another one together to really get to hang out. The kids lapped up the attention, each of them finding both solace and entertainment in the arms of their Aunty and Uncle.

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We managed to visit Baba twice in our short stay, relishing the opportunity to be able to talk face to face. She lit up with love upon seeing the kids and they made themselves right at home in the Rehabilitation Ward dining room – flopping onto couches to watch Sesame Street, taking turns pushing each other on Baba’s walker and ringing the large forbidden golden bell with relish. When I first got the call that Baba had suffered a stroke, it was a moment of clarity and great sadness. I saw her incredible legacy and the ways in which she has impacted each person in the family, I saw all the times I didn’t pick up the phone and talk to her as well. To be able to get a second chance to see her and tell her how much we love her face to face was so meaningful and poignant. As someone who was already waiting to die when life was relatively easy, the new state of complete dependence is not easy by any means for her, and it was hard to see her so sad about her constant suffering. Seeing Deda rise to the occasion of being her helper, though, that was pretty moving, and I think a great shift in their relationship.

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In the lead up to the wedding I gave many speeches about how special the day was for my Uncle and soon-to-be Aunty and how Daddy would be up the front with his ‘special power’ of marrying people and that everyone must stay sitting with Nanny, Pa or me. After my cousin’s wedding and Eli’s dash to the front to be with Dave just before she walked down the aisle, his stalking around in a funk muttering negative statements for all to hear we were just a little apprehensive. The kids didn’t even get close to making the reception that time. This time, however, we packed plenty of bribes and snacks, which came in very handy when the ceremony was unforeseeably delayed for 45 minutes when my hapless cousin got caught in terrible traffic and only just made it to the start of her father’s wedding. Anticipation and stress levels were steadily rising, my snack supply greatly diminishing and Dad’s ideas of ways to get the boys to be entertained were waning, but we made it through the tense wait and the ceremony was lovely. Dave is very confident at officiating weddings now, and it has been such a privilege to witness his growth through-out the years.

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The remainder of the night was better than we could have dreamed. Initially we our hopes were just to get to dinner time, thinking the kids would completely crash or lose it at some point and we would have to hightail it out of there with our tails between our legs. I’m not sure if it was the delicious food, the scrumptious cupcakes, the flickering candles, the vast and inviting dancefloor, or the pretty girl that Eli set his eyes on but somehow the wedding gods were shining upon us that day and we were able to stay until 10pm! The tone of the wedding was festive and welcoming – kids running around everywhere as well as the ‘Brady Bunch’ like setting of all the children of the Bride and Groom and their partners at the wedding table. Hudson had somehow spied Dave’s bag before we left for the wedding and he latched onto the mysterious black case, insistent on lugging it around for the entire evening, prompting many curious and humorous enquiries: “What on earth is in that bag!?” Eli spied an older girl from across the dancefloor and after making his own introductions, sped back to the table to whisper loudly to Dave: “Dad, I’m 7, say I’m 7- OK?!” Ivy dug into each course with gusto, leaving artistic splatters on the linen napkins which we tried tucking over her finery to little avail. She discovered the dance floor like the others and was gallantly pursued by another little boy who made it his mission to help her up each time she fell. We all thought it unbelievably cute, but the little feminist refused to play along, insisting on doing everything herself and responding with her well-practised ‘grumpy face’ in return.

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As for the stunning couple, they both looked utterly content and happy. The speeches were filled with hilarious stories and meaningful moments, and it was clear that the joining of the two families was a redemptive, beautiful connection.

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I am convinced that we will carry these memorable moments with us for the rest of our lives, and the kids were utterly enchanted by the experience. Life really seems to align in these moments when people gather together to celebrate what really matters. It is almost as if everything clicks into focus, just for a moment, and you see yourself and everyone around you with new eyes. We are all considerably exhausted now, but happily so. Here’s to many more such occasions in the future!

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