It’s a cool Sunday night. I can’t sleep. I lay in the streetlight glow, listening to distant plover calls. I love that sound. Yes they’re pugnacious birds, prone to dive-bombing and armed with lethal-looking wing spurs, but that sound reminds me of holidays – a time when the worries of the world belonged to someone else. And tonight, they remind me of Grandpa.
Grandpa’s dad built the holiday house. A naked fibro cottage built on concrete piers, built on a sandy peninsular, built into a saltwater lake. It’s an outer Sydney commute now, but then it was a place of deserted roads, vast brown back lawns for cricket and a deep green fishing creek out front. On summer nights we’d sit in the steaming yellow lounge room, talking, while mullet flipped and flew and slapped the surface of the creek. Later I’d lay awake, restless and sweating, listening to mosquitoes zing, my Grandpa’s belly laughs, and distant plover calls.
We visited my Grandpa today; his corner at the end of a beige maze. Past warm rooms with silent television screens. Grey-haired ladies under crocheted rugs. Moaning. The smell of urine and disinfectant. Grandpa’s in his nineties now. Confused. Not always sure where he is, or our names. Days befuddle him. Not today. Today he was sharp. His eyes were sparkling and alive. We spoke about the holiday house. He remembered. Gave us one of his belly laughs. A sound from younger days. Like plover calls.