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Where I am

My reality transformed in 2020 and 2021. Here's what happened and why. In 2020, I was in the Gold Coast of Queensland when the pandemic took over Australia. My grandmother, the beloved Elizabeth Wilson, was on the decline with her terminal illness. She was in Sydney closer to the area where I grew up. I felt so far away.

Having previously been just a flight away from loved ones, we were shocked when the state border closed. There we were - impacted emotionally and economically by the most unforeseen circumstances. I held onto an optimistic hope for months.

Border rules became more and more strict. After a while, we could not visit our original home state of New South Wales without staying for weeks in hotel quarantine. That's even more unglamorous than it may sound. And I know it would not have been in my child's best interest. I essentially felt stuck behind what seemed like an arbitrary geographic line.

As the weeks and months went on, my grandmother's health worsened. We talked on the phone. Our relationship simplified in her final year. The generation gap, of culture and values, felt less important than the reality of life and eventual death. I just wanted to be there.

Why did this connection feel so important to me? I looked up to my grandmother. I admired her intention to serve others. She taught me what she knew. As I evolved as a person, I continued to appreciate her strength. Elizabeth Wilson was a determined woman. She was also a nurturing figure in my life. We were connected by an indescribable bond of grandmother and granddaughter. I saw parts of myself in her. We did not always agree about everything. That was another shared trait. This human was part of where I came from. This strong person was struggling. I needed to go there.

We eventually found a place where we could live and a way to support ourselves in NSW. My little trio family moved from the Gold Coast to a home outside of Sydney. We spent months in a temporary location. It was the opposite of my ideal place for parenting and thriving. But I got there. I was able to see Elizabeth in her final months in this form on this planet. This strong role model looked frail and immobile. At least she could finally see her granddaughter.

In those months, all the image and standards faded away. We were simply being human. I needed that experience. After she passed away, I had to reconcile my memories of the public Elizabeth Wilson and the private grandmother. We had such a diverse history. But those vulnerable last months were all that mattered to me after she went. I didn't want to think about the letters after her name or her voluntary roles. I appreciate all that. But I could only give attention to her role of grandmother.

Elizabeth used to have all sorts of ideas about what family should do. Send gifts in the mail. Go shopping. I sense a theme of consumerism. Of course, she knew there was more to family than that. She applied her own personal perspective when trying to understand my life. This was fascinating at times when our experiences contrasted so dramatically. This all seemed less important than raw presence at the end. We would be in the same room, not saying much at all, and deeply appreciate each other's companionship. I could simply be there.

Elizabeth Leigh Wilson OAM passed away in January 2021. I miss her. She is gone. Now we are still just outside of Sydney. The state border is somehow controlled by even more strict rules. We have been trying to find a more comfortable neighbourhood and home to settle in. I turned my life upside down for a beloved family member who is now gone.

I am here, trying to figure out a future in unpredictable times. Greater Sydney is in a lockdown with stay-at-home orders. Even with all this happening, I trust our future should become more comfortable than our present. I hope to settle at the coast of NSW. We can. We will. Somewhere. Somehow.

Life will not be the carefree Truman Show that it was a couple of years ago. Too much has changed. A global pandemic happened. Grief happened. Urban development is transforming the neighbourhoods we knew. I just want to quietly exist in a little village somewhere. Focus on what matters. The future will unfold in its own time.

Peacefully hoping for freedom,

Melanie Suzanne Wilson

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