“Come and stay in the holiday cottage with us; take a break from your Mum,” says my Aunty over the phone.
I don’t need to be invited twice. Any excuse to hop on a train cross country- my favourite way to travel. My Aunt and her partner live in North Wales, but a family gathering is happening in South Wales, and it’s the perfect time to catch up with my cousin, her husband, and their 3 kids, as they celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.
They’re staying near where Mum and her 3 siblings grew up, around Gowerton. I’ve never been there before: I’ll get to see the house they grew up in, the school they went to, and most importantly, the bays and beaches over which they gazed as they matured, following their dreams.
But I’ll have to ignore the stab of guilt at not taking Mum with me. I know full well that she actually needs the stability of her routines in a familiar place, rather than the stress of travel and an unknown environment, plus that I need a tiny respite; I decide to lie.
“I’m going back to London for a couple of days Mum, to catch up with some friends from Australia…”; my voice peters out as I don’t want to deceive her any further. I tell her 3 daily carers where I’m really going, and why; they all agree it’s for the best not to tell her. I ring our local cousin and tell her too, so she knows where to get hold of me if anything urgent happens.
Then I realize I have to unwire my ‘guilt button’, so I can commit to the adventure and reunion.
It was such a fantastic break. Remember my 4-day hike in Tasmania, and all those stunning photos? Wales was similar, but without the 15kg backpack (or snakes and wombat).
The highlight was walking over to Worm’s Head, which involves crossing a causeway at low tide; you literally have to time your walk, as the ocean rushes back in and can trap you on the island. My 77-yr old Aunty with the replaced knee was up for it, so 3 generations of us got up at 5.30am to match the tides and tackle the wet rocks.
The early mist hid the stunning scenery at first, but by the time we began our crossing, the sun was coming out.
It was so strange to be walking on the bottom of the sea, and the views back to the mainland were stunning.
We didn’t have enough time to get all the way to the ‘head’ of the ‘worm’, but next time I will. Some folk call it the eye of the dragon, and perhaps you’d agree?
And when we headed back to the mainland, the sun was shining over the beach, which felt fortuitous.
We laughed, gossiped, remembered family histories, and filled in gaps about our lives as they’re unfolding, so far from each other. Mum not being there was like the elephant in the room though, and we all felt very sad about it. Finally my cousin, Mum’s younger sister, and I sat quietly together in the living room, and shut the door on the others.
What are we going to do, and when are we going to do it?