I remember the day like it was yesterday.
Sitting at my desk at the newspaper I ended up working at for most of my adult life. Furiously working on sub-editing the next day’s paper.
It was a Saturday. The Saturday before Christmas 1995.
On a weekend shift at a newspaper, the office takes on a different mood. The admin and advertising staff are nowhere to be seen.
Things are business-like but with a more relaxed attitude because you’re there for just one thing – to get the paper to bed – not all the external stuff that can interrupt that flow on a normal news day.
I’d only recently come back to work after the birth of my first son and was working weekends to minimise daycare costs.
It’s not surprising that I remember what I was wearing – white cheesecloth cotton long shorts with matching white t-shirt; oversized and comfortable on my postpartum body.
The phone next to my desk rang. This was before mobile phones. You didn’t jump and wonder why a person was calling you instead of texting or emailing.
The call was for me.
At the end of the line was a gentleman who said he was a policeman. He was calling from the apartment in which my youngest brother lived in Sydney.
The officer delivered me the news that my mum (who had just turned 51) and my step-dad had drowned in a tramping incident not far from Queenstown in New Zealand. They were seasoned and experienced.
That slow motion thing that happens in the movies? It started happening. For real.
I think I let out a wailing sound. Any clarity I had had five minutes before, quickly before became a blur.
I remember my workmate Shirl. Shirl, who’d lost her own parents, ushering me out of the building and into her car, comforting me as she drove me the 20-minute drive home.
I remember the numbness.
I remember the devastating looks on my grandparents – mum’s parents’ faces.
I remember the family coming together, not as we should have to celebrate Christmas – my son’s first Christmas – but to organise us all flying to New Zealand (they lived in Invercargill) for the funeral.
I remember all of this EVERY Christmas.