The 1993 waiting room

Posted on October 1, 2011

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In 1994 The Age published a piece of mine about Grand Final Day 1993. Not surprisingly, come the last week of September each year, I remember that day, and my Mum.

 

I haven’t missed the start of the big game since 1977,

when the Grand Final was first televised direct.

 

For a few years it was a time for old school mates to get

together. Then it became a time for old school mates and their

wives. Then along came the kids. But I get restless amongst all

the hubbub. I can’t concentrate with all the distractions. I’m

happy to share the game with one or two kindred souls who can

watch quietly.

 

In 1993, though, I had other things on my mind, even

though Essendon, of whom I am a devoted fair-weather

supporter, was playing. On Grand Final 1993 afternoon I visited my

mother, who had just had open heart surgery.

 

I took the one o’clock train into the city and then the tram

up Wellington Parade. I had with me a small transistor radio

with ailing batteries. Not a fancy Walkman thing, but a faithful

companion for many Saturday afternoons in the garden.

 

The tram was full. Having never been to a Grand Final I

sucked in as much of the anticipation as I could while still

thinking about Mum there in theEpworthHospital.

 

I saw the scarves and the jumpers, I saw the hope and the

belief. I saw the nervousness, the anxiety, the impatience. I saw

the faces, all different but all thinking of victory. Naturally I

wanted to hop off at the MCG, somehow get in, get a seat, get involved.

 

I arrived at the Epworth at about 2pm. ‘What are you doing

here?’ said Dad. He knew I had other things on my mind.

I saw the top of Mum’s stitches. I saw her smile. I don’t think

I saw, though, the anxiety, the nervousness that must have been

there. She must have been knocking on heaven’s door and I

couldn’t see it. These thoughts are easy in hindsight. We talked

about everyday things–the kids, the train in, the football.

 

Other patients had their televisions on, little screens hanging

above their beds. Tiny TVs for such a big game. I craned my

neck, looked up, distractedly.

 

The pre-match entertainment was nearly over. From Mum’s

window we could see the MCG, the thousands of black and red,

and blue and white balloons floating skywards. The plumes of

colored smoke. Just over there, on the other side of the glass.

 

Dad didn’t want me to miss the first bounce of the ball. Just

before 2.30pm he took me to a waiting room. A nurse and a

visitor were there too, watching the big television, waiting.

 

The umpire bounced the ball. The crowd roared. My heart

jumped. Go Dons, go.

 

‘There, you can go home now,’ said Dad.

 

He was right, in his matter-of-fact, sensible, protective way.

 

I said goodbye to Mum, who was sitting by her bed, talking

on the phone. Flowers, tubes, machines, nurses. She looked

skinny, very skinny. Just like me. Dad saw me to the lift.

 

At thePunt Roadtramstop I listened to the call of the game.

Through the faint crackle of the old transistor I worked out that

the Dons were doing well. DownWellingtonParade, past the

MCG, toFlinders StreetStation. I crouched on the pavement at

Platform 6 and tried to hear some more, in spite of the

weakening batteries, the rumbling trains, the announcements

over the PA.

 

Ten minutes into the second quarter and the game was as

good as over. Inside the train I had no hope of picking up

anything on the trannie. I endured the Bombers’ success in

silence. Go, Dons, go.

 

I watched the second half of the game at a friend’s place

although I hadn’t expected there to be half-a-dozen visitors, all

strangers to me.

 

Grand Final Day was not the last time I saw Mum but it’s

the most vivid of my final memories of her. Her recovery was

apparently going well until one morning two months later. She

woke up, opened the bedroom curtains to greet the gum trees

and the kookaburras and the currawongs and then lay down,

tellling Dad she was a bit dizzy. Her time was up.

 

 

First published in The Age (1994) and then in Vin’s collection of family stories, Jacaranda Avenue(2008).

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