Gertrude sends her love; she’s poring herself into her studies. I can see how she’s filled with nervousness and excitement at the thought of our newly appointed first female Prime Minister. She’s always walking around the house with a newspaper or watching a political show with her peppermint tea and a notepad (she just walked past me with a cookie, yelling obscenities at the television). She has so many policy ideas to tell me about when she comes home from university – none of which I can understand, but I admire her passion and drive all the same. I just hope she doesn’t reach the point that I see in all politicians – not seeing the forest for the trees. I’m sure all politicians start out with a good heart…
Samuel has been accepted for training at the Royal Australian Naval College. He’ll begin with graduate entry – it might last him a good six years, but he doesn’t mind, as the College is sponsoring him whilst he is finishing his fitness training at university. He can’t wait for the water. He talks of becoming a Lieutenant and, one day, an Admiral. Johann would have been so incredibly proud and unhappy. You know how he hated wars and ego-filled men who, by his memory, always wanted a fight.
I hope your course is going well. I miss that beautiful holiday home of yours. We were all contemplating the extravagant German dinners we enjoyed on the sun-bathed porch before you sold it and left for WA. We miss you Ian.
P.S. I found my oyster. Right atop Mount Gower at Lord Howe Island. It’s incredible. The island is a volcanic deposit, so the soil is rich and the produce beautiful. The discussions for the villa have begun. Eventually I’ll add a restaurant. Finally, after all this time, I can fulfill Johann’s dream. He would have loved to stay here on holidays away from work, in the middle of nowhere.
I’ll be moving back and forth between home and the Island, but my movements will be frequent, so you can keep addressing letters to home.
30 July 2010
My dear Cheryl,
I am glad to hear that Gertrude and Samuel are following their dreams with such vigour. I recall when Samuel discussed the navy with me when he was a senior high-school student. He sat across from me, in the very study where I write this letter, wondering if his father would be disappointed if he knew of his aspirations. You may imagine, Cheryl, the difficulty I found in responding with an answer that would justify the view of my best friend that I so vehemently disagreed with. Johann’s rare tirades always came about when he was watching news and asking me why on earth any man would want to take the breath of another. I hoped Samuel would consider this and remember it during his training. You well know I could not hold onto the house any longer. I am glad, in a way, that I sold it. I believe if I had held onto it, you may not have considered building yours from the ground up.
My course is going well. Perhaps one day, these studies will teach me that something or someone exists up there, as Johann so deeply believed. That is something all of you share, is it not?
Hoping that leg is healing my Dear.
P.S. Oyster pearls form from a parasite. The spot sounds beautiful. From what I know, it’s small and secluded, so it will do very well for private retreats. Do you know how you want the villa built yet?
I did not know Samuel spoke to you about the navy? He has always been somewhat closed up; I suppose his ambitious nature could not be hidden, no matter how quiet he seems to those around him. But then, perhaps he takes after his father – Johann would only open up to you and I.
But oh, Ian, you and I know the passion he lived with. Others did not take the time to see the passion in his gentleness, the way he looked at his children and loved me with every fibre of his being. When I was hurting about something, I could see the tears in his eyes when he watched me tell him my pain. He would hold me and I would feel as though I was shielded behind the walls of an impenetrable fortress. It hurts me to write the ‘ed’ at the end of those words.
Do you remember when the demolition ball hit the building and you were still in your tractor nearby? He didn’t come home that night. He stayed in the hospital next to your bed until you woke up, and he recounted to me every phase you went through that night in hospital.
I miss writing you about Johann’s architectural feats. He would have had a ball with the location we found on the Island.
My leg is healing slowly. The scar brings me pain on cloudy days – occasionally I have to bring out the crutches. The orthopedic surgeon did warn us that my leg would not return to a perfectly healthy state, even after surgery.
P.S. The parasite embeds itself in the oyster.
Council is giving so much trouble over the position we’ve chosen for the villa. At the last meeting with them, they mentioned that ‘fringe benefits’ might push this through. My lawyer was properly horrified, but I was not surprised, having seen Johann deal with this on occasion. I just pretended I didn’t hear it.
4 September 2010
Johann would have done brilliantly on the Island villa. I always admire his skill whenever I walk through my home. I still remember when he and I were onsite during the build, him criticizing me for moving here and simultaneously watching the builders from the corner of his eye – if they dared do anything less than perfect, he would leave me standing there and go to instruct them to redo the job. I laugh when I think of that gleam he had in those hazel eyes. Nothing was too perfect for Johann.
I remember the feasts he would cook up for us at Christmastime in the holiday home – the Liverwurst sausages, varieties of Bratwurst, fried potatoes, Sauerkraut, veal and pork schnitzel, Brezel, jugs of beer and cider, apple strudel, marzipan, and Black Forest cake. He would string up holly everywhere so he could kiss you whenever you passed through a doorway. I often watched him chase Samuel and Gertrude around the holiday home with his tool belt, telling them he wanted to ‘fix’ them. They would consider it a win if one could get his attention for longer than the other.
Lift your leg and place an ice pack on it to prevent the muscle from stiffening when you feel pain.
Did Gertrude enjoy the politicians’ biographies I enclosed with my previous letter?
P.S. The oyster secretes nacre around the parasite to protect itself. Have you developed a response for council yet? The villa will cost you enough without the necessity of paying a significant amount to get the plans through – surely you can get through to the necessary authorities with logic. Make sure you do everything thoroughly, no matter how long it takes you. Keep your boundaries clear cut and ensure that you are well researched enough to answer any question they throw at you.
It has been a long time since we have eaten German cuisine, although Samuel asks me to make it frequently. It is my way of forgetting as it is Samuel’s way of accepting and remembering. He is a much stronger person than I.
Gertrude has become more quiet and reflective, and that notebook and pen of hers have become permanently attached to her. She writes notes even during dinner. Maybe she’ll be a less outspoken politician? Sometimes the strongest acts need no words. She has always had a sharp mind. When you would come to pick up Johann and I to go and see Michael Jackson or Madonna in concert, Gertrude would ask us where we were going before we left. She’d ask me why we were dressed so ‘sparkly’.
She baked the most perfect caramel slice the other day for Samuel and I; a silent gift offering before he leaves for training. Her cooking is just as meticulous and methodical as her father’s. How is the produce in WA? Will you come down for a holiday before Samuel goes away?
My thoughts are with you,
P.S. It takes a damned long time for the nacre to build layers enough to protect itself!
I’ve spoken to my lawyer and we’ve made minor adjustments. I know once we get through this, once it’s final and we can actually start, it will all be worth this ridiculous wait.
28 November 2010
It may take years. But remember that the longer the wait, the bigger the pearl. While you’re waiting for approval, just take the time to prepare yourself, gather your resources and do everything you need in order to ensure there will be no more delay once you’re given the green light. There’s a lot of growth to be done from where I stand. Have you a good idea about your plans now?
Growth may be painful and frustrating, but once the hardest part is over, the beauty of the final product is breathtaking.
I was glad to read about your plans. Do save a week for me once it is built. A good architect rarely takes a short period of time to complete a job, a better architect will do work to suit the best need for the client. If construction takes a year, you will be able to launch in time for peak season next year. Do you know long construction will take? I’m glad this year full of political uncertainty is coming to an end. I hope we can look forward to a more promising year in the months ahead.
I can finally see some growth.
The plans are coming into shape and the villa will be unlike any Australian has ever seen before. The aim is for it to be built as the ultimate retreat. The view from the villa will be mountains and water as far as the eye can see. We’ve found flatter land close to where the villa will be, and we’re in the process of designing an infinity edge pool for a perfect view of the water below, and tennis courts near the back of the house with an endless view of the mountains.
The architect has told me that no property of this size has taken him this short a period of time, and he has been doing this for three decades – I am lucky to have booked him when I did, and he has said if it weren’t for having a goal and vision in mind, it would have taken him so much longer to refine the plans. I can’t wait to throw a huge launch for my travel agents and referrers.
Sorry you will have received this after Christmas and New Year. But Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Have you been reading about the floods in Queensland? Gertrude and Samuel are going to volunteer to assist those who have lost their homes. They leave Sydney on Thursday morning. I hope it’s a marked full stop at the end of the political unrest this past year.
The official start date commences on 1st February, then full steam ahead!
27 January 2011
It has been declared a disaster zone. At least 200,000 people have been affected by it, and the papers said the damage is estimated to be at least $2 billion. You may imagine what that will have cost our economy.
I am sorry to tell you this, and I am afraid to write it myself. I do not know where Angus is. I have tried contacting him so many times since he went to university and I write to you as I have no one else. I wish we were on different terms when he left home – I would know where he is now.
Gertrude and Samuel told me the news. I thought the flowers would be some consolation to you, but I cannot imagine what you must feel. Losing Johann was not the same. No death can be comparable to another. Please know, I am always here.
I am sure Angus has already forgiven you.
I am so glad to know you are doing better than when I saw you at the funeral.
28 March 2011
In my wildest dreams I never thought a natural disaster could have affected me or my family. Of course, when one is comfortable, they would never expect to see disaster to befall them. I am sorry I did not accept Angus. I am sorry I did not try to understand him.
Cheryl, my heart aches so. I feel unwell; breathing hurts and I have no one here to turn to.
Life has taught me well, albeit a little too late.
I am glad you have treated Gertrude and Samuel with more understanding and wisdom than I did my own son.
Remember it is not too late to accept him. Think of him as you thought of Johann; as you remembered him and all he did for you. I know you are unwell and everything seems difficult; why don’t you stay with us for a while? I would love to have you; I’m sure Gertrude would enjoy your company and debate long into the night over politics and war.
Samuel is happy to delay his training at the Naval College if you come down. He will find a local job and stay with us until you feel you are ready to go home.
I’ll be thinking of you. We’re here and the door is open.
I know you are unwell. Please come so we can take care of you. Gertrude wants to make your favourite from Johann’s Christmas dishes – beer-marinated Bratwurst. She’s waiting for you. And Samuel has delayed his training, knowing you are unwell and hopeful that he can be of some assistance when you come.
Please book your flight as soon as you can.
STAR REGISTRY DEDICATION: IAN KOVIN
I knew something was wrong when you hadn’t written for months. I never do read the obituaries, but my heart was playing games on me and I felt compelled to do so. I wish I hadn’t.
Who held your cold hand that night? The coroner said you would have felt no pain, but I’m not so sure I agree. Sometimes the pain of being alone is far more excruciating than enduring physical harm, because it breaks us in places that a Band-Aid and disinfectant simply cannot reach.
Gertrude and Samuel have registered this beautiful star in your name, near Johann’s in the Camelopardalis constellation. The special need I felt to write this came from the letters we found in Angelo’s apartment from you, all carefully tucked away in a box. I hope that, from somewhere up there, knowing this gives you peace at last.
Johann’s holiday house will be finished in seven months, and I will be dedicating the opening night to you. I will imagine you are there, my dear friend, supporting Johann and I as always.
For now, I will try to look up and smile, knowing the dearest two in my life are together again at last, watching over me until I come to stay with you.