Walter had always had the dream that, when he retired, he would take a trip around Australia, having grown up in war torn Germany, the idea of such a trip was irresistable.
He and his family had first lived in Adelaide, South Australia, but after his first marriage broke down, he moved west, with his two daughters. His parents, sisters, brother and son all still resided in SA, so he was no stranger to long drives, crossing the Nullabor,a distance of over 2000 miles every year, for 15 years, and he actually enjoyed the long stretches of emptiness.
I, in my former life had made the trip many times, too, not as many as Walter, but enough to know it wasn't something I'd choose to do if I didn't have to. Before we got married I promised him, that I would go once, lots of people keep doing it, around the country with him, and so early in 2000, we bought a mobile home, quite nicely fitted out, with air condidioning, a must, and set off on the grand trip.
Most people on a trip such as this go clockwise, but we chose to go anti-clockwise, towards the east, which as things turned out was a very wise choice. We headed towards Esperance, and on our first day out, ran into a plague of locusts, they were so thick you could hardly see through them, the front of our vehicle was a real mess. Next day we reached my daughter and her husband's farm, managed to clean up the mobile and after a couple more days headed for Melrose, at the foot of the Flinders Ranges, where Walter's oldest sister lived.
From there it was on into Adelaide, for more family visiting, and a memorial service for Walter's father. His dad had been saying to him for years that it was times he got married again and settled down, so he was delighted to come to our wedding. He was 82, and quite frail, but he had a fine time at the wedding, but two days later we had to put him in the hospital, and he just quietly slipped away. I beleive, that he had seen his son settled, and he felt his life's work was done, and it was time to let go. He was cremated here in Wa, and we took his ashes back to Adelaide so that he could be with his "mutti", which was his pet name for his wife.
After that we drove through the Adelaide hills, stopping at Handorf for some German mettwurst, and on to a beautiful little seaside town called Robe. While walking around, Walter complained of chest pain, which he kept insisting, was just indigestion from the mettwurst, so after resting for a while, we did some more sightseeing, spent the night, and next day set off for Kybybolite, where Kim, Walter's son lives.
Sometime during the night, Walter woke me and said that I should get dressed so we could go to the hospital, after I was ready, he said, no, it's alright, get back to bed, which I did. An hour or so later, he woke me and said, he thought we should go, just as I was dressed, he said, go back to bed, a while later, the same thing, this time I got back into bed with my clothes on. Just as it was getting light, he finally agreed to being taken to the hospital, where, of course, he was found to be having a heart attack. So much for the mettwurst!
Ten days later, the doctors wanted him to go on to a larger hospital, where he would have a proceedure done on his heart. Instead of going back to Adelaide, he wanted to keep going forward, we went on to Geelong, not with Walter driving of course. My oldest friends live in Geelong, which gave me a place to stay while he was in the hospital. After several weeks there, the doctors said it was quite alright for us to continue our trip.
In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.