In all my wildest dreams I never expected to meet Tom while on holidays in Cairns. But there he was, strolling towards me down the corridor, his huge, hairy, tattooed forearms, poking out from a burnt orange and yellow Hawaiian shirt dotted with palm trees in silhouette. Thick gold rings adorned his fingers, matched marvellously by a thick gold chain around his neck. His face was worn and tanned from the sun, his hair a shock of grey sprouting from different angles all over his head. Tom was hard to miss, and at that moment he was the most welcome person in my life.
“She’ll be right mate,” he said.
I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me, or my daughter who he was pushing in a wheelchair down a corridor at Cairns Base Hospital.
Yep, here we were on the last day of our holiday wheeling the tween off to have an ultra sound we were hoping would determine the source of her crippling stomach pains. Eight hours before at 3am, the diagnosis was appendicitis, but a visit from an army of consultants and students later in the morning raised other suspicions.
“It could be mesenteric adenitis,” the consultant mused.
Of course it could … mesenteric … what the???
It’s amazing how familiar you become with the unfamiliar when something out of the ordinary happens to you. Now, informed and armed with a wealth of information, I could bore you senseless with a whole column on the cause, symptoms and affects of mesenteric adenitis. But I shan’t, except to explain that it’s the inflammation of the lymph nodes in the stomach, not serious but very painful.
So, this is where Tom came in, ambling along in that casual gait peculiar to northern Queensland men, unhurried and unfazed. A more relaxed and colourful orderly you’ll never see. Stress would rarely feature in his life, he simply wouldn’t invite it in.
“You just wait here luv, and I’ll come back for yer when you’re finished,” said Tom with a big salty wink.
He made me feel calm, he made me feel good. He made me smile. And of course, Tom was right, the tween was okay _ as far as an attack of mesenteric adenitis goes.
It was a rather dramatic end to a perfect holiday spent with my old schoolmate Smil and her daughter Sas at the Big 4 Caravan Park.
Probably not the style of accommodation Smil and I envisaged for ourselves while sharing hundreds of lunches at school, we probably had grander plans of five-star resorts in the Caribbean. But the holiday was fabulous, a real vacation with the girls amusing themselves in the pools and playgrounds, while Smil and I alternated between reading, napping and the occasional aquarobics class.
The latter caused our daughters much hilarity, until we suggested to their horror they join us. We spotted them hiding behind a bush giggling their heads off as they watched their mothers straddling donuts in the pool and flailing their arms around to the sound of doof doof.
No such embarrassing moves were allowed within 10 metres of the tweens, they’d spring from nowhere and wrap their arms around us like straitjackets if we so much as jiggled a limb. Instead
But it was Tom who resonated most with me. That salt of the earth, blokey bloke with the weatherbeaten face and a wonderful easy going demeanor. There are a lot like him in northern Queensland and it’s a pity we don’t have a lot more like him here in Sydney where we tend to forget life shouldn’t always be so damn fast. Everyone needs a Tom in their life, a man with a loud Hawaiian shirt you trust when he calmly tells you mid crisis that `she’ll be right mate’.
Is life too fast in Sydney?