Today marks three years since my stepfather died. I'm feeling very heavy and sad. This anniversary is particularly heartbreaking. My stepfather committed suicide. I'm not angry with him about his choice; he was a man in deep psychological pain and did not know any other way out. What I regret is that I did not realise how deep his pain went. I regret not being more present for him. I regret not recognising the signs about what he was going to do. I don't know if I could have changed anything, but I'm always haunted by the thought that I could have.
His death started the stopwatch ticking down the end to my time with my Mum. They were married for 31 years. They were each other's world. He was her carer as she was a Bipolar sufferer. His death sent her spiralling, her body under pressure at her broken heart. She died 10 months after him, hypertension the official cause of death, grief the true culprit.
Her death marked the end of so many things, things I can't even dwell on because the pain is too deep. So today I need to just feel this sadness and pain.
This morning I went for my usual walk around Brimbank Park. I wanted to deviate and try a new path so I headed down the river. As I descended toward the path I heard rustling to the left of me. I turned, expecting to see a rabbit which are a frequent sight, or a fox which I have only seen once, but no, in the brush was the undulating shape of a snake raised high above the ground, coiled and ready to spring.
My adrenaline surged, my flight or fight instinct kicked in, and I ran like the wind. Out on my usual path this park that I viewed as tranquil and calming was now transformed into a potential ambush. I struggled to keep walking, standing in one place, turning round and round, checking to see if there were any snakes nearby.
I struggled to keep going, to walk under the beautiful canopies I had enjoyed so many times, terrified now that there were other snakes seeking shelter there. I grasped a stick and began banging on rocks, fences, stomping on the ground as I walked back out of the park, hoping to scare any snakes away.
This happened this morning, and yet I have spent the whole day feeling that terrible sense of doom and adrenaline, my phobia preying on me and making it difficult to relax.
Hubby did some research and determined it was probably a Tiger snake, arching up to scare me away. It worked. While I knew there were snakes in the park and that this is their natural habitat, there is a difference between knowing and seeing.
It will be a long time where I will get back the tranquility and joy I had from this path. But I'm going to get it back. I'll fight for it. Because nature is beautiful and it brings me so much joy, and I need to share it with all the creatures, and make peace with it.
My latest article published on SBS Voices got 16,000 hits. Made my day. Here's the link.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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