Walking out

Or should I say, ‘out walking’. That’s where I’ve been this afternoon and, strange to report, not many others! The trail alongside the eastern freeway, especially during the coronavirus era, has been like ‘Bourke Street’, but not today! I hardly saw a cyclist, a jogger or another walker – they must all be out driving in glorious weather in this, the first weekend for many Melbournians to freely go out; out from their coronavirus lockdown, now able to drive anywhere in the state and enjoy our great outdoors, after all those months of being cooped up.

That exodus is not shared, though, by most residents of most aged care homes and certainly not by those, like my wife Dorothy, who are still ensconced in a blanket of security for a while yet, to keep them safe from infection. Much as I dislike the caution, I accept its necessity but I am looking forward to my weekly controlled visit tomorrow, and I’m hoping I might also be permitted to visit three other people I know who live in the same residential facility but in the normal supported wing.

Using that word ‘wing’ reminds me that I have just finished, last night, reading Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming”, which is all about her and her family’s life, leading up to and including the eight years of living in the residential wing of the USA presidential ‘White House’. What a great story, a real-life insight into living as the First Lady, a title appropriate to such an outstanding and remarkable woman. At every page I felt so grateful to have been born into an Australian family, however fractured and messed up were my early years. Like Michelle, but in my later formative years, I was able to find a sense of worth and, by the grace of God, found friendships, stability and love that enabled me to keep looking and planning ahead, to be prepared and ready to help my own family and others along the way. The two biggest takeaways from her book was, for me, to rediscover the incredibly costly, wasteful, privileged, system of representation that applies in the United States of America; of course it has evolved historically and, one day, may well be unscrambled but meanwhile it is messy and so monumentally expensive and different to our voting and representative system. And secondly, to recognise the dedication and integrity of both Barak and Michelle Obama as they broke new ground as people of colour. What a marked contrast to the current office-bearer! As a footnote, I am heartened to perceive the strong bond between the Obama’s and the newly elected president and his wife.

Back to the here and now, and whilst recognising the tragic consequences for so many Australian families, there will hopefully emerge many, and some unexpected, beneficial outcomes of these last horrible ten months (or more) of coronavirus. Things like the degree and extent of government and private support for the unemployed; the changes to lifestyles, occupations, education, health, housing, and relief agencies have all been unprecedented in such a short timeframe. Let’s hope that all those plans will proceed and not be thwarted by political wrangling and stalemates, and that our politicians will learn to value a cooperative and less polarised short-term attitude to these many worthwhile changes. Let’s hope they don’t walk away or walk out, on us, in the coming times…..