Ruth entered our lives just before Christmas 2002. Our friend Wendy emailed from Thailand, where she was living at the time, to say a delightful young Irish woman she knew was to be visiting Australia and wanted to connect with me, both as Reiki Master and Pagan wise woman.
She turned up, we all clicked instantly, and mutually decided she should board with us rather than looking for other accommodation. A resourceful lass, she soon found waitressing work in the area, and — being pretty, charming, and very nice —attracted the interest of several young men.
She was herself a Reiki Master in Tera Mai Reiki, which was unfamiliar to me. We swapped initiations and training. She stayed several months with us, and joined in our magickal circle.
Then we phoned our friend Ray in Perth to wish him Happy Christmas, only to be told by his parents he had died from a heart condition. They had not known where to contact us.
‘I don’t suppose you want his house?’ they asked.
Ray had always said, ‘There’s a house here if you want it.’ We hadn’t taken him seriously. It transpired that it was built on his parents’ property under conditions which did not allow it to be rented out. Ray had met a woman overseas whom he married, and built the house for her — but the marriage was brief and he lived in it alone until he died. Had we taken him up on his offer, he would have been happy to move in with his parents.
A rent-free home was tempting, now that we understood the situation. Ray’s mother said, ‘I only want someone to water the roses’ in return for the accommodation. Ray had planted a lot, as a hobby, and it was now her job to keep them watered. Adding to the attraction was the fact that my favourite aunty and uncle had moved to Perth many years previously and I had not seen them since. Now they were in their eighties. My aunt had been a ‘second mother’ to me at a time when I badly needed one.
Ruth said, ‘You might never see them again. I really think you should take this opportunity. If I pay you enough rent in advance, you might be able to get cheap flights, and I could look after the house and the cats for you while you’re gone.’
So that’s what we did. Cheap flights there and back meant we would have to stay for three months — time enough to catch up with all the relatives, including various cousins there, and to see if we wanted to move there permanently. As it turned out, we didn’t. We enjoyed Perth very much, got on well with Ray’s parents, and had a lovely catch up with the rellies. We even fluked being there for Writers’ Week, attended all the free sessions, and made a new writer friend we’re still in touch with.
But after all, the lifestyle wasn’t for us. Eventually we missed the east coast and our friends and activities here. Also, we were concerned about security of tenure in Ray’s house if we burned our bridges. His parents suggested putting something in their wills to cover this, but we said, ‘What about your other son? Hadn’t you better ask him his wishes before you do that?’ He was married and living in another suburb, but it turned out that he would like to inherit both houses after his parents’ death, to use one for his home and the other for his business. In fact, when we phoned last year to see if they had survived local bushfires, he was already in residence in Ray’s house, and busy hosing the place. I imagine, as his parents got older, it made sense for him to be on the spot to give them a hand.
After we retuned east, Ruth stayed on a while longer, which gave us time to cement the friendship. She went out briefly with two of her suitors in turn. With the third, things developed into a bit of a romance. He was very keen, but by then she was getting messages from Des, an old boyfriend whom she had actually grown up with in Ireland, begging her to join him in the United States where he was now working. As extra incentive, he said he could get her waitressing work and she could earn very good money in the wealthy resort where he was based. She was torn, but decided that if she didn’t go, she’d never know for sure which man to choose. (That in itself probably indicated that she was lukewarm about the Aussie bloke.)
Once she got there, it was a foregone conclusion. We got emails telling us what a wonderful man Des had become, so thoughtful, so charming, so witty.... The Aussie bloke, an avocado farmer, came round to our place one day to return a book we’d lent him. It was about the author’s spiritual experiences. He said he’d liked it all right until it came to the part where she was communicating with insects to leave her garden crops alone.
‘Only Jesus Christ can do that!’ he said. (Perhaps he had a vested interest in thinking so; the local fruit growers feel they MUST shoot the local birds to protect their crops. What if they were wrong?) I realised this would never have been the right man for Ruth, with her Reiki energy healing and her understanding of nature spirits etc.
She and Des married and now have a daughter, Jasmine, two and a half years old. For the last couple of years they have been living in Vietnam, where Des has been working in construction. This Christmas Ruth decided to bring the family to Australia — closer than Ireland and a lot warmer this time of year. They visited friends in Newcastle, spent some time on the Gold Coast, and are now at Kingscliff, not far from here. They will be in Sydney on New Year’s Eve, watching the fireworks, before flying back to Vietnam.
So, after eight years, we met up again with our lovely friend when she and her husband took us out for lunch on Christmas Eve. We finally met Des, every bit as nice as she said he was, and Jasmine, who was slightly shy and completely delightful. Des told us he was loving Australia and the Aussies — everyone so friendly and helpful.
We went to the Tumbulgum Tavern, which overlooks the water at the confluence of the Tweed and Rous Rivers. We feasted on massive servings of grilled barramundi for Andrew and me, beer battered John Dory for Ruth, and an even huger plate of steak for Des. They said that huge steaks and fresh fish are hard to get in Vietnam.
It was as if we had seen Ruth only yesterday — except that, at 40, I think she is even more beautiful now. It was as if we had seen Des only yesterday too: we were so immediately at ease with each other. They drove us back home and regretfully took their leave as Jasmine needed a rest and they still had to do food shopping for xmas. But with such a strong connection confirmed, somehow we couldn’t feel sad. Besides, they promised to return!