I was sitting on the ground with tears rolling down my cheek, as I spoke to my mum in her grave. “I really miss you a lot mum, I just wish that you didn’t leave me when I was so young” I said as I placed the 9 red roses, representing 9 years since her passing. The roses came from our front garden, which mum had planted the year that I was born 17 years ago. Since her passing, I worked hard to maintain them, even threatening to run away from home, each time dad thought about pulling them out.
Dad now lay in the grave beside her, having recently passed away after a car accident, and I had placed a single protea flower stem, representing South Africa, where dad was born, but came to Australia as a young boy. I was alone now, I had no family that I was aware of, and the lawyer that came to visit me, announced that the 942 - acre river side property, that I had lived on all my life was mortgage free, and there were no debts.
Located just 18 km’s downstream from the town of Toodyay by road, I had managed to get my driver’s license last year, so I was able to be mobile since my father was killed. In the past 1 ½ weeks since the accident, I was thankful for the assistance of the family lawyer, who helped me with organising my father’s funeral, I was pleased that my dad had a prepaid funeral organised and he had expressed that he wanted no funeral service, just a burial beside his wife, my mother.
The lawyer said that my father had established, a university fund for me, so that I could continue my education, which had been mostly a private education, at the nearest Grammar School in Guildford, which I was just ten weeks from completing, when the last school term commences next week. At the time of my father’s passing, it was on the third day of the spring holidays, and I was just three weeks short of my 18th birthday.
With the assistance of the lawyer, I was able to remain at home, without any interference from the Department of Family and Child Protection, and with the money that I had saved from the winter and summer holidays from the past three years, I had enough money to keep myself fed, until the funds were activated for me to remain at home.
As I began to stand up in the local cemetery, wiping away the tears from my face, I suddenly realised that I was not alone, and I saw a young man standing under a tree near the gate to the cemetery, looking in my direction. “What are you looking at, why don’t you just leave me to grieve on my own” I said bitterly to the young man, who appeared to be not much older than myself.
“I am sorry Huon, I did not intend to intrude, I am sorry for the recent loss of your father” the young man said with a distinct foreign accent. “H… how did you know my name and who are you? I asked a little shocked, and I saw him smile, “Can I offer you a pub meal, and discuss it over lunch, and my name is Sebastian Alexandre Wagner” the young man said to me. I nodded my head, and made my way to my car, and drove to the main pub in town.
I spotted the young man – Sebastian, park behind my car, and he followed me into the pub, where we found a table in a corner, and as we sat down he held out his hand, and pausing for a moment I shook his hand. “It is good to meet you at last, I have known about you and your father for about 6 years, as my father started to show me a bit about his business.
As I said my name is Sebastian Alexandre Wagner, my father was Alexandre Sebastian Wagner, and when he was teaching me about his business interests, he told me a story about his time as a university student in Oxford. He had a room-mate and they became good friends, he was your father – Mathew Devonport” the foreigner said to me. “You said was, has he died also?” I asked the young man, as I tried to work out where he is from, but his accent was mixed, and hard to pin point, all I could guess was that it was somewhere in Europe.
“Yes, with some strange coincidence, my father was killed in a car accident in the Alps, returning home from a meeting, on the same day as your father, and with the time difference, it was just within a few hours after your father, and I can see that you are trying to work out where I am from. The large town of Sevelen, that I live in, and where I was brought up, is near the banks of the Rhine River, just inside the Swiss border with Liechtenstein, 2 ½ km’s to the east” Sebastian said to me.
“Wow, that sounds like a nice place to live, lots of mountains I guess? I replied, “Yes, there are mountains to the North West and South West in Switzerland, plus mountains to the East in Liechtenstein. German is the main language that we speak there, but also Romansch and Italian, which I also speak fluently, as I do with English” Sebastian said with a smile.
“I have been to Europe twice, only after my mother died from Cancer when I was about 8. My dad wanted me to see a bit of the world, while I was still young. Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice on the first trip when I was 10, and Copenhagen, Kolding, Horsens and Aalborg on the second trip when I was 13, so I know a little bit of Italian and Danish. Dad was planning to take me to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, for Christmas this year but…” I said to Sebastian.
“Potrei essere in grado di insegnarvi un fluente italiano, mentre sono qui?” Sebastian said to me, and I was surprised that I understood every word of what he said. “Maybe I can teach you some fluent Italian, while I am here?”. “Sì, questo sarebbe un buon ringraziamento. Quanto tempo rimarrete in Australia?” I said hoping that I had not said it incorrectly. “Bravo, that was perfect, I will be here for as long as it takes to complete my business” Sebastian replied to me.
“I took Italian as a foriegn language in Years 7, 8 and 9 at school, but didn’t continue it after that, I guess because I didn’t have anyone to talk to in Italian” I explained. We enjoyed a nice steak and salad pub lunch, and Sebastian continued to speak in English, but changed to Italian every now and then, to test my language skills, and I understood most of what he said to me.
Sebastian explained that when our fathers were studying at Oxford, they were in the rowing team together, and did fairly well, but one Northern summer, while swimming in the Thames, Sebastian’s father got cramps in his legs and nearly drowned, and it was my father who saved him. Sebastian said that he would repay my father for saving him, and each time he brought the subject up, my father refused to accept any gift or reward.
A few years after they graduated and returned to their respective home countries, they lost contact with each other. About a year ago, Sebastian’s father reminded him of this event at Oxford, and made his son promise that one day, he would repay the debt to his university friend, and that is why I am here.
I looked at Sebastian in a confused manner, not fully understanding what he ment by that, and Sebastian chuckled, before speaking. “Like you, I too have lost both parents, but I am not an only child, my mother died during child birth eleven years ago, my twin brothers are being cared for my my maternal grandmother in her home country of Liechtenstein, that is why we live so close to the border with that country” Sebastian explained.
After a brief pause he continued, “Since being reminded of the Oxford story, I have been spending my holidays, doing some searching to find your father, and a month ago, I found that your father had returned to his home town of Toodyay, which my father could not remember the name of. My father was thrilled with the news of finding your father, and once he had completed some business, he and I were planning to travel to Western Australia to find you, unfortunately that was not to happen” Sebastian said sadly.
“So, you have come to repay the debt, that your father owed my father, how exactly is that going to happen now he is dead too” I stated, “Well, when I was doing my research, I looked into your background as well, our family has a lot of business connections, so it wasn’t too hard. I know that you own a farm just out of town on the riverbanks, and I know that you attend a private school, and that you are near the top of your year in most subjects.
I also know that you have a small education fund, for you to attend university here in Western Australia. I travelled here three days after my father’s funeral, to come to meet you, and hopefully become your friend, like our fathers did, and I hope that you will allow me to help you in any way possible, I am quite wealthy so the sky is the limit” Sebastian said to me, with a smile.
“Look, I have only just met you, and this is all new information to me, you will have to let me think about all of what you told me, and money is something that I don’t really care much about, as long as I have a place to live and food in my stomach, I will be happy. I have the last school term starting in two days - time, so I have to get ready for that” I responded. “I understand, well at least allow me the chance to get to know you a bit, how about starting with showing me this farm of yours” Sebastian said to me.
I thought about this request for a few moments, not sure, “Look I have just met you, it is the first time I have heard this story about your dad and mine, so I am going to say no, to visiting the farm. I have too much to do before school starts on Monday. Thank you for lunch, I got to get going, I have some food shopping to do then I have farm duties to complete” I said as I stood up.
“I am sorry that you feel that way, I will be staying in Perth for a few weeks, so maybe we can catch up next weekend, so we can talk some more” Sebastian said to me, “I will think about it, bye for now” I said as I turned and left the pub, and I walked the half a block to the supermarket to buy some food.
When I returned to my vehicle half an hour later, I noticed that Sebastian’s vehicle had gone, and after a quick shop at the hardware store, I headed back to the house. Once I had put the shopping away, I looked around the house, and I decided that I should tackle the chore, that I had been avoiding since the funeral. Going to the garage, I found some empty boxes, and took them into my parent’s bedroom, and I opened the wardrobe, where I found some of my mum’s clothing still hanging there.
I burst into tears and left the room, going to my bedroom two doors down, where I lay on my bed and cried myself to sleep. When I woke up, it was already dark, and remembering that I had some stock to look after, I staggered to the back veranda, slipped my gumboots on and headed for the shed, where there is a dairy cow to be milked, chooks to feed, eggs to collect and five poddy calves to feed.
I also had some fences to repair, and the water supplies to be checked, but they would have to wait till the morning. When in returned to the house, it was well after 8pm, and so I retrieved a frozen dinner from the freezer, and placed it into the microwave, while I cleaned up a little. When I had finished eating, I had a long hot shower, and headed to bed, feeling tired and drained of energy, from the very emotional day, but I had a very restless night, thinking back on the arrival of the stranger at the cemetery.
In the morning, I staggered out of bed, shortly after sunrise, and I went and milked the cow, fed the chooks and poddy calves, before coming back to the house to have some breakfast. By 7am, I was in the farm ute, with wire strainers and other fencing tools, a roll of plain and barbed wire, and I headed out towards the northern boundary, to deal with an overdue repair of a damaged fence, due to Kangaroos, who have been breaking through from the neighbouring National Park.
When I had fixed the two lots of fences that I knew of, I decided to do a survey of the whole northern boundary, which covers five paddocks, so I headed west along the firebreak track, and soon came across another patch of damaged fence. Nearly three hours later, satisfied that I had repaired all of the damage, I arrived back at the shed, and glancing over towards the house about 400 metres away, I saw an unexpected vehicle parked there.
It was different from the vehicle that Sebastian had driven, which I was pleased about, and cautiously I walked back to the house, to see who the visitor is. I smiled when I recognised the visitor as the local Anglican minister, who is also the chaplain at my school. “Reverend Davies, sorry to keep you waiting, I have been doing fence repairs” I said with a smile, as I shook her hand.
“Hello Huon, I guessed that you were out on the farm somewhere, and I don’t mind waiting, I took a walk down to the river, to pass the time, you have a beautiful property here” the minister replied, as I lead the way inside the house. A few minutes later, after preparing cups of tea, we sat down in the lounge room. “How have you been coping? Is there anything that you need help with?” Reverend Davies asked me.
“Well yesterday, I went into my parent’s room, to start packing their clothes, and I found some of mum’s clothes still hanging in the wardrobe, I started crying straight away, and had to leave it, I just couldn’t do it” I said, starting to get upset again, “How about if I get some of our Op Shop ladies to come by and deal with all of the clothing, then when you have some time we can deal with the rest together” she suggested to me.
“Yes, that would be nice thank you” I said as tears began to flow down my cheeks, and I used my sleeve to wipe away the tears. “Now, how are things going financially? Are you getting by?” Reverend Davies asked me, “Yes thanks, I have an appointment with my family lawyer, after school on Monday, to finalise my trust fund, and we will be discussing the farm as well” I answered.
“I am happy to recommend to the headmaster, that you have a week off school, so you get more organised” Reverend Davies said to me, “I will be fine thanks, and keeping busy will keep my mind off my troubles” I replied, with a half-smile, “very well then, thank you for the cup of tea, I will have some ladies call in at 5pm on Tuesday to start sorting through your parents clothing.
I presume, you are happy to donate them to the Op Shop?” the Rev said to me, “Yes that is fine” I replied, and a few minutes later I was standing on the front veranda, watching the vehicle leave. The remainder of the day, and the following day, were a bit of a blur, as I did the required chores, and not much more, as I was in no mood to do any more.
When Monday morning arrived, I fed the animals, before I showered, dressed in a fresh school uniform, and I drove the one hour and fifteen minutes to Guildford, where I parked the car at the rear school carpark, and headed off to the start of a new school term, keeping to myself for most of the day.
Copyright August 2017 Preston Wiglesworth All Rights are Reserved