Published: March 3rd 2012March 2nd 2012
It didn't start off bad.
I had a day lounging on the beach, in scorching sunshine, and to cool off, snorkelling around the crystal clear waters of the reef taking in the sights of the fish, corals and ocean bed. We even saw a seahorse. You can't ask for more than that.
I took part in a coconut demonstration, learning all about how to prepare, eat, drink and even deep fry the local delicacy which I planned on teaching my Mum when I got home.
I floated around in the water with a couple of my friend at the resort, talking about home, each of us recounting stories of our families, jobs and life in the real world.
I talked about my Gran. Lots. How she didn't want to move into the nursing home from Burnham Hospital and how I hoped she'd got my postcard from New Zealand.
I didn't know she had died the night before.
Mum eventually managed to get through to the resort at 9pm local time, after we'd had a sumptuous Fijian evening full of colour, singing, delicious food cooked in the outdoors oven. The local entertainment group had sailed round to sing and dance for us before dinner, and we had finished this part of the night with a handshake for everyone watching and taking part. I must have shaken 50 hands in 5 minutes but the mutual love and gratitude was clear to see from both sides. We'd laughed over dinner, enjoyed the last night as the newly formed bunch of friends in the resort, spanning all ages and geographical locations, and decided to have a few drinks before everyone apart from two of us left tomorrow.
Mum ringing the landline of the resort was a sure sign of bad news. I've lost my mobile of course so that was out of the question. The sight of Justin's wife walking towards me with the handset saying Mum was on the line was enough. I knew Gran had gone.
I can't begin to describe how slowly the next couple of hours went. I let my friends at the table know, but refused alcohol to calm my nerves. I wanted to stay fresh and focused to decide what to do next and how to make it happen. To be honest, there was no decision to be made. I was going home. 3 weeks to go or not, I'm needed there more than I'm needed here. Selfishness would keep me on my desert island forever, but I'm not going to have fun and I'm not selfish either. I'm going to get the next flight back.
To make that happen - well, Justin was incredibly kind and reopened the office so that I could use the solitary computer. The money I put on my Skype account to call O2 the other day suddenly became very useful. Call insurance company to confirm I'm covered for repatriation - check. Call BA to rearrange flights - told to call Qantas. Call Qantas. Qantas insist I fly the same route home... which is Nadi-Honolulu, Honolulu-LA, LA-Toronto, Toronto-London. Expect to be home by Thursday (today is Friday), having flown longer than humanly necessary to reach my family. No room for manoeuvre, no sympathy. Bastards. Alan Joyce will be hearing from me. Book separate flight home - check. Call Mum to let her know - check.
Done, I went back to tell my new friends the good news and they make me laugh. A much needed hearty belly laugh about people's names. Like mine being A Summers. Queen of sex shops. And Lauren's graduation where they indicated the same by leaving a comedy pause between her first and middle names. Lauren...... ANNE Summers.
So I'm flying home tomorrow and have so much more to do in terms of cancelling and reorganising. I'm going from tears to tantrums, to nervousness and fear about facing reality back home. I can't begin to describe it. I feel so far away and despite my decisiveness at wanting to go back, so sad that I can't finish my trip. The rollercoaster of emotion is not going to lead to sleep, that's for sure.
A final anecdote. My Gran. The lady that used to let me tie ribbons in her hair to the extent that Boy George looked like he'd made a half-arsed effort on his own barnet. Who sat me on the bar of the Vic in Burnham playing chess with the locals, aged 4(ish), in the good old days when pubs were pubs. Who'd missed my Grandad so much after he died that she'd been longing for the day that she could join him. In typical Gran style too, who had died just 24 hours before her birthday, where no doubt there would have been a beautiful cake by my sister, and a good old sing song of Happy Birthday by every member of the family in person or down the phone (a tradition that has since been adopted by all of us with our very close friends on theirs and our birthdays). However, she clearly heard about the quality of the presents this year and decided enough was enough and called time on her time here with us. Gran, from all of us, even on your most infuriating, ridiculous days, we loved you. More than you knew. I hear your words about me leaving for Christmas and despite how much it pains me to think how I laughed it off, I hope you realise I never did it to be spiteful. I just needed to see the world and learn more about me, rather than live in the corporate bubble I'd built for myself. I also laughed off your statement that I wouldn't be there for your birthday party. Turns out you didn't plan on being there either - and then that makes me smile instead. At least we were both in our own little worlds on 2nd March 2012. I'll still sing to you every year, whether you like it or not...just hope you'll be able to hear me from somewhere up there. Jacob will no doubt have picked out which star in the sky you are so I'll focus my efforts that way. I hope that you're back with Grandad, recalling the good old days of the East End, and free from pain.
Love you forever