My priceless birthday gift will last me through my entire life. I am profoundly grateful.
My husband gutted our bathroom this week. I removed myself to the back garden while he removed the debris of decades. Later he showed me the shell. The dark wood of the weatherboards, the patched hole where the chip heater used to be, the inevitable white ant damage. I registered the stamped logo on one wall: Hardi Flex. That’s the new stuff isn’t it? I knew the other wall between house and lean-to was blue. ‘Stabilised,’ my husband cracked hardy. He was thirteen when he first handled sheets of asbestos. My brothers’ sleepout was lined with it, a weekend’s project by dad and my uncle. I live a couple of streets away from that uncle’s old house, a carbon copy of my own in this garden suburb where every wind bears filaments. He was an old school Aussie, the sort who’d say ‘Bewdy’ without irony and ‘Your blood’s worth bottling’ and his was. He was the first person I’d heard use the expression ‘cracking hardy’. He was advising me not to when I’d come home after a fall. I had no idea what he meant. But I learned. I watched for months while he held back rage and terror at my father’s deathbed. He never lost his bottle. Dad was Olympic class at the job himself. Their lungs were full of fibre, too. My dad died. My uncle died six weeks later. And I’d give a lot to crack hardy, myself.