"Foolhardy," Lena said today. "Where do you think that word comes from?"
bold but rash, delighting in taking unnecessary risks
I answered that it was obvious but she got out the dictionary and said it came from the French 'foll' as in 'folly' and that 'hardy' means strong.
"I always thought it was old English," she said. "But it's French."
"Yeah ... strong and silly. Or -" and here I look to her husband J, who is of the same ilk as me, " - hurtling into a scenario and knowing your body will see you through. Yes?"
Thank goodness for strong bodies, is all I can say. Living an unsafe life can require physical resilience.
I love spending Saturday afternoons with these two. They may be public servants but they are primarily artists. They will bring out a decent wine, a plate of cheese and fruit and engage me in a robust debate on love, literature and local history. On my bad weeks, they will both hug me. They are both fallible too and they know it. I know I can always hug them back.
So, foolhardiness ... whilst encouraging my son Stormboy's hankering for a scooter license, I've found myself stalling his attempts at a learner's permit in strange, passive aggressive ways. I've been unable to locate his passport or birth certificate. Can't find the money for a helmet. Medicare card? Damn, son.
Why is this? Because I'm afraid for him. Because his dance amongst the road trains and Commodore drivers will be without the cage they call cars to protect him. Because he is still a child. Because as soon as he gets that bike, I know I won't see him very often. Because I'm waving goodbye to his childhood.
A memory swims in. It's midnight. I'm nineteen. We are hurtling along a highway, way over the speed limit, heading for the waterhole to go for a swim. Pilbara. I've been drinking tequila. I am climbing out of the back passenger window of a speeding Toyota Corolla and onto the roof rack. Solitary ghost gums flash by. I hang on to the roof rack of the tiny, tinny car. The stars and land and sky crawl over me. I climb to where I can peer through the windscreen at the driver, see his eyes widen in horror at my upside down face.
I only called back this memory recently. For some reason, and it was not the tequila, I'd mentally decided to lose that one. That night was a long moment of absolute existentialism. I'm quite glad I'm still alive.