By Andrea Madeley
It was the day of Daniel's 21st birthday that Ashley came for a visit. She walked toward his garden and placed 2 red roses near his ashes. Her demeanour has changed in the time since Daniel's death - of course, how could it not? Just two and a half years ago she was your typical happy-go-lucky 17 year old ...madly in love and excited about life. Seeing her now ...I don't know, there was always a cheeky sparkle about Ash. I don't see that anymore. What I do see is a young woman who has emerged from tragedy into someone truly special.
We talked about Danny and it's clear how much she still misses him. She's been riddled with confusion around so many things. How to move through this life without him - trying to appease others while also wanting desperately to repair the wounds. I have often thought what it would be like to lose a partner in life. I have read about 'skin hunger' - something I guess widows and widowers would be able to explain. Why would it be any different for a young woman who loses her boyfriend? It wouldn't...and for Ash, aside from losing Daniel, she also had to figure out how on earth she was supposed to get through this alone.
So with some pretty horrible experiences behind her now, she appears to have a very sensible, direct outlook now. The dreamy teen has turned into a driven young woman with plans. I'm so proud of her...she over came some huge obstacles. They're not all behind her by any means because as we all know, life never stops throwing those curve balls. But what she dealt with at 17, most people never have to face until they are much older and wiser.
Anyway ... I could see there was something on her mind. Strangely enough ... there was something I was trying to broach with her too. It was a sensitive topic. Daniel's Calais - that was his 'other' love - his car. I ended up with the ET and I gave her the Calais because I knew he would have wanted her to have it.
About 6 months ago though, Ashley rang and told me she was buying a new car - something smaller and more suitable. The Calais was not something that I ever wanted sold - and nor did she really want to part with it. She opted to put it under cover in storage.
Having seen what 'storage' did to the ET, I started to worry about the Calais as well. When Danny's friends came up on the day before and cleaned the ET up, I was particularly saddened at one young face. That was Danny's cousin Tyrone. I watched him while he helped clean it up. I don't think I've ever seen a set of car mats get so much attention. I could see he was deep in thought...my gut told me they were painful thoughts. He later came up and invited me to his 18th birthday the following weekend.
It all got me thinking about the Calais...and Ashley - and whether, if the Calais is doing nothing but sitting under a car cover, would it be better off with someone like Tyrone - with his 18th coming - would this help him - to have a part of Danny with him? Clearly there were concerns there too - a young lad - cars and mates and hooning...the Calais being more than just a car - would that be too much responsibility and pressure for Tyrone - or would he cherish the memory of his cousin enough to treat it with the care that it deserves? And in the end - I knew it wasn't my decision anyway.
So ...right at the end of the day Ashley, clearly having something on her mind, said, "Could I ask you a question - and you promise not to get angry?" then added, "...it's about the Commodore."
...and at this very moment I was thinking - "How do I broach the topic of Tyrone and the Calais?" But I was a little thrown by her question and so answered - cautiously...what question?
She then started to say that she was thinking the Calais should go to Tyrone. I almost fainted with relief - and shock. "Huh? Really?" You know its times like this I do wonder whether there's a spirit world busy at manipulating the living. I then told her what I had witnessed the day before - and with Tyrone's 18th birthday coming - wouldn't that just be the perfect gift?
So the plan was hatched. She was to register the car for the weekend and give her a clean up. We talked about the Calais and about Tyrone and we both agreed that the Calais should go on a guardianship contract. This was one car that was never going to be sold. Not to suggest that this would happen...but when you have things clearly in writing, it's so much easier for all concerned. So I said I would write up the contract and we would meet somewhere before the party so I could organise to have Tyrone blindfolded so she could drive the car up.
On the night of the party I spoke to her as I made my way from Williamstown to the South. My heart was racing just seeing all the familiar haunts Danny and I would frequent. I haven't been back here since Daniel's death. Looking at the places we would sometimes eat...go shopping...so many memories came flooding back. Time to suck it all in...put on a brave face.
Ashley was already at out meeting place. She sounded nervous and almost like she couldn't go through with it. This must have been gut wrenching for her. I was dealing with my own inner turmoil and kept telling her she was doing the right thing. I know I didn't have to convince her - she knew that...but it didn't make it hurt any less.
So I arrived to the surprise of Daniel's Nanna and Grandad. I don't think anyone actually expected me to come in spite of the invite. Tyrone, Brett and Dave (Tyrone's Dad) had just gone to take cars back to Tyrone's house so the kids could go by bus into the city later to party on. When they returned, I told David and Tyrone that there was a special surprise - but we'll need to go outside and he'll need to have a blind fold. I then called Ash - who was panicked because they had driven passed on their way back and seen the Calais. Gawd...Okay not to worry ...we'll do this as planned anyway.
So standing outside the rented hall, people all watching the driveway - and there she was, slowly moving around the bend into the driveway - the sun was setting so she looked glamorous in silhouette as her gleaming paint hit by red hue behind with the occasional sun ray peeked through the trees down on top of her. It all took my breath away.
I watched Tyrone's face - his head was shaking in disbelief. He was of course deeply impacted by the enormity of what he was seeing. You see ...knowing Daniel - knowing how much the cars were a part of him - this was a huge gesture on Ashley's behalf.
Ash got out of the car - tears streaming of course...and then she and Tyrone hugged and cried. Who didn't ...I think we all did.
The contract? Yeah I had to interject pretty quickly and tell him that there were plenty of 'strings' that came with this - and I asked him and David to come with me so I could go through them. The essence of the contract are simply that the Calais is not to be sold or driven in a manner that might cause it to be placed at peril - ie under the influence of alcohol etc. As I suspected though, none of this was an issue. Tyrone was just blown away that he would have a part of Daniel with him...and I think David was pretty happy about the clauses that restricted the 'hoon' factor. He is a parent after all.
So - to my gorgeous girl Ashley - let me take this opportunity to tell you what an amazing young woman you have become - all in the face of tragedy and adversity. What you did here was completely selfless...and I know how heart breaking it was for you to part with this precious part of your lost dreams. Daniel would be so proud of you...and he would wish you nothing but happiness. My son had amazing taste...in cars, in friends...and most of all, in the one he loved.