God's waiting room
Victor Harbor, together with its conjoined neighbours that line the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, is quietly self-conscious about its nickname. Its inhabitants don’t enjoy being told they’re living in God’s waiting room, but those who are sensitive about it rarely bother to complain; with the endgame in sight, they’ve got other things to think about.
While many of the town’s elderly wait out the last days of their lives in hospitals and rest-homes, or hide behind net curtains and neglected gardens, others embrace the offerings of their environment. For them, God’s waiting room is both an amusement park and an adventure playground.
Check out the healthy rivalry played out on the beachside bowling greens, the smiling peddlers on the Encounter trail with their furrowed faces and bowed legs, the early morning dippers laughing off the cold as they circle the pontoon in Horseshoe Bay.
Look at the old boys casting their lines from the rocks below the Bluff, the ear-phoned seventy-something woman breathless from her morning sprint up it, and the whale-watchers who crouch among its boulders, hunched like gargoyles as they patiently wait for our winter visitors to break surface.
Meet knobbly-kneed Frank on his daily barefooted splash through the foaming fringe of the Southern Ocean from the mouth of the Hindmarsh to Knight’s Beach, and back again.
And then there are the surfers. Hundreds of them. Retired, yet childlike in their excitement as the waves fold around them.
Tell any of these active and outgoing pensioners that they’re living in God’s waiting room, and they’ll tell you how much they love it. They might also tell you that His waiting room is filled less by the elderly than by an attitude of mind that spans all ages, from timid teenagers who hide in their bedrooms, to prime-of-life adults who never take risks. They might also tell you that rather than waiting for something, they’re living. And they’ll keep living and learning until they bowl their last green, land their last fish, ride their last lap, and catch their last wave.
When their time comes, and they turn from their waiting room activity and go through the door for their final appointment, they’ll depart full of gratitude that they lived their last days in the company of kindred spirits in the tender embrace of an environment to die for.