Bebe Populous was having a mid-life crisis. Visibly ageing, and now destined to be known more as a grandmother than a mother, she decided it was time for a makeover…

…and a luxury new car.

Her children were growing up – even the family’s adopted puppy, Bouncer, was now a full adult dog.

Yeats was now a young man…

…as was Yabbie Creek.

The boys found an empty plot of land in town where they decided to set up their sanctuary. They took Harvey and Bob with them so that they could get things ready for more animals to come and stay there when the time was right.

Their grandchildren continued to age, too. Tiana was now a teenager…

…and brother David a child.

Wendy had a little girl, Cody.

They lived with Willow’s family, and Cody and Willow’s daughter Gwen were the best of friends.

Bebe adored her youngest granddaughter, Xenia’s little girl Kelsey. She knew she was fortunate to have such a large family, and if it meant she was ‘granny’, that wouldn’t necessarily stop her being ‘mum’ – only her role would be different, and now, instead of outliving her children and grandchildren, some of them would outlive her.

Asa, too, was experiencing a mid-life crisis of his own. He’d discovered a grey hair recently, and having made it to the top of the political career, he decided to suddenly announce his retirement.

Then the day came. The day that their youngest children were to fly the nest.

Zoe was excited about the opportunities they had to help their brothers at the sanctuary.

Zolga packed up the pet things, put Audrey and Bouncer into their cars…

…and with that, all of the Populous children had left home.

Not that any casual observer, who, on passing, would see Populous descendants in the garden…

…or seated to meals on any given night of the week would observe any difference between an ’empty’ nest and a full one.

With the children now self-sufficient, and plenty of money in the bank, Bebe and Asa decided to make some phone calls. The first was to call a cleaning service in, to get the place tidy now there were no pets to clean up after.

And the second was to book a long-overdue honeymoon, to Champs les Sims.

Rosemary and her husband were considering moving here, and Asa and Bebe made sure they checked in on her and gave her their blessing to do whatever she felt important, but then the time was theirs and theirs alone.

Asa took his wife’s hands and reassured her that just because the children were grown didn’t mean her life was without purpose – as Rosemary had proved just that day, they, and their families, would always need her.

He would always need her.

Bebe looked into the eyes of this man, this wonderful man, and wondered how she had ever gotten so lucky that she could have met her soulmate and know him to be the most amazing father and grandfather, and her perfect partner.

Their relationship, and their family, may not always have been conventional, but she could not have done any of this, could not have achieved any of her dreams, without him.

Sitting out in the cool night air, lips warmed by wine, a breeze gently blowing through their eyes, they looked anew at each other.

They were going to grow old, but they would grow old together.

And going by the unmentionable suggestions Asa whispered in Bebe’s ear that night, they would have a lot of fun doing so.

As Bebe and Asa sat under the stars that night on their honeymoon, they gave silent thanks.

Thanks for their 41 children: Annalise, Brad, Cameron, Declan, Eddie, Fitzy, Gail, Henry, Ian, Julie, Katya, Lucy, Maria, Nick, Olenski, Pepper, Phoebe, Quinn, Rebecca, Rosemary, Scott, Todd, Udagawa, Vikram, Wendy, Willow, Xenia, Yabbie Creek, Yeats, Zoe, Zolga, Wilson, Sterling, Edna, Ruth, Shawanda, Natasha, Paige, Julianne, Cassidy and Loren

some of whom were still living, some of whom they had lost.

They gave thanks for all their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great granchildren…

…for the many jobs they’d each done…

…for all the skills they’d learned…

…and for all the happiness they’d found.

They gave thanks for Sunset Valley…

…a place where a little boy and a young woman had discovered one another…

…and realised their dreams…

And they looked at the stars, seeing in each one the blessings of their friends and family and a reminder that no matter how old they became, what they had created together would always endure.

<< 64. Running a sanctuary

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