Tapestry

Amy

Having coffee with a friend this morning, we were gleefully discussing the venue of a new stylish hotel in Cape Town.  We were both absolutely blown away by the magnificence of the simplicity of the reception area.  A rich worn looking, tapestry like, Persian carpet, tasteful placing of art,  the rest uncluttered,  unencumbered by “stuff” to fill the space.

Unfortunately for most of us, it takes a scare before we realise the importance, the love of, the devastation at the potential loss of that human before we take stock.  I have had a few such wake up calls but the most heart wrenching has been my best friend and my daughters best friend.

Picture this, because there are many of us that do this.  I was flicking through Facebook posts one morning and noticed a beautiful picture of the Mom and daughter, as I was about to just click the “like” button,  words further down the page caught my eye, “please pray, Amy is fighting for her life.”  I went cold, heart racing, I made the call.  Indeed, what enfolded were days of uncertainty and fear for her family and for her.  Would she survive the series of mini strokes, would there be paralysis, would her brain be affected?

While out on a regular early morning run, this supremely fit child turned and felt a pain shoot down her neck.  As she ran, she mentioned it, she completed the run, she had breakfast, before she went home to shower and get ready for work.  Only then did the nightmare begin. Once showered, nausea engulfed her and she began vomiting, she then could no longer hold onto the bowl she was using or hold her body weight.  Total disorientation followed and the horrific drive to the hospital had her eyes rolling to the back of her head.  Just like that.  Little strokes were occurring and this feisty child/adult was suddenly at the mercy of the universe,  every second that was ticking was time not to be wasted.

As caught up as I was in the actual drama, my being was totally overcome for Wendy.  I imagined her little face, strained, and willing Amy on.  This is not supposed to happen to us or our children, is it?  It is always someone else, and we say, “I wonder how on earth they coped?”  I could hear the raw emotion in her voice as she bravely recounted the days progress or setbacks.  I sobbed at night after listening to her, willing her on.  I have never felt so distanced from anyone before and I am so ashamed that I let our friendship tick by on Facebook.  You see, this friend of mine, is one of the most selfless human beings I know.  She makes friends and she is yours for life, her family have learned that from her too.  Their lives are rich with love for each other and all those connected to them.

This tale has a very happy ending.  Amy, being Amy has fought tooth and nail.  The little body that couldn’t support itself is confidently getting her around.  Her old signature guffaw has returned. Her fine motor coordination is improving every day.  She religiously rolls out play dough, does beading, practises her writing, bounces balls, exercises, she is back to work a few hours a day.  She is fine and will end up stronger in every way as these sorts of shocks make you take note.

My lesson learned……  Look after your friendships, don’t leave them to social media. Do not fill them with external clutter.  To all of us who exercise perhaps a little too excessively, listen to your body, it whispers to you all the time.

“Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

“Angst”

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An oversight but the ramifications were so painful. I have pondered over writing this blog, but I have finally decided to share.

There are many of us who have multifaceted parenting structures in place and I particularly say this, as the norm when referring to a divorced household is “broken homes.” I fiercely contest that my home is broken. The relationships of the children in it are rich. They are confident, caring, intelligent humans, who watch over each other fiercely, all three are gentle spirited and treat me with love and respect. I have never faltered in insecurity at their regard for me and the total love and devotion I receive.

Leaving my youngest in a different province was one of the hardest decisions I made. My health dictated that a significant change was necessary and the opportunity arose in Cape Town. I packed up and made that trip three and bit years ago. Staying as connected in his school life has not been as easy compared to the locals, but I have been guided by his requests and have attended as many gatherings as possible. I believe that it has partly to do with my absence that he has become the independent man he is today. I have not been on tap to pick up pieces. He has found a voice, he is articulate, a force to be reckoned with in his own way, and has a rich array of friendships across all age groups. His relationship with his father and stepmother have had a chance to flourish, for which I am proud and so grateful to her, to step into this important role so graciously and with love for my child.

Matric has descended on us; he has acquired his driver’s license, and is closer to total independence. A few more months of hard work and dedication are required. The school calendar card dictates my diary with the fist major event in our lives being the Matric Ball 2017.

Excitement started for the Ball over the course of his last mid-term break when we went out shopping for his outfit. We matched up a waistcoat, bought the tie, the shirt for his cufflinks. We discussed his buttonhole and the appropriate flowers for his date of choice. I booked our flights, car hire and organized our accommodation. I was filled with much anticipation and excitement.

Friday EARLY morning airport check-in eventually arrived. In communication with him, I was only due at the “Pre Drinks and Photo Session” at 6.30pm. I queried with him, if I had the time right as it all seemed like a lot to fit into before a 7pm ball. I luxuriously spent the morning and lunch with an old friend and daughter, languidly left to fetch the flowers and then treated myself to a wash and blow dry to look my best for the evening, all in perfectly good time.

Forward a few hours. I look great, my hair is swishing on my shoulders, I’ve bathed and changed, I’m leaving my accommodation (also close friends) to turn onto the highway with half an hour’s travelling time when my cellphone rings.   “Where are you Mom? Are you close?”

“I’ve just turned onto the highway my boy, I’ll be there for 6.30pm.”

“Oh, but we are leaving at 6.30pm for the ball.”

My heartbeat started pounding in my ears, my hands went clammy, stay calm, stay calm, don’t lose it, don’t spoil the evening I started slowly chanting to myself.

“I’m coming at 6.30pm as we discussed, what do you mean you’re leaving?”

“Oh, the Pre drinks, changing and photos started at 4pm, sorry Mom, I must have forgotten to tell you and only told Dad.”

Eardrums pounding, I’m quiet, I stay in control.

“I’m driving as fast as possible, please hang on so I at least get a chance to see you both before you leave, or otherwise I will drive straight to school and see you there?”

“We will wait as long as possible Mom, drive quickly.”

So the hired Nissan Go exceeded all expectations. It screeched into Gowrie Golf Club and came to a grinding halt. He and his partner had waited. In the exchange of buttonholes and flowers, I didn’t get an immediate photo. They then jumped into his Dad’s smart car to get to school. Once again the Nissan chased to keep up. I lunged out of the car and chased them to the venue. He turned, waited, posed and I finally got my photo, they then turned and walked away from me. My god, I felt like I had been punched on what must feature as one of the most beautiful nights of his life to date.

Feeling defeated I found myself at the front of the pomp and ceremony, watching each couple walk the red carpet towards the entrance. He suddenly appeared at the entrance, his tall frame graciously greeting the staff. I called and he saw me, beaming as he slowly took the walk. Gratefully I got that on video.

What transpired after that for me was a wonderful evening with other parents. We laughed with abandon at their antics and growth over the five years and lauded their achievements. I got to see the photos I had missed. I had a wonderful evening.

What is it then, that makes me feel like a petulant child? Do I feel childishly usurped? I did have a wonderful evening, I did spend quality time with him the next day watching hockey matches and snoozing with him in the afternoon. So here I am, middle aged, and still full of the kind of angst that I thought I’d said goodbye to in my forties.

No child of mine would willingly hurt me, so to all of us, a lesson learnt. Do not presume you have passed on information if you are not sure. Be gentle with your love. A Mother’s love is unconditional.

angst – a feeling of persistent worry about something trivial

 

There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

 

 

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Temerity – noun – excessive confidence or boldness, audacity, barefaced cheek, gall, presumption, brazen, forward, rash…..

Summonsed for a family lunch I go with some trepidation, but acknowledge that there are just some things one has to do right?

To explain,  I have had an abundance of uncomfortable encounters and have always held myself in check, preferring to stay away and be quiet.  After ten years my predecessor’s name is most often used on introducing me, my religion has been hit on and tried to be debated , my divorce status has been bandied about with alacrity, to quote, “She is a very nice woman you know but she has been married twice already!” silence….”Oh goodness so have you Dear!” Go figure, who does this?

Small and feisty, dynamite in a jar.  Jovial to all who know her, but the joke is most often at the expense of someone else.  So back to lunch.  After all these years I meet my brother in law for the second time and seat myself next to him.  Quiet, with a gentle twinkle in his eye, hugely intelligent, we chat quietly and listen to the louder table participants.  Suddenly she launches, “What have you got on your ears?”  “Heavens, are they a trophy?” “Did you win them at running Dear and wear them?”Of course the table starts tittering, but I am now older and not going to feel stupid anymore.  You see, I chose my earrings carefully to go with the top I was wearing. “No, I replied, I actually bought them because I like them.” More laughter pursues, but now a little uncomfortably.  Daughter dashes in, “Mum, how rude!”  The attention is then diverted by plates being removed.

With lunch over we move to the outside verandah and take a seat.  There is happy banter with an old friend, and plans are being made for B&B keys delivery and talk of walks and hikes in the area.  I stand to leave as a Kirstenbosch Concert awaits my Sunday afternoon, I feel her eyes lock in on my jeans, my purpose-made “torn” jeans and immediately she says, “Goodness, what have you got on Dear?”

“I have jeans on, and I didn’t win these either.”

 

 

Pop goes the neighbour

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Kalk Bay has been frenetic over the past few weeks.  The community is small and quirky.  The roads tight and mainly cobbled.  With the influx of holiday makers, you can barely get near your homes, parking is a swear word and the pristine beaches become a bed of litter.  The flats and homes nearer the beach are tightly squished together; music, talking, theatre noise, dogs and all passerby’s can be heard in the silence of your rooms.

With the holiday season waning and relative calm being restored we were suddenly jolted awake by the sounds of helicopters that started early, then fire engines, ambulances, traffic police, police, you name it.  Traffic was backed up in Main Road and Boyes Drive. Fishhoek suddenly became inaccessible as flames started to leap with the only access via Cape Point.  The radio reported evacuations during the day, and people lost their homes. Triple whammy as the fires in Somerset West and Paarl are just under control.  The soot all over my patio furniture leaves its mark and the sky has been hazy for days. Cape Town has 100 days of water left.  100 days, this is a crisis of unbelievable proportion. Doom and gloom, however in some corners of Kalk Bay, life is glorious.

She arrived with just a daughter, they cohabit a studio near me.  She is of foreign descent.  Her curtains remain mostly shut, and their spaniel is seen in the park now and then.  The daughter lets her hair down from time to time and happy sounding laughter and banging music comes wafting into my home.  I occasionally hear the foreign accent raise her voice in anger, but it seems to blow over quickly. Suddenly the daughter is away and with interest I have watched mom tottering off in sky high heels on a date or two.  They arrive home and the spaniel, not knowing this strange newcomer goes ballistic.

05.30 yesterday morning I’m making coffee pre early morning run.  I’m pondering what has become of the fire overnight when I hear a “Hmmmmmmmm” then “Ah” then slightly higher pitched “Ah””Ah” Hmmmmmmmm,” “Ah,” “Oh my god”. “Yes, Yes, Yes.” I drank my coffee with a smile on my face.  It had been a good evening for her clearly.  By 10am I am back from my run and hanging up my washing, and blow me down, she’s at it again.  Throaty moans, squeaks and pounding sounds.  The doors and blinds are still closed, but the patio door is open to let in air and share her joy with her neighbours.

This morning I bunked my exercise and decided to enjoy this Friday the 13 with a little lie in before heading to the beach with my dogs.  Yes, you guessed it, she exploded with ethic proportion again this morning.

So while the fires are extinguished, the angst of our water weighs down on us heavily, and we fret about the day to day running or lack thereof of our country, I think I’ll have what she is having thank you very much.

 

Succinctly

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Thanks to our technology and the media I have been overwhelmed this week to view 2 fantastic performances.  The first being the Golden Globe awards which I always sit glued to being a lover of the all encompassing art of a good movie or show and the talent of the Actor/Actresses transporting us into characters that we would otherwise never have any knowledge of.  What a magnificent feast we have coming our way.  The most poignant moment was or course Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech which went viral overnight.  She left no stones unturned and Twitter went crazy in response.  Her plea to her fellows was to take responsibility as role models in the industry.  Her plea for us all is the act of empathy. We have reached a sad moment that we have to be reminded to be empathetic.   She made reference to various film stars and their humble beginnings, their personal hardships and in closing she quoted her friend Carrie Fisher, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

The other breathtaking performance was that of Barack Obama in his farewell speech.  Such powerful word order.  His opened with, “Yes we can,”  he closed with the words, “yes we did it.”   He slammed fanaticism and intolerance. Memorable moments from his speech, “Change only happens when ordinary people come together,” “believe in your ability to bring about change.”  He gave reference to the fact that not all tasks are pleasant, but hey,”eat our peas, just do the job. ” One of my favourites was “hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourself”

Why did I love these performances?  I love the fact that some of my heroes had humble beginnings.  I am filled with renewed vigour and a need to “turn my broken heart into art” and I love the power of “we”  After all, it is so powerful it drives the wealthiest county in the world.  I want to become more about we and less about me and unhitch the wagon.  I spoke at New Year to my family of the power of our little group sharing feelings of happiness and pain and seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

I remember a prayer from my school days in the late 70’s and 80’s that went, “God Bless Africa”and we need this blessing more now than ever. Although Barack Obama has signed out, the people know they are safe in their constitution. “We the people”

Succinctly – in a brief and clearly expressed manner.

“One word succinctly describes the economy’s performance unbalanced”

Who are you?

Human Dementia Problems

Dementia as we know is a degenerative disease of the brain.  It is not selective of circumstance and can affect any of us.  The frailty of the human mind exposed.

Florian Zeller’s, The Father is currently on at The Fugard and it tore my heart apart last night. The confusion, the fear of the unknown, the voices, the suspicion, grasping onto the edge of sanity, or is everyone else around you crazy?  The repercussions of the dementia on a daughter trying her best, her new relationship taking toll with her sense of obligation to her father, the threat and fear of an institution.  The enormity of a man, once of sound mind, sobbing like a baby in his nurse’s arms.  Heaving chest and raw pain. We filed out of the theatre quietly.  All touched.  Although many of us will never know the anguish of having Dementia, or living with someone with Dementia, the questions that he barked out last night in agony are prevalent.

“Who are you?”

“What are you doing here?”

“My watch has been stolen, I NEED to know the time, it is my constant!”

“Why are you in my flat?”

“Why have you moved my things around?”

“I want to go home!”

“Are you trying to trick me?”

“I’m confused, I don’t understand what I’m doing here!”

“Leave me alone, I’m fine!”

“Where am I?”

“I want my Mom, I need my mom”

Each one of his questions affect those of us of perfect sound mind (all relative of course).  I have found myself feeling so threatened over the last while that even I have looked closely at the people in my world and wondered who they are, why we are where we are, threatened, side swiped by a move, confused at night looking for light switches, losing my car in a new shopping centre car park, pretending I was fine, when cracks were appearing, questioning if I’m in the right place, and the age old need of wanting and needing your mom when all else is unsure.  There is a fine line.

The fear for most ageing people is not the age, it is how bodies and minds are going to cooperate.  The fear is the burden you will place on your family irrespective of your wealth.  A sound mind and body one day, can be a stroke victim or dementia the next.

We live in stressful times.  Our plans of easing up have resulted in longer working hours, more traffic, incessant cell phone messages and attention.  The fun of life quickly takes a back seat when you are hunting for power and the proverbial last buck at the cost of all that is dear.  Decisions that require thought and planning are made off the cuff and the ripple effect is huge. Let us all slow down a tad.  Research decisions. Question the motivation.  Moving  home just changes the scenery.

“Consciously or unconsciously we live not only our own individual life but, whether we like it or not, also the life of our time.” Lourens Van Der Post

The Playing Field of Surgeons

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“I can’t think of a single reason why I should be a surgeon, but I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit. They make it hard on purpose… there are lives in our hands. There comes a moment when it’s more than just a game, and you either take that step forward or turn around and walk away. I could quit but here’s the thing, I love the playing field.” Meredith Grey

I immersed myself into the playing field this morning as an observer. My main intent was to monitor the interaction between the “players” in theatre. It is no game.

I arrived early to catch the anaesthetist rounds, which were brief and methodical. Chatting to him en route to the theatres I sense that the patients would have been calmed by his gentle approach. Grey, blue and green colours flash past as we make our way along the corridors and up the stairs. Cold, clinical, practical. It is easy to keep grey clean. We enter the theatre block. There is a flurry of activity preparing the various theatres for the day’s slate. Beds are being wheeled past with patients in them, their eyes wide and some a little glassy.

A code is punched in for the ladies change and bathroom. In I go, suddenly a little insecure. Lockers adorn the walls with names on them; some with photos, some pet photos, my gaze takes in the shelves of clothes, small, medium and large. I hesitantly strip and put on my scrubs. Booties are put over your shoes and a cap to keep your hair at bay. I’m ready and into theatre I’m escorted.

I place myself in the corner trying to make myself as small as possible, so that I do not attract attention and heaven forbid, distract or annoy the first surgeon. The theatre sister is bustling around, the bed has been wiped down with alcohol and readied with green sheets, the anaesthetist is fiddling with his monitor and stretches over to raze the height of the bed with a remote. I hear a happy laugh outside and some chitter chatter with the nurses and in strolls the surgeon, huge smile, and big presence, in control of his domain. The patient is wheeled in, with tears plopping out of her eyes. Surgeon moves straight to her side, gentle, holding her hand, reassuring, teasing her and promising that before she knows it she will be back in the ward with her husband. While the consoling is going on the Anaesthetist is unobtrusively lifting her left arm up and preparing her drip. She is laughing now and talking about a cocktail she likes drinking. She is told that she is soon going to get sleepy, she carries on chatting, her mask is slipped on, and she is gone.

The Surgeon begins, a breast biopsy. The scalpel runs a perfect circle around her nipple and steady hands begin working. He glances up at the Anaesthetist as there is a tiny twitch and in one movement the drugs are adjusted. She is vulnerable, her body is beautifully still and pale under the intense lights, and the opened breast is being probed to find the offending lump. It is found, extricated, blue inner stitches are applied; clear exterior stitches close up the nipple. The anaesthetic is switched off. Her time is done. Before she leaves the theatre the Surgeon phones her husband and assures him of the success of the extraction.

I am invited into the Doctors lounge. I feel heady with excitement. It is all I ever imagined. We all sit around with coffee, scrubs on, I sense some Doctors looking me up and down wondering where on earth I come from, but I don’t feel excluded at all.

Next case is up, a hernia repair. Open surgery, the medical aid will not pay for keyhole surgery which would cut down the recovery time by weeks. The Anaesthetist explains that in this instance he has paralysed the patient entirely, whereas the prior had been partial. This patient is physically fit and lean, and apparently a cyclist. Music goes on, this Surgeon likes music to operate too. “Scalpel,” and the incision is made. From where I sit I see a clamp going into the one side of the opening and the assisting surgeon making space and swabbing/cauterising for the operating surgeon. I am gestured over. Skin takes on such a different texture to look at when it is opened up. Three layers of muscle deep, you see the yellow fat, muscles and the surgeon shows me the artery that he has wound up to make space. The hernia is now visible and pulled out to show me before being tucked up back into the lining and stitched. Fascinating work. Mesh is then placed over this and sutured into place again with the blue dissolvable thread before the perfect final sutures. This man will go home ltoday. Once again, as soon as he is sutured, the Surgeon comes across and phones the family telling them of the successful surgery.

Back to the lounge. I really feel part of the team now, I make my own coffee this time and glance at the newspaper, while around me the various surgeons and specialists in their field chat and catch up on fishing weekends, golf and school rugby.

The final case for my viewing is a haemorrhoid operation. I walk back to theatre to find the patient looking more like a strung up turkey, the unwilling participant of Christmas. This surgery has changed dramatically I am told. Once upon a time, these were cut out. Now they are extricated and rather strangulated. As unglamorous as the procedure is, I am so mindful of the respect that these Surgeons have for their patients and more so the pride they have in their workmanship. The third Surgeon also immediately phones the family.

I have been truly humbled by this opportunity. I was expecting a morning of huge personalities and superior attitudes to write about but instead I experienced expertise, respect, empathy and professionalism amongst each other, the nursing staff and the prone patients.

The morning slate may have been a “gentle” one compared to some others, but this band of men chose to have our lives in their hands. They love playing in this field. I loved it too.