Tag Archive | relationships

GOODBYE SHAWN; MY BROTHER, MY FRIEND

Grief is a pervasive thing. It is a relentless companion, sometimes falling into shallow slumber, only to wake when least expected – at mundane times, like when one is making a cup of tea or eating a sandwich. It comes awake ruthlessly, hacking with icy fingers at the chambers of the heart and bringing one to one’s knees.

My brother died two weeks ago. It was a brutal death. He was in a coma for seven days and, at first, I prayed for his recovery, and then I prayed for his death and a merciful release for the tortured body that was being kept alive by machines. I held his hand, kissed his forehead and told him it was OK to let go. The end of his life was senseless, hope of recovery from the grotesque dance that his alcoholism had trod with him came, but it was too late.

I’ve chosen to remember him happy, young and carefree. I hope he has found that place again. shawn

RIP SHAWN CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS

6 MARCH 1968 – 9 SEPTEMBER 2014

I LOVE YOU. ALWAYS AND FOREVER.

(Photo credit: Peter Gerber)

And a repost of something I wrote long ago, about the day he came into my life:

GETTING A BROTHER

There were no children my age to play with; it was a brand new suburb; all red earth and building rubble. Both parties of most couples went out to work, walking together to catch busses. My mom and dad each had a car, which was quite unusual at the time. They misguidedly thought nursery school was a cruel business, an enclave for neglected children; only marginally less horrible than the orphanage they threatened to send me to if I didn’t eat my spinach.

There was, apart from the lovely, fat and funny Willemienah who cleaned and cooked; a nanny who’s sole purpose was to feed me, clean me and make sure that I didn’t engage in any activities that would lead to my needing stitches or the services of the Police Force. Her name was Martha and to this day I remember what it felt like when she wiped my face with a warm facecloth, sprinkled with 4711 cologne, after I cried because of a fall. I ate my meals with them, sitting on the concrete courtyard floor; tomato and onion gravy with stiff maize porridge. I’d have it for lunch any day, still. Only much later did it dawn that Sotho was not the only language on daytime radio.

I begged and pleaded for a brother and my parents kept telling me it was not the right time. I was six before I realised that I was lonely.

From time to time my paternal grandparents would come to take me to their farms, early on to Excelsior and later to Tweespruit. My Ganny Sue taught my to sew a neat stitch and my Gampy let me walk out with him after supper, ostensibly to make sure the cows were tucked in, but really to smoke his secret cigarettes. They allowed all the rules to be broken; I didn’t have to bath every day, especially not if I’d swum in the reservoir. We sometimes had stewed peaches and custard as our supper!

On returning from a long visit, I walked into our bathroom, where my mother was drying herself after a shower. She had become fat, something I hadn’t noticed during everyday contact and I told her so. My dad overheard and joined us in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub and pulling me onto his lap. He told me that my mom was growing a surprise for me in her tummy and could I guess what it was? I said ‘a bike?’, but they laughed and said I’d have to wait and see.

Perhaps a fortnight or so later, I’d taken my skipping rope and gone up the road to visit with an old lady whom I’d befriended and who allowed me to pretend that we were grand ladies taking high tea on a cruise ship. Her kettle had just boiled when Martha puffed in and said I should come home at once. She hoiked me onto her back and trotted down the block.

My parents were sitting in the lounge, my mom holding a soft parcel. They beckoned me to join them and my mom opened the parcel so that I could see the scrunched up little person they were giving me.

His name is Shawn and he is one of the best friends I have ever had; my little brother who grew to be bigger than me in every way conceivable.

I’m really quite fond of you, grumpy old codger. And so very proud.

LE DIVORCE AND A LOOK BACK AT 2010

I’m aware that a new blog post is long overdue, but I’ve had the most dreadful blogger’s block and a lingering bout of self-pity masquerading as depression. To get me back in the saddle, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to revisit a post I did back in early 2010, and see how many things have changed or are still the same.

I am: made up of my life experiences, but am constantly changing.
Update: I am also – as of 25th April, finally divorced.

I have: about 54 pairs of shoes, most of them red.
Update: When I moved out of my marital home two years ago, I culled my shoe collection. I now own about 30 pairs …

I know: that I am unique.
Update: Deep down inside, I still believe this, but the depression sends me many “What’s it all about, Alfie?” days.

I think: I should have put the fillet in marinade an hour ago.
Update: Ah, that was the good life. I now rarely eat red meat, but when my budget allows I do indulge in a good steak, like I did to commemorate my divorce.

I don’t think: the weekend is going the way I wanted it to.
Update: My weekends bear no resemblance to those of four years ago. Now they are quiet and contemplative, with none of the frenetic entertaining I used to do. I attend 12-Step recovery program meetings and read or watch a movie. With my cat. The past weekend was very bleak.

I want: to change some very important things soon.
Update: How prophetic that answer proved to be!

I have: a tendency to cry easily.
Update: Yes, I still do. Takes very little to get the waterworks going.

I like: avocado pears.
Update: I like my boss. A lot.

I dislike: self-indulgent, egomaniac, me-me-me drug addicts.
Update: Renovations. We’ve recently had a lot of work done on my boss’s home (she practices from home) and – while the results are delightful – the inconvenience and mess were a hair-pulling experience.
I now have far more empathy with the drug addicts.

I hate: winter.
Update: Yep, no change there!

I dream: an impossible dream. But still I dream it.
Update: Ditto.

I fear: something so much that I don’t want to put it in writing.
Update: Again, ditto!

I am annoyed: quite often of late.
Update: By traffic-light beggars who swear at me when I have nothing to give them.

I crave: sunlight and starshine.
Update: Somebody with whom to share early-morning and late-night musings; someone to take turns with to make the morning coffee.

I usually: drink two cups of coffee a day and three glasses of wine a night.
Update: I usually have pot-noodles for lunch at work and drink far too much coffee. Those glasses of wine … oh, how much pain they ended up causing …

I search: for some good in everyone, often it is hard.
Update: For reconciliation with my daughter who has, once again, removed herself from my life. I’m told it’s quite common in the case of divorce for a child to become resentful to rebel against both parents if and when they try to present a united front in disciplining the child. Such is the case at the moment and my grief forms the backdrop to my daily life. I just have to keep the faith and keep praying that she returns to me soon.

I hide: my secret pair of Crocs away from everyone.
Update: See above re my daughter – I hide my pain daily and try my best to present a cheerful front.

I wonder: what Marthinus (my first boyfriend) eventually did with his life.
Update: What would have happened if I didn’t have all those glasses of wine every night …

I know: that madness is just a moment away for everyone. Some will evade that moment and others will succumb. Look at the survivors of the Holocaust.
Update: I will survive this period of my life.

I just can’t help: myself from reacting to bigots.
Update: Still guilty ….

I regret: a great many things. But looking in the rear view mirror may make me miss a signboard, so …
Update: The 2010 answer still makes sense …

I love: Quentin Crisp until my dying day.
Update: Spoiling myself with a bunch of fresh flowers once a week.

I can’t live without: writing.
Update: The 12-step recovery programme. I literally won’t be able to live without it.

I try to: deliver the best version of me. I really do try.
Update: Still trying …

I enjoy: swimming naked at night in summer.
Update: Getting into bed early, in warm pyjamas with a good book.

I don’t care: much for Chardonnay.
Update: I don’t care that I live in a ‘dodgy’ neighbourhood, I love my apartment.

I always: dry my feet first when I get out of the bath.
Update: Yes, still do.

I never want to: be misunderstood, but it happens all the time.
Update: I never want to be homeless.

I rely on: my husband, too much perhaps.
Update: And look where that got me ….

I believe: that there are things I cannot change.
Update: Yes, still, and God grant me the serenity to accept those things, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I dance: and it embarrasses people, so I try to only do it when I am alone.
Update: Far, far less than I used to.

I sing: and my family get very cross about it.
Update: On Sundays, when our local radio station plays golden oldies. My cat leaves the room when I do.

I argue: badly. I am non-confrontational and generally a pacifist.
Update: Ditto.

I write: constantly, without it I would die.
Update: Infrequently of late, which makes me sad.

I win: wine sometimes in competitions. I am lucky that way.
Update: I don’t enter competitions aymore.

I lose: my reading spectacles very frequently.
Update: No change there …

I wish: I could fix something I broke.
Update: I could turn back the clock …

I listen: to classic rock on DMX channel 119 almost all the time.
Update: More carefully to what people are saying than I used to.

I don’t understand: Swedish, but I am working on it.
Update: How my life changed so much in so few years. (And I still don’t understand Swedish … )

I’m scared of: again, I can’t write it down.
Update: Financial insecurity.

I forget: family birthdays. Always.
Update: No change there either … but Facebook has helped a lot.

I am happy: enough.
Update: Some days. On the rough days I just roll with the punches and know that things will surely get better.

Photo

BEING THIN, RITUAL SLAUGHTER, REJECTING SWAINS AND CONTINUED GRATITUDE

No roses to wish my readers a happy Valentine’s Day, but I’ll share a photo of a belated housewarming gift I received from one of my neighbours last week. Her name is Ethelynne, she’s 86, Jewish and is an incorrigible gambler. She tells me that not a week goes by that she doesn’t buy a lotto ticket and has done so since the advent of the lotto draw in this country.

lounge potplant for blog 14 fe

I’m settling into my apartment with increasing enjoyment and I continue to ‘play house’; having finally unpacked the last of my boxes, the place is beginning to look more like a home and less like a furniture warehouse.

entrance hall for blog 14 feb

lounge couch for blog 14 feb

lounge long view for blog 14 f

lounge wall for blog 14 feb

After the disastrous encounter with the amorous Italian Paratrooper, I am meeting more of my neighbors and have begun to acquaint myself with the diverse African cultures that make up the melting pot that constitute the tenants of this building.
Without being familiar with the South African accent, one may miss out on the humour in the exchange I had with an ancient lady from the third floor the other day: I’d arrived in the foyer to find her trying to wrestle her shopping bags into the equally ancient elevator, while struggling to keep the heavy door from squashing her tiny, crippled frame to a pulp. The sweet old dear must be over 90; I’d hazard a guess that she may well be over a hundred years old. The doors swished shut and I said “I’m Cindy.”
“Oh,” she said, “I’m thin too! Always have been, no matter what I eat.”
I managed to restrain my mirth while I carried her bags to her door, but I now smile every time I pass the third floor.
Less amusing, and very alarming, is the rumour – conveyed to me by our busybody caretaker-lady – that the Nigerians a few doors down from me are trainee witchdoctors and are slaughtering live chickens in their apartment in order to use the blood for rituals! I’ve taken to keeping a beady eye on Princess Ally’s demeanour, in the firm belief that cats have a superior sense of knowing about the nearby presence of evil of any sort and that – if the chicken-slaughter story holds any truth – Princess Ally would be going about hissing and spitting with her heckles up. On the contrary, she is the most relaxed cat I’ve ever known and her show of “How dare you have left me alone for so long?” indignation when I walk in the door at the end of the day is an act worthy of an Oscar. It’s quite apparent that she’s been happily sleeping since my morning departure.
I fact, I have – on occasion – had to pat her gently to wake her!

ally on windowsill

In other news, I’m loving my job; I must have the nicest boss on the planet and I steadfastly believe that an act of God lead me to be employed by her. I’m very grateful for the amount of free time my job gives me, which enables me to fetch my daughter from school most days. Watching this child of mine undergo the transition from girl to woman; to change daily before my very eyes, never ceases to take my breath away.


The most surprising news I have to tell is that I’ve had tentative overtures from a few potential swains. I am, however, only just beginning to enjoy my single status too much to reciprocate in kind and my inner-grammar-Nazi makes their (there!!!) amorously texted declarations of honourable intent cause me to break out in hives – as opposed to eliciting a demurely flattered blush to the cheeks.
Still, the fact that I am engaging in even vaguely romantic dialogue is a sign of my miraculous growth over the past two years. I often catch myself, these days, marveling at how far my spiritual journey has brought me to be in the world which I inhabit today.
I’m living life on life’s terms; one day at a time. And I’m finding it more joyous than anything I could have imagined…

HAPPILY AND GRATEFULLY IN THE 2014 SADDLE

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within.

– Albert Schweitzer

2014 has started with sparks of blessings from many quarters. First off, on the 8th, I celebrated my birthday with an outpouring of love from so many quarters that I was left breathless. I was spoiled at a lovely brunch by my dear friend of 44 years, and she surprised me by having two old schoolfriends join us.

My birthday celebrations continued throughout the week, with many plates of delicious food being consumed in superb company.

I’ve been further blessed to find the perfect job, in the most beautiful environment. I am personal assistant to a psychologist who works from her beautiful home. I work four days a week, two of which are half-day, so I am lucky to be able to spend time with my daughter, who has started at a new school this year and has a busy extra-mural calendar – how nice for both of us that I am able to step in and do much of the ferrying to and fro.

My work colleagues are two cats and a sausage dog, all of them will – no doubt – provide me with lots of blog fodder. The cats consented to having their photos taken, but Maddie is a discerning hound and will – hopefully – allow her picture to grace this blog in her own sweet time.

 

I continue to be grateful to God for my rekindled relationship with my daughter. I am loving getting to know her boyfriend too, he is a wonderful young man and it melts my heart to see how gently he treats my child. They celebrated their first anniversary together on the 12th and I pray that they see many more happy years together.

My best wishes go out to all my blog friends for a blessed 2014. Thank you all for your love and support.

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.
– Henry Van Dyke

DECLINING AN AWARD ON HERITAGE DAY

I have been awarded the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award by Mal. I’ve been blogging on various platforms for almost ten years now and I think that it is time for me to begin declining these awards, although I am very grateful to Mal for the nomination. The rules of this particular one are as follows:
• Thank the one that nominated you. My sincere thanks to you, Mal:
http://maloquacious.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/one-lovely-blog-award-2/

Put up the picture for the One Lovely Blog Award.

one_lovely_blog_award

Tell everyone seven things about yourself. I think I’ve done this so often that all my blog friends know everything there is to know about me. Nonetheless, below are a few random facts about today:

I love soap. I’ve heard many people say they’d be insulted if given soap as a birthday or Christmas gift; I wouldn’t. Not at all, I have bars of soap stashed all over the place: in the pockets of my winter coats to ward off fishmoths, in my linen closet to scent my sheets, in jars on the edge of my bathtub … I love soap! (Spot the bar of bergamot soap poking out of the pocket.)

coat with soap_edited

Although much time has passed, and – to all outward appearances – I have settled nicely in my apartment and have “gotten over it”, I still occasionally reel in shock at the change in my circumstances. I will wake up in the morning and, just for a moment, I will forget that I am not a wife anymore; that there is not some shared activity in which to be engaged for the day. This – feeling like an amputee – I am told, is a natural part of the process of grieving:
“I had known a man, a butcher, who had accidently hacked off most of his left hand while cutting up a side of beef. All that was left was the thumb and index finger, but he claimed to be able to feel his other, absent fingers, so much so that he often went to twist the ring that had once rested on one of them. In a way I could still feel my other life, or the lack of it. Sometimes I would be walking down a Roman street and be overcome by the sensation that I was in the Via della Condotta or Volta dei Tintori, or some other Florentine place. But I was never able to grab hold of these things – of course not, because they existed only in my mind. I wanted to, though. I craved some sort of contact, to see or touch the ghosts of home.” – Appetite, Philip Kazan.

appetite philip kazan
Read this book if you love history, art and food!
Without the company of my cat, I expect I would go slightly insane on lonely days. Our relationship took a while to get off the ground, but she has proved to be excellent company and an ever-ready ear when self-pity threatens to overwhelm me. As a keeper of secrets she cannot be faulted.

ally on heritage day_edited

Today is our National Heritage Day and it has become customary for the entire nation to cook meat on fires. I’m not sure that barbecues are allowed on the balconies in my building, but I lit one in my miniature Weber regardless of what rules may exist.

first weber braai_edited

My feast today was a solitary one; my daughter is away at the coast for the school holidays, or I would have invited her and her swain to join me. I cooked chicken marinated in Portuguese spices and ginger beer. One leg for my lunch, with potato salad and sliced beetroot. The other will be used for chicken mayonnaise sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch.

marinating chicken_edited

braaid chicken_edited

And so ends a relatively good day. I have been productive and have enjoyed sunshine, some good music and have attained a sense of relative serenity. All is good and I will sleep well. Tomorrow my job hunting continues and I will tackle it with the faith that I continue to operate beneath the benign hand of God. I will forge ahead and see what my new life becomes…

dilla lolly

In the meantime, I think an ice lolly will finish off the day nicely.

GRATITUDE IN BOX-FULLS AND A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

bedroom boxes16 days to go before I move. I am surrounded by boxes that I began packing so long ago that I have quite forgotten what is in them. When I unpack it will be like a feast of rediscovery of all my precious things. In my mind I obsessively fantasize about my new flat and mentally arrange my furniture.
Today is my daughter’s 15th birthday and I am beyond grateful to God that yesterday, when she returned to boarding school for the new term and came to say goodbye to me, I told her I love her and she replied that she loves me too. My heart was fit to burst.

dining room boxes
Today is also the 1 year anniversary of the day I left my rehab facility. It has been a long and bumpy ride, but my whole being sings with gratitude for my sobriety and my new-found sense of serenity – this in the midst of many things that, before, would have sent me into a fug of misery and self-pity.

lounge boxes
The current tenants are threatening to refuse to move out of the flat. I have handed this dilemma over to the lawyers and trust that they will resolve the issue with the seller. I remain positive that the keys to my new home will be handed to me on the first of August and that my life will then begin an exciting new chapter.
Ally seems to be aware that a significant change is afoot; she is staying close to me all the time – sleeping snugly against my shoulder at night and winding herself around my feet during the day. At other times she sits on top of a wardrobe and watches my every move.

ally on top of the wardrobe
I worry that the removal men will not be gentle with some of my things – especially my pot plants –  but plan to beg and plead with them and to bribe them with handsome tips.

agave
I am happy today and that is more than enough.
Namaste.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Melody Beattie

things work out

And thank you to all of you, my dear friends, for always being there for me. I love you.

THE SUNSHINE BLOG AWARD

I am honoured to be nominated by Mal for the Sunshine Blogger Award.
In order to accept the award, I must:
• Include the award logo in a post or on the blog:

sunshine-blog-award

• Include a link to the person who nominated me:

http://maloquacious.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/the-sunshine-blogger-award/

• Write 10 random things about myself

• Nominate ten other bloggers who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”, plus let them know you nominated them. (I am not going to do this, I can’t possibly choose just 10, each and every one of my blog friends is important to me. Without all of you who have befriended me over the years – especially over the horrors of the past year – I would, literally, not have survived. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
10 random things about me:
1. I can’t brush my teeth or blow my nose while wearing my spectacles.
2. I am going to paint the walls of my new flat slate grey.
3. My mother-in-law moved into an old aged home on Saturday and I already miss her more than I can say.
4. I have always kept a daily journal, but I have lost my ‘mojo’ and my last entry was on Sunday the 19th of May.
5. Although I am only moving in August, I have packed almost all of the contents of my home and am living like a gypsy. This was a silly thing to have done; without my kitchen equipment, I am not able to cook and thus unable to find inspiration for my blog. Microwaved meals are not photogenic.
6. I used to write a lot of poetry, but my muse died the day I realised that my marriage was over. (Oh my word, this isn’t turning out to be a very ‘sunshiney’ post, is it?)
7. My cat, Ally, is a source of joy to me. I am amazed daily as she makes her personality known to me.
8. Ally wakes me every morning at exactly 6am. I don’t need an alarm clock.
9. I am currently on a profound spiritual journey and became a Christian six months ago.
10. I never knew it was possible to love as greatly as the love I have for my daughter. It is so great a love that it sometimes scares me.

Thank you, Mal. And thanks again to all of you out there in cyberspace.