Rather Late Than Never

Posted in Photography / Musings

Rather Late Than Never

Hallo! I have missed you old friend. And, like some relationships, if neglected, one could become estranged. I am back! We will be on track in no time, good friends, although separated, don’t need much to become reacquainted! After almost three months I have all my balls in the air again. Juggling all my favourite things. At times some balls might be dropped as I pick up others.

Many exciting things have happened in the interim. We have had a house full of children and grandchildren. Pure joy! Butch celebrated his 70th Birthday with all his siblings, nephews, nieces, children, grandchildren and friends. To accommodate everyone and to give me a break Butch decided to celebrate with a luncheon at Spookfontein Wine Estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. A wonderful idea, we all relaxed and had time to mingle and enjoy every guest.

The Birthday festivities lasted for more than a week as everyone came to the party from far and wide to celebrate this milestone with him. He was like a cat with two tails. Could not have been happier.

10 Days before Christmas we wrenched the old Christmas trees from the top of the cupboard where they’d been unceremoniously lodged and gathering dust for a year. Lise was sceptical as she’s become rather accustomed to the Canadian way of doing “The Holidays” large, designer Pine trees with an overwhelming display of lights and baubles to keep children excited for the duration. Ours looked rather forlorn, moth eaten, very dusty and disappointingly skimpy. She did cheer up as she unpacked the old trinkets from her childhood, the ones collected over 40 years now, ones that bring back memories of childhood, growing up and Christmases past. With hands on her hips and her head cocked she declared our trees were lovely! Emily did the honours with the lights and our trees glowed into the night in style.

Christmas was a time of celebrating with family and we went the whole hog. Our table groaned and every seat in the house had a bum on it. Awesome. We wined and dined, danced, sang, played games and loudly told everyone our point of view. Wine flowed and all our favourite dishes were served. Everyone contributed towards the festive day, Love and gratitude in abundance.

Butch and I had an opportunity to get to know our new son-in-law better and spent many hours in discussions about braaiing, ice hockey, traveling, his career and his very different life in a very different country way up north. Butch was bowled over and enjoyed every minute they spent together. A man who loves our daughter and granddaughter. Who has plans set up for their future, with high aspirations, big dreams and remarkable ambitions to make their lives better. With pride we look forward to watching this delightful family of three grow.

Our granddaughter Isla swept us off our feet as she charmed her way into our hearts. Of course she’s the cleverest, most beautiful little girl on earth and we enjoyed her antics every day. The times she spent with us, solo, were a highlight as we could throw away instructions and enjoy her on our terms. She flourished I must admit. We are sure her first words will be Ouma and Oupa. Butch, with a tear admitted that he never thought he could love another human being so much so quickly. She stole our hearts.

Spending time with our three granddaughters (without their parents in tow) was top of our charts. They entertained us, made us feel young again and shed some light onto their lives which we are mostly unaware of. We learned of their talents, writing, singing and a love of the kitchen. With very little prodding, but, with sincere interest, concern and empathy we learned of their fears and insecurities in this madly unpredictable world of theirs.

Although they’re teenagers already, they enjoyed simple afternoons at the beach, fishing, and snorkelling and indulged me when I insisted on having a Gelato before we returned home. Isla needed no persuading she dived right in every time. Sugar addictions are hot-wired in our DNA I’m afraid. Ellen’s cheesecake was a winner and our tea party with the Great grandparents and Valery will be remembered long after the calories have settled on my hips. Ellen refused to share her recipe claiming it is a "family secret" (a blessing in disguise)

With a new sports watch strapped to my arm I was “encouraged” by my disciplined son and Emily to keep up with them and their over ambitious exercise regime. With new watch I must complete my fitness “circles” daily they say. A tall order. Although I tried to keep up with their Boot camp I only managed one session, having pulled every muscle and ligament in my body. To disappoint our children is a parent’s greatest fear. This one he’ll have to suck up. I have made peace with it.

On the 31st December I fell off my bicycle going around an unassuming corner a stone’s throw from our house, I fell, unbecomingly, head first over a kerb stone. The scar on my leg still a painful reminder. The humiliation as I hobbled home deflated, was excruciating. New Year’s Eve was spent quietly at home while I licked my wounds.

My list of resolutions are: 1. do not keep anything for a rainy day. Every day is special. 2. Do not get onto the scales (3rd year) and no obsessive dieting 3. Have my say. I do have a few exciting plan on the cards and we hope we will get away on our World Adventure Tour in the Honey Badger this year.

We’d hardly settled when it was time for Chad to return home. We couldn’t believe how fast three weeks slipped by unnoticed. But he assured us he’d enjoyed every minute, he’d seen and experienced more than he anticipated and said “Every day is like a dream, I never expected Africa to be so awesome!” Thrilling us no end. Of course we hope they’ll be back soon. He also admitted that many of his preconceived prejudices had been dispelled as he relaxed and settled comfortably into our laid back way of life.

We often say talking about the weather is due to a lack of intelligent conversation. Humour me. I must talk about the weather. This year it was unkind to holiday makers. Global warming reared its ugly head. Windy, wet and cold with only a few remarkable days sprinkled in between. Disappointing to us who sell the sunny blue skies to our visitors. Fortunately they thought it was sublime considering they would return to -40°C in Canada.

The house became quieter a few days later when Joe and Emily packed their bags and with a heavy heart we had to say goodbye to them too. Such a cheerful couple, always upbeat with joyful smiles and easy conversations, I dreaded the final hours. My parents were particularly quiet as they’d enjoyed Joe and all his stories immensely, their visits to the Grandparents highlighted their ordinary days and the improvement in Grandmas state of mind was remarkable. Joe indulged her every whim and treated them to meals and lovely ice creams regularly. Loneliness in the aged is definitely debilitating. My father, normally very stoic, controlled and shy had a spring in his step and even smiled broadly when we took the last photographs. These are treasured gifts already framed and on Grandma’s dressing table where she talks to them every morning when she does her make up.

Having Isla and Lise with me for an extra three weeks was an unexpected, undeserved joy. Butch, sadly had to return to work but it afforded us an opportunity to slip into an easy routine. We’d wake up when the cock crowed or when Isla needed a change of scenery. Our moon she was and we went along with the ebb and flow of her tides riding the waves in gratitude. Enjoying her develop as she changed daily. Sunshine and water made her blossom and grow before our very eyes. Her exuberant laughter could be heard throughout the house. She went from crawling to standing and as she wobblingly took her first steps. She was fast and we had to watch her as she slipped from our watchful eyes as she negotiated the flight of stairs. She certainly got the best traits from her parents.

Grandchildren are the icing on our parenting cakes. With them we do not have the responsibility parents have therefore we enjoy them and love them truly unconditionally as we have no hidden agendas, ambitions or prescriptions about their lives. They are the sum of our children. Perfect in every way. With age and experience my advice is, slow down, enjoy every moment, listen more and instruct less.

Just when I thought I could get used to this, it was time for them to leave too. Nothing can ever prepare me for this. Ever. I feel wretched, angry and heartbroken. Butch, knowing of our discomfort tries his best to make the day of departure as pleasant as possible by treating us to a special lunch, which is always wonderful but, inevitably, we have to make our way to the airport.

Nothing we do to prevent a traumatic departure ever pans out and this time we thought we’d nailed it. We made a reservation in a hotel for the night (we do not drive at night anymore) so that Isla could remain in her routine, sleeping, bathing and eating in a normal, unrushed fashion. Lise would do the necessary to secure a bassinette and book her luggage etc., well in advance so that she could reserve her energies and concentrate on making Isla’s journey as pain free as possible.

A 36 hour long haul flight with a baby is not to be sniffed at. Lise had all our sympathies, unfortunately the staff at the check-in counter, although they oohed and ahhed and cooed at Isla, had no sympathy and no bassinette. The first shock came when the ticket was issued and it was discovered that Isla was meant to have left the day before. Ludicrous I know, but, the admin to get that sorted took almost three hours of waiting for the Airline to sort out. They had made the mistake with the time zones and their own timetables. Unbelievable.

Of course Isla didn’t sleep, didn’t eat and would not settle beforehand! She knew something was amiss and wasn’t going to give her Mum any slack. Lise later reported that the passenger who did sit in front of the bassinette was middle-aged and childless. Fortunately sleeping over at the hotel was a very good idea and we’ll certainly consider it again next time.

With a broken heart, a quiet house and only fond memories I packed up our cottage, piled dirty laundry, cushions galore, a mountain of beach and bath towels, and my summer wardrobe into my car to return home. My emotions were sapped and I had no energy as I arrived home to a very happy Butch who welcomed me with a fire burning, a lovely fresh garden salad and news of the office. I was home. My children were back where they belong and we only had memories to sustain us.

And that, I remind myself, is life.

Photo credit to Paula van Rensburg who was the photographer at  Butch's birthday bash. Thanks Paula!