Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sweet 16

Today I think back 16 years. The day Marielle was born! What a sweet bundle of joy she was. I dubbed her "miracle baby", because she was whole, and healthy... because she could see and hear. That was not a "given", since I had had German Measles at 11 weeks into my pregnancy. We had had the option of aborting. It sends shivers down my spine to even say the word. What a beautiful, precious girl I would have missed out on.

So today is a day of deep thankfulness for her life. It is also a day of deep sadness. When one turns 16, you should have a proud daddy by your side who looks at his beautiful princess and sees what she has become.

Tonight we are going to light Chinese lanterns and send them into the sky. Oh don't mistake, I am not superstitious, airy fairy, making wishes on them, or in any way attaching meaning to them. I want them to symbolize something.... sending our light out into the world. These lights also end when the fuel has burnt out, as do we. But they give such pleasure while they are here, and remain in our memories. We are that too, in a dark world, little lights shining out. Let us make a difference to as many people as we can, while we are here.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The saddest day

That day started out like any other. There was no hint, no foreshadowing, no premonition of what was to come. Isn't that mostly the case?

Werner and I packed picnic stuff, cameras, chairs and were on the road before the sun lifted on the horizon. Excited chatter filled our car... looking forward to one of the biggest airshows in SA in many years. As the sun rose, we were seated in prime spots on the airfield, drinking thermos flask coffee, wrapping ourselves in blankets on this chilly morning.... 1 October 2011. Our lives, about to be changed forever...once again....with no hint of what was to come.

The airshow was amazing. A whole war scenario complete with rescue, was played out for us. The ground shook with pretend explosions that sent chills through my body and thoughts of the unbelievable horrors of war. It occurred to me to think: I am so thankful not to have lived through a war, not to have those kinds of images burnt into my mind.

As these thoughts and scenes played out before me, my children were on the road to Witbank with their dad and Cream Puff. They were spending the weekend with the Prof. As always, a sadness tugged at my heart. How is it, I wondered for the 100ths time, that I didn't choose to leave, but that I am forced to give the children up every alternate weekend?
Early morning smses from them to us, confirmed that they had seen the helicopters flying overhead on their way to us for the airshow. The delicate thread linking us to them in a common sight, made me smile.

Werner and I recorded the airshow, thinking in glee how we could share this footage with the children, oh how Arno would have loved to be a part of this and see it all. In the meantime, the stage was being set, and their lives were about to be shattered.

The first inkling of trouble came from an sms from Marinda: Mom, please pray for our safety. Veld fires have broken out on the farm and there are people out fighting them. The area hadn't received rain for a long time, and these fires break out in the grass and spread. They look innocent, but we knew from bitter experience that they can be deadly. Just recently we had prayed for families who had lost loved ones in such fires.
A quick whispered prayer, but my thoughts turned to the 2nd series of explosions being played out before me. The airshow was being repeated, and we were filming, desperate to capture these moments to share with the children.
My phone rang. The caller id showed me it was Arno. I could hear crying and an hysterical voice saying .... stopped breathing...don't want him to die.....
The explosions made it impossible to hear what he was talking about. Ironic that such news came with all the fireworks on our side. Shouting back into the phone I told him to wait, I would phone back when I could hear again.
Suddenly the explosions were no longer "fun", the filming irrelevant.  Why was it taking so long, so very long to stop.
The deafening explosions finally fell away, and I was able to phone:
Arno's sobbing voice: Mom, dad has stopped breathing, I don't want him to die. My heart broke. Pictures floated through my mind...I was helpless to help my child in his greatest hour of need.
Piecing together bits of the story, I gathered that Arno was with his dad fighting the fire, that Cream Puff and others were trying to resuscitate the Prof, and finally...that the girls were not in the same place as their father.

Praying and crying, I phoned Marinda, asking her to stay calm but to go to where Arno was on the farm. I told her that the Prof was being taken to the hospital. Then I phoned my cell friends asking them to pray.

We began to pack up, moving faster and faster. Ice was starting to run through my veins. What ifs starting running wildly through my mind, just like the fires were spreading on the farm. What if the Prof didn't make it? What if my children got caught in the fire...all things too terrible to contemplate.

Our friends were making calculations faster than we were. Our car was too small to fit all the children in, should we need to fetch them from the farm. We would have to drive the hour trip home, in the opposite direction, for the other car, before starting the 2 and half hour journey to the children. These friends jumped in their car and drove towards Pretoria before we had even started putting all the pieces together. They would meet us half way, to swap cars with us and take our car back home.

As we were driving out the gates of the airshow, when the phone call came. The phone call that I had never wanted to hear, not even in my angriest hours. Cream Puff phoned me herself: Yvonne, he didn't make it. Suddenly, we were no longer dealing with the prospect of taking children home while their dad recovered in hospital, but with 3 children who had just lost their father forever:  half orphans, children who were sitting alone in a house on the farm, waiting desperately for news....

Suddenly time, which had been moving so fast, began to drag by in slow motion. I pray never to have to  repeat such a journey again. It felt like it would never end. I wanted to take my children and hold them, keep the world of hurt away forever, but like flood waters rushing to lower ground, the inevitable was rushing toward them, about to flood their lives in such a way that they would never be the same again.

Swopping cars, we finally go onto the road to Witbank. The children had been sending frantic smses to me, asking me how far away we were, and what the news was. I didn't tell them the awful news I knew. No adult there to support them, I kept the rushing flood waters at bay for a short while longer.

Cream Puff arrived back at the farm. One look at her told the children exactly what they didn't want to know. Their father, had not made it. This person who was vibrant and alive that very morning, who had made lunch with them, who had meticulously packed that lunch away in the fridge after he had received the news of the fires, who had made just such plans in the event of fires, went calmly into action, sending the girls to look after the horses, and taking his son with him, with confidence...this person, no longer walked and talked.

I don't have the words to describe the shock, the disbelieve, the non-understanding that hits you, when you think but a few hours before, he had been alive and well. The feeling of disbelief, which overtakes you on day 1 and day 2...fades with time, as layers upon layers in the form of hours,days, months, eventually years, are placed between your last images of the person alive and now.

 It took us another 40 minutes before we would be there. I had never been to the farm, could scarcely take it all in. This morning, he had walked here, with the children, with the idea of spending the weekend, dreams of riding, plans for the future.... all that - wiped away in an instant.

The children were just broken heaps of little people when we got to them. We spent some time, not really knowing what to say or think. It sounded like the Prof had smoke inhalation and then a heart attack. The death certificate eventually simply stated: unnatural causes.

Driving home in the gathering darkness, the tears just fell and fell as though this sadness would never end.
The floods had overtaken us, we were powerless to stop the raging waters of grief.Would time heal, I wondered as we drove on and on in that dark night?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slipping in unseen

I have a picture in my mind, of a teenager slipping quietly into a dark house, tiptoeing up the stairs, and trying not to be heard on their late way in. I feel like that! I want to tiptoe quietly and silently back into my blogging life, unheard and unseen. Kinda funny, as most bloggers want to be seen.

But today, not me. I want to write, crave the need for it's release...and so I tiptoe up the stairs, and slip silently into my writing seat, and wonder how I can possibly begin to tell you where I am, and where I have been. I thought the chapters of my strange story, were somehow done....but I was wrong.

Life takes the strangest turns... as you will see.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes

Well yes, hello again - after a long break. If you are still checking back for posts I really must say a big thank you for your loyalty.

Here is my peace offering.

Two stories about Eric. His innocence and way of summing up a situation just makes that saying so true: out of the mouths of babes...

A few weeks ago, he was spending the weekend with us. Early one morning he came running through to announce, "I saw a bird".
Being the only one he can converse with so early in the morning (everyone else is still sound asleep), I murmured: "Really? Where did you see this bird?"

An indignant sigh, and the placing of hands on hips said more about his disdain for this question, than any words could have conveyed, "Through my WINDOW!"  Unsaid words hung in the air: do you really mean to tell me you can't figure out where I saw that bird?

Trying to regroup, I made another attempt:
"Oh, so what colour was this bird?".
Another sigh (you really are daft so early in the morning, Aunty Yvonne): "he didn't HAVE a colour, he just had lots of speckles."
His little hands fluttered in the air around his neck, making poking gestures to indicate "spots" - without colour.
"He was looking for water", Eric added helpfully.
"Uh huh! What did you tell him?" I finally got out past the huge giggle in my throat.
"Well, there isn't water outside my window. I told him...go THAT way".
The THAT was punctuated by a hand gesture, where Eric threw his thumb over his shoulder in a gesture you make to flag down a passing car for a lift. That gesture and moment were so fleeting and then gone, much like the bird itself, there for a moment and then just living in your memory. We laughed until the tears ran down our cheeks. He hadn't merely pointed a finger in the direction of water, but with real attitude, thrown a thumb over his shoulder, to indicate the direction the bird should go. Some of the same disdain remained, a silly bird, and a silly Aunty Yvonne: these people and birds need HELP.

My second story happened during the Easter weekend. Werner and I happened to be in Cum Books - Christian book store. We had Eric and Carissa with us. The store was hung full of banners showing a cross and a crown of thorns.

Eric stood for a long time looking at that crown of thorns. Finally, he turned to Werner and said: "If you put THAT on your head, you will have one heck of a headache".

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Devil wears Prada!

If you haven't gathered this before, I am so not "in" on fashion. One of the Prof's pet hates about me, was that "I would not suffer for fashion" - his words, not mine.

In that vein then, my following story.
The kids spent last weekend with the Prof and Cream  Puff. Being driven by "looks" as always, the Prof thought it a good idea to educate the girls into areas in which my expertise was obviously lacking. The following discussion turned around high heel shoes and went something along these lines:

The Prof told Marinda: You know, high heels really makes your calf muscles stand out, and you should learn to walk on high heels as a matter of course - and not just at year end functions.
That last bit was a direct dig at me, because I would only ever wear high heels to the year end function!
"So", he continued, "wear high heels, because it will make your husband's heart beat faster."
At exactly this point Marielle wondered in on the conversation and wanted to know what it was about.

Marinda turned out this very priceless comment: Dad was just explaining to me, that if I want to "keep" my husband one day, I will have to wear high heels.

Apparently  at that point, the Prof decided not to say another word.

Out of the mouths of babes? Well done my girl, well done.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

10 and a HALF

Eric and Carissa spent the time between Christmas and New year with us. Amongst the hard stuff - there was cute stuff too. The "10 and a half" was cute. But wait. Let me start with the hard stuff and move to cute.

When we got the children, we picked up problems on day 1. Cream Puff apparently doesn't "DO" bedtimes. So, you may ask, what  DOES she do? Well apparently, she goes to her room when she is ready to retire, locks the door, and leaves the little ones to amuse themselves until they fall over. "Falling over time" for Carissa seems to be a 1 am in the morning. Sounds like child abuse to me.
SO... this presented boundary problems in our house - because our house rules say - bedtime - at 8pm, latest 9 pm during holidays. We bashed heads a few nights over this issue with them, until they came over to our way of thinking. Ha - more because we stopped naming the time - than because we were so clever. LOL.

The 2nd problem had me feeling like a class A witch. Eric is a very bad eater. He looks at food and decides: I don't eat that. Mostly I ignore him and get on with life, but one particular evening, when Werner had made lovely food that the kids all loved, it stuck in my craw. He would not even taste it. I looked across the table and said quietly: Eric if you don't eat that, you are not getting pudding either.
He looked at me with big beautiful eyes that said: O - I have heard that one before. My mommy threatens me with that all the time.

Dinner dragged to a close, with his plate being untouched. We cleared the table, and took out 1 pudding bowl too little. Those big eyes turned to disbelief as we had pudds and he had none. Later that evening, he told Cream Puff about it - I didn't get any pudding because I didn't eat my food. Don't know what Cream Puff told him, but in an attempt to get sympathy from her, he told her- and daddy doesn't put me in bed nicely every evening.

Werner threw his toys out the cot at that one. He told Eric to stop talking nonsense to his mother.

Well, the up side of the story is that after that episode - he tried to eat at least some of the food we prepared.

Now the 10 and a half. It began with Eric. He started to use it as a phrase for everything denoting "much". Eric would you like to go swimming - yes - like 10 and a half.
Eric, are you hungry -like 10 and a half. (Which of course is most of the time since he doesn't do our food!)

We now have a new and precious expression to add to our collection: 10 and a half.

Want to end off with that. I am typing this blog from work on  the first day of my NEW job! I wrote a while back - that I was making some life changes. SARS is a thing of the past. Now I think I can say - this new place is nice, very NICE - like 10 and a half! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today - is a GOOD day

I am not good with dates, and remembering stuff, but THIS Day - I remember. Today is my 2412Towers day! The day the Prof finally told me the truth.
People don't like me to "remember" this day, almost as though they want to shield me from it's pain, or to say - move on past it.

But this morning, having coffee with Werner, I unpicked it a bit. Here is how I see today:
Today is a day where we celebrate the TRUTH  Day! It is like an "axis" day, where my life began turning on the axis of the day, into a new life, new beginnings and a completely new world. At the time, that turning hurt so much I thought I would not make it. Looking back, I realise that the truth made me stronger, and the view I have from my new vantage point, is so beautiful.

Who could have though, 4 years ago, that today I can stand and look back, realising it is a celebration and not a total collapse? It is a day where I can say in my heart: Prof - I forgive you. You did not realise exactly what you began that day, but what you started that day gave me a new, changed life.
It is a day where I stand in thankfulness to my Lord and say: Thank You for carrying me through all these things to a better life, and finally, it is a day where I look to Werner and the children, and say thank you to them too for the love I see in their eyes. Their love is true and holds fast. Thank you!

So...despite how it looks, Today is a GOOD day!