It was all engines go and roaring for the UK and then Turkey in my last post. It was set in stone – tickets & accommodation were all booked. I explained in great detail to friends and colleagues how Timol and I would walk the markets and alleyways of Istanbul, and then sit down to rest with a Turkish coffee and hookah. Really now, what could go wrong?
We landed in the UK and had two days at New Barns farm outside Birmingham and exploring London CBD before I received the first SMS / text.
I am sure all of you know some of the Baz Luhrmann lyrics to “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. The full lyrics appear at the end of this post, but for here & now I specifically highlight “Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good”. This was said for good reason.
The SMS suggested I return home immediately as my Mother was critically ill.
Within 5 hours of getting that message (only 48 hours after landing in the UK), Timol and I were boarding an Emirates flight to head back home. Turkey was out the door.
I didn’t know if Mother would make through the next 22 hours whilst we hurried back home. I sent messages asking that she just hold on a little while longer: that last smile, warm hand, touch, goodbye, word, bit of advice, smell seemed all so very important at that point but definitely not when I hurriedly left Mother about 3 days before, to look after things while I was away.
Long story short. I have been home 9 days, never saw Turkey but did see Mother tonight at the hospital. We watched a little television, shared some memories and how our days went today, got some fresh air outside, sampled the view over Durban CBD, held hands and made arrangements to see each other tomorrow.
Things are not at all well with Mother and the chances of improvement are ultra-slim to nil, but we have shared 9 glorious days that perhaps should not have been ours – I have told Mother that this is indeed our “bonus” time; like in pinball: we are scoring big and I for one love it!
Yes, our days together are surely numbered but I think that they have always been; from the moment I entered this world from her womb. It only now that we appreciate this a little or lot more.
A little advice from my Mother today “savour, enjoy and appreciate that simple cup of tea or plain apple, because you don’t know what it’s like (how terrible and torturing) when you can’t have them any longer”. Mother is no longer able to eat in the conventional manner and in all likelihood will not do so again in this lifetime.
I cannot even begin to describe Mother and the enormity of her heart, the unconditional love, care for all, warmth, courage of a Lion (she is a Leo) and many other talents.
Perhaps the pictures below of Mother and her son (me) taken about 40 years ago will provoke some thoughts.
It’s nearly bedtime for me so let me leave you with the promised lyrics:
“Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99:
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind sides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.
Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.
Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
But trust me on the sunscreen”