Friday, September 21, 2007

A very long post...

Holidays are here! Yay! And the sun was out in force today. It’s been hotting up all week, and I’ve loved it. I even took 2 classes outdoors. (SKOK!) (OK, admittedly, one was because the art room down the corridor were using thinners and I had an asthma attack as a result, so had to evacuate my classroom, but still.) Today was another gorgeous day – one of those beautiful spring days that holds such promise for a fantastic summer. After the final assembly I took to lazing in the sun on the Matric Lawn, waiting for my colleagues to pack up so we could go out for lunch. I kept thinking to myself – there’s no place like home!

Yup, there’s nothing quite like azure (not just blue!) African skies, bright sun, lazing on the thick, dark green lawn, gazing up at the Mountain, feeling the light breeze play over my skin, listening to the birds in the trees… and all accompanied by the lovely smell of diesel fumes from the lawnmower 15m away that sounds like it’s eaten a toaster for lunch and got bits stuck in its teeth. But lawnmower aside, I had the most glorious 20 minutes laze. I haven’t done nothing like that in ages. No books to mark or lessons to prepare, and no other human beings needing or demanding my attention. Glorious! Heavenly! I felt like a student again at the start of the summer holidays – with weeks of summer nothingness ahead.

Of course, being on a lawn, it didn’t take long before I was drumming up earthworms and doing a bit of weeding. I can’t help myself. Really, I can’t. I love weeding (anal, I know, but I do) and I still find earthworms fascinating… the way they wriggle around, the way they feel in your hand, the way their internal structure is designed, the way they mate, their similarity to parasitic worms… Once a biologist, always a biologist I guess.

But it brought back so many happy memories of years gone by and all the hours I spent weeding the lawns with my mother (at the same house Graeme, Nellie and I have just moved into, in fact). This is one the reasons I’ve come home. I want my kids to have the kind of childhood and young adulthood that I had (minus the stuff ups and heart break) – not necessarily weeding the lawns (although I do hope they learn to love gardening), but just having happy times doing ordinary stuff with family. There is nothing so precious! Kids don’t need lots of expensive gadgets – they need love and time and words of affirmation from their family. I want Nellie to have all that.

Much later, after Graeme had collected Nellie, we were all outside on the stoep (porch/ patio) and in the garden, enjoying the late afternoon sun. Nellie was riding her car (she can now push herself forwards, so she doesn’t have to just go in reverse anymore!), I was reading in my rocking chair, and Graeme was practicing his bowling. (Oh, the injustice of SA being out of the twenty 20!) Suddenly I heard this voice – my voice – saying ‘Be careful of Nellie – you don’t want to hit her on the head’ and ‘Don’t throw that on the roof – you’ll crack a tile’, and ‘Don’t bowl in that direction, you’ll hit a car’, and ‘Don’t bowl up against the house – you’ll crack the bricks and we’ll get leaks’. When did I turn into my mother (no offence, Mom – you’re the world’s best mother and I couldn’t cope without you!!)? Not sure, but we did have a really good chuckle about it.

Speaking of sport, I had a lovely evening out earlier in the week. Rondebosch rugby boys are touring in Argentina next year and so have organised a series of fundraisers. One was a ‘Rugby Rules for Girls’ evening, and as I teach some of the boys, I bought a ticket and went along. I was really hoping that they would cover the off-side rule, and when penalties are awarded, and what affects the decision to either kick for the posts or have a line-out, but they didn’t. Never the less, it was a really fun evening.

We had former SA Springbok prop Toks (Albert, I ask you!? A good Afrikaans rugby boy-tjie and his name is Albert! Go figure.) van der Linde and commentator Gary C as the MC’s and they were fabulous. They got women up on stage and taught us how to tackle correctly, scrum and do (is that the correct verb?) a line-out. They also went through the various positions on the field, and the difference between a ruck and a maul. Some of the stuff I already knew, but I definitely learnt stuff. They were a good laugh too, and the food was delicious (Woolies food always is!), so all round it was a great evening. I even managed to teach Graeme something afterwards! Now that’s something.

So – what are my plans for this glorious week of freedom I have ahead? Sadly, very little lying in the sun lazing. No – this week is the time I have to catch up on my business plans that have been on a back burner while I’ve been working and sorting out the house. It is also the time to finish sorting out the house. Our housewarming is next weekend and I’d like the last few boxes and bits and pieces to be done by then.

I’m hoping that the change of scenery and focus will help get me back on an even keel though. I’ve really been struggling with grief again recently. I’m back to being mad with God and therefore not really wanting to talk to him. I know that grief goes in cycles, so I’m not too worried about this; it’s just that it’s hell living through it. I know I will get through this and that at some point in the future I will find a way to live with the pain, to reconcile my (intellectual) faith with my experiences, but right now that’s a bit beyond my capabilities.

I was having a conversation with a colleague at work about this just last week. She lost her dad to cancer a few years back and her faith took a massive blow. Like me, she’s still struggling to find a way to make sense of her pain and her loss, and to reconcile her experiences with her faith. I was deeply pained to hear that her church family told her that the reason her dad died was because she didn’t have enough faith when she prayed for his healing. I know that lots of Christians believe this particular doctrine (and that they fail to temper it with the freewill of the individual or with the effects of the sin of the individual, or with God’s omnipotence) but it still angers me that they could be so unloving as to express it to someone who is grieving. Where is their compassion?

One of the kids in my register class made a comment this week about the Americans remembering their 9/11 dead and he said something to the effect of ‘oh just get over it already – that was 6 years ago!’ I nearly hit the roof! Before I left SA, I didn’t really understand what a big deal WW1 and WW2 were, and every year at the remembrance services I would think pretty much the same thoughts as this kid. Then I went to the UK, where it is a MASSIVE event every year, and slowly, as I absorbed the national culture, I came to understand what a massive impact the wars had on the population, economy and industry in the UK. Then I lost Zoe. On one of the grief message boards I’m part of the rules there state that there is no time-frame by which you are supposed to ‘get over’ your grief, and that therefore no-one should ever tell another member that they ought to be ‘over’ it by now – whether that was 6 months or 60 years after the event.

I understand now what it is to be a loved one left behind after a tragic, unexpected event, trying to move on with life, but never fully able to because someone you love has been prematurely ripped from your life. It doesn’t matter whether that loved one is lost through war, natural disaster, accident, illness or some other tragic circumstance. The fact is that you never forget. You will always remember, and you will always try to celebrate the life cut short. If that loved one is lost in an event that kills hundreds or thousands, then all the loved ones affected may choose to remember together, thus creating a memorial event. To be told to ‘get over it’ is like being told that your loved one no longer has any worth or meaning, and no-one has the right to say that about another person.

I tried to explain this to him, calmly, but either I wasn’t doing a very good job, or he just wasn’t getting it. He kept saying that he’d lost his grandparents, so he knew what it was to lose someone. I kept saying that he obviously didn’t understand the nature of grief if he was able to say he’s lost a loved one and yet can make a comment like that. The more he failed to understand the connection between the two, the more irate I got, until eventually I lost my cool and yelled at him so loudly the entire class (and they are a noisy bunch!) shut up and told him to shut up too. I told him he was being incredibly rude, selfish, inconsiderate and insensitive and that if he ever dared make a comment like that in my class again he need never return to my class – he could sit in the corridor for the rest of the year as far as I was concerned.

By this time, I was just about in tears. I was shaking with anger and grief. I felt like his failure to understand this was such a slap in the face. And something has just occurred to me – he hasn’t been in class since. I’m sure it’s coincidence – he’s probably been bunking school to watch the cricket. Still, I hope something I said, other than the message to get lost, has stuck and given him pause for thought. I shouldn’t have lost my cool. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to take it so personally. But I’m human, and as I said, recently my grief has been very close to the surface. I guess I was a time bomb waiting to explode. Not having the space and time to blog (or write) has curtailed a very important outlet for me.

Not having my London friends around to talk to has been another problem. I don’t think I realised till now just how much I’d been relying on them to help me through this aspect of my grief work. (I miss you guys so much – both my morning GG ladies and my evening GG! You were my lifeline!) I think it’s time that Graeme and I followed up the support group thing here so I have another outlet for my grief. I really don’t want another explosion at a kid (or anyone else, for that matter) because I’m not dealing with my grief very well.

For the moment though, at least I’m back online can blog again. But for those who pray, please keep praying. I know that it can be hard to keep praying the same prayer for the same person over a long period of time, so I appreciate your prayers all the more. In some respects I think the grief only really starts when the world around you starts to forget you are still grieving.

And on the subject of prayer – this was sent to us recently on email. Oh to have the faith of a child (dog)!
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