It’s a helluva dilemma! Rose has given him R200 for watering her orchids. He can’t keep it, but she won’t take it back. He’s offered a number of times, but she just refuses! What on EARTH can he do?!
Just Keep It, says his Idiot Son. Can you believe it? How can I just keep it? I don’t want it, I just watered her plants. And she was grateful and she wanted to give you R200, so just say Thank You and keep it, repeats the I.S. How can I do that? Well, didn’t you say she underpaid you by R100 000 for the house and you should have held out for your price? Just say Thank You and keep it. Mumble mumble.
And anyway, he has another YUGE dilemma: He has four gate remotes that he won’t need when he leaves and they have four cars and they could use them. But he can’t just give it to them! Do I think he can sell them to them? He thinks he’s going to ask them to pay for them. Just give the remotes to them when you leave, says the Idiot Son. What! Do I know what they’re worth!? Yes, nothing once you leave here and valuable to them. Keep the R200 and give them the remotes. That way you have both done a kind deed to each other, which is a good thing as Rose is still going to be a very influential force in your life at Azalea Retirement home.
Remember: You did not sell your house to Joe Soap. You sold to a person who is in charge where you are going. Keep the R200 and give her the remotes as a gift. This gaans aan for a few weeks. He keeps asking and he keeps getting the same dumb advice from I.S. = NOT the advice he’s looking for. You’d think a son of his would have more common sense.
He revs up his ‘remote dilemma’ again today so I say I told you what I think you should do. What? I repeat it. Oh, yes, he says. But I can’t. She finally took back her R200 last night.
We were talking about delayed gratification and I was saying I think its a necessary and powerful skill – and historical. And I could tell a ‘today’ story to illustrate the absence of the ability to delay gratification in the terrible Youth Of Today:
I spent my morning at Home Affairs today. Bear with me, it’s boring:
For months I have said “Tom, go get your ID card and a passport. Something might pop up where you really regret not having them. Like you win an overseas vacation and . . “
So for some weeks he’s been ‘I’m gonna DO IT!‘ “Sure you are boy, get everything ready. Prepare. Make sure you know what’s needed.”
He doesn’t. We have a false start.
Today’s the new start. They’re gonna wake me at 4am and they’re gonna be first in the queue! They have A PLAN!
So I wake them at 4.30. Them is Tom and Ziggy. Ziggy is a star. His best friend and the only person who can klap him and have HIM say sorry.
I drop them off in Umgeni Road in the dark before 6am – it took them that long to move they asses.
Soon after I get home *pring pring*: ‘Dad, you have to also be here with your ID book and proof of address. They need the parent’s fingerprints for a first ID.’
They have gleaned this knowledge from those-in-the-queue-who-have-been-before.
At 8am I check my apt book is not snowed under – it’s not – so I mosey down there and join the fun. Be at work at 12 says Raksha. At 11 I see I’m not gonna make it so she says OK, 3pm. I read Cronje Wilmot’s book that Janet gave me on his days in Botswana. The famous Wilmot family of Maun.
By 12 we’re near the end and suddenly these two “need a snack” – ‘Dad, we’re starving!’ ‘Just a snack!’
“NO, I insist, firmly. “Eat afterwards. Do not leave the queue now.” Delay your gratification, I’m saying.
So they bugger off and true’s Bob, our place in the shuffling queue reaches Nirvana and they’re not back and their phones aren’t answered. Fuck that, I’m calm. I’m old now, I don’t panic easily. I wave the next auntie through and sit.
I phone again. COME NOW.
‘Aaw, we’re in the queue to buy hot chips!’ “Dammit Tommy, come now. LEAVE the food!”
Tom gets seen next, as soon as they arrive back. Ziggy has a delay as her number was cancelled and had to be reactivated. I left after I’d given my thumbprints and R400 for the passport – your first ID card is free.
But not before Tom gives me a huge public hug and ‘THANKS DAD!’ in front of the assembled masses. He knows that always fixes a lot and allows future misbehaviour! Such as immediately bumming some ‘Cash for lunch, Dad!’
And Ziggy was seen to soon after I left, they tell me tonight.
Mom has a bad spell so I visit her in frail care in PMB Sunday. While I was there she had a much worse spell, fading, then going far-away-staring-eyed and then collapsing, limp as a ragdoll. This after she’d played the piano then ate supper and drank a cup of tea. I caught her and lowered her into her chair, holding her upright. Sister Rose is there in a flash and leans her way back, getting her head low and her arms up. Of, course, low blood pressure! I should have thought of that. I was thinking TIA, not low BP.
We lift her onto a wheelchair and then into her bed. Rose jacks up the foot of the bed to get her blood flowing to her head. Whenever we talk to her, dear old stalwart always-keen-to-please Mary responds, but very faint and random words, no connection to what we’re asking. She falls asleep, blood pressure is improving, pulse is strong throughout and blood sugar levels fine. Sister Rose monitors regularly.
I spend the night with Dad in their home so I can visit her the next morning. Monday 7am I make tea before we visit Mom. Dad arrives sans teeth and hearing aids, talking a blue streak as always. I can safely ignore the muffled patter. He takes a sip of tea and then realises: ‘Damn! My teeth.’ I point at his ears. He comes back, teeth in and intelligible, one hearing aid in. Not that he needs to hear me. He just needs me to hear him and nod him yes. I wonder why he only puts one ear in, the other he puts on the table.
At Mom’s (she’s much better, but definitely not right) he can’t hear. ‘What? Wait, let me put my other hearing aid in, and then say that again.’ Skoffels around in his ear, in his jersey pockets. Then his pants pockets. Then his shirt pocket. Oh hell, he must have left it at home.
Tuesday night he phones me. He heated the soup that Sheila had made for him, microwaved it for two minutes, nice and hot. In swallowing the last spoonful he bit down * crunch * on something.
The missing hearing aid.
He says he phoned Mom to tell her of the hearing aid drama. She has been hugely involved in the saga and frustrations of his hearing aid devices and his moans about useless audiologists over the last decade.
She sounded much better, he says. Then, sadly, she piped up: ‘I didn’t know you wore a hearing aid!’ says dear old Mom.
Gathering the troops for family meetings used to be hard. You’d no sooner get one to the table than they had disappeared when you got back with the other. Not anymore: For instant family gatherings, with everyone – including Cecilia – crowded round the router with a WTF look on their faces, just switch off the wifi.
Early mornings are not young people’s best. It’s not just Christmas when ‘all through the house; Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;’ I get up in the morning and all is dead quiet. To use another Free State Reed-ism ‘not a leaf stirred, not a dog stirred’ (geddit?*).
They lie low as I pad up and down the passage. Even if I stick my lips at the door crack and ask ‘You Awake?’ not a peep.
Until I walk past with shoes on. Then it’s instantly ‘Where’re you going?’
. . not a dog’s turd. This Reed-ism is best orally, not so good in print.
The old man gets The Witness delivered to his gate daily. He has fetched it at the gate at around 5am for decades. His 96yr-old legs started protesting against this chore so he recently roped in the kid next door. For R20 a month the kid now hangs the packet it comes in on the back door.
The paper – as The Natal Witness – was first printed in 1846 and it has been going continuously ever since. Today the old man tells me has read it for 91 years, since he was five. His Dad used to sit on his ‘captain’s chair’ holding it spread out in front of him and Dad used to creep under the paper, lean against Oupa’s boep and ask ‘Wat’s daai? En Wat’s Daai? En Daai?’, pointing at pictures and words.
When he moved to Harrismith he subscribed to it through the local bookstore.
Ah, but now he remembers: After a few years the lady there said The Witness was stopping delivery. The schlep of delivering a single copy to the station late at night, hot off the press, for it to be railed from Pietermaritzburg to Harrismith was just not worth it. So no longer would The Natal Witness fly along the rail, past Chievely, Estcourt and Weenen where the Boer War was fought and Churchill was captured, die blerrie rooinek. Through Ladysmith which was besieged and relieved; Nor up the Drakensberg mountains over rail bridges my Great-Grandfather built, through van Reenen, through Swinburne, over the sandstone bridge over the Wilge River to Harrismith station; up to Havenga se boekwinkel, fresh for delivery to Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel, formerly of Pietermaritzburg, The Natal Witness’ home town. No.
So he subscribed to The Star, which came from Johannesburg, but now he got it one day late. So his reading of The Witness, which he continued once he got back to PMB some twenty years ago, was not continuous.
Still, it FEELS as though he has read it for 91 years.