Jessica’s Tummy Mummy

I would think I’d call an adopted daughter of mine a lovely Zulu name. But Jess arrived as Jessica, two years and two days old and named Jessica by her fifteen year old mother Thembi. Just Jessica. Of course, we couldn’t imagine her as anything but Jess/Jessie/Jessica now! ‘Cept maybe JessiePops, like godmother Dizzi calls her.

Jessie's first morning with us.
– jessie’s first morning with us –

Thembi had been checked in to hospital for a five month course of TB treatment and Durban Child Welfare decided Jess had to be fostered. They phoned us and we said Sure! We’d been about four months without a foster kid.

We took her straight to Thembi at King George V or VI Hospital* after checking it was safe to do so. We wanted Jess to see where Thembi was, and Thembi to know Jess was in good hands. We – especially Aitch – visited her often till she was well and discharged.

We met the family that had first rescued Thembi from her fate as a child domestic worker who had been impregnated by her boss. They were South Africans – ‘Indian’, ‘Coloured’ and ‘African’ if you must. This was why Thembi only spoke English to Jess. The lingua franca in her lovely circle of benefactors was English. She was given a corner on the floor in the lounge of a small flat in Melbourne Road, where she could be safe, raise Jess and go out to do whatever work she could find.

Then followed a number of years of Trish raising two ‘children’, little Jess and her tummy mummy teenager Thembi. Aitch was amazing in her support of Thembi and helped her to adulthood and some measure of independence. Literary classes, computer classes, sewing lessons and more were arranged. Hair appointments were made, dentists appointments for significant repair work.

Aitch 'adopted' Thembi too and looked after her
– restaurant visit! –

Thembi then met a long-wanted boyfriend who was so good for and to her. Tragically, though, she ended up becoming HIV positive. Trish arranged expert care and a reliable source and clockwork collection of antivirals by meeting with the lady in charge of the HIV / AIDS program at King Edward VIII Hospital. Soon into the relationship, Thembi asked us to adopt Jess. Whattapleasure.

Fortnightly lunches with Thembi were unmissable. Aitch would arrange to meet, pick up Thembi and the three girls would find the shops for Thembi’s needs, and a restaurant for a meal and for Aitch and Thembi to swop news; then Jess and Thembi would chat – just a little at first, but later they would take to giggling together like schoolgirls, discussing the clothes and actions of passersby. Jess still fondly talks about those gossipy times.

A visit was made to Thembi’s family home outside Port Shepstone for her mom and gran – Jess’ gran and great-gran – and the extended family to see how Jessie was doing among the umlungus. Over the years, a sister and the great-grandmother died, coffins and funerals were arranged.

Thembi's Mom and Gran
– four generations- from Jessie, front left – granma, great-granma and ma Thembi- ma Aitch took the pic –

When she moved out to Newlands West, Trish sourced clothes and other articles she could sell on the street and door-to-door.

When Thembi got sicker and weaker she was booked into Addington hospital. Jess wrote her a letter. By now Aitch was not too well herself so I would usually go and deliver the goodies – I remember a cellphone charger, airtime and food goodies being among the things Trish would send Thembi.

Thembi card frm Jess Jan2010

Thembi died in Addington. Another coffin and transport. Her brother Dumi and her boyfriend – who were both good to her, as she was to them – took her body back to Port Shepstone.

~~~oo0oo~~~

* Now King Dinuzulu Hospital. Isn’t that a better name for a hospital in KwaZuluNatal? I don’t know anything about either of them, but as an African, Who the Hell is King George!? Now King Dinuzulu, lemme go and look up about him . . .

Twelve Year Expiries?

Another twelve-year-old has gone west. Flaky the snaky that TomTom got when he was five has shuffled off this mortal coil. Expired. She was fine and ate her last supper – the usual whole rare mouse – with hungry focus a few days before. Then I saw her uncharacteristically out of her shelter and exposed. A day later I opened up, no movement, prodded her and thought damn! She’s gone!

Cub Scout Tommy goes for his Pets Badge. Flaky endures.

Before he could get her five-year-old Tom had to do his homework, learn about care and feeding and commit to checking her daily and cleaning out her cage weekly. He did for years, but then interest faded, new interests blossomed and Dad took over the feeding and watering chores. Not cleaning, though. Cleaning remained TomTom’s job:

Tom tests for size, and vacuums after cleaning
flaky snake tom

‘Flaky’ was a beautiful and gentle American Corn Snake, glowing orange and black above and checkerboard black and white below. As she grew from about 250mm to over 1.1m long we added an extension to her metal-and-glass terrarium – a home-made wood-and-mesh upstairs to treble the size.

I got my only snake bite ever when I inexplicably held my left hand closer to her than the mouse I was offering her in tongs in my right hand. I’d never done that before – for good reason! She got me on my left forefinger knuckle with her tiny sharp teeth and drew pinpricks of blood. I was too big for her to get a good grip on and constrict me and swallow me, so she immediately withdrew.

Twelve-year-old Sambucca the Labrador went this year, now twelve-year-old Flaky the Corn Snake. Is it coincidence that my twelve-year-old Ford Ranger is currently in bakkie hospital with something about the valves and the head and the gearbox needing transplant surgery!? Hope it’s not terminal!

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

postscript: R25k later the Ford is born again: reborn; rebored? Only the engine, the gearbox and the propshaft needed fixing and off she goes again. 278 000km now.

Dear Old Sambucca

Lemme confess that the first emotion when Sambucca the black labrador finally breathed her last was relief. The sadness and the memories came later. See, she grew a brain tumour and it grew and grew until it was about as big as her head.

When the bump first started we knew it was the end and I told the kids I would just support the old dear and only consider ending things if she was no longer comfortable, not eating, not happy and not interested in a ear rub or tummy tickle. I said I don’t want you shooting me just cos I’m inconvenient and so I’m not shooting Sambucca for our convenience. And anyway, she’s only 87yrs-old in human terms. Born in August 2006.

Well, she hung in and kept eating while getting thinner – which is a terminal sign in a labrador. I was vrot with worry and angst as she started getting smelly and the parasites attacked her – fleas, flies and ticks. A daily bath and shampoo helped but she’d disappear for hours and come back covered again, her hidden spots in our jungly garden obviously infested with the lil bastids. Yet she still kept getting up and walking towards me tail wagging as I got home each day, asking for a scratch. Then Friday she got weaker and Saturday and Sunday she didn’t eat. I added gravy and fat and she refused it. Refused a meal! I knew it was soon. Sunday night she suddenly yowled a bit and then went quiet, considerately choosing Aitch’s birthday as her last day so we can remember it more easily.

It’s a bit worrying that she may have gone to the happy hunting grounds, as there’s no way she can hunt! She needs her food prepared and put in a stainless steel dish preferably covered in gravy. So we can only hope there’s an ala carte section in those hunting grounds.

I started digging her grave early Monday morning and three inches down I came to an astonishing and unexpected realisation: I am not cut out for physical labour! Can you believe it!? I sub-contracted the task and Tom and his mate Jose dug a goodly hole – after negotiating a financial reward – and Sambucca now joins her predecessor Bella, a hamster and a gerbil under the soil in our garden. Also Aitch and her Mom and Dad’s ashes.

Rest in peace ole Sambucca, you made twelve years and five months and were the best watchdog ever: you watched the monkeys stroll across the yard, you watched the hadedas glean the lawn, you watched our neighbourhood kids stream in and out of the gates whenever. You only barked when I got home to say Hey Welcome Back! About Time! Look What A Good Watchdog I Am! and by the way, When’s Supper?!

And that’s when you showed you had 12% greyhound blood, as you tore off round the trailer, gleefully thinking “He’s Home! He’s Home!”. Two laps when you were younger, one lap the last couple years.

Jess was going to call you Sweetie when you arrived, so we hastily canvassed friends for a less saccharine moniker. Terry Brauer from the Gramadoelas of Pretoria came up with Black Sambucca. Just right.

——-ooo000ooo——-

vrot – full of; actually fraught

Find our Sambucca (Jena out of Yellow Daisy by Kilgobbin Zinzan) ‘s pedigree certificate here.

Jess and her Tummy Mummy

Jessica & ThembiJessie’s Tummy Mummy Thembi became a good friend thanks to Aitch and her conscientious follow-up and ‘adoption’ of Thembi.

Aitch nurtured her and encouraged and empowered her. She arranged classes such as computer and sewing courses; she had her teeth seen to and hugely improved by the state orthodontists at Addington and King Edward hospitals.

Once a month she would take Jessie – and me and Tom sometimes – to meet for lunch with Thembi when we would also take her supplies and goods to sell; Jessie loved those lunches. She and Thembi would gossip and giggle and point at people walking past commenting on their looks, dress, gait, whatever. Scandalous! They loved it!

Once we took her back to Port Shepstone so she could show her Mom and Gran that Jess was fine.

Thembi's Mom and Gran
Thembi’s Mom and Gran seated; Thembi’s long hair

Thembi met a guy who was very good to her and was very happy but tragically she then contracted AIDS; Aitch pitched right in and arranged to meet the chief HIV / AIDS doctor in charge at King Edward. She saw to it that Thembi got her treatment on time. She sickened rather quickly though, and grew weak.

Jess wrote to her when I visited her in Addington:

Thembi card frm Jess Jan2010

She died in Addington hospital. I took her boyfriend and her brother Dumi in the kombi to buy a coffin and then to fetch her body; then arranged for them to get her remains – and themselves – to Port Shepstone.

Tragedy and Taking Advantage

Tobias Gumede’s eldest child of his Inchanga family, Sepp (19), drowned in the Umgeni river this week. It was a hot day and he and some matric classmates went to the river to cool down. He couldn’t swim so sat on a rock watching the others till he couldn’t resist it, got in and disappeared. It took police dogs to find his body.

His wife Elizabeth is devastated. Her eldest son!

This last week has cost Tobias thousands. His travel and time – to Pietermaritzburg, to Pinetown – and then the funeral. Hiring a hall, providing food and drink to the crowds of people who attended. He couldn’t even guess how many. He just says VERY many.

But here’s the ugly bit: The traditional leader, the induna of the area, demanded of him two goats to ‘cleanse’ the area! Blatant exploitation and abuse. A decent government would insist leaders HELP their people, not exploit them! Luckily he contacted his induna from his birth home area of Jozini who said “Don’t give him anything, I’ll speak to him”.

It would be a simple matter to hold an indaba on what “Traditional Leaders” rights and limits are, and where they are trumped by our Constitution so there can be clear understanding that ALL citizens’ rights are protected.

But that would take courage and political will.

========================

(pic: Tobias with my kids Jess & Tom some years ago)

 

Time Scurries

Hate it, but it’s true: Things fade. A month late on our annual tribute. Six years now. Don’t worry, you still do occasionally cause changes to the way we do things, and “But Mom said . . ” is still used to some effect!

Jess still regularly asks if there wasn’t more we could have done to save or cure Mom. When she hears of a new treatment for some or other disease she’ll ask “Why didn’t they do this for Mom?” I explain the difference between bacteria and viruses and cancer to her each time.

Here’s what she wrote to you this Mothers Day:

Jess Mom's Day 2017 (1)

Jess Mom's Day 2017 (2)

Yeah, I cried . . .

She was on her Bhejane field guide course up north of Hluhluwe and lonely as anything. Her selfie was taken in the little wooden Wendy hut she stayed in.

 

R.I.P Iona ::: 1926 – 2016

Trish and Janet’s mom Iona died this week aged 90. Their Dad Neil passed away in 2013 just short of his 88th birthday. Poor Iona was not happy after Neil’s death, having to move into a home, then earlier this year into frail care. She remained feisty, but in pain from a crumbling hip. She missed Neil’s amazing care and she missed Trish and Janet, who was her last remaining comfort, but so far away in Maun.

At the end she suffered strokes within the last few days which hastened the end. Janet got down from Botswana in time to make her last two days more comfortable.

Neither Neil nor Iona wanted any fuss – no funeral, no service, no lies. Daughter Janet instead arranged a little wake – a gathering of good friends where we celebrated them and spoke about and laughed about Trish, Neil and Iona, and drank to family, health, fun, friends, memories and dammitall. I’m so glad she did!

Some months later, Janet and Tobias saw to it that their ashes joined Trish’s (and Bella’s!) in our garden.

~~~oo0oo~~~

R.I.P Neil ::: 1925 – 2013 – Trish’s Daddy

Neil Humphrey 1925 - 2013 - Much loved Daddy of his twin girls Trish & Janet !!
Neil and his girls – Trish & Janet

On Sunday, July 14, 2013, pete wrote:
Trish’s dear old Dad Neil shuffled off quietly yesterday. As always no fuss. Made sure the family knew “No funeral, no memorial service, no nothing” before he went.

Broke his hip two weeks ago and although he got wonderful free treatment at the Prince Mshiyeni state hospital and the pinning of the bone went well, with no infection and no pain, he was just shy of his 88th birthday and only managed to sit up twice, with much help from daughter Janet and the physio. He never got back onto his feet.

He was a wonderful fella, always helpful, obliging and useful. Whenever I was lax on the home-improvement front (um, that would be ‘always’) Aitch would very pointedly, with an evil grin say “MY Daddy would have fixed that LONG ago” or if I said “That’s vaktap, irreparable” she’d retort “Don’t worry, I’ll take it to my Dad – HE’ll fix it. He can fix ANYTHING!” Teased the hell out of me, that woman.

Irrepressible sense of humour, when someone was “gaan’ing aan” too much he would show ironic “sympathy” by playing a mournful air violin! He always looked on the bright side, but was running out of joy the last two years, what with being completely blind, missing his one daughter and his other daughter being far away.

He would say to me “I really MISS Trishy so much!” Twin daughter Janet has been a star to him these last two years – and the last two weeks even more so. She’ll sure miss the hell out of him now, as will her Mom Iona, who Neil doted on, cooked for, looked after, pandered to.

Humphrey Toti

~~~oo0oo~~~

Mom, Moz and Morphine

On 24 June 2011, Pete <pete@sheila.co.za> wrote:

Hi Jayne

Wanting to get to Mozambique for snorkeling soonest. Trish not well at all and wants to go snorkeling and I’m trying to arrange. Phone +2**2394*002 if you can.

Hope and trust all well with you? And your gang?

Our kids well – just rattled.

Thanks

Love Pete

———- Forwarded Message ———

Re: Delayed response Re: Where you?

Hi! I am helping out at a Lodge in the Vilanculos area over the Xmas period – so may not reply promptly to your e-mail!

All is well however!

J —

Jayne Janetzky

———————————–

So I make a phone call

———————————–

On 25 June 2011 09:31, Pete <pete@sheila.co.za> wrote:

Hey Jaynee J !!

So good to chat to you again. That CAN DO approach! Love it. WhattaPom!

We’ll fly at a moment’s notice and I’ll do EFT as soon as you tell me.

The one fly in the oinkment will be PAIN. Let’s hope! Morphine is said to be amazing, so here’s hoping.

(Aitch says “Morphine has always meant dying to me, Koos!” Well, it has to all of us, hasn’t it? )

Speak soon P

———————————————————————–

Subject: Re: Delayed response Re: Where you?!

Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2011 10:46:10 +0200

Hi my darlings

Well of course its a CAN DO. For you guys we kill bulls and marauding elephants!!!

Have a self-cater chalet lined up (nice) ….price being negotiated …..

LAM cheapest airline especially if you book on line.

Morphine – whatever gets you through the night Trish – is alright, is alright!!!!!

Waiting for you guys – bring jerseys!!! XXXXX

~~~oo0oo~~~

Well, it didn’t happen.

Aitch ended up in hospital for a night, which ended up being four nights – ‘Just to rest.’ Actually, I thought the herceptin had affected her heart, but my good friend cardiologist Dave said no – but he looked very worried – the look on his honest face made me realise we were near rthe end – and sent her to our other friend Mike the pulmonologist, who checked her in. She was quite chirpy when we visited, but tired and in pain.

Then she came home on the 1st July – THANK GOODNESS – and spent her last four nights in her own bed, fussed over by us. No more pain thanks to morphine prescribed as she checked out of hospital.

She died early morning 5 July 2011. Last words; ‘Thank you. Love you Koosie!’

~~~oo0oo~~~