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.
A quick one-night trip to Hluhluwe saw very good birding but Jess was disappointed as the animals were in hiding, possibly due to the big fire which burnt the first day and through the night.
She’s spoilt, though, as she still saw twelve species, all good close-up views including an elephant where she immediately said ‘Reverse Dad, we’re too close!’ and a crocodile, a monitor lizard and a grass lizard – seen below on the tar road, trying to escape the fire. They can hardly move if not in grass, with their tiny little legs. I picked it up and placed on grass and it immediately whizzed away, ‘swimming’ in the grass.
Can you spot the leaf caterpillar who’s trapped in the leaf and is trying to call for help but can’t spell?
The little Canon camera did its secret video thing, recording in the background while you’re taking snapshots. It’s weird, but I quite like it:
The biggest surprise sighting this trip was probly the sight of me braai’ing. I left catering to Jess and she bought some really weird stuff: Charcoal, firelighters, matches and lamb chops. What could I do? I braai’d.
Hereditary traits can be passed on so strongly. And then sometimes not at all. Take my daughter Jessie. In some ways she’s the spitting image of her Dear Dad: She’s kind, she’s funny, she’s thoughtful, she can crack me up with some of her observations on life. I love the way she teases me – gentle and just a few repeated themes which are well-known, thoroughly old and reduce us both to weak laughter. She especially loves the ones that sometimes catch me off-guard and get a rise out of me. ‘Dad, can we get a kitten?’ occasionally elicits my knee-jerk response Never Jess. They Eat My Birds! instead of the correct response Sure My Love, But You have To Get Six Of Them, Otherwise They Get Lonely.
But in other ways I don’t know WHERE she gets things from.
Like tonight she came to me and said ‘Dad, getting drunk is such fun!’ I mean, from where . . . I almost gave her a lecture but I was too busy hosing meself. So much so that she said ‘Dad! What’s so funny!?’
I reminded her about the time – not so long ago – when she asked the out-of-the-blue curveball ‘Dad, Why does tequila make you vomit?’
Just in case anyone was thinking Aitch only had Mom’s Day, I gotta tell ya – not at all!
She had her birthday 6 January; She had her second birthday 6 July “‘cos it’s unfair my birthday is so close to Christmas, everyone used to give me one present, and my day was lost in the Xmas/New Year hype”. Right.
Then she was really big on the kids’ joint birthday 11 December, making that a big day, plus the two separate parties she would organise for them, there being a four-year age gap. I tried to combine it after she was gone – whatta disaster!
Then she always remembered the day we met, 27 August, I think. We would celebrate that. Also wedding anniversary 27 February. Celebrate.
Then CHRISTMAS!! An Aitch Day if ever there was one! She was BIG on Christmas. Much planning, buying and the whole house had to be changed: Xmas decorations – putting up the tree was an event! – Xmas crockery, Xmas coffee mugs, Xmas lights, Xmas pictures on the walls, all other paintings had to come down. Mantelpieces would be festooned.
Then she had Mothers’ Day when the kids made a big fuss – she’d see to it. And last but definitely not least there was All Fools Day, April Fools Day – my birthday. You won’t believe how she went to town. She’d get a Big Brass Band to play!
John Lennon said: “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”
Chuck died two years ago today. So I repost this post from my ApacheAdventures blog in tribute and an admission of ignorance. Hey! I was only eighteen and I hailed from the Vrystaat:
Jim Stanton was aghast! He had just invited me along to a rock concert in Oklahoma City and I had immediately accepted. Now he was exclaiming: Don’t say that! Don’t say you don’t know who Chuck Berry is!
My motto in Apache was I only say yes to all invitations to travel – only YES! Or Yes Please! I only have one short year in America; Gotta go everywhere! Gotta dodge school!
Jim’s follow-up questions had forced me to admit my ignorance. But I was willing to learn, I had a ball in the City, and I have been a Chuck Berry fan ever since!
What I didn’t tell Jim is I had even less heard of Bo Diddley! He featured with Chuck and they rocked up a storm. “My ding-a-ling” was really big just then! OK, that didn’t sound right, but anyway . . knowwaddimean . . .
He played all his hits, including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybelline,” “Nadine,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “Reelin’ and Rockin’,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Surfin’ U.S.A,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” . . .
That was 1973. Recently I saw a 2014 pic of Jim on the internets. That’s him in the red T at an Apache Rattlesnake Roundup. Hi Jim! Never forgotten! Thought of you again when Chuck died aged 90 this year – 2017.
Some Chuck Berry:
– “People don’t want to see seventeen pieces in neckties. They wanna see some jeans, some gettin’ down and some wigglin’.”
– “I love poetry. I love rhyming. Do you know, there are poets who don’t rhyme? Shakespeare did not rhyme most of the time and that’s why I don’t like him.”
– “It amazes me when I hear people say ‘I want to go out and find out who I am’. I always knew who I was. I was going to be famous if it killed me.”
– “I would sing the blues if I had the blues.”
In 1963, Bo Diddley starred in a UK concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard. The supporting act was a little up-and-coming outfit called The Rolling Stones.