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.
Already Tom’s memories are mainly The Legend of Mom, more than real memories. Jess remembers far more. So Tom had lots to say today about Mom. Jess was mainly quiet. As most years, Dizzi and Jon came round to clink a glass in your memory. Jess set a lovely formal table with flowers from the garden – and even a table cloth! I only remembered to take a pic after it was all over.
We had a medicinal G&T as we had all just been to sort-of malaria areas – me n Jess to Hluhluwe, Dizzi n Jon to St Lucia.
Off to the ‘Berg with the kids. To a hotel! A real hotel! The Cavern in the foothills of the Drakensberg. At last their Dad listened and took them somewhere they didn’t have to cook and clean! (This was back in 2012).
They loved it. Especially once they worked out one of the secrets of the place: If you gave any hotel employee your room number, he or she would give you anything you wanted under the sun. They had discovered the key to endless riches. They loved it. They no longer needed me. All they needed was to quickly invent their first signatures. When I said I was going off on a hike, did anyone want to come along? No! Go! Enjoy yourself Dad, BYE! They watched impatiently as I packed my rucksack with lunch and binocs and books. Go, Dad!
Movies, the pool table, tennis, drinks at the pool – all ‘free’!
With them happy in civilisation it was up to me to enjoy the hills and valleys, wildlife and – especially – birdlife.
This long-tailed grass lizard looks like a snake as he whips through the grass after grasshoppers. But look closely at his body:
The next day I encouraged a bit more action. With some trepidation these townies went horse-riding.