Grief is Sneaky

As many of you will know from my previous post, I am packing up The Cave after living there for almost ten years to move back to my folks because Dad is ill, although coping very well – something for which we’re all very grateful.

In the clean-up, I came across a postcard that Charlie sent me for my birthday one year, while he was sailing in Alaska. It read “Hello there, from the other side of the planet. Happy birthday. I hope you get a jam-filled cake.”  I read it, smiled, reminisced for a moment, and then placed it in a bag with other papers for recycling. After all, it’d been years since our paths split. He got married last year on October 8th Shannon, the blonde American who swept him off his feet in just three days of meeting him. He felt bad, but ‘the heart wants what the heart wants’. When I happened upon the wedding photos on her Insta (it wasn’t difficult to track her down), I finally summoned the will to delete our entire chat history of almost two years, along with his number. I felt an inexplicable numbness, a tiny tinge of horror, and a pinch of relief. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the feelings I was having, weren’t ‘it’.

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The Sun has Set on 2022

What. A. Year! Looking back, 2022 wasn’t a bad year – when compared with its two Covid-lockdown predecessors – but it wasn’t one that I will remember with insatiable amounts of fondness because it was a hard and often unforgiving, relentless with its onslaught of car troubles, illness, and teary goodbyes.

I should have known that things didn’t bode well when I had to get The Toppie to the doctor in January because he was too weak to even stand. He was diagnosed with an intestinal bleed, which later required hospitalization. His iron levels were very low and combined with hyperglycemia, his symptoms mimicked those of a stroke.  It was a scary time for our little family, with me driving home from the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, crying into a voice note to a friend in Cape Town who was still awake to offer words of wisdom and comfort. Visiting The Toppie was tough because Covid infections were still high. The security guards at the provincial hospital see themselves as gods, which only exacerbated our already-high stress levels. The Toppie had scopes and what-not to find the source of the bleed but to no avail. With meds, the symptoms cleared up, but for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. More about that later…

The Bean and I went to a coffee shop in April called Axara. They serve pink lattes! Needless to say, I had to have one.

It was also the month I took myself out to dinner – something which I seldom do because it seems pitiful to dine alone. I went all out, three courses, and a tall G&T.

I also got to don a pretty dress because I was asked by my boss to attend the launch of the Garden Route Fashion Council.

June brought with it the end of mandatory mask-wearing. Three cheers for no more fogged-up glasses and maskne on my chin and cheeks. Finally, life was starting to feel pre-coronavirus normal. During the last week, our factory had its annual winter maintenance shutdown, so I had some time off. My friend, Shireen treated me to Elvis. Shireen is a real aficionado on the King of Rock ‘n Roll, so watching it with her made it even better!

Elizabeth and I also took a drive up to the St. Blaize lighthouse one morning for coffee and breakfast, mine being delicious carrot cake.


I had a few petsitting gigs too – I looked after a colleague’s two cats and three dogs in mid-August. Few things beat kitty snuggles and wagging tails.

For the first time in two years, I celebrated my birthday in September. Pre-2020, I would always have some kind of get-together, but this year, I didn’t have any kind of zeal to organize anything. The night before my birthday I went to watch little Nic’s school concert, a rendition of one of my best-loved stories, Alice in Wonderland. It was delightful.

On my actual birthday, my folks and I went to my favourite coffee roastery for a flat white, and the unveiling of a surprise for my folks – I had booked a cruise for them and me for April 2023.

Afterwards we had fish and chips at The Point and the weekend after, Eliza, Nathan, the kids and I ate ice cream sandwiches and then went for a meal. While it wasn’t a ‘regular’ birthday for me, it was one of the most memorable I have had in a long time.

The week after, I took ill. I contracted bronchitis, but thanks to Covid nine months earlier, it was the worst bout I have ever had; I eventually relented and went to the doctor when I started coughing blood. The GP prescribed meds and a chest cavity x-ray, but I could only afford the former. I petsat for Corine and another friend of hers – two brilliantly lovable Bassets Hounds.

Had life worked out differently, and had I also had a stronger stomach to deal with the dark side of what humans are capable of, I would have loved to have studied journalism. One of my biggest aspirations was to have my work published in a newspaper. The dream eventually came true, when my good friend, Corine, put in a good word for me with the local community rag, securing me a regular column. The brief was that it has to incorporate something about the town, without being advertorial. I would have loved to have called it Reflections of a Misfit as I do here, but ‘misfit’ has a negative connotation to some, so I went with Roots ‘n Reflections instead, because my roots run deep in this Sleepy Hollow (well, it’s not so sleepy anymore!) and because of the mandate, I like the idea of the posts being somewhat reflective. My first column was published in October. I was beaming with pride.

The Bean makes The Toppie buy the paper whenever a column of mine is inside, because she cuts them out and keeps them in a scrapbook. My friend, Ray, In East London also asked me to send hard copies to him so he can keep them with his late Mom’s stuff. She wanted me to ghostwrite her life story, but pancreatic cancer took her before we ever had the chance to sit down and make notes.

Another highlight was a visit with Michelle, Len, their two lovely kids, Michelle’s friend, Val, and Michelle’s folks at De Vette Mossel. Sand, sun, superb company and unlimited seafood – what more could a girl ask for? As always, visits with special friends are just never long enough though.

In November, on the eighteenth, Elizabeth turned 50 – she didn’t want a big shindig, so her family and some of her friends had a light bite to eat with her at her parents’ home. To many, fifty is a dreadful milestone to reach, but Elizabeth says she’s worked hard to be so old. Mind you, she doesn’t look it – not a single wrinkle, just like her mom who’s already in her late 70’s. Three cheers for good genes! Sadly, the day before, The Toppie got bad news – the meds he was on for the bleed, along with his other chronic prescriptions for diabetes and high BP damaged his kidneys. He now has stage 3B chronic disease, the likelihood of which means that his kidneys will eventually fail. I took the decision to move back to The Toppie and The Bean to be there for both of them. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but it is one I have peace about. The Bean is not going to cope on her own when things really take a turn for the worse with The Toppie. Some of my friends think I’m making a grave mistake; others understand that my parents are my priority because they are my immediate family. I often say there is a reason God didn’t give me a husband or kids – He had already laid this path out for me.

December finally arrived, which meant time hadn’t stopped as I had hoped it would. I had to bid farewell to Eliza, Nathan, and their boys on the 12th, because they were embarking on the next chapter of their lives in Australia. Generally, I’m quite stoic when it comes to saying goodbye, but as I got up to get my keys, uttering the words, “there’s no point in delaying the inevitable”, my voice broke, and my vision blurred. We stood in the thick fog, all trying not to cry, failing hopelessly!


A week later Facebook reminded me that a year to the day, I had tested positive for Covid. It did a number on my lungs, which came to light when I got bronchitis earlier this year. I’m prone to chest infections, which I’ve often been able to shake off with OTC meds. Not this time… I eventually admitted defeat in the doctor’s surgery after I started coughing blood. He ordered a chest cavity X-ray and a list of meds including antibiotics. I couldn’t afford both, so to this day, as I write this, we still don’t know the extent of the damage to my lungs.

I shed more tears a few days before Christmas as I spoke to my landlord and his wife about having to move. They were the first ‘landpeople’ I’ve ever had, and I can honestly say I couldn’t have asked for better people to let me a part of their home. Nine years I’ve lived in The Cave, and to think, in less than thirty days it will be as it was when I first set foot in it back in 2014. I can only hope that the person/people that rent it in the future have as wonderful a time living there as I did and realize how lucky they are to have Uncle H and Aunty J as their lessors. They really are good people.

And here I am, winding down the first day of 2023 – unsure about what the year holds, but earnestly praying that it brings fewer trials, because 2022, despite all the happy moments here, left me physically and emotionally exhausted. I chose not to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year – instead, I am just going to take each day as it comes and try to find something good in it. I may as well start here – the good thing about today was that I finished a book a friend lent me titled Mr Wrong Number by Lynn Painter. It was relatable and ridiculously funny. Not a bad way to kick off the year…

Happy New Year to you all!

PS. The months of which I’ve made no mention in this post, don’t mean that nothing happened, it’s just that I don’t have any ‘happy snaps’ (as Elizabeth calls them) to share with the written content.

Where there is Love, There are no Goodbyes…

This is what my friend, Trevor, said to me on Saturday when I told him about having to bid Eliza, Nathan, and their two boys farewell as they leave for the land of kangaroos ‘n koalas.

There’d been talk of emigration two years back already, but the wheels were only greased into motion earlier this year – the motivation being that their youngest child would be starting primary school in 2023. Paperwork was submitted, IELTS tests were done, prayers were prayed, and sooner than anyone would have imagined, visas – with permanent residence attached – were approved at the beginning of August! It was surreal.

For the most part, I was genuinely over the moon for them. After all, this is an amazing opportunity for them which will almost certainly assure their children a brighter future than what they are likely to have here in SA. A tiny part of my heart ached though – because at some stage, I knew they would really be leaving. It was no longer a dream, something of which we all talked, it was a foregone conclusion, a dinkum reality.

They fly out on the 26th, but because they are going to have one last family holiday, their last day here in Sleepy Hollow is this Thursday. We went to church last night to sing Christmas carols. The service kicked off with Little Drummer Boy – cue snot factory. Thank goodness for waterproof make-up. Afterwards we went for pizza at a local seaside haunt and collapsed into bed when we got home. I struggled to sleep, despite the joyful chorus of frogs enjoying the weather, which has been oddly rainy and humid the past few days. It’s our last visit for who knows how long kept milling through my mind.

I found myself grateful for writing them a letter to read when they arrive in Sydney. It was tough to write, not because it is sad, but because summing up almost a decade of memories and the value of a friendship so special into a few lines is no easy feat.

So, in mist as thick as pea soup this morning, we said our teary goodbyes. We hugged just a little longer, and a little tighter, as if not letting go would delay the inevitable. In Eliza and Nathan, I have not only found friends, but kin.

Will we miss each other? Of course – insanely!
Will we stay in touch? Absolutely!
Will we cope with the distance? You betcha!

I know that this chapter is going to be challenging (and quite possibly, tough) for them, but what a story they are going to write! With the love, determination, strength of character, and the faith they have as a family, it can only be a huge success.





Keeping Going

I’ve been out of isolation for almost three weeks. I’m grateful to report that I am getting stronger every day. The insane, rib-cracking coughing is almost finally at an end, but I still get tired very quickly. An hour on the beach on Saturday ended with me having a three-hour sleep when I got home. Every night I’ve switched off my light around 21h00, which for me is early.

A few things have changed since I took ill:

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My Lockdown in Review

I have been reading through some of my posts that kept me sane during the hard lockdown last year. If you want to take a gander at them, the first post is here.

Part of me can hardly believe it has already been as long as that, because those first three weeks feel like a distant memory. Sometimes I wonder if they indeed did happen, because looking back now, I realize that as tough as those first-three-weeks-now-more-than-three-hundred-and-sixty-five-days have been, I’ve adapted and grown.

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Day 151: Remembering Honey

On Thursday last week I had a MS Teams meeting at 11 and I was out of data, along with money to buy, so Eliza offered that I work at her and Nathan’s place for the day. Their little boy, Lambert, aged almost four called for Eliza and I to ‘come look’ and eventually we got round to it. There on the ground in front of the sliding door lay a tiny bird, clearly stunned from flying into the sliding glass door.

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Day 123: Wyn vir die Pyn (Wine for the Pain)

If there was a Pandemic Prevention Olympics, South Africa would be on the podium taking gold medals by the barrel full. We’ve had the longest #Coronavirus lockdown in the world.

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Centenarian Legend

( I always try not to use real names in my blog, but for this entry, I must. It pays homage to a Grand Old Dame, one who will live on in the hearts of many people. I cannot write from a perspective of knowing many of the other family members, so the fact that I reference only a few is simply because they are who I know.)

There are legends, and then there are legends. I’m not talking about people like dead presidents, imaginary superheroes that stop the world imploding, or people that started some kind of revolution that brought about a type of good in the world.

I’m talking about regular people that have more life experience than many of us could ever hope to have. One such person is Sylvia Palmer aka Shelagh-Rose’s Granny. I also called her Granny. Aunty Sylvia always sounded wrong to me. She passed away in the early hours of this morning at the ripe old age of 100 years, 8 months and 12 days. How many people to you know are even close to that age?

Shelagh-Rose and I have been friends for thirty-one years already, and through it all, Granny had always been there, guiding her. The bond they had was a close one; something incredibly special and in today’s day and age, extremely hard to find.

What never struck me growing up, is that my maternal side of the family knew the Palmers, so my friendship with Shelagh-Rose is more deep-rooted than I knew. I like to think destined.

My Aunty Cathy would often regale the tale of how she, my cousin, Lorna, Douglas (Shelagh-Rose’s uncle), and their friend David took a bike ride down Park Side West. David was in the saddle, Douglas on the carrier, Lorna (Cathy’s niece, my cousin, Douglas’s girlfriend) on his shoulders and Cathy on the handlebars. Yes – four children on one bicycle. It sounds like a circus act! As if that’s not enough to give any one a mild panic attack, the bike had no brakes! David scuffed his shoes to try and stop the bike, which shot across the Marsh/Church Street intersection, finally losing momentum at the dry cleaners close to The Point. I wondered this morning when I heard the news of Granny’s final breath if she every knew of this specific adventure.

The Bean told me a story about how her interactions with both Sylvia and her husband, Ray. They had a shop in town called Palmers. Every day Mrs. Gogerty (who was The Bean’s senior at the Scheltema offices) would send her to Palmers to buy a packet of biscuits for the office and Granny would write it up – back in the day when people were still honest enough to buy on the book.

There are many stories that I’ve heard from Elizabeth about her mother. All of them depict Granny to be a woman of incredible poise, wisdom, and everlasting love for her late husband. The two were married for only ten days before Ray was called up to train for combat in the Second World War. All through it Granny never doubted that The Love of Her Life, her Beloved Ray would one day return to her.

During the war, just before his return home, his platoon drew straws to be flown home, or sent by ship. Ray drew the short straw, which meant a longer journey home, but a journey home indeed. His fellow brothers in arms weren’t so fortunate; their plane was shot down and there were no survivors.

I was in primary (elementary) school when tragedy struck Granny. She was attacked in her home and sexually assaulted by a young criminal. Despite the horror what no woman ever hopes will ever befall her, Granny survived, exuded more grace, and was resolute in her decision to stay in her home of countless years. Elizabeth had a wedding photo taken on the steps of that very house, and years later so did Shelagh-Rose.

Elizabeth, Shelagh-Rose and Granny on the steps on Shelagh-Rose’s wedding day.

Granny lived on her own until the age of ninety-seven, when a nasty fall resulted in her hurting her hip. Strong as an ox she lay in agony for a few days before finally calling Elizabeth for help. As expected, she needed a hip replacement and the shock of major surgery began to take its toll.

Granny got dementia. There were days when her mind was still sharp, and there were others when she didn’t know her own children. She adamantly fought with Shelagh-Rose one day for having a child, but not being married.  This while Schalk, Shelagh-Rose’s husband, was in the room with them.

Granny with Suzelle, her great grandaughter (Shelagh-Rose’s & Schalk’s daughter).
Photo by https://www.lynellepienaar.com/
Four generations of Palmer women. FLTR: Shelagh-Rose, Suzelle, Granny, & Elizabeth.
Photo by https://www.lynellepienaar.com/

She knew I cared deeply for a friend that works on the cruise ships and kept asking me if we’d got married. I eventually told her we had, that it was the most beautiful wedding and that he was set to be away for a year. She never asked again. I don’t know if she forgot about my phantom nuptials, or if my answer satisfied her enough not to ask again. Either way, I appreciated that until I gave her an answer, she always asked.

One afternoon while she was still staying on the farm with Elizabeth, before her move to the ACVV home where she was well looked after, she told me a story about a woman in the district who would come to fetch her to take her to town to have her hair done. She also told me about the nurse who would visit. Both these people turned out to be Elizabeth. Some much change in such a short time was tough on Granny.

During her stay at the farm, Granny had a need to unpack and repack her cupboards every day. Try as she might, Elizabeth couldn’t convince her mom to stop doing it. Maybe in Granny’s addled mind it brought order, although to Elizabeth it brought some chaos. As short as Granny was, she also always managed to get stuff off the high shelves, but she had to get Schalk to put things back. These things seemed silly and frustrating at the time, but now they won’t ever happen again.

Even though I never visited the home where Granny spent the last few years of her life, and even though I’m not family, I feel incredible gratitude to the staff. From what I’ve heard from Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose, they cared for Granny with compassion and patience – two characteristics that are often difficult to maintain when working with anyone, particularly an elderly person who for so long was independent, and towards the end was almost as fragile as a newborn baby.

I was privileged to be at Granny’s centenary birthday celebrations last October. I got the job of capturing the moments, not that I’m much good with the camera, but Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose seemed pleased with the results, so all’s well that ends well. It was a momentous occasion, with Granny as the guest of honour (completely unaware of the celebration). All her family and friends that could be there, were in attendance, including her brother, Robert, who himself is in his seventies. Granny was lucid that day – something which I think her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were happy about. For many, including myself, that is how I will remember her.

In one blow, Granny extinguished her 100 candle.

On the walls at the party, there were photos of Granny’s life – from the age of knee-high to a grasshopper, to her wedding, and so on. When she saw her wedding photo, she cried. Oh how, she missed her Beloved Ray. It was such a poignant moment. How many of us ever find love, especially a true, everlasting love that not even death can overcome?

Sylvia Palmer, you’ve run a great race. You’ve been a beacon of hope, a shining light, and a pillar of strength to those around you. The wait is over… you are now with Your Beloved Ray. We mourn your departure, but we celebrate your incredible life. Rest in Peace – you’ve earned it!