Kids, as the saying goes, in life only three things are certain: death, change and taxes.
The week after my 30th and return from Mauritius, I had a brush with all three. Since I hate them equally, you can imagine how utterly delighted I was they decided to show up at the same time … not.
These things, I know, were part of being an adult but who the hell decided I was ready to do that, huh?
I won’t bore you with the monotony of taxes … suffice it to say that e-filing, as we old folk called it back then, did NOTHING to simply the goddamn painful process, so let’s move on to the other two.
After switching gears between a highly stressful job and a more relaxed one in 2014, I had committed myself to spending more time with our family, my friends, potential partners and two projects I was involved with.
For a while, I felt like I could expertly manage all of them – and I did. But, as the year progressed, I felt myself becoming increasingly short-tempered and spread too thin between everything, leaving very little time for that precious commodity I was harping on about last week – me time.
I agonised for months about what to let go of and fretted about how it would impact certain relationships. Needless to say there were plenty of sleepless nights and bargaining with the Universe for energy, more time, Channing Tatum showing up to ease my stress the Magic Mike way ( oh, quit the eye rolling, you guys!) etc to help make my decisions easier.
I hate change with a deadly passion and nothing unsettles me more than the not knowing what happens next. The indecisiveness drives me absolutely crazy and I would rather know for certain one way or another that what needs to be done is done than living in the in-between forever.
As it turns out, when the death brush happened, making the change choice was a no-brainer. Nowhere close to easy, of course, but ridiculously simple and a relief.
In the week after turning 30, I was faced with the realization of my own mortality in two successive and painful blows.
Not only did I have a mammogram, which briefly caused alarm but your great-grandfather’s health took a really bad turn for the worst.
I’ll tell you about the boob-squeezing mammogram next time (dudes, appreciate the fact that I did my best to ensure my lady pillows were in tip top shape for your arrival!) but for now, let’s talk about Pa.
He’d been a diabetes-sufferer for all of my life but somehow, after your great-grandma died, it just seriously took over his body. By mid-2015, he could no longer move about without a walking stick and in late November, he’d completely lost the use of his legs. His arms looked set to follow the same route soon.
I’d known he was ill, of course, and rushed off to see him at Groote Schuur hospital the Monday after my island holiday, when the diagnosis of irreversible nerve damage was handed down to him but seeing how frail he was a mere week later really, really got to me.
As your aunt Sam and I massaged oils and lotions into his now stiff legs and ever-thinning body, I could barely contain my tears and I didn’t dare speak because I knew my voice would betray the depth of my grief.
This is the man who raised, fed, clothed, educated, disciplined and loved me for most of my life. A man who had always been the most powerful force in my tiny universe and whom I had spent a lot of time angry at because I didn’t think he loved me enough or as much as he loved my sisters. I know now that wasn’t true – he loved us all differently because we were so different.
The fact that we didn’t share the same blood was never an issue– he’d been my granddad from my first moment and no one could have done more for my siblings and I than he did. He loved us as he had loved our father before us. The greatest lesson I’d ever learnt from him was that family wasn’t always blood.
Pa was the UB40 –loving, Frank Sinatra –singing, Vienna smoortjie (spread) – making goofy grandpa of my childhood; the believer of my teenage studying dreams and my voice of young adult reasoning. The idea of further adulting without him just didn’t bear thinking about.
But I wasn’t ready to let him go and I was seriously pissed off at the Universe. We’d barely gotten over Mama’s loss – what fucking right did the gods have to want to take the only father figure I’d truly known away from me now?!
So, I got mad – Hulk mad – at the sheer bloody audacity of the Fates to do this to my family and I twice in the space of two years and at the unfairness of it all. How the heck were we supposed to be adults and responsible about this when the grown-ups in our lives were dying all the time, huh?
For me, being angry was a hell of a lot easier that being sad. The sadness at seeing my grandfather so very weak and knowing the inevitability thereof, just broke me, kids.
When faced with the loss of someone you love, all of the other things in your life pale in comparison. I knew now what was important – spending as much time as possible with Pa and making good memories with him…. I freaking love you, Percival x
Next week on How I Met Your Father: Getting felt up for all the right reasons in all the wrong ways – a scan by scan mammogram story.