Change happens

I have practically a new life since the last post on this blog – i moved cities, changed jobs, got married.

I now live in Cape Town, which is by-the-sea and very nice (though at this moment, i am wearing my hoodie, and  a blanket because my house is like a meat locker and its winter and dark and we South Africans like to deny that winter happens, so we fail to build houses that stand up to winter). I moved here in april 2010 – 2 years ago. I live a 5 minute walk from the ocean.

I now work for a nonprofit called SWEAT – the sex workers education and advocacy task force. I’m the director, but started as the deputy director (fully intending to resist becoming the director, because that’s too hard) I work with fabulous people, and i really love my job.

I married Robert either on the 23rd or 24th of May 2009 – neither of us can remember the day. We went to mozambique for our honeymoon, having not gotten a visa for france. It was warm and the ocean was gentle and it was very nice to have no connectivity at all, not even a cellphone rang for 2 weeks.

Its just about the 4th anniversary of my mother’s admission to hospital, and its still hard to read the havoc of that period of my life. And of course, I still miss her.  but i can read the posts before them, and see the humour and love and ordinariness of death and life and everything.





July 6, 2012 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Coma Chronicles

Its been over a year since my mother died – and it sound corny, but something does shift after the year mark.

She died at Randjies Laagte Frail care, with my father and Aunt my her side, as i was walking down the corridor to see her. When i walked into the room, they both shook their heads at me – she had just taken her last breath. My father was convinced she waited for me.

I called Cathy – so hard to tell her, so hard that she couldn’t be with us. Robert came, gran came too. After everyone had left Robert sat next to me  with her body till early morning , waiting for the undertaker. It was so quiet and peaceful, I watched her body change as she left it.

Then came the horrible business of death, sorting our funeral, cremation and going to Doves in town (horrible horrible) and then settling on thomas knight.

I kept her little box of ashes for a year, now Cathy has them.

June 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

Coma Chronicles 3: Angry

27th July

It was my birthday yesterday. I couldn’t stand the thought of celebrating. We went to the hospital and had lunch out, but it was so hard. Marg, Dad, Cathy, Robert and me sat around the restaurant table, pretending.

I hate the hospital, I’m angry at it – the walls, smells, the pipes going down my mother’s throat, the patients who get better. The visiting families who hang out, bring food and look cheerful.

They cut the rings off her fingers last weekend, but the indentations are still there. She has had her wedding ring on that finger for 42 years. My father has slept next to her for all that time. Her hands are so familiar, so part of my life, with those rings on them. She put those hands on my brow when I was sick, held my hand to cross roads.

Cathy went home today, to her children. It’s going to be hard for her. Tomorrow I must go to work. Ill visit in the morning, at lunch and the evenings. I don’t want to go, I don’t care about work – it seems stupid.

This evening she seems peaceful. Her mouth is closed around the pipe in her mouth and her eyes are fully closed. Her breathing was fairly regular. They mentioned the tracheotomy again, they said the pipe down her throat will cause some difficulty for her. The heart monitor keeps going off for this or that, the nurse explains why when she sees our faces.

January 15, 2009 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

Coma Chronicles 3: 10 Days

25 July 2008

This morning, Mom seemed more responsive – and I’m driving myself crazy thinking that I see more movement out of the corner of my eye, just when I look away. A little hand movement or her toes wiggling. So I study her. Her eyes stay half open, she seems to swallow, and she squished her chin a little when I tickled her there. Dad takes all these as signs of recovery. He tells her “I’m waiting for you, come to Cape Town with me. I cant go on my own”. This makes my throat close up, and I have to leave the room.

2 people have died in the CCUnit in the ten days she has been here. The waiting room has become so familiar. We sit on the couch, watch other families, avoid eye contact with the people going for a smoke outside. Robert comes by with food and drink. Cathy and I hold each other up. Dad had made friends with the smokers, and he brings brandy in old jam jars, which he takes secret swigs of. It’s bizaar because the jar looks a bit like a urine sample. He comes early – at 4am or something, he looks tired and so so sad and rumpled. He knows the ailments of all the smokers.

Marg arrived. Robert drove Cathy and I to the airport to get her. We were so tense waiting for her, so scared, so anxious for her.

If only, If only If only.

January 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm Leave a comment

Coma Chronicles2: the car

undated july/august 2008

I cant get out of my car. I’ve been sitting here for a long time, and cant make myself open the door of the car. It’s warm and I feel sealed in.

It’s morning, before work, and I’m sitting in the parking lot of the hospital where my mother is, also not wanting to get out of the car. I didn’t want to walk down the long corridor of the hospital, I don’t want to smell the hibitane, or the smell of her tracheotomy. I don’t want to see my mother unresponsive when I speak, I don’t want to face my own hope that she will say hello to me. I replay “Hello love” in my head, like she always said it.

I don’t want to see her mouth pull like it does sometimes. A coma is not what they portray on the soap operas – where people just look like they are sleeping. A coma twists your face, changes your body, produces bed sores, wastes your muscles. You open your eyes, sometimes move your head, but you don’t focus. Sometimes your mouth hangs open, your lips dry. Sometimes your body is cold – your hands feel icy. Your hands start to curl at the wrists and sometimes I cant loosen your thumb from it’s position pressed inside your hand.

You are so vulnerable – can’t tell us when something hurts, can’t protect your own privacy or dignity. Ive been playing you music and I’m not sure you like it. Though I suppose I have to stop thinking of you this way. I have to think of you in this state. I’m not sure you can hear the music or feel my touch, or be embarrassed when the nurse forgets to cover you up. The doctors say you cant feel anything – which makes me so angry.

I must get out of the car. Walk down the corridor of the hospital, breathe in the smells and stand next to your bed, unfurling your small hands so that I can hold them.

I’m so tired.

January 15, 2009 at 3:10 pm Leave a comment

Coma Chronicles 1

My mother with her grandson

My mother with her grandson

I’ve been away for a while. My mother went into hospital on the 8th of July 2008 because her heart was beating too fast, and out of rhythm. It was the first day of the Citizen journalism workshop. I rushed off to the hospital that evening, and she seemed fine, but out of breath and easily tired. A week later a doctor transferred her from the cardiac care unit (high care) to a ordinary ward. She went into cardiac arrest  while there (ventricular fibrillation) and they took a while to resuscitate her.

The hospital didn’t call me, so I arrived that evening after work to visit and someone else was in her bed. The nurses at the station told me she was taken back to the cardiac care unit. When I got there, she had been ventilated and was having seizures. She was attached to a million tubes. They told us they didn’t know if she would survive and her heart could give out. When we touched her, or spoke to her she would sieze up, her eyes rolling back in her head.

My father and I stayed the night, Robert brought us food and comfort. Cathy arrived from Cape Town the next day. The Neurologist told us that he didn’t think there was a chance her brain would recover – she had suffered an anoxic brain injury (involving the whole brain) and had profound brain damage.  We were utterly shocked and horrified. Since that time, she was transferred from the hospital to a step-down facility and after ebing classified as being in a persistant vegetatiev state, transfered to a ‘frail care’ centre, where she died. The process took just over 4 months.

I wrote some during the horrible time she was in a coma, before her passing away on the 3rd of November 2008. I’m hoping that other people who have had a loved one in a coma or vegetative state will find it useful.

January 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

Headline today-“the Queen: One is hard up”

I love newspaper headlines. When i worked at POWA and we did old-fashioned things like snip things out of newspapers (this was when newspapers weren’t online) I used to collect the funny headlines. There were many. I think sub-editors must be odd people.

This morning, one headline made me laugh ( the one about the queen) and another made me roll my eyes: “Why I cracked Hubby’s ribs”. The story turned out to be a nice one – a great blogger ( talking about her sensory integration problems (which caused her to accidentally break her hubby’s ribs*). But the headline reminded me of all the intimate femicide headlines I came across in my snipping- with the word ‘hubby’ in them:

– ‘hubby hacks wife over TV’, ‘hubby buries wife alive’, ‘hubby kills wife, kids’….

Im sure you get the picture.  I used to wonder if those sub-editors use the word ‘hubby’ because it’s much shorter than ‘husband’ or because they really like the word. For me, ‘hubby’ is right up there on the annoyance scale with words like “lesbo”, “prosi”, “preggers” and “boobies”.

Also, i think an affectionate term like ‘hubby’ really shouldn’t be put next to “hacks to death”… a good headline with the work would go like this:

“hubby makes yummy dinner” .. “hubby wins lottery” … “hubby gets a promotion” …  and so on.

I was sending out the invitations for the citizen journalism workshop next week, and a friend thought she was being head-hunted by the citizen newspaper. I told her that she would need to get better at using the word ‘hubby’.

*Cathy, dont get any ideas!

July 2, 2008 at 10:18 am 1 comment

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