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Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Man That Starts Anew

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday and tomorrow, in accordance with that which most will call it and what is accepted as the norm; my Dad will retire after forty odd years as one of the employed. Being my Dad and, I am proud to say, not of the norm he is not retiring but rather “embarking on his new career.” For his own private reasons my Dad will be tackling something completely different to what has become his “line of work” and will no doubt succeed, not for any reason other than he knows he will succeed. Growing up in the light of that positive attitude and his unshakable belief in his own and our abilities has given us all a firm starting block from which we, his children have launch off into adulthood. My brother’s and I have been infused from birth with my Dad’s positive energy and belief in us and though we have all made our share of mistakes and encountered our share of stumbling blocks we can all hold our heads up high look back and know we are who we are because we were taught to believe in ourselves. How lucky we were to grow up in such a positively charged environment. It is our Dad we turn to for advice and guidance and in times of hardship what our dad would do is what we strive to achieve. My Dad is not the kind of man who will tell you what to do; he shows you what to do, I can proudly say with certainty that there is no other quite like my Dad. So armed with his positive attitude and guided by his self confidence my Dad is forging forward, making some well deserved and much needed changes and doing something new. He is a brave man my Dad! Amongst all this bravery is a lesson to others, like myself, to never be afraid of change, to do something different because it’s what you want to do and to do it for yourself!

My Dad is taking his leave from a company that has been as loyal to him as he has been to them. He has given one hundred percent of himself every day for almost thirty years, perhaps more. So many people have sat across from him and been affected by his work ethic, his attitude or his seamless logic in some way. I have no doubt that there will be a few tears shed as he leaves his place of employment one final time. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions and thoughts that must be going on inside my Dad’s mind and heart today as he celebrates his birthday and looks towards his new beginnings, his new “line of work.” I do know that Tuesday morning will dawn and he will follow his regular morning routine, a little more casually than before then he will take a deep breath and step forward out of his past and into his future. He is a brave man, my Dad!

When my Dad finally made his decision to “start his new career” official my very talented mum’s imaginative mind kick into gear and she come up with a plan to mark this day as a day to remember. My Dad’s decision to make these changes was not a decision taken lightly or arrived at with any haste; it is after all a big “step” to take, emotional too. My very talented Mum believes that we, his family need to acknowledge this and not only show our support but also celebrate it. As part of this celebration she asked me to write a poem to commemorate the occasion, I was happy to oblige but agonised over what to write so in desperation I asked my Mum to make list words which remind her of my Dad. Her response was: “Integrity, honesty, love, compassion, deep thinker, wonderful provider, loving husband and friend. Best father ever.” Nothing describes my Dad more than those words nor will anything I ever write carry the depth of the love and respect we have for my dad than the words of my Mum written to help me speak of my Dad in poetry. Testament to this fact is the pleasure and joy my very talented Mum gained from arranging what I have come to refer to as my Dad’s “ Surprise retirement/career launch dinner breakfast midnight snack” because from across four different time zones via that marvellous invention called “SKYPE” my Dad will be surrounded by his family in celebration. It will be a bitter sweet moment for us all, happy to be there with him in some way but sad because we can, none of us, be there in person. We will laugh, joke and swop stories interrupt and talk over each other my mum leading the festivities, my dad sitting back observing the goings on his eyes twinkling as he smiles. Then when we have said our goodbyes my parents will read this blog and the poem I wrote and like all their children will store it away in their memory to look back on when it no longer hurts so much to remember and return to their lives.

So Dad as you read this remember that “you will always be the first man I remember and the last man I’ll forget.” I lift my glass to you and thank God that you are my Dad and while I wish you happiness I do not wish you luck in your new venture because I know you will succeed because we, your family believe in you.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

BURNT BRIDGES

Uprooting ones family and moving to a different country teaches one so many things. We have, in the short time we have been living here at the end of the world, learnt so much about ourselves and each other. Moving to the end of the world has highlighted for us what is truly important and though we regret a little that which we took for granted, we know that had we not made this move that which we deem important now would not be if we had not change our circumstances willingly.

For the first time in our lives both the Mauritian and I made a conscious decision to sever the ties of friendship we made with a couple for the wrong reasons. It was a decision we agonised over as both the Mauritian and I are very loyal to those whom we call friends. It is both a blessing and a curse as we have, through the years, allowed ourselves to be used in the name of friendship. We have spent many recent winter nights huddled under a mountain of blankets and duvets reminiscing about the people we have encountered throughout our numerous years as a couple. In the course of these many shivering discussions we realised who our true friends were, we realised there are some people we should have spent more time with and those we should never have meet. We do not however regret meeting anyone, it has made us stronger, wiser and perhaps a little richer for the experience we have gained from befriending those we should not have.

When you look at the people you have called friends from a distance and analyse the time you have spent with those people it becomes clear which of those people have given back as much as they have taken. It becomes clear to you which of these friends you need to give a little more to and those who have taken too much from you. It becomes clear to you those who enrich your life and make you feel special and those whose “friendship” takes work and energy from you leaving you feeling empty because you receive nothing back in return.

It is never easy to admit that the friends you have made are perhaps not the right people for you and even harder to sever the ties that bind you together. Ideally one should sit down with these people and explain rationally and calmly why the ties of friendship must be undone. After all, no matter what your view is on the situation you are perhaps not blameless for the state in which the so called friendship is in. It is easier to block all forms of communication and ignore their calls and text until it is unavoidable, because by then you have decided exactly what it is you are going to say, yet you hope that you never have to say it. Ashamedly this is how we have handled our decision to no longer be friends with this couple. We do know that we owe them an explanation and that our silence is confusing to them, we know that eventually we will have to explain ourselves. We do know that it is within our power to be the exception to the norm and be open and honest. We have admitted this to each other but we have agreed that the consequence of this honesty would leave us open to the kind of manipulation this couple is capable of. Granted, it is up to us to allow the manipulation to occur or not but we have chosen to avoid the responsibility completely. We have decided to take the easy way out and just stop talking to them.

We are after all, only human!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Legend and Belief

I recently watch a “mini -series” called “The Last Templar.” I initially started watching it because I mistakenly believed, having admittedly only caught a glimpse of the trailer, that it was a story set at the time when the “Templar Knights” were at their Zenith.

We all know the basic story of the “Templers” and the “treasure” they were charged with protecting, yet the legend of what that treasure is has changed from a simple golden chalice to a complicated blood line. The theories, legends and controversy are all very fascinating and the research material available in print and online is truly phenomenal. It is unfortunate that so much of it is utter rubbish but there are real jewels among the dirt if you take your time to look. We’ve all seen the movies or read the books about the “treasure hunters” searching for that elusive wooden chalice that holds the “gift” of eternal life. I am amazed that after so many thousands of years hidden away in the depth of some dark, unstable and wickedly booby trapped cave, this “wooden” chalice has not been covered in layer upon layer of dust and cobwebs and that the “water” inside it is untouched and still drinkable. All a little too unlikely and unbelievable for me I’m afraid. Perhaps somewhere, lost in the dust of Israel is a fragment of the chalice that Christ used when He celebrated His last Passover meal with the twelve. But, when or rather, if, it is ever found there will be so much controversy and opposing opinion surrounding it that it will be left up to the believer to decide whom they believe.

Then Dan Brown burst onto the scene bringing with him his much discussed story of “The Da Vinci Code,” and enraging the Catholic Church. Ultimately it is a superb suspense thriller with twists and turns and unexpected developments that keep the reader turning the pages. It is remarkably well researched and written and Dan Brown has a very active imagination, a winning recipe for an internationally bestselling novel. It is unfortunate that because of his meticulous research and his imaginative story telling that so much of Dan Brown's book has been mistaken for fact and thus sparking so much of the controversy. I believe that the Catholic Church over reacted to this book and contributed greatly to Dan Brown’s success, I’m sure there was many a Catholic and non Catholic alike who read the story just to see what all the fuss was about. I know for a fact, had I not been already fascinated by the “Templar” story or the legend of the “holy grail,” that I would have read it for that exact reason. As it was, I read “The Da Vinci Code” because I had read a fascinating true account of the research of three people into the legend, called “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and I wanted to compare it to Dan Brown’s interpretation. Then I read “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” again and thought about things. Is it so bad to think that He who we call the Christ was really just an ordinary man, a poor carpenter from Nazareth? Is it possible that somewhere there is someone who can claim to be of the same bloodline as Jesus? I cannot discount the possibility even though it would spark much discussion and argument among my own family and certainly bring a frown to some of their faces. No I do not discount the possibility that Jesus may have been just an ordinary man of flesh and blood born of woman and died at the hands of men. But, doesn’t it make it all the more extraordinary that such a man could rally millions to believe in a greater power, to embrace the virtue of peace, of giving of one’s self to others? Is it not amazing that one ordinary man's teachings of faith and love should be passed on from generation to generation for two thousand years? Is it not awe inspiring that billions of Christians live by the words of “The Beatitudes” a sermon delivered by this “ordinary” man while standing on a hill? Is not every Christian affected by this man’s most famous words when at his death he cried “My God, why have you forsaken me?” It makes no difference to my faith if Jesus was just an ordinary man, a poor carpenter from Nazareth or God made flesh sent to suffer for our sins and bring us to everlasting life. It makes no difference to my faith because whether Jesus was of man or of God, He was no ordinary man, there is nothing ordinary about His life or His teaching, and they have survived for two thousand years and have inspired millions to lead a life of goodness and truth. His teachings have inspired many to give all of themselves to mankind. How poor the world would be today without St. Francis of Assisi or St. Vincent De Paul, how uninspired women would feel without Joan of Arc, oh how much poorer the world would be without the blessings of Mother Teresa. Without the help of St. Antony or St. Jude so many causes would be lost and our possessions remain unfound, without St. Christopher so many more journeys would end in tragedy. No I cannot discount the possibility that Christ may have been of the flesh and not of God, because any man or woman who is capable of inspiring billions of people for thousands of years to have faith and to strive for good and pureness of soul, is by no means, just an “ordinary” person. A “man” such as that deserves the praise given in the prayers spoken and the title of “The Son of God.”

The miniseries was a disappointingly predictable treasure hunter’s story with the usual hero, heroine and anti hero all in a race to be the first to find the elusive “Gospel of Jesus." There is the inevitable love scene, the triumphant find, the tension filled escape from the tumbling ruins and the out witting of the bad guys by the industrious hero and the butt kicking heroine. In the end the “gospel” is lost forever to the sea and the story is never told to the world thus bringing the bad guy to justice and Christians safe from controversy. All rather insipid and overdone, but there was one unexpected twist that was to be its saving grace. This story ends where it began, with the “Templar Knights” been given the task of returning to Jerusalem, a parchment on which was written the “Gospel of Jesus” they of course die before making it there but manage to hide the parchment before death comes to them sparking the treasure hunt hundreds of years later. The twist is found when it becomes apparent that this so called gospel guarded till death, this “gospel” that “proves” the ungodliness of Jesus is faked by the “Templers” themselves in the hopes of ending the wars that raged between the Christians and the Muslims in Jerusalem. By claiming that Jesus was no more than a Prophet of God as Islam teaches that Mohammed was no more than a prophet himself both Christians and Muslims would be united in one belief.

Gives one pause for thought does it not?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Old Flames and Old Friends

I recently attempted to reconnect with an ex boyfriend on Facebook, but as of now have had no response. There could be many reasons for this, one of them being he doesn’t remember me. I’m sure it is true that you remember more the ones who “dumped” you rather than the ones you “dumped.” I do hope that he will eventually accept my request and does remember me. I like to think that we would have been friends if it weren’t for the teenage complications that we weaved into the fabric of our relationship with too much anticipation and expectation. Ah yes the wisdom of age and the clarity of hindsight. I really did like him, and still do, at least I still like the memory of him even though he unceremoniously “dumped” me for the ex he would slate every chance he got. I don’t recall been particularly heart broken by the breakup I don’t think I really expected “us” to last forever but I was bummed at being single again. But despite all the “history” I would enjoy reconnecting with him and finding out about the paths he has walked to where he is today.
“Facebook” for all the time it can waste and obsession it can create has put me back in touch with so many people, like those I went through primary school with and the girls I charged through my high school years with. Looking back there are those I would’ve treated so differently, those I should have ignored, those I would like to forget and those with whom I will remain forever friends despite the distance that separates us. I had a long typed conversation with one of my primary school classmates via Facebook recently and was vividly reminded of his wicked sense of humour which he has not lost. His recollection of those days brought them back to me so vividly and the ease with which we were able to “chat” emboldened me to approach some of the other class mates to catch up, unfortunately I have not had much success yet. But I shall persist! It is likely however that I will eventually erase some of these people from my “Facebook” page due to lack of communication but for now they represent memories of an almost forgotten childhood and youth.

“Facebook” also helped to reconnect me with a friend who I have known now for more than half my life. Together we experienced and experimented with life, together we shared first boyfriends, first kisses, first discos, heartbreaks, laughs and tears. I was there with her as she recovered from a hip operation, we spend entire school holidays together and a fortune of our father’s incomes on phone calls that went on for hours. We saw every blockbuster 80’s movie together went on loads of double dates, hell we even dated best friends. I don’t think there is a song from that era that does not spark a memory of our escapades together. Music was ever present; it played such an important role in our lives, in our view of the world, our expectations of love and our sense of fashion. We would dance up and down the passage to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” or bop self consciously to Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” at the local disco. I don’t think we have ever admitted to stomping about the bedroom arms linked shouting along to “Nelly the Elephant!” We had pillow fights to “The Cure” and discussed in-depth the social messages in the music of “Depeche Mode.” We spent many nights discussing, arguing, giggling and sharing secrets into the small hours of the morning. We went from teenager to young adults living comfortably in each other’s pockets. But then we grew up and our paths so intertwined and interconnected began to split apart and even though we shared those memorable times like our 21st birthdays, our weddings and the birth of her children we were eventually walking life in two different directions. Then, almost ten years, new experiences and new friends later I received a “friends request” and a message on my “Facebook” page saying: “I really hope it’s you Manth!” So now across the physical miles that divide us we have set about repairing a bond forged in the fire of our idyllic youth and rusted by disillusion, adulthood and reality.

History Retold

The year before I was born my paternal grandmother died. I grew up in the knowledge that I bare a resemblance to her with similar talents and mannerisms. I recall my Dad telling me once that he believed that Ouma and I would have had a good relationship. I believe my Dad is right! My Dad would respond that he is always right, and he is, most of the time! I have always felt a bond with my Ouma and loved her despite never meeting her. She is a constant presence and influence in my life and a part of who I am.

When our Butterfly was born it was immediately apparent to us that she bears a striking resemblance to her paternal grandmother who died the year before she was born. I was struck by this fact early on in my pregnancy and knew even then that she would resemble Alix. Again and again we see Butterfly doing things that reminds us of Alix. At six months Butterfly was crawling about her Grand-père’s house and came across a picture of Alix, she put her little hand on the picture and smiled. Practicality and sensibility dictate that it was a very cute coincident but deep down I know that our child recognised her Grand’Mere and was saying hello. There have been so many other little signs like a song called “Mamy Blue” which Alix would often hum and tap her foot to when she heard it. The Mauritian was feeling sentimental one cold dark winter afternoon and decided to play the song, our little Butterfly stopped what she was doing and stood very still in front of a speaker and listened to the entire song and when it was done asked for it again. Butterfly dances like crazy to The Beatles music, The Beatles was Alix’s favourite band! Whenever I catch the Butterfly helping herself to my jewellery she has taken the box that was once Alix’s and the hardest one to reach. I have watched her take out only the jewellery that was Alix’s and try and put it on. Logic screams at me that it’s all in my head because I want to believe it. The bond I have with my Ouma tells me otherwise. Butterfly has a habit of sucking on her lower lip when she is concentrating, something her Grand’Mere did often. Even the shape of Butterfly’s nails reminds me of my Mother-in-law who I adored. So often I find myself thinking just how Alix would laugh at the antics of the Butterfly, especially when she sneakingly helps herself to her Papa’s beer or Ummy’s glass of wine. In fact, I believe that our Butterfly has inherited her Grand ‘Mere’s taste of red wine.

We recently took our Little Butterfly for a haircut, we said farewell to her long flowing baby locks and hello to a more grown up looking sweetheart with a short but practical haircut. As she grows and develops the striking resemblance to her Grand’Mere fades gently into the individual features that make our Butterfly into who she is. But she will grow up knowing and loving her Grand’Mere just as I grew up to know and love my Ouma because like me, Butterfly is surrounded by people who are blessed and privileged to have been a part of their lives. Like me, my little Butterfly will look in a mirror and see her paternal grandmother smiling back at her and know beyond any logic that her Grand’Mere is with her guiding and loving her, just as my Ouma is here with me as I write this.