Tag Archives: Time

The holiday

So the perfect school holiday would have seen the Mom, the Dad and the children all on holiday at the same time. It would also have included great weather and a complete agenda of things to do that would have filled up every day with perfectly happy halflings.

This last October holiday, we had none of those things. It was the two minions and I staring at each other in the car every morning after dropping the Mom off at work while the rain pelted down on the car. Each day, a single thought was bouncing around in our heads, what on earth are we going to do today?

I’m the Dad and as such, I was supposed to have the answer. But as with most things, I didn’t have any answers at all. In point of fact, I wing it ninety five percent of the time. I’m in a new country, a new city, a new town, a new house and in three months I’ve learned exactly two things: I know where the best breakfast spot is and I know where the park is. In both places, the people talk a little like Crocodile Dundee.

I mean I had a couple of things planned for the holiday which we did execute with a modicum of success and which did result in genuine appreciation from the little guys. But by far the most successful outing was a visit to the local cinema to watch Christopher Robin. It was a big hit. Pooh and the gang did not disappoint.

Also, I managed to make that particular event fill up an entire day. First, I stretched out the ticket booking process, all told, it took about an hour and a half. We watched the trailer online, chose our seats for a matinee screening and printed out our tickets.

We then chewed up another forty five minutes just getting ready to walk out the door. To be completely honest though, that’s about par for our family. Leaving the house with children is an experience not unlike what I would imagine insanity being injected into eyeballs feels like and I think that parents around the globe deserve actual medals, dished out by famous people, at formal ceremonies for every time we do it. I sometimes think a cattle prod wouldn’t go amiss, you know, hanging in the entrance hall, to use as needed. Or perhaps a sheep dog.

I drove there slowly. Let me qualify that a little by saying that I always drive within the speed limit (just in case there are any traffic officials in New South Wales reading this). But that day I drove slower than usual. Slow enough for the little guys to pipe up in the back and comment that I was in fact driving rather slowly and could I please just bloody move along now.

Ok, they didn’t actually say bloody, but their tone suggested they meant to say it.

At the cinema it was all business. There was the ubiquitous box of popcorn each – which in Australia seems to be somewhat regulated in that there is only one flavor of popcorn and that is buttered with salt. Someone, somewhere decided the appropriate amount of salt required for a batch of popcorn and that’s all you get mate. No extra. Weird. Next time we go, we might have to take our own salt with us.

We watched the movie and I have to say, it was really very good. All the children in the cinema erupted into belly laughter every couple of minutes, making it a really happy experience. I was reminded of that scene from Finding Neverland where children were scattered around the theatre full of stuffy adults wearing formal wear – their infectious laughter drew the whole audience into the play. Also, I didn’t once have that nagging thought that Pooh needed to put a pair of bottoms on, not even on his trip to the city.

The three of us shared a bag of the Australian equivalent of Cadbury’s Whispers and it’s was a full fifteen minutes before anyone spilt their popcorn or juice. So a really successful outing.

By the time the movie was over, the little guy had a palm covered in chocolate and a face to match. I had handed him one piece at a time during the show to limit his intake. I attempted a quick cleanup, using the cleaning implement first reached for by any parent with small children, I licked my thumb and tried to wipe away the chocolate that never quite made it into his mouth. He put up an indignant protest saying something about saving it for later.

To round out the time dilation, I had parked on the opposite side of the mall just to chew up another quarter of an hour walking back to the car. By the time we got home, after another slow drive metered out at Miss Daisy speeds, there was just enough time to freshen up and read a little before heading back out to fetch the mom from work.

I hope someday my boys read this and remember a rainy day in Australia when they watched Pooh with their Dad.

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The three little things

As a father of two boys that are growing up at an alarming rate, I find myself torn between two states.

First and foremost, I want to marvel at the wonder of my children experiencing all the magic that life has to offer. I look forward to them reveling in their youth and reaching their respective milestones; things like little teeth falling out or riding bicycles or learning to dive into the pool or being old enough to watch Star Wars.

It really is all kinds of awesome.

That said, a part of me also wants to keep them just as they are now, beautiful, loving, happy little boys that can still plant kisses on their Dad’s forehead without getting embarrassed and that count the number of sleeps until Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Mouse (that gives them cash for well-maintained little teeth) visit our home.

Living in those two opposite states is difficult. It seems strange too, I’ll concede that. I mean, I do understand that I can only live in the present, its not like I have the option to stay here indefinitely or visit the past and live there, but the truth is simply that I want both.

I want three little things, the yesterday, the today and the tomorrow.

I want to be able to hold my little guy’s hands again while he teeters around the house, taking his first steps on brand new feet. I want to watch him don his gown and set his cap on his curly mop of hair when he graduates from preschool.

I want to feed my eldest boy his first spoonful of peanut butter again and watch him spread it around his delighted little face using all ten fingers and both palms. I want to watch him walk his little brother into Grade 1 next year with his steady hand guiding and reassuring the little guy all the way to his new classroom.

I want to walk behind my little guy again as he scoots around on his plastic three wheeler push bike and listen to pure joy escape from his mouth in the form of loud, animated squeals of delight. I want to see him ride a big bicycle, complete with gears and shocks, over a ramp at a bike park and get ‘big air’.

I want to sit at that cafe in the mall again while my eldest, no more than a year old at the time, props himself up against the table and shouts at every single person walking by. First drawing them in, then dazzling them with a magnificent two-tooth smile and an unaffected belly laugh. I want to watch him delve into his first Hardy Boys book, reading by torchlight at bedtime and then flipping quickly past the scary bits with trembling hands.

I want to hear the little guy chug his bottle of warm tea at bedtime like a piggy and then listen for the empty vessel being tossed unceremoniously across the room when he’s done. I want to see him drive his first car around a parking lot on a warm sunny afternoon in November when he gets his learner’s permit.

I cannot have all of that though. I can have the two little princes they are right now and all the moments that lie ahead. It is the very definition of bittersweet.

I’ll simply have to resolve to take more pictures and videos of them so that from time to time, when I miss the earlier versions of these amazing little humans, I can turn back the clocks and see them again.


The forty three

And just like that, I’m forty three. Forty bloody three years old. I was twenty one the last time I looked and then there was work and marriage and children and I’m pretty sure I blinked a few times and attended a few parties and then all of a terrible sudden there was forty three.

Immediately, there are a number of questions that spring to mind. What happened to the hair on my head? Why do I suddenly see less of my feet and more of my belly?

Actually, on that subject, what the hell is going on with all the hair on my belly? It’s as if I’ve donned an organic chest armor that I’ve woven by hand over many moons in my man-cave. All the fibers cut to a uniform length. It’s almost plush. If you shaved it, and managed to keep it all together, you could wrap it around a hairless cat (Sphynx) and make it look quite normal. There’s even a grey patch.

Actually, the hair on my body in general is behaving oddly. I now have hair growing out of my ears. Yes, hair that I now need to clip daily so that it does not get mistaken for an organic new age hearing aid or a winter warmer version of Beats by Dr. Dre.

There is also a chilling amount of hair sprouting from my knuckles, so much so in fact that I’m beginning to have Robin Williams and Steve Carell related nightmares. If you know either of these characters, you’ll understand that the fear is real. And, you know, psychopaths have hairy hands. The future looks grim.

My eyebrows are doing something quite strange too where it seems that the once universal length limit imposed on individual eyebrows has somehow now been repealed. In the past, I never noticed any individual eyebrow exceeding more than a centimeter in length. Now not a week goes by that I don’t find a freakishly long specimen, five or six times the standard length, hidden amongst the other human hair like a bloody mutant on my forehead. I can check the entire crop today and won’t find a single one, but tomorrow morning there will be a six centimeter monster getting ready to colonize my face. 

My nose hair is also stepping slightly outside of the bounds of normal these days. When I look in there, it’s all dark and mysterious. Just as a nostril should be. Then every few days a stray nose hair will step out of line and extended beyond its prescribed boundary, refusing to get back behind the line. Naturally, I immediately pluck these strays but when they’re out, they’re always completely grey. Or it’s it clear like polar bear fur? Hard to say really. Somehow, between the plucking and the plucked, they change colour. It’s a mystery inside an enigma. It also makes my eyes water.

I think that there’s a point you reach as a man, in terms of hair growth and hair loss that once crossed, leaves you in the strange realm where people move to the other side of the street to avoid you. Where beach critters will try to embed themselves in your warm fur, if you happen to remove your shirt on a sunny day in the sand. Or indeed where birds try to pick at you for raw materials for a new nest and then possibly try to build it on your head.

Let me quickly qualify this post and say that I’m not having a mid-life crisis. I haven’t just gone out and bought a topless sports car, nor have I grown anything approximating a ponytail or any other kind of designer facial hair. I’m still married to my lovely wife and have not installed a girlfriend, a mistress, an earring or even a new tattoo. So, I’m completely normal in every way, I think, I’m just flummoxed at how quickly twenty two years has gone. That said, I’ll admit, I am getting a little panicky about all the hair.

Yes, these last two decades have flown by. There were days where time seemed to pass by so slowly that it felt like I was in charge of tracking how fast a glacier moved. As an aside, the fastest moving one is the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland that’s moving at about 1.4 meters an hour. If you’re a glacier, that’s pretty fast. If you’re a human, you’re probably beginning to grow moss and people in white coats are fitting you for your own white coat or sticking post-its on you. But I digress.

Then there were days where I blinked and a few years had disappeared before my eyes like Bruce Jenner’s masculinity. Insert your favorite simile here. Insert rants about the jab at Caitlyn here too.

As I collect my thoughts at the end of the day and stare at the ceiling awaiting the blanket of sleep to fall on my face, I’ll probably not be concerned with the twenty two year hop skip and jump in time that landed me at 43 years old.

No, I’ll probably be thinking about buying a universal hair trimming device with all the necessary attachments for all the crazy hair I’ve sprouted.


The grands

Grandparents. The word alone should conjure up memories in anyone’s minds eye of silver haired smiles, of being spoilt or comforted, of wrinkles and spots and grey hair, of quiet afternoons and the tic toc steadiness of time spent with them.

I have a number of clear memories of my maternal grandfather. He was an avid lawn bowler. Quite a good one at that. I remember some afternoons spent leaping through hedges at the Sturrock Park Bowling Club where both he and my grandmother (Grannypie) played. His picture was on the wall at the club, above the big doors if memory serves. I remember the parking lot for the club being on the opposite side of a railway and I, for whatever reason, decided one day I wasn’t going to cross the bridge over the tracks. I’d been to the bowling club before and since but on that day I remember him having to try convince me that the trains really weren’t going to run over me. I remember he was a quiet man, a gentleman and he loved to wear hats. He passed away when I was quite young after a long illness.

My paternal grandfather was a real family man that loved a big party. He worked well into his retirement years and I remember his love of animals (dogs in particular) and his parrot (Popeye). He had four boys with my father being the second youngest and then thirteen grandchildren. Yes, thirteen and I was the youngest. He drove a red beetle and when that little car made its way into our neighborhood, every dog for four blocks around would make a beeline for our house so that they could claim their little treat which he always seemed to have handy. As I cast my mind back, many of the memories I have of Grandpa were at family gatherings which he’d orchestrated. Actually, my memories of him seem to jump from one family party to the next at one of my uncle’s homes or ours. I remember a few holidays he took with my grandmother (Nanna) where my father was tasked with caring for Popeye the parrot. Popeye, by the way, grew up in a home of four boys that loved Elvis and as such was a big fan of 50’s music and of ‘the king’ in particular. He absolutely adored my Grandpa. He’d pine when he was away and literally do loops on his perch when he came home. Grandpa also passed away when I was quite young after a brief illness.

My Nanna was a free spirit, not in the new age sense but rather in the fact that she seemed to rediscover her youthful exuberance long after most grandparents would be zimmer-framing from the kitchen to the lounge. She actually stayed in her own apartment in Braamfontein and would zip around the country on a whim to visit a casino without even having to ask anyone to so much as give her a lift. Her disappearances always caused great concern among my father and uncles. She was loving and fun and I get the sense that had she been alive when Facebook started, she’d definitely have had a page with great stories on it. She’d probably have had a Twitter handle too and I expect she’d have had a huge following of people admiring a granny with such a young heart. I was on holiday when she passed away.

My Grannypie, so named by my sister, was a Dame. She really was. She was one of those people who would pat the seat next to her to indicate you should sit down to speak to her. Very proper. Very steady. She loved to listen to the radio. She had a great sense of humor and she almost closed her eyes when she smiled. She lived with us for the last years of her life and she had one drink a day which was a tot of Gilby’s gin, a tot of lime, two blocks of ice and water in a short tumbler glass. I made one for her almost every day before I left home and eventually spread my wings. At my 21st birthday party, her and her two sisters all managed to make several trips to the gents restrooms, completely in error of course. None of them questioned the row of urinals or the stick man on the door. Much mirth followed when it was finally explained to them what they’d been doing that day. My Grannypie lived a full life and passed away quietly at my family home. I arrived a day late.

My paternal Grandparents were often backups when I was not well enough to go to school as a pup. I have memories of doing ’rounds’ with my Grandfather in his building in Johannesburg where he was the caretaker. They lived on the top floor and going there was always a treat. I’m pretty sure I slowed him down on those days but he never once made me feel like I was a burden. I do remember him having to take a nap on the odd occasion that I was visiting in order to recharge though.

For a few years after I learnt how to drive I would fetch my grandmothers on a Sunday morning and bring them home for lunch. They were never back seat drivers but my mother always cautioned me to drive sedately with them, though I’m not sure I always did. All of my Grandparents played a role in my life and all of them have special nooks in my mind where I can easily reach them.

I wasn’t there when any of them passed away so I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Each of them just disappeared one day and life sort of moved on without them. Everything pretty much the same, just a little emptier. So I encourage those among you who have grandparents to take time out to sit next to them, to listen to their stories. Today. Now.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very roundabout sort of way, is that I’m almost 43 years old and I still miss my grandparents.


The piece of string

Have you heard the phrase ‘How long is a piece of string?’

Well the commonly held answer is that it is as long as it needs to be obviously, depending on the context it’s used in. We use it when we’re unsure how to answer open ended questions like how far do you have to run before your feet to get sore? Or how much Nutella can you eat before you feel ill? Or indeed how long can your child hold a number one or two before you reach the safety of the nearest rest room.

I just discovered another context for its use.

The aha moment started like this; I got home from work this evening to find my boys pitted against each other in a race to see who could get dressed in their pajamas first before they went to visit their grand parents up the road. They’d just finished their bath and my eldest looked sparkly and rosy cheeked as he was dressing himself in the lounge while my youngest was employing the services of his mother to help him dress in his room. Apparently the help that his mother provides balances out exactly the two year age gap between the boys.

As an aside, children absolutely love competitions. They’ll compete to see who can pick the biggest booger out of a nostril or who can gobble down their food the fastest (indigestion aside) or who can burp/fart the loudest or indeed burp/fart the most often. Literally anything can become a race against the clock. And test your gag reflex. 

When I walked in, I got a quick overview of what the competition was from the big guy as he was climbing into his striped pajama top. In a moment he was done and with a ruffled head of hair he darted to the room where his brother was being gift wrapped to declare victory – only to find that his brother was also ready. So it was a tied race, it was an amazing coincidence, they were both winners, everyone was happy. Or so it seemed.

At this pont I simply assumed the piece of string was at its maximum length, that is to say that the race was in fact over. So I suggested that the big guy take his slippers off and put socks on before he left the house to go visiting, being that the evenings are getting a little cooler now that winter is on its way.

And immediately, there was a problem.

The big guy lost his personality completely and began to chastise me for making him lose the race. There were of course tears and piteous little proclamations of how unfair it all was, complete with stamping of feet and running of snot over stuck out lip. I tried to backtrack and explain that the race had in fact been over when I suggested he put socks on – but it all fell on indignant, deaf little ears. There was simply no un-popping the cork. It all went pear-shaped after that and if I’m honest, I could probably have handled things a little better than I did. Things like stop crying and this is silly could easily have been replaced with why don’t we have another race?

Anyway, fifteen minutes and one very grumpy child later a number of things, that should actually have been completely obvious to me from the start, dawned on me:

  1. one needs to declare in detail what the conditions of the competition or race are and
  2. one needs to explicitly declare what constitutes a win or marks the end of said competition or race and
  3. arguably more importantly, this needs to be done upfront and
  4. of equal importance, the contestants must both understand and agree to points one, two and three above and
  5. ideally there should be a ceremony of some kind celebrating the end of the completion or race and
  6. then and only then – will the race be over

In short, you decide how long the piece of string is before you ask any questions about how long the piece of string is. Otherwise you may find yourself on the receiving end of the ire of a child.