The Day My Clocks Stopped (part 1)
Fifteen minutes after returning from a day sitting at a show house in Corpus Christi, Texas, my cellphone rang. As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew that my beloved Dad, living in Johannesburg, South Africa, had died. I am so thankful that I spoke to him earlier in the day on Skype. When I saw his face, I knew that he had taken a turn for the worse. As our conversation reached an end, the doctor walked into the room. I greeted him and asked him to take care of my Dad, and he did. The last words I said to my Dad were those with which I always ended my calls: "I love you, Dad. God bless."
Dad died around 9 p.m. that Friday night. I launched into action. With the help of my friends, Shelly and Ed, I booked flights for the following day and fell into bed, exhausted. I was up at 4:30 a.m. to pack my cases and Shelly and Ed picked me up and took me to the airport to get a rental car. I had no connecting flights to and from Corpus Christi and Houston, so I drove.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
On the road
I got to the rental car, put my luggage in the trunk and got into the driver’s seat and plugged in my GPS. It could not find a satellite. I then looked at the “key” for the ignition and tried to find a place to insert it. There was none. I looked around the console and tried to figure out how to start the car when I noticed a button that said “start engine,” but when I pressed it, nothing happened. The GPS was still searching, and so was I. Eventually I tapped the brake and noticed a message on the dashboard. It told me to step on the brake (or was it the accelerator?) and press the button to start the engine. Thank heavens the car started. I checked my GPS which still would not find a blinking satellite. What to do? I had NO idea how to get on the right road to Houston, never mind navigate Houston and get to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. I had allowed plenty time to get there ahead of the flights, thank goodness.
A stroke of insight had me use the GPS on my cellphone. It got me going. I finally found myself on the right road to Houston and pulled over to the side as my GPS had now found a satellite and worried about the charges on my cellphone if I navigated all the way to Houston – a four hour drive. I tried to type in Houston International Airport. No luck. I typed in George Bush International…. No luck. I tried to search – no luck. Eventually I found the way the GPS system had input George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and clicked GO, relieved, but grumbling about the search function on the system!
I listened to the rich, deep voice of my GPS navigator. Once I had arrived within the city limits in Houston, I engaged my cellphone GPS system again, as during the drive, I had lost the satellite signal a number of times and was feeling leery of Garmin. I had both of them on. As I approached the Sam Houston Tollway, my anxiety shot to a high as Garmin told me to take a right and my cellphone GPS told me to go left!!! I made a split-second decision and veered left as I had more confidence in my cellphone. Two tollbooths and much anxiety later, I pulled in to the rental car area to drop the car off. What should have been a car hire of $125 turned into $175 as I had not been able to refill the gas tank and the car rental company do so at a premium!
Delta Airlines - Good Job
Late Autumn at the retirement village
Summer to Midwinter via Delta Airlines
I needed to lug my baggage up to the next floor and get on the bus to the actual airport. Once there, I checked in and waited for the flight. I used the time to send some much-needed emails, including one to my lovely high-school friend, Gillie, to ask if she would pick me up from the airport once I arrived in Johannesburg. Luckily she answered immediately from her Blackberry and said she would be able to do so. I charged my cellphone while I waited and then put my laptop and phone away and boarded the flight to Atlanta. There was only an hour between arriving in Atlanta and boarding the flight for South Africa. I had angels on my shoulders all the way and things went smoothly. This time, I took a tablet which allowed me to sleep on and off for short periods of time as I endured the 15½ hours flying time to Johannesburg. It did help that all my connections were with Delta, so I did not have to dash madly from one end of a huge airport to the other and I didn’t have to worry about my luggage. I did not know whether I packed well as I was going from summer to almost midwinter in the southern hemisphere, but I would just have to make do.
The flights, thank goodness, were all trouble free. We touched down a little early and thankfully, my baggage was not the last to appear on the carousel this time. I exited the doors of the airport and found my friend, Gillie. It was so good to see her face. She delivered me safely to my Dad’s cottage where my brothers and sister-in-law were waiting. In the meantime, they had arranged for me to stay right next door, with my Dad’s neighbor, who has been an absolute blessing to me. I stayed with Cynthia when I spent time in Johannesburg in January, after my Dad had been hospitalized twice. I thought that he was going to die then, and discovered once I got to the hospital that he had been resuscitated the second time. One of my brothers stayed in my Dad’s cottage whilst the other stayed in Hyde Park with his wife.
Although I left Texas early on Saturday morning, because I was traveling from West to East, I lost time and arrived on Sunday night, quite exhausted. My Father’s funeral was on Monday morning. Mourners assembled at the cemetery. I was so grateful that a group of my friends managed to attend. My friends, both old and new, came to show their support and pay final respects to my Dad. The weather was unusually warm for May in Johannesburg. We all followed the coffin to its final resting place, pallbearers given the blessing. As my brothers intoned mourners’ prayers, two of my friends, Gillie and Karen, came to stand with me and both of them held me up. Gillie, who had recently lost her mother, whispered words of wisdom and love into my ear. As my brothers dropped earth into my Dad’s grave, I closed my eyes and was aware of the sun on my face and hues of red behind my eyes. I knew that my Dad was not down there, but lifted my face towards the sun, up to where my Dad’s spirit had flown, as he joined my departed Mother. A breeze sprang up and lifted my hair and caressed my face. My friends – Gillie and Karen – were like angel wings, holding me up.
It is so comforting to see familiar and caring faces when we bury our loved ones. Twenty-one months earlier, my precious Mom had died and I was unable to go to her funeral. I was completing my 18 month course of study, and was preparing to sit my Physics registry. Had I left, I would have been unable to continue my studies. I listened to my Mother’s funeral over the phone and I grieved alone. This time, I was in the company of my brothers and was blessed to have Cynthia’s love and care as I retired to her cottage for the night. Friends came by to offer their condolences and bring food to help us through the week. The company kept by caring family and friends is the greatest blessing of all.
Beauty of the Eastern Cape
Quick stop to see my Cousin in the Eastern Cape
By and large, the company was extremely welcome. I must say, however, that it is honestly not helpful for people to arrive and sit there discussing matters concerning business or any other stressful event. It helps to be calm and sensitive to a mourner. Hugs and condolences and often also, peace and quiet, is really helpful. It is good to see friendly faces. The week passed by in a flash. I felt a pressing need to see my cousin who is like a sister to me, and also a group of very close friends who live in the Eastern Cape. My brother graciously arranged for me to do so.
I flew out early the next day, then drove from the airport in George to beautiful Plettenberg Bay. Another rental car, and the concentration to drive on the “other” side of the road. When I got in, I inadvertently got in the passenger side, and half embarrassed, half amused, clambered over to the driver’s side. This car was not automatic and I had to consciously engage the clutch to use the 5 forward gears. I tried to reverse as I left the parking bay. I could not do so. I tried to engage the gear far left and up… no luck. I maneuvered enough to be on my way, and then had to stop a while later, once I saw the Atlantic Ocean washing up onto the beautiful beach in the Wilderness. An old feeling of excitement welled up like an old friend in the pit of my stomach. I pulled in to a parking area, leapt out of the car and put my feet onto the sand. I took some photos and breathed in the ocean air and felt tension dripping off me as I stared at the sea. Luckily there was a young man there who discovered a button on the underside of the gear-shift. Once pressed, the gear pushed far left and up, allowing the car to engage the reverse drive! What quick lessons in advancing technology and thank goodness for that!! I resumed my journey and arrived in Plett an hour later.
As I pulled in to the retirement village, I saw the beauty of all the aloes and other plants that graced the grounds. A sugarbird alighted on the aloe to feed upon its nectar. I was not at a good angle to get a photo and lost the opportunity as the bird flew off. I parked and found my Cousin Judy’s room. I knocked and walked in and found, to my delight, that my special friends, Mike and Ros, were already there. Thankfully, they had come from London to spend time with our group of friends in Plett. It was so good to see them and to see Judy and get hugs from all. We chatted with warmth and depth until it was time for lunch. The four of us had lunch together and then Mike and Ros left and Judy and I had more time to catch up. Later in the day, Judy went with me to Veronica with whom I would stay overnight. It was so good to see her and her two lovely cats and beautiful German Shepherd/Wolf dog, Silva. Veronica has always been kind to me, and after her usual thoughtful hospitality, I slept really well that night.
The following day, I picked Judy up and we went into the small town to run a few errands. Then we treated ourselves to cappuccino and a grilled cheese sandwich. The day passed by all too quickly. I took Judy back to her place then went back to Veronica, who was kind and generous and gave me a wonderful back and neck massage. When her hands touched my skin, I was overcome with gratitude at the love and healing given to me, and the tears began to flow. Thereafter, we all convened at another friend’s house. There is synchronicity here, too. The names of these friends are the same as the names of both my parents-in-law. The whole group of old friends arrived at Tom and Viola’s house for dinner. The fireplace was lit and it was wonderful to all be together again and chat as we did over a decade ago. It was priceless and a wonderful gift. The time passed by way too quickly. The following morning I spent with Judy and after lunch, when we both felt drowsy, I had to drive back to George to get the flight back to Johannesburg. Everything went smoothly.
Magic on Kulula Airways - a brief respite
Much cloud cover had sprung up in George. I was flying with Kulula Airways for the first time. It is somewhat similar to South West Airlines in that Kulula is informal and the cabin attendants use humor to address passengers. It was delightful. As the plane flew up above the first bank of clouds, I looked out the window to the right of me to see clouds reflecting light in pearly shades of pastel colors. Aquamarine blue, pearly pink, various grays and white light spread out in broad rays and I caught my breath. The sun was beginning to set in the West, on the other side of the aircraft. I had used up all the space on my camera capturing beautiful images of the Eastern Cape in winter. I was terribly frustrated that I could not photograph the most beautiful cloudscapes from above the cloud banks. I watched as the tops of the clouds looked like waves on the ocean and then I could see what looked like adorable heads of skipping lambs. As I watched, I was graced with a view that is probably very rarely seen. I shouted excitedly to my fellow passengers: “Look at that!” I pointed out the window. Let me try and describe the vision that I saw:
As the sun lowered westward, it shone directly on the airplane. On the right hand side, the part of the plane in which I was sitting and gazing out of the window, the plane cast its shadow on the puffy cloudbanks. Imagine Batman’s distress signal being projected out into the night sky, the dark shadow of the bat encircled by a ring as it beams through the darkness. In similar fashion, the sun bathed the plane on its left side and on the other side, clearly visible against the cloudbanks of pearly hue, was the shadow of the plane flying. Not only was the shadow clearly visible, but there was a circle right around the shadow…. in colors of the rainbow! I caught my breath in absolute wonderment and my memory banks clicked and clicked as I stored the image in my mind’s eye. I only wish I could have taken a hundred photos so that I could share!!