I keep thinking of the strange naked man waving at me at the hospital

Today is Sunday, the dreadful day where I smell the ghost of Sunday roast, and miss my mother. Sunday is always the worst.

But another memory haunts me today – the odd image of a naked man sitting up and waving at me in the hospital, a detail I haven’t mentioned to anyone up until now. To put it in context, I have to go back to the day my mother died. And with apologies, I have to refer to one other person by name. Abby, my brother’s ex wife, was my mother’s only other friend at the end.

It was Friday, December 7th 2018 and was always going to be a bad day. The third consecutive day with my mother in hospital, after her bronchoscopy went wrong on the Wednesday, and was also the day of my work’s year end function. So I had to dress up smart for once, and prepare myself for hours of social interaction. I do OK at these things lately – Hell I can even be charming, but it drains me. Just because you can’t see my social anxiety doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Before going to work, I drove to Abby’s house. I’d washed and dried panties and pajamas for my mother, and she had arranged for Abby to bring them to her. This suited me because I thought I’d visit later, during visiting hours. So before going to work, I dropped the bag of underwear at Abby’s house. Then I went to work. The plan was, go to the year end function at 12:00, stay only for two hours, and leave to be able to get to the hospital for visiting hours at 3PM.

At around 10AM my mother called me, and as always apologized for calling me at work. (In retrospect I wish she’d called me more often.) She told me that she’d only just found out the bronchoscopy has gone wrong because she’d had an asthma attack – this was news to both of us because we thought the procedure was done and she was coming home. And she told me that they would try to remove the fluid from her lung by draining it with a needle. (I’m sorry – I have mentioned most of this before but I can’t write it without this context.) I asked if she would be anaesthetized but she didn’t know and she said that they were still going to explain the procedure to her. That part of the conversation is so fresh for me – it’s crazy. I can still hear her voice. When I think of this, it’s like she’s still alive in my head, and it tortures me. I wished her luck and that was that; I had no idea this would be the last time I’d speak to my mother.

I was getting ready to leave for the work year end function at 11:55AM when I got the call from the hospital. All the nursing sister would tell me was, “Her situation has changed and you need to get here as soon as possible”. I feared the worst but did not know. It was better not knowing.

This (and the paragraph about dropping panties off), I have not written before because I didn’t want to mention Abby by name. I drove home as fast as I could. I didn’t want to drive to the hospital but decided to Uber in case the worst happened and I might be too emotional to drive. So I went home and checked on Josh, who was already on school holiday but playing with friends who live in the same complex. Then I walked outside the complex and ordered the Uber. It turned out the nursing sister had tried phoning Abby as well, since my mother had listed her also as next of kin. But they hadn’t gotten through to her because she’d lost signal… after already arriving at the hospital and getting the lift to the floor where my mother was. So Abby was already there. She called me twice; once after I got home to let me know that my mother had gone into respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest but they were trying to resuscitate her, and once again just after I ordered the Uber, she told me my mother had died.

Conversations with Uber drivers can be awkward already, but imagine the talk we had after I found out, in that two minutes while waiting for the Uber to take me to my mother in hospital, that my mother had died. I don’t know why she had to tell me like that. I was on the way, and it would have been better to find out from the hospital staff. But regardless, that’s what happened. She was overcome with emotion too, so I don’t blame her. It was a horrible way to find out though.

After the long walk to the other side of the hospital, the staff asked me to wait in the room with Abby. They were still removing tubes and so on so that I could say goodbye to my mother. Seeing her body was heartbreaking. She was still warm, a reminder that if I’d put her before my work, I might have seen her alive one more time. I will never put work before family again.

Then, I stood at the nurses station with a few forms to sign, and collect her handbag. The surreal moment that gave this post’s title came then. Abby was to my left, facing at an angle towards me and the hospital staff, who were behind a desk to my right, facing half toward me and half toward her. But several meters directly to the front, at such an angle that only I could see, was the door to the ward. As if in a dream, a naked man sat up on his bed at the back of the ward and started waving at me. Frantically he waved and waved, though to me in my daze after seeing my mother’s dead face, looking at her chest hoping for it to rise and fall but of course it did not, the man was moving in slow motion. Hesitantly, sheepishly, I raised my left hand and waved back. “Hi, buddy”.

It was as if I’d gone into one of those cheesy horror movies. The man was a ghost that only I could see. Indeed, in my younger days I might have convinced myself of some supernatural significance. I’d have believed it was no coincidence that only I could see him; that only I could see him. Yet now I wonder stupidly what he wanted… Maybe he was a friend to my mother in those few days and wanted to give his condolences; maybe he had a message for me; maybe he was just a lonely old man who waved at everybody. I’ll never know.

Weird memories, and I wonder why we collect unnecessary stuff

Today is my second day at home, as advised by a doctor. It’s not so bad – it was just a bit of gastro and some other stuff that needed checking out. I just got home from a medical center where they did some blood tests.

My main issue is that I am always tired. As in, I get up early but also fade too early and I can sleep any time. It’s 10:55Am now and I could go sleep for a few hours quite easily. So it worries me – besides it being very annoying and leading me to drink too many cups of coffee at work, I need to know if something is wrong. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

The medical center where they did the tests came with an eerie sense of familiarity, from the crummy waiting room to the dreary office to the nursing sister with her old fashioned hair (in memes her name is Karen and she’s always calling the manager) who took smoke breaks in the parking lot behind the offices. It was only when I made the payment that I realized why…

They already had my name, ID number, and cellphone number. I had been there before, back at the end of 2010, after Megan and I relapsed and my brother insisted on taking us for blood tests. Quite unnecessary of course, as I always told the truth. A year or so after that, I liked dealing with the social worker at child welfare because she understood me – if she asked me to do a test I’d simply tell her there was no need because I’d test positive for meth. Funny how they always took my word then, but would probably not if I said I was clean. Meanwhile in reality, I always tell the truth about this. So if I say I’m clean and have been since September 2013, it’s because that is the truth. I was always open about my meth use, and likewise am open about sobriety. But I digress…

It was interesting to be back there for completely different reasons. I spoke with the nursing sister about the past, about Josh, about my mother’s recent death… It was nice to talk to someone, even a stranger. I don’t have that – with my mother gone there is no adult here to talk to at home. There isn’t even anyone to give me birthday or Christmas presents – she was the only one who still did. Soon it will be 2 months since she died, on the day after my brother’s 45th birthday. I wonder if I should wish him? He didn’t wish me last October (and I think he was angry with me at the time) but now we are talking and getting along again. So I wonder if I should… Ironically he hates birthdays; I’m the one to whom they have always been important.

The point of this post – and sorry it isn’t much to save for the last paragraph or two, is the old woman who had blood tests before me made such a fuss of getting the payment done, getting the document for her medical aid, and getting the piece of paper for her “records at home”, it made me think of my mother again. She had three large boxes of records going back twenty years. I don’t think she even knew how much she had because some of it was never even unpacked when she moved here. But I found them and went through them the other day. I had to throw everything out.

We keep all these things. They seem important. Pieces of paper that mean so much to us. But then we die and those things are left behind. None of it matters. None of it means anything.

I too am a hoarder. But I need to stop collecting rubbish that will one day bring nothing but tears to my son when he sifts through years of crap after I’m dead. It would be better if I got rid of everything that isn’t really important. I’ trying to make things better for him when he grows up, be there for him, but it’s difficult when I am so miserable and so very tired all the time.

Lately I’m struggling

Lately my emotions are all over the place. I randomly remember my mother, a call made to me at work, a conversation at home, the words every night when Josh called out to her… “Goodnight granny”… “Night Josh, sleep tight”… “You too”… and it breaks me. It’s like she’s still alive for a moment, and then the memory of her death last month hits me again. And again. Every time it hurts. I remember her body, still warm, when I eventually made it to the hospital that day – and then the realization that her body was reduced to ashes laying in a box in the lounge cupboard.

Josh isn’t making this any easier. Some days he doesn’t listen to anything I say, anything at all. Some days he flat out refuses to do even the simplest thing. Tonight I sent him to bed without supper after he refused to eat it when I requested. Then I gave in to him and let him get up after half an hour.

In the kitchen stands the blender she bought to make smoothies in October, bought and hardly used. The kitchen cupboards are packed full of her neatly labelled containers. Even the artificial sweetener that only she used. Fat lot of good it did to cut out sugar, huh? Her cake of personal face soap lies under a fine layer of dust on the right hand side of the bathroom basin. I’ve run out of other food and had to shop weekly to replace it, but still have 12 fucking litres of milk because they last forever now, and two days before she died, she bought six that I didn’t know about while I was at work.

Mostly it’s that last phone call she made to me the morning before she died. I was going to visit her in hospital, and would have seen her alive once more if she could just have lived a few hours more. I wonder pointlessly… If the hospital staff realized that her reaction that prevented the bronchoscopy from working was to the medication, then why use similar medication for the procedure that ended up accidentally killing her? But thinking about that changes nothing. Sure, she might have lived longer. But she didn’t.

I torture myself thinking about how things might have been different. A thousand little things, done differently over time have a thousand different effects and each action leads to a slightly different future. So many things could have saved her but none of them did.

It’s after midnight. Lately, if I stay up this late, my thoughts will keep me awake until after four.

The cycle of sadness

Yesterday I apologized for writing another post about my mother on Facebook, and people replied not to apologize… One man even said he loved those posts because it expresses exactly how he feels about his mother who died six years ago. It’s weird how my most personal posts, the ones I at first expected to be ignored, are always the ones that people share the most and identify with. We aren’t that different after all. So maybe reading this can be as therapeutic as writing it.

I just made myself breakfast, and in the process discovered a large container of cereal that only my mother ate. Likewise there is a calcium supplement and some kind of Berocca, a brand name and also a supplement, laying on the kitchen counter. I have not been able to find the will to move or remove them.

Last week I finally arranged for a helper to come clean the flat, which seems weird because I have never in my life had a maid. That’s something my parents would do when I was a child. In the process of cleaning up, she found two cups in the fridge, one filled with leftover gravy and the other cheese sauce, because my mother had cooked a roast for us as usual that Sunday before she died last month. Those two cups are still in the drying up rack a week later. I have not the strength to remove them.

The above sums up how I have felt these last 4 weeks. I remain in shock. She died so quickly… every day I recall that last phone call to me at work when she told me the procedure that would be carried out in the hospital. I was to attend my work’s year end function, and had planned to leave early so that I could be on time for hospital visiting hours. My only worry was that she might go home before that, or be in transit while I left the work function. Her death, only two hours after that call, took me by such surprise, it remains fresh. Every day, I replay that call in my head. Every day I hear her voice telling me that the bronchoscopy had failed because she had an asthma attack, and that they would try to remove the fluid from her lung with a needle. Every day I relive the shock of her sudden death. I expected her to be home soon, and certainly before Christmas, and it’s like I can’t move forward… I’m stuck in December 7th 2018, reliving those hours over and over again.

Tomorrow Josh starts grade 5. I must still iron his clothes and get fresh bread so that I can prepare lunch for him. I’ll be on leave still the rest of this week, and must also call Harold, who runs his lift service, to say I will drive Josh to and from school the rest of the week. I must also find out about aftercare, since my mother no longer being here means I can’t let Josh come home and be alone while I am at work (from next week onwards). I may have to cancel the lift service completely, and then leave early from work every day to collect him from school in future. As with everything else, I think of these things, the practical things to do today. But then later I will remember to be sad again. It’s a cycle I’m repeating… distract myself with everyday life and menial tasks, then my thoughts wonder back to that phone call, or something else, some random object triggers a memory, and the cycle of sadness repeats.

I have more to write, lots more, but will save it for another day.

A shit end to a shit year

In two days it will be two weeks since my mother died. For the next couple of days, my son will be sleeping over with his cousins at my brother’s place. Alone at home, I expected to be moping around morbidly. But I’m not. I’m OK. That makes it worse somehow.

I’m not used to cooking every day, because I haven’t been. There’s a McDonalds within walking distance, and I’ve been wasting too much money there. But apart from random momentary lapses into the time machine of memory, I’ve gotten used to my mother being gone. This leaves me feeling guilty.

At least nobody has said, “It was her time”. She was supposed to come home that same day; all we knew was there were blood clots on her left lung and that she had to be tested at the hospital. They were supposed to diagnose her, not kill her. So no, don’t tell me it was her fucking time.

My mother never liked Christmas, and now neither do I. Most wonderful time of the year, suck my sweaty balls… I didn’t even get her recipe for traditional English trifle, or more importantly, the stuffing she used on the turkey. Most of all, I will never talk to her again.

Tomorrow night it will be a week since I quit smoking cigarettes. I have succeeded, and I know I will never smoke again, just as I knew I would never use meth again within days of quitting five years ago. I should feel proud, shouldn’t I? But I feel nothing.

It’s now the 19th December 2018. That means four days ago, my son was back with me for three years already. I’d been looking forward to this for months. It’s huge. I was planning on writing about that, writing about how happy we are, and how close we are. (And we are close.) But now I don’t feel.

The irony now is, I’m not that sad about my mother’s death – I’ve accepted the unpleasant fact that she’s gone. Now, I feel sad for not feeling sad. Crazy, huh?

It’s no longer about going through the day, and finding something I want to tell her, and then remembering she’s dead so I can’t. Instead, I find these things I would normally share with her, but I’m well aware that she’s gone, so it hurts. Tonight, there’s a comedy starring Tommy Lee Jones on TV. She loved that man. It’s those little things that jump out and remind me that life is shit.

We’ll be fine, Josh and I. But can this year be fucking over already? I think I’m almost done with mourning, and despite the sombre tone of this post, this dark mood and these dark posts will be gone soon. Everyone and everything dies, even grief.

I’m in Limbo

Last night in my nightmares, I couldn’t breathe properly. I shifted awkwardly between asleep and awake, laying thinking of one memory in particular that haunts me – my mother on that Tuesday night before I dropped her at the hospital on Wednesday morning; my mother sitting at the dining room table after walking from her bedroom to the lounge, just a few meters being enough to leave her out of breath, sitting there panting with her head in her hands. I laid there thinking that, and then shifting back to sleep where I dreamed that I was the one struggling to breathe. Then I woke confused, uncertain if this was a dream or if I really did struggle.

I’ve started wondering if this was really a sensible time to quit cigarettes. My last smoke was quite late on Thursday night, but the craving has been quite intense since then. But it’s not just craving – I’m angry. This anger flares up in response to tiny things that should be insignificant. I don’t remember ever craving meth like this, but I am craving a cigarette. The part of me that wants it begs and pleads, insisting that all I need is one; that I can bum from my neighbour, Mervin downstairs, who normally bums from me. But no! I shut those thoughts down each time, by playing back that mental image of my mother, sitting there with her head in her hands as she struggled to breathe. I hear her voice, as she called me on her last day, a week ago yesterday, to tell me that they would try to drain the fluid from her lung using a needle. I thought I’d see her later that day. They were supposed to help her, not suddenly kill her! That’s why I’m still in shock. And I think of how she died not two hours later, but also that she might have lived much longer if she’d quit smoking sooner. I need to quit and not give in to any cravings, so that I can live longer, for my son.

So I have motivation, but it’s hurting. The more I think about it, the more it hurts.The grief and sense of loss is otherwise not as bad as it was a week ago. It’s still bad, but it’s OK. But the not smoking thing is really fucking me up. Even my sense of the passing of time is different without nicotine. I don’t know how that can be, but some annoying tasks, such as pulling off from a traffic light… seem to take much longer now. The waiting for the lights to change from red to green… seems much longer than it needs to be. I used to take a lot of smoke breaks as well, sometimes before and after doing just about every little thing. Now I have all this extra time and no clue what to do with it.

I am not strong

I’m hardly coping with the loss of my mother. The last couple of days my brother helped out, first with sorting through her things and then with the unpleasant process of meeting the undertaker so that her body could be released, and organising the cremation. He made it clear that he’s doing this to Josh and I, not for her. Their relationship had deteriorated beyond repair, sadly. I’m not going to write anything further about that (It’s nobody’s business), and I do appreciate the help he and his wife have been the last couple of days.

But as for me – I am lost. My relationship with my mother was not that great until she moved in here in 2011, but since then we have grown close, closer than ever before. I downloaded series to watch with her and Josh; I took her to the movies; I discussed every little detail of my life with her. Sometimes I didn’t like her advice; sometimes I didn’t take it; sometimes we argued, and sometimes I took her for granted. But she was there for me. In the years of 2011 to 2013 when I was still struggling with addiction, she stood by me. (OK, she had to because she was staying in my place where I paid the rent and bought the food, but still.) She supported me emotionally when nobody else would. She was my only support. And now she’s gone.

Just the night before I took her to hospital, I called her to see a funny video I’d found on Facebook. In the last couple of months, we watched Westworld Season 2 together. She was looking forward to the final season of Game of Thrones.

She was my rock. She did more for me than anyone ever has. I depended on her for so much. When everything else was shit and my life fell apart, at least I had my mother to stand by me. And now she’s gone.

“Be strong”, people say. I probably shouldn’t criticize… Of all the things people say, that’s probably the best one. But it reminds me of when people congratulate me on getting out of some terrible situations in my years of addiction. “You’re strong”, they say. But I am not.

I am not strong. I am weak. I got through addiction and through some abusive situations, that seemed quite hopeless, not because of strength, but simply because I had to. I chose to live on, to drag myself through another day, then another, another, and another until it didn’t hurt as much any more. I persevered because I had to, not because of being strong.

How fragile is human life?

Yesterday my mother died suddenly. I’m not coping with the loss very well at all.

This has all been a shock. Two weeks ago, I dropped her off at Edenvale Hospital before going to work. It was just supposed to be a checkup, but I found later that day she’d been admitted. She had an enlarged heart due to fluid on her lungs. They also picked up something on her chest but didn’t know what it was, so she was scheduled to go to Johannesburg General hospital for a test, a bronchoscopy. But things did not go as planned.

They let her come home, and she was scheduled to go for the test this past Tuesday. I dropped her off at 6AM, again at Edenvale hospital, and their “messenger” as they call him took her to Johannesburg General hospital. But she hadn’t been told not to eat breakfast, so she had to return home. The messenger berated her, bullied her, telling everyone it was her fault. This was the second time he did so; the prior week another test had to be aborted because of a seafood allergy (which she had disclosed) which left her sensitive to the drip. So on Tuesday after making her walk from one side of the hospital to another (It’s a huge hospital.) because he parked on the wrong side, he let her wait three hours for the transport to go back to Edenvale. Is this how you treat a 70 year old woman who is struggling to breathe because of blood clots on her lungs? is it fun to bully an easy victim?

So on Wednesday, I took her back to the hospital again. They took her back to the larger hospital, where the bronchoscopy had to be abandoned because of a complication caused by her reaction to the medication. But I wasn’t notified. After work on Wednesday, I went to Edenvale hospital, but nobody knew where she was, so I then had to go look for her at Joburg Gen myself. It turned out she was in ICU, where she stayed overnight. After that amount of stress and no sleep, I stayed home on Thursday – I could not go to work in such a state of mind and without having had any sleep.

But on Thursday she was OK. She felt much better, was happy and in good spirits; she even joked with the staff there and made friends.

I went to work on Friday, dressing smarter than my usual jeans and t-shirt because we had an office year end function that afternoon. I planned to attend, and then leave early because visiting hours are 3 to 5PM.

She called me around 10AM to let me know that the bronchoscopy had not been done. Until then, we thought it had and that we simply had to wait two weeks for the results. I was under the impression that she was coming home. But instead, another procedure was going to be done where they would drain the fluid from her lung sing a needle. I asked if she would be anaesthetized but she told me she didn’t know because they had yet to explain it to her. I wished her luck, not knowing that this was the last time I would speak to her.

At 11:55AM I got the call to get to the hospital as soon as possible, but by the time I got there, she was already dead. She had again reacted badly to the medication, went into respiratory arrest, and while they tried to resuscitate her, went into cardiac arrest. They did resuscitate her after 30 minutes, but did not manage to wake her, and after another 30 minutes, and her not responding, they gave up.

The whole thing has been a nightmare. It happened too quickly, and I am shattered. My son and I have depended on her for so long now, but that’s not the worst part… I’ll find a way to cope with all the tasks that need to be done, but so far, I have not been able to make myself go through her things. Apart from her room, her toothbrush is still hanging in the bathroom, as is her towel and her toiletries. Her writing pad is on the dining room table, and I cannot bring myself to disturb those things. It seems sacrilegious somehow.

This is so much more difficult because of her staying with my son and I. In the years before this, we were not so close. But now, having her stay here these seven years had brought us closer together, and I was closer to her now than ever in my childhood.

How fragile are we, that life can so abruptly end? No time to say goodbye or even, “I love you, mommy”. There’s a part of me that fears that it is somehow because I didn’t tell her that I was worried in that last phone call, that somehow if she knew how much I cared and how worried I was, she might still be alive. I know it’s not true, but this part of me believes that if I’d said, “Please don’t die” that maybe she wouldn’t have.

My issues; I don’t know if I am depressed or just sad

I wish all my readers a happy new year. We had a good holiday, and although I only took one week of leave, that week was well spent with Megan and Aishah who came to visit Josh and I.

The time spent with them was not without its problems though, and this brought some things to my attention. Maybe on some level I knew that something was wrong, but I didn’t know how wrong it was.

The time spent with them was marred by Josh’s poor behaviour. Not only was he jealous of his sister and the attention she received from me, but he was mean, selfish, and spiteful. His behaviour was so bad, Megan and Aishah ended up leaving and I had to drive them to the airport on New Year’s day, even though the original intention was for them to stay a week longer. Megan wasn’t blameless herself… It felt like she spent too much time on her phone, such that she didn’t spend enough time engaging with us. It’s the little things… when you are present and engage with the people around you, you talk about things, you relate to them, you have a relationship with them. When you don’t, you’re almost not there.

I’ve described myself as happy, even until recently, and now I question that. I was happy three years ago, when Megan arrived in the month that Aishah turned four months old. I was able to quit my meth habit, and have not resumed it. (And never will.) Aishah was a pleasure to raise for those first two years when they lived with us, and she made me happy. She’s intelligent, inquisitive, and a joy to be around. Having her here again for a short while brought all that back, and having them leave took it all away again.

I still have Josh, but he is a difficult child. He’s moody, always complaining that he is bored, and seldom appreciates anything. But he was fine until a couple of months ago. It wasn’t this bad for most of the year, and in fact things were going rather well, which gets me to what appears to be the root of the problem…

Just the last couple of months, Abbi, his former foster mother and my former sister-in-law, has been visiting every Wednesday. She took it upon herself to collect him from school, since she stays just down the road from the school, and this allows him to spend time with his cousins. Then she brings him home so that his cousins can spend some time with my mother – their grandmother. But this is when his bad behaviour started and now it is out of control.

I have a few problems with this: Firstly, I know that she would not be comfortable if I collected her children from school and drove them anywhere, yet she started picking Josh up without consulting me, and assumed it would be OK, just because he stayed with her for a few years. That sets a double standard. And near the start of last year, she once called me to say, “Josh’s schoolbag is looking raggedy and some of the other parents are complaining. It would be awful if somebody called welfare.” So without saying a word, she is giving the children a message, telling them a story that I am unstable, cannot be trusted to drive them, but she is fine. I take things like this very seriously.

Secondly, there is the psychological aspect of this on Josh. By seeing them so often, he is reminded that he used to stay there. It makes him miss them more. That’s how it works. When you don’t see someone so often, you forget. This is also something that makes my getting him back commendable. The psychology of having a child removed normally leads you to forget them, rather than make you try harder to get them back. I got him back in spite of the effect removing him had on both of us. So having him see his former foster mother too often makes him miss staying there. It makes him remember that she was his “mother” for a while. It undoes all the progress that I have made with him. I think mostly it is this that is affecting his behaviour. He was fine until these weekly visits started.

Thirdly, on other occasions when he sleeps over at either Abbi or my brother, he is forced to say his prayers every night. This is also undermining the progress I have made removing him from religion, and is causing him confusion. No doubt they would say that he is not forced to pray, but the fact is, when there, he feels compelled to behave as the other children behave.

Now Josh refuses to listen to me or my mother. If he wants something and I say no, he complains that, “You say no to everything. I want to live with Abbi because she doesn’t say no to anything.” That’s not true, of course. I don’t say to everything, and she does say no as well. Also, whenever I go there, I can hear her voice even from outside the house, shouting at the children, all the time.

And over Christmas, Josh not only got his one gift from me, he received several from Abbi as well as her friends and family members. This, after he already has been spoiled rotten by them. He has hundreds of toys, far more than most people… so many that he does not appreciate anything. I was not brought up like that. On top of that, he was mean to his sister and wouldn’t let her play with his toys.

Back in October when we went to his former foster mother’s house for a Halloween party, I was reminded just how different her and her friends are to me. As a few of us sat outside around her swimming pool, a couple complained about the #FeesMustFall movement, saying some dismissive things about the people who are trying to get affordable fees. It’s easy to be dismissive of people who don’t have anything, who live in poverty, as you sit around your pool on a property that you own. (Or someone else’s when you also own property, but you get what I mean…) It’s easy to dismiss others who have to fight for equality and call them entitled when you have plenty. Those people, those Christian people, are the epitome of white privilege and that is not how I want my son brought up. I always feel totally out of place around such people. I do not belong there, and neither should my son.

It’s OK to have stuff. It’s not OK to think that you are entitled to it. It’s not OK to be dismissive of underprivileged people. I would prefer to give most of his toys away to the needy, but he seems to be too attached to them at the moment. Attached, and yet ungrateful.

Another interesting thing happened at that party… At one stage the children were splashing too much in the pool. Then Abbi threatened them (light-heartedly) and said that all the children could get a hiding just like her children. Interesting, because at court when I got Josh back, my brother tried to prevent it, by claiming untruthfully that our mother, who stays with me, is abusive. He even told Josh and me that if ever our mother hits Josh, he will call the police and get a restraining order, because spanking a child is illegal, and get Josh removed from me. Double standards much? Josh has told me that both of them spanked him, and when he got a demerit at school, Abbi’s father once made him choose between being hit with a belt or wooden pole.

I think I have to put a stop to those weekly visits. They are causing chaos.

But more than that, there is my feelings, my feelings of loss and despair after Aishah left. It brought everything back, the heartache of losing her after initially raising her for those two years. She isn’t even my biological daughter, but I love her just as much as Josh. She is very special to me, and this has brought my lack of happiness to my attention. I thought I was happy. Now I’m not so sure. I’ll have to see how things go, if my feelings improve in a couple of weeks. If not, maybe I am clinically depressed, and maybe I need help.

My emotional rollercoaster

These days I normally tell people I am happy. I’m three years clean after all – I have my son back for nearly a year now and all is well. It’s mostly true and I am happy, but it’s more complicated than that and I have written about it before. I feel it’s time to do so again.

This time I’ll wind back the clock a little further. I don’t know how to avoid this post being too long though. I’ll try to be brief, but too much brevity will result in glossing over things that had significant impact on my life.

Let’s go back to 2010. I’d spent 4 months in rehab, and upon coming out Megan followed me in. She was there for 3 months. Our son Josh was with my brother and his wife – a private arrangement. Three months later, Megan joined me in a sober house where I was living temporarily, and two months after that we rented a place, the place where I am living now – a 2 bedroom place because Josh was supposed to come back to us then.

Our relationship was not normal. I need to point this out or else again give the impression that everything was her fault. We were not having sex, because I rejected her every advance, every day. It’s hard to explain, but due to what happened before, I couldn’t. I figured I would get over it eventually, but “just for now” I couldn’t. So in September 2010, 2 days before Josh was supposed to come back to us, she disappeared. My brother and I went to every hospital looking for her, and he suggested what had happened, but I didn’t want to hear it. She had run away to Cape Town. (We are from Cape Town. I stay in Johannesburg now. Rehab was in Natal, followed by a relocation.)

So I was broken up about that, was borderline suicidal, and thus didn’t get Josh back as planned. Megan relapsed, but I convinced her over the phone to stop and stay clean for a week, then return to Johannesburg and test negative for meth. (Not too bright on my part.) After she returned, she tried to talk me into using (which she had already been doing without success for a few months). And this time I gave in. So at nine months clean, I relapsed, and we both used for a week. I managed to stop, but it was too late. My family involved child welfare, and even though we had already stopped using, they interviewed Megan while I was at work, and concluded that she was on drugs (she wasn’t) and could not make any decisions by herself… And thus the arrangement with Josh in foster care became more official. Not “finalized” yet but that happened later.

After that, she convinced me to use again. And I figured that since they were treating me like I was using, even though I wasn’t, I might as well use. I wanted to anyway. And that was that.

Then Megan liked playing with my phone… The app everyone used was called Mixit, and she met a guy through that, and started cheating on me before leaving me for him. He was a Pakistani, and abusive… At one stage she begged me to fetch her from the police station when she was staying in Springs because he had hit her. But every time, she only stayed with me for a couple of days, then went back to him for weeks or months, and over a year the last time. She used to come back and promise not to leave again… then I’d go to work and return to an empty apartment because she’d left me while I was at work.

I was a wreck then. I was using meth every day, and every night. I had voices in my head most of the time, often Megan’s voice telling me that she loved me. (Something the real Megan hadn’t said for years, but the one in my head used to say it all the time. I’d be at work or walking across a parking lot, and suddenly freak out because I’d heard her whisper in my ear, sometimes in company. And it was getting more difficult all the time to shut the voices out.) I knew the voices weren’t real, but I saw a pattern… every time, just before she would call and come back to me, the voices would “peak” and I’d hear her crying and begging me to help her… then she’d show up in real life. So I was delusional, thinking that we had some kind of psychic connection and belonged together. Meanwhile I was incapable of being there for Josh, although I did start paying his expenses. And I saw him now and then, by staying clean for a week here and there so that I could test negative for meth and be allowed to visit him.

Meanwhile Megan had converted to Islam and gone to Pakistan with her new husband. After she found that he had full blown AIDS, which he refused to treat because he was in denial, she came back again, leaving him on his deathbed. Not to me at first, but eventually, having given birth to his daughter. (I don’t pity him. At one stage, one of the many times she came back to me briefly, he called me and gave me a long lecture about how I should control her, not unlike a similar conversation from another guy that she cheated on me with before all of this. It seems that abusers love to tell me how I should treat women – and abuse them just like they do. It’s unfortunate that she would leave me repeatedly for an abuser, and I don’t know why she would do that, but the “fix” is not to become abusive myself. Anyway, that guy was an idiot and I’m glad he’s dead.)

Edit: Worth adding, and I don’t know why or how this happened, but in the last six months before she returned and I then cleaned up, my meth use, which was more than ever before, more or less stabilized. It doesn’t make sense, but the voices stopped – except for when I stayed awake for several days at a time and became paranoid while coming down. But I slept an hour or two every night, so I didn’t get into that state anymore. I was still high all the time (because that’s how I used – that’s how it goes when you’re a meth addict), but was coherent and was thinking clearly. So in that last six months, I was functional, I was a team leader at work with two developers working under me, and in fact I was doing most of the work. I wasn’t normal by any means, but for that brief period, my drug use was under control. I didn’t want to use anymore, but procrastinated every day. “I’ll stop tomorrow”, I thought; but tomorrow never comes.

And that brings us up to date, more or less. I cleaned up the day they arrived, in September 2013. I’d reached a point where I needed a prod to motivate me to stop using, and this was it. Megan’s little girl gave that initial motivation I needed to stop. I love that little girl. And that’s where my sadness comes from now. They stayed with me for nearly two years, and in that time Aishah and I became close. I treated her like my own daughter. The other night, I was sitting on the balcony at home, and I looked up at a neighbour’s balcony, on which there was a child’s chair. It made me remember the day I bought a chair for Aishah. She was only just over a year old. But I brought it home and told her, “This is your chair. Aishah’s chair!” and she was so excited… She carried it everywhere and sat right in front of me on it. Then the next day she discovered that she could stand on it to reach stuff of interest.

That’s just one example. I can’t write more without becoming overly emotional. Aishah gave me reason to live again. Josh couldn’t because I didn’t see him every day. But his sister could. For two years I was not only happy, I was joyful, ecstatic even. And we did get to see Josh more, since we were clean and took part in two programs that we were required to do in order to get him back. But there were always things to be used against us, contrived reasons that the foster care, which should never have happened at all, dragged on and on.

And then, Megan and Aishah went to Cape Town on holiday. But she didn’t tell me that she had no intention of ever coming back. Let that sink in.

They came back to Johannesburg a couple of months later and lived with some family friends of Megan, without even telling me straight away. And after that, we did see Aishah regularly again. At one stage I took both children to an indoor trampoline park every week, and last December I got Josh back. But at the end of April, Megan and Aishah went to Cape Town for good.

So while I am happy to have Josh back, I miss his sister. I don’t think of her all the time and cry on my drive to work (because I used to take her to and from crèche every day, and we’d play these games where she called out “Bus!” or “Truck!” after I taught her the words)… not anymore. But I do think of her every day. Again, I can’t say too much on this subject, because the tears will flow too fast and leave me incapable of writing.

And recently Megan asked if Josh could come to her for a week’s holiday… I don’t have a piece of paper saying I have sole custody, although she agreed in court for him to come to me. So really, the same person who could go there “on holiday” with no intention of coming back, thinks that I can trust her enough to send our son there all by himself, on holiday. It really gets to me. But what gets to me most is how much I miss my little girl.

Edit: I do trust Megan now. I really do. But that doesn’t matter. If Josh were to go to Cape Town alone and anything happened, there are a few people who will say “I told you so”. And although I can trust her, I don’t know if I can trust her family. Megan is very impressionable… for years she listened to everyone except me. She will take advice from an imbecile before she considers my view. I recall once begging her for three hours not to leave when she decided to leave in the middle of the night. (We were both high.) She conceded that everything I said was true, and then left anyway.  And when she went to Pakistan, those people told her that once you convert (or “revert” as they call it – they do believe stupid shit) to Islam, you can’t deconvert. And she believed them. For nearly two years she wouldn’t let Aishah eat bacon, for goodness sake. I do not know who she has been speaking to in Cape Town, and what kind of “advice” she has received. So while my heart may say I can trust her, my brain cannot take that risk. (And as illogical as it is, I do still love her and would take her back if I could. I must be a glutton for punishment.)