Since the last time I wrote, my life has changed completely. In my last chapter I kept saying to people, “I just want this to be over, I’m tired of it and I want new problems” – by this I meant that problems are unavoidable and if you cant escape them then I at least want new ones. Never has ‘Careful what you wish for’ been more apt.
The last post was about working towards finishing my graduation project. It was every bit as tough as I thought it would be and I was granted just about enough time to finish it. After I passed the final exam I got two days. Two days of grace, in which to feel the lifting of the old weight. Two days in which to revel in a new dawn and ponder possibility. And then I got the news – my mother in South Africa has been diagnosed with stage four cancer and we need to return home indefinitely to be there for her, of course.
My world crumbled and my very earth shook. It was like the biblical trumpets in the book of Revelations sounded through my existence, heralding the end of an era or the start of a gruelling journey with no light at it’s end. The clock suddenly seemed to tick louder and be only for her and everything else which had seemed so important receded way into the background and utterly paled in comparison to the existential tragedy washing over my remote family. My sister called from Berlin, we cried on the phone. I called my other sister who in Kimberly, we cried. Our scattered family united, for once, but in anguish as is sadly often the case with families who only squirm in each other’s presence. The broken pieces of this dysfunctional unit would have to come together for the first time in many years to usher not only my mother but each other through this pivotal time. We all knew it would be a tall order.
Three weeks later I was on a plane homeward bound. I thought I would still take part in the final exhibition at school, but I didn’t have the energy nor the finances for it – what with buying a plane ticket and all. Those last weeks were filled goodbyes to my friends and new found family. In the 6 years there I’d really become a part of it and had a lot to pack in, literally and figuratively. I’d been blessed beyond measure but I was uneasy there. I knew I was needed somewhere else and didn’t want to miss my mother’s journey.
I’ve been back in South Africa for a month and a half. It feels like so much longer. Things are hard. My mama is ill. My family is broke and broken and to be honest so is the entire country. Dan is here now, being the best husband he can be, and we’re definitely not on holiday like last time. He describes the difference as last time being an outsider looking in and this time being and insider desperately looking out. This is how I’ve been describing it to my friends: