Centenarian Legend

( I always try not to use real names in my blog, but for this entry, I must. It pays homage to a Grand Old Dame, one who will live on in the hearts of many people. I cannot write from a perspective of knowing many of the other family members, so the fact that I reference only a few is simply because they are who I know.)

There are legends, and then there are legends. I’m not talking about people like dead presidents, imaginary superheroes that stop the world imploding, or people that started some kind of revolution that brought about a type of good in the world.

I’m talking about regular people that have more life experience than many of us could ever hope to have. One such person is Sylvia Palmer aka Shelagh-Rose’s Granny. I also called her Granny. Aunty Sylvia always sounded wrong to me. She passed away in the early hours of this morning at the ripe old age of 100 years, 8 months and 12 days. How many people to you know are even close to that age?

Shelagh-Rose and I have been friends for thirty-one years already, and through it all, Granny had always been there, guiding her. The bond they had was a close one; something incredibly special and in today’s day and age, extremely hard to find.

What never struck me growing up, is that my maternal side of the family knew the Palmers, so my friendship with Shelagh-Rose is more deep-rooted than I knew. I like to think destined.

My Aunty Cathy would often regale the tale of how she, my cousin, Lorna, Douglas (Shelagh-Rose’s uncle), and their friend David took a bike ride down Park Side West. David was in the saddle, Douglas on the carrier, Lorna (Cathy’s niece, my cousin, Douglas’s girlfriend) on his shoulders and Cathy on the handlebars. Yes – four children on one bicycle. It sounds like a circus act! As if that’s not enough to give any one a mild panic attack, the bike had no brakes! David scuffed his shoes to try and stop the bike, which shot across the Marsh/Church Street intersection, finally losing momentum at the dry cleaners close to The Point. I wondered this morning when I heard the news of Granny’s final breath if she every knew of this specific adventure.

The Bean told me a story about how her interactions with both Sylvia and her husband, Ray. They had a shop in town called Palmers. Every day Mrs. Gogerty (who was The Bean’s senior at the Scheltema offices) would send her to Palmers to buy a packet of biscuits for the office and Granny would write it up – back in the day when people were still honest enough to buy on the book.

There are many stories that I’ve heard from Elizabeth about her mother. All of them depict Granny to be a woman of incredible poise, wisdom, and everlasting love for her late husband. The two were married for only ten days before Ray was called up to train for combat in the Second World War. All through it Granny never doubted that The Love of Her Life, her Beloved Ray would one day return to her.

During the war, just before his return home, his platoon drew straws to be flown home, or sent by ship. Ray drew the short straw, which meant a longer journey home, but a journey home indeed. His fellow brothers in arms weren’t so fortunate; their plane was shot down and there were no survivors.

I was in primary (elementary) school when tragedy struck Granny. She was attacked in her home and sexually assaulted by a young criminal. Despite the horror what no woman ever hopes will ever befall her, Granny survived, exuded more grace, and was resolute in her decision to stay in her home of countless years. Elizabeth had a wedding photo taken on the steps of that very house, and years later so did Shelagh-Rose.

Elizabeth, Shelagh-Rose and Granny on the steps on Shelagh-Rose’s wedding day.

Granny lived on her own until the age of ninety-seven, when a nasty fall resulted in her hurting her hip. Strong as an ox she lay in agony for a few days before finally calling Elizabeth for help. As expected, she needed a hip replacement and the shock of major surgery began to take its toll.

Granny got dementia. There were days when her mind was still sharp, and there were others when she didn’t know her own children. She adamantly fought with Shelagh-Rose one day for having a child, but not being married.  This while Schalk, Shelagh-Rose’s husband, was in the room with them.

Granny with Suzelle, her great grandaughter (Shelagh-Rose’s & Schalk’s daughter).
Photo by https://www.lynellepienaar.com/
Four generations of Palmer women. FLTR: Shelagh-Rose, Suzelle, Granny, & Elizabeth.
Photo by https://www.lynellepienaar.com/

She knew I cared deeply for a friend that works on the cruise ships and kept asking me if we’d got married. I eventually told her we had, that it was the most beautiful wedding and that he was set to be away for a year. She never asked again. I don’t know if she forgot about my phantom nuptials, or if my answer satisfied her enough not to ask again. Either way, I appreciated that until I gave her an answer, she always asked.

One afternoon while she was still staying on the farm with Elizabeth, before her move to the ACVV home where she was well looked after, she told me a story about a woman in the district who would come to fetch her to take her to town to have her hair done. She also told me about the nurse who would visit. Both these people turned out to be Elizabeth. Some much change in such a short time was tough on Granny.

During her stay at the farm, Granny had a need to unpack and repack her cupboards every day. Try as she might, Elizabeth couldn’t convince her mom to stop doing it. Maybe in Granny’s addled mind it brought order, although to Elizabeth it brought some chaos. As short as Granny was, she also always managed to get stuff off the high shelves, but she had to get Schalk to put things back. These things seemed silly and frustrating at the time, but now they won’t ever happen again.

Even though I never visited the home where Granny spent the last few years of her life, and even though I’m not family, I feel incredible gratitude to the staff. From what I’ve heard from Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose, they cared for Granny with compassion and patience – two characteristics that are often difficult to maintain when working with anyone, particularly an elderly person who for so long was independent, and towards the end was almost as fragile as a newborn baby.

I was privileged to be at Granny’s centenary birthday celebrations last October. I got the job of capturing the moments, not that I’m much good with the camera, but Elizabeth and Shelagh-Rose seemed pleased with the results, so all’s well that ends well. It was a momentous occasion, with Granny as the guest of honour (completely unaware of the celebration). All her family and friends that could be there, were in attendance, including her brother, Robert, who himself is in his seventies. Granny was lucid that day – something which I think her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were happy about. For many, including myself, that is how I will remember her.

In one blow, Granny extinguished her 100 candle.

On the walls at the party, there were photos of Granny’s life – from the age of knee-high to a grasshopper, to her wedding, and so on. When she saw her wedding photo, she cried. Oh how, she missed her Beloved Ray. It was such a poignant moment. How many of us ever find love, especially a true, everlasting love that not even death can overcome?

Sylvia Palmer, you’ve run a great race. You’ve been a beacon of hope, a shining light, and a pillar of strength to those around you. The wait is over… you are now with Your Beloved Ray. We mourn your departure, but we celebrate your incredible life. Rest in Peace – you’ve earned it!

Thinking Back: With Age Comes Wisdom

COVID-19 has everyone is losing their minds on some level. If you’re not, then please share whatever Kool-aid it is that you’re drinking. I am suffering from migraines again, and my sleep is constantly interrupted. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I found my mind wandering back to 2004, when just as I was about to leave for the airport on December 26th, the media shared the news of the tsunami that had hit Thailand.

I boarded the plane anyway, because I was going to Singapore and the news reported that the island country had not been affected. I was 24, without a care in the world and it was my first overseas holiday. Nothing was going to stop me – not even Mother Nature sending a potential follow-up tidal wave.

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Weird-Ass Wednesday

Refusing to put the light on because I didn’t want to be alert enough not to be able to resume the glorious slumber I had been enjoying before, I stumbled to the bathroom to well, expel the demon was causing the stomach cramps that had awoken me. Muttering to myself about the wee hours of a Wednesday morning being a crap time for a bowel movement. I heard a kind of scratchy sound, which I attributed to my medication not being completely absorbed into my system.

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Happy Birthday to MMMMEEEEEE!

Yay!  Cake for days…

This is what Tina said when I sent her a picture of the FOURTH cake I’d had in as many days in celebration of my fortieth birthday this past weekend.  It was the absolute best commemoration of my earth-joining ever.  To say I’m all caked-out is an understatement, but knowing me, and my insatiable sweet-tooth, the feeling will pass soon.

On Sunday (my actual birthday) night, as I lay on the couch with a sore tummy (not from cake, but lots of laughter), I felt immense gratitude for my blessings – my parents, my friends and their love for me.  I know I’m special to them, but somehow I was reminded of it, and extremely overwhelmed.

It all started on Friday evening.  Eliza, Nathan and Carmen, along with their little ones hosted a surprise party for me.  There was sushi, the most amazing quiches, milk tart (a South African confection) and a coconut cake.  There was also bubbly…

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We spent the evening on the couch under blankets watching Rocketman.  I have newfound love for Elton John’s music.  When I suffered my major depressive episode earlier this year, I would often play I’m Still Standing, singing along at the top of my lungs.  Then I’d burst into tears afterwards.

The next morning I woke up at 06:15.  For those of you a little slow on the uptake, it was Saturday.  Who in their right mind wakes up so early?  I’ll tell you:  People that are (almost) forty.  I made the best of it with a cappuccino as I watched the sunrise.  This photo doesn’t do it justice.

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The afternoon The Bean, some of my closest girl friends and Cousin Lara got together for a vintage high tea at Déjà vu Vintage House.  The Bean and I even “bopped” on the stage and the pillbox hat I was wearing came right off.

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We regaled stories and shared memories and Cousin Lara had us in stitches with some of her tales.  Our host, Joan, baked a royal lemon and elderflower cake for the occasion and her husband, De Waal took many photographs for us.

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The day was perfect.  It ended with The Bean, The Toppie, Elizabeth and I staying over in Eliza and Nathan’s Airbnb, Eagle’s Rest.

Sunday morning, I woke up feeling different.  I can’t pinpoint what exactly is different, but something is.   It makes me excited and hopeful for the future.  That morning, I did something that I’ve always loved:  I crept into bed with my folks and had coffee with them.  I realize more and more that these moments often taken for granted are going to be no more some time in the future, so I cherish them even more now.  We had a lazy morning before heading off to The Cork & Plunger for lunch.  As always, the food and service was en-point.  This was also where we enjoyed cake number three, a Vegas-themed one, baked by one of my colleagues, Marjorie.  The wording underneath the cards reads A Royal Start to a New Decade.  After way too much food, everyone went their separate ways.

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Yesterday I got to work and there was another cake, again baked by Marjorie.

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I got a lovely card from my colleagues.  Many of the messages inside touched me deeply, but one in particular brought tears to my eyes.  It read “May you receive the abundant kindness you always give to everyone around you”.  Even just thinking about it makes me emotional.  I’ve always said that I want to be remembered for something.  To be remembered for kindness is better than my name on a plaque.  I’m blessed to know that I do reach people and that it is my heart that they see.

I’ve made a promise to myself – to be as kind to myself as I am to others. Cheers to forty!

Time in a Bottle

So, Charlie, knowing that I was saving for a bottle of perfume I’ve wanted ever since Granny fell of the bus, gave me money for my upcoming birthday before he left to go back to work.  The notes were safely packed away in my underwear drawer.  I also told all my friends that if they wanted to get me something, money or a gift certificate from the perfume stockist would be much appreciated.  During this week, I found out the stockist had all beauty products, including their perfume range on a 20% discount, so I charged there as quickly as I could after work, only to be told, Sorry Ma’am, but we are sold out and have not reordered.  I left there, deflated and irritable.  I’ve wanted this perfume for almost twenty years – that’s how long it hasn’t been available in South Africa!  Yes, I searched online during that time too, and found many perfumes by the designer, but not the one.

Turns out that thing about one door closing means another one opens is sometimes true.  In this case, I found the same perfume (in a smaller size) online.  Placed the order and received it the very next day.  I haven’t been so excited to receive a parcel in ages; I nearly tackled the delivery man.

The instant I saw the box, I smiled and the moment I retrieved the bottle from the box and removed the top and smelled the familiar scent, my olfactory sense took me back in time to some happy memories.

I received the bottle of perfume as a Christmas gift from The Toppie’s stepfather the Christmas before my final year of high school.  I often wore it on a Friday or Saturday night when Cousin Lara and I would go dancing at the local haunt.  I also wore it for my first formal red-carpet event: my matric farewell/senior prom.  I remember feeling so grown up in my black evening dress.  My shoes were slightly scuffed; already well worn-in from the weekly langarm’ing*, which was a blessing, because the last thing I wanted on that Magic Arabian Night, was aching feet.

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I used the last droplets on my 21st birthday, which was a fun event in its own right, because it was a whole weekend of celebration.  The Friday night, my at-the-time-boyfriend, Joe, drove me home and hit a bump, which claimed my car’s exhaust as a trophy.  The next morning when we started it, it sounded like a John Deere on steroids.

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I think it’s only fitting that as the dawn of a new decade awaits, with much of it unknown, unfamiliar and a little scary, I have something familiar to keep me company and take me time-travelling when things are a little daunting to deal with.

Thank you Charlie, and thank you, Oscar de la Renta!

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Gracious Old Soul

I have a few photos on my fridge; Happy Memories – Carmen & Ewan’s wedding invitation, Mary and Martin’s too. Sandra in her bikini on the one day years ago in December that I ventured out to the waterpark with her (and learning that I’m not as young as I thought I was!), Jack and I when I still had my braces (at 28!), an outing to a local wildlife ranch ages ago with The Bean and Aunty Carol one Mother’s Day (when The Toppie was still working); Lesley was with us that day, having lost her mother shortly before, so there is a photo of the two of us too, and another photo of Charlie and I, taken last year at the same place.  There are photos too of Aunty Carol, Uncle Barry, The Toppie, The Bean and I taken while we waited to board a passenger liner for a holiday, one of Elizabeth and her two sisters taken at Lesley’s wedding (which was on my 33rd birthday), Emma, Nathan and I at his 40th, and one of my precious little Mouse (which is the nickname I have given to my beautiful godchild, Lily-Rose).

Now, I see these photos every day, but honestly, I don’t notice them anymore. Except this morning I did, and my Mouse’s smiling face transported me back to the day she was christened, December 10th, 2017 – and the message the minister gave that day:  What’s in a Name?  Your Name…

I’ve thought a while about putting my real name here, and for the sake of this entry being authentic, I’ve decided to do so.

Hello World, my name is Priscilla Anne.  If The Bean had had her way I would have been Avril.

I never liked my name, until I realized that its meaning is spot on – Priscilla means “Of Olden Times” and Anne means “Grace”.  Avril means “Opening buds of Spring; born in April”.  The Bean sent my biological father (aka The Sperm Donor) to register me, and he came back telling her, “her name’s Priscilla Anne”.  For the record I was born in September, on the Equinox, so Avril clearly was never meant to be, although I doubt The Sperm Donor had the savvy to research any name meanings.   Avril though to me is worse, because in my warped mind I hear a tinny-airport-announcer-intercom-voice saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts as we prepare our descent.  Thank you for flying Avril airlines.

When I decided to start this blog years ago, Reflections of a Misfit just popped into my head and it stuck.  I still have difficulty sometimes accepting that people see me differently (and I mean that in the most positive sense) than I do when I see my reflection in the mirror.  I’m the piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite fit, quite literally a Misfit, but my given names are perfectly suited to the person I am – I am an Old Soul, who has Grace with everyone, often at the expense of myself (but I’m working on that as part of my therapy).

Thinking back to Lily-Rose’s christening, the reading was Isaiah 43:1.

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The minister explained that each of us have a name (some of us even the same one), but that our given names have meaning and speak to who we are, and that God knew what our names would be, long before our parents even knew of our existence, referring to Jeremiah 1:5.

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Today when I looked at how happy little Mouse is in the photo on my fridge, it stirred something within me, and that is that this Gracious Old Soul is loved and cared for, not only by the earthly angels that I am surrounded by, but by God too.

There’s comfort in that 🙂

 

 

 

We Sat Next to Each Other in Fourth Grade

You’ve got each other’s numbers, you live in the same sleepy-hollow little town, yet you never see each other… Sounds familiar to many of you, I’m sure.

Chanté and I have known each other since fourth grade I think – her memory on this is slightly better than mine.  I went to her 21st birthday party, and her wedding, but when she told her husband she was having coffee with me, he had no idea who I was.  I don’t blame him – despite being quite extroverted around people who really know me, I am a wallflower where crowds are involved.  She told him all he needs to know is that when she and her family moved here, I was the first person she sat next to at school.

Shortly after tying the knot, she and her hubby went overseas and while we were connected in Facebook-Land, we lost touch in the real world.  When they moved back a few years ago, I saw her for coffee twice, but we didn’t really reconnect.  Whether it was timing, or that we were at different phases in our lives, I’m not sure, but something was a little (for lack of a better word) “off”.

I’ll admit, she’s been way better at touching base than I have, sending me the odd motivational/inspirational message, that always seems to come through at the perfect time.  On Monday though, I felt the need to see her, if nothing more than just to say a proper thank you in person.

So, we got together at a local franchise restaurant last night, originally intent on a quick coffee.  We got talking and the conversation flowed, as if no time had passed – whatever had been “off” before was definitely “on” now!

Two lattés, and hours later, we’d covered a myriad of topics, including how women in general seldom take time for themselves because they’re tending to someone else’s needs – whether parents, husband or kids – before their own.  With that in mind, when we eventually left to go home, we undertook to do a coffee-catch-up at least once a month.

I’m glad we got together – it was good, and it was needed.

A long-standing friendship rekindled is a true gem; and by that token, if you’re reading this, Chanté – you’re a diamond, and of course…

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Inspiration to Travel Down Memory Lane

Last night I was reading The Brain Bleacher, the final short story in the second Sticky Fingers anthology by JT Lawrence, with whom I was at school with for a short time before moving to Mossel Bay.

I was chatting with Charlie after I’d finished the book, and said to him that one day I will write like that – as in short stories, because while I know I have a writing gift, I do not possess the mad skills to weave a tale in a limited amount of words that grabs you from the word go.  JTL just has it.

One quote in the story above really resonated with me: “While a memory is a mental snapshot of a moment, it carries with it layers of emotion and texture and scent.

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It reminded me of quite a few mental snapshots and something my colleague, Carla and I discussed when we spent a girls’ night away at a local lodge about three years ago one November weekend.  She said when she looks back in time,  she doesn’t necessary remember the things that were around her at a time, but she does remember the smell of the air, or the warmth of the sun on her skin, or the song in the breeze; most importantly she remembers how she felt in that moment. Thinking about that outing, I remember being stretched out on a long wooden deck chair, with a book listening to the trickle of the stream nearby.  While I don’t remember the title of the book, I remember the feel of the parchment between my fingers and the smell of the ink.  I remember feeling completely content, even if only for a few fleeting moments.

Another memory that popped into my mind was our visits to Mossel Bay when I was a child.  The Bean and I would catch the train from Johannesburg and travel to visit my matriarchal grandparents and all the aunts, uncles and cousins.  The one olfactory memory I have of these journeys is pulling into the station and smelling the oceanic saltiness in the air – a world removed from the Johannesburg smog that enveloped us during our time in that concrete jungle.  I remember loving the feel of the sea sand between my toes and being bribed out of the freezing cold water with what was probably an even colder ice-cream cone.

I recalled other memories too – and with focus on the emotions, texture and scent, I was transported back to those moments in time, and it felt as if I was there again.

In one, I felt the gooseflesh rise at the receipt of a gentle touch in a tender moment, even though my heart was racing with uncertainty and angst and flaming desire at the same time.

In another, I felt the dread and horrific realization induced by the smell of burnt chicken (I won’t live it down either, I promise!)

In another I was warmed by the soft heat of a gas heater with the fairy-tale lights of a Cape Town Waterfront Christmas display to illuminate my friend, Andrew’s face as we caught up five years’ worth of news over a chocolate-berry-spiced red wine and lekker South African fare.  I also remember the indigestion that followed shortly after seeing the bill.

In another I remember sitting against the trunk of a tree, after a particularly trying parkrun.  My hair was plastered to my forehead with glue-au-de-perspiration and my breathing was laboured, so much so I’m sure I could have given The Big Bad Wolf a run for his money (bacon, anyone?). A woman approached me asking about Herbalife (yes, I was branded for the walk – not my finest advertising moment) and we got chatting.  Eighteen months later, that woman, Harriet, is one of my closest friends.  I haven’t been able to do our routed parkrun since though because of my bum knee.

I could reminisce like this for hours, and I think each day I shall get in my time machine and take myself back to at least one happy (or funny) memory – where I can relieve the sensation, feel the grain, and inhale the fragrance of times gone by.  And sure, sometimes it’s necessary to revisit the sad and bad memories, to remind oneself how far you’ve come, but for the most part, I want to simply revisit the happy times, filled with laughter, hope, friendship, family and most importantly the love that surrounds all those things.

So, here’s to joyous recollections, all inspired by a single line, from an incredible book.

Cheers to you JTL!  I aspire to be an author like you.  You are a creative genius and an absolute legend.