The lives people live…
My current station (and it is funny how often I’ve begun using this word), as a mum working from home, gives me a great deal of time and space to really look at the lives people lead around me.
And it doesn’t cease to amaze me with what courage, endurance and grace those who have the most challenging responsibilities, carry out the various humdrum tasks that make up most everyday lives.
The other day, anxious to get a second opinion about little T’s recurring chest infections, we decided to consult a friend’s paediatric mum. Although I had met her umpteen times at the school gates, when she would replace her daughter to pick up their little Z, seeing her in her own home, made me register her physical presence as though for the first time.
A small-built, large-eyed, long-haired woman, she embodied at the same time the easy, disarming, child-friendly mannerisms all good paediatrics (and a lot of the times, female ones) assume while retaining a hard-to-miss quickness of wit and for the lack of a better phrase, a cutting and impersonal ruthlessness of one imbued with a scientific temper in the way she surveyed habits, enunciation and living conditions. (More on this, in a bit.)
She ushered us in, in to her pleasantly sunlit sitting room and while asking me about T’s symptoms in great detail, she kept an eagle eye on T as she slowly got comfortable in the place, encouraging her to explore her terrace garden and stopping me from checking her about using the toddler bicycle parked in Z’s guest room.
While simply watching T in this fashion, she fathomed that although T did still carry the reside of a viral infection, she was definitely on the mend given that she was jumping around trying out the doctor’s furniture and that she was not wheezing while doing so and that she was talking to us quite animatedly in the midst of her antics.
In a couple of minutes, encouraged by the doctor’s sincere openness and generosity, T ventured into the recesses of the house and discovered there was an elderly grandpa resting in a room.
Although my friend had told me about it, I didn’t quite know how to broach the subject. But once my little girl chanced upon him, I got a great way to ask whether that was indeed my friend’s granddad.
The doctor said it was — her 98-year-old dad who had been living with her and the family for the last 10 years.
And then just as she began talking about him, her ‘professional’ face fell. She became, just the grown up daughter of her elderly dad who was thankfully (for himself and her), still mobile, coherent, expressive and communicative but at his age of course, frail, and in need of frequent rest.
And I thought, how ingeniously people and especially women find ways of carrying out their responsibilities as mothers and grandmothers; as wives and daughters, and when needed, all at the same time.
For not only does she care for her elderly father in her home (which she runs along with her husband), she also babysits her granddaughter when she is back from playschool and of course loans her home and all its well-oiled services to her lawyer daughter when she needs to run to court to attend to any pressing case.
And although each role doesn’t necessarily overlap with the other, in the work she needs to do and the attention she needs to give, she finds a way of somehow doing them all, energetically, with great involvement and in a spirit of optimism.
God bless her and all the other people I have had the opportunity to know in the last few years who do so much, without ever thinking they are, and without ever acknowledging how pivotal they are to the sanity, health and happiness of so many around them.
And I am proud to add, even if as a postscript, that this of course includes my wonderful, never tiring, ever loving mum who is now far more little T’s grandmum than my mum!