Life happens. Thankfully my glass is almost inevitably half full. There have been times when it’s felt and looked more like an urn than a glass : heavy, burdensome and opaque. I think I can count those times on four fingers. Less than one for each decade of my life.
The loss of my paternal grandfather in my Matric year was by far the biggest blow I had experienced up until then. He had lived on the same property for almost my entire life. My earliest memories are of getting up before the rest of my immediate family and joining him in the dairy, watching as he churned and shaped pats of butter. To this day there is no butter that matches my childhood memories.
I think we were alike in temperament too. He rarely became angry but the rarity of witnessing his occasional and brief sorties into the absence of geniality made them all the more memorable. Having said that, I don’t think I can recall even three of these. Admittedly my lid has popped a bit more than that but the expressions of disbelief on the faces around me at the time lead me to believe I’m also not considered to spend much time annoyed.
I sometimes wonder if Pa also shared my battle to keep a straight face when surrounded by the incredulous architects of his annoyance. This tendency has spoilt almost every hissy fit to come my way, terminating them soon after birth. Of one thing I am in no doubt : we both took a lot of goading to get even close to that point. However, we shared plenty of positive memories and I was in no way expecting his sudden death days before starting Matric trials.
The following year I faced the first serious romantic break-up of a few. In retrospect it was my pride that took the hiding but for a few months my glass was distinctly unshiny. Once again my appalling sense of humour saved the day. Bearing in mind that this was right at the end of the 70s and even discussion of sexual orientation was still pretty much taboo in our community, five months after ending our relationship my erstwhile boyfriend became the chairperson of the local gay association. This should have been an indication of my abilities with the other sex.
Of course the prelude to, process and aftermath of getting divorced also messed with the state of my glassware. Because I can sometimes be a total idiot, I jumped from the wreckage of one relationship right into another. The difference was that my former husband and I had known each other less than seven months when we married ; my rebound relationship was with someone I had known for thirty years. It didn’t turn out as risk-free as I had anticipated.
The long and the short (bigger and smaller / upper and lower) of it was that two days after I baked our wedding cakes the guy decided he was too traumatised from his divorce twelve years earlier to go ahead. Coming on top of the rejection that led to my own divorce, the double whammy heralded the darkest period of my life. For two and a half years I survived rather than lived. Then one day I woke up and the world was the right way up again.
This summary is in no way self-pitying. I must be one of the few people in the universe who has a card saying “thank you for your wedding cakes”. Really. I gave them to a young couple whose marriage was brought forward by the bride’s parents’ refusal to accept a cross-cultural union. The sunshine was already starting to peep through although it took a lot longer before I recognised it.
There is no bright edge to having lost my grandfather but each of the other events has taught me invaluable lessons that I can never wish undone. Undoubtedly future blog posts will make reference to these but I have found a serenity and abiding joy in life I could not have foreseen, a clarity in distinguishing qualities and possessions that are worthwhile from the transient ones.
A minor event two days ago has reinforced this peace of mind. After having no contact for about ten years, the person who walked out weeks before our planned wedding phoned me at work hoping I would use my job or contacts to do him a favour. I felt not the least interest : in where he is, what he is doing or anything else to do with him. He sounded put out that I wasn’t even surprised to hear from him. Why should I be? Hours later I realised his phone call had come on what could have been our thirteenth wedding anniversary. Out of three and a half thousand days. Now that tickled me.
The life I share with my daughter is good. I have genuinely valuable friendships. We love our new home, our pets are fully integrated family members, I recognise opportunities and details that I wouldn’t have a few years ago. My laughter once again comes from the soul, just deeper, with more feeling.