2008


It’s been 2 years since our Angle Maker passed away. We miss her every single day. This is our Angle Maker.

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The worst news of the year hit us on the last day of 2008. Lynette Robb, the Angel Maker, passed away today. I… Can’t… Write. Not now. Maybe another day…

Lynette Robb, the Angel Maker…

I don’t know where to start with this. I’ll just start by telling you how I feel.

A piece of my soul is missing. That is how it feels. This big empty space inside. Because I couldn’t be there with Lynette on this dark day in December. And I can’t be there with her family on this last day of 2008. My family.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I was a real mommy’s boy. I loved my mother more than you can think. I lived for only her for most of my younger life. And then she left me to go to a better place. I was happy for her. She had a tough time down here on our little earth.

But I was blessed again. I had another mother. Lynette Robb…

It’s easy to say that you have another mother. But I mean it. Really mean it. She wasn’t a substitute for my first mother. No. She was my mother. She is my mother. Because she made me feel like I was her son.

If I am tired I wanted to go to her house. When I was sad I wanted to go to her house. When I was happy I wanted to go to her house. When I wanted to be me I wanted to go to her house. I always just wanted to be at her house. With my mom and my family called the Robbs.

She made the baggage of life feel like a feather. She made you feel like the world was there for your taking. She made you feel like you can love more than what you ever thought you could. She just made you feel alive…

Just being at her house made me feel as if the dirt of life was washing away. You knew you were in the presence of something greater than yourself when you were with her. A greater love.

But how do I tell you about Lynette?

Lynette Robb made me a better person. Her mere presence in my life made me a better person. Makes me a better person…

You want to know the meaning of Ubuntu? I am because we are? You want to see that and feel that? Then you go to Lynette. She is Ubuntu. She is Ubuntu.

She made all of us better people than what we deserved to be. You should have met her. I wish everyone could just have met her for one second. Just hung out with her for a little while. To know how it feels to be touched by an angel. If there was ever an angel on earth it was Lynette. It is Lynette. She is gone. But she will never be gone. Never be forgotten. Never… It is impossible to not remember her. Memories of her will never fade. They grow like the seed of love she planted inside all of us. You can’t ever forget that. Not once you have been touched by an angel. Not for us. Not now and not ever. She is Lynetter Robb. Our mother and our pillar of life. Our foundation angel.

She didn’t preach. She didn’t teach. She didn’t have some power you could see. She didn’t talk about these great lessons in life. No. She didn’t. But she taught me more than any teacher could. Without knowing. Just through love. The funny thing is that for Lynette the world was never about Lynette. It was always about us. Lynette giving to us. Food. Love. You name it. She always just gave. Never wanted anything back. But what she got back was us. With love. And everything we could give her.

It is just who she was. Just her presence. The way she was. She was all that without ever wanting or trying to be all that. Because she is Lynette Robb.

Have you ever seen a moth just going towards the light without thinking? That was us around Lynette. Even now. It is us. We can’t help it. We just go there. It’s a force of goodness and love that pulls us to her. It still does because her presence will never go away. She is inside all of us that knew her and loved her. Who know her and love her. We know that just being around her makes us better people. Even now…

And there were always people around her. At her house. In her life. Because we can’t stay away. We lived for her love and her life. Her light to shine on us.

Her house. With her in it. That is where I want to be. I know that when I am in South Africa I can recharge my batteries of life at her place.

…There are no words…

She was a gift God gave us. As if God placed her on earth with the plan to let us see who we can be. What we can become. If only we loved more. Lynette Robb is the love that God shows us.

I always heard nothing but love from her mouth. What she tells me she will tell anyone else. In their face. And if she doesn’t agree with someone… She will let them know. But that person will still know love.

Oh. You don’t mess with Lynette and her family. Her wider family. Me and my wife and my daughters included. We were… No. We are family. You touch any of them or speak badly about any of us… You do not know Lynette Robb. She will do everything to protect us. Anything. Because of her love. Unconditional love. Just natural love.

There are a million things I want to tell you about Lynette. My mother. But how don’t know how. There are no words to describe Lynette.

I wish I could be with her right now. Me and my wife and my kids. That is where we should be. With our other family. With Lynette and Derek and our sisters and the kids. And now? Now with my sisters and Derek. I miss them today more than anything. I just want to tell them I love them. That I will always love them. Because they are my family. We share a mother and a love. And what she gave us will never break the bond we have.

I want to sit on her stoep at the back and just rest my soul for a little while. Just laugh and joke about the langnekkie. Watch a game with Uncle Derek. Share a joke with the girls. Maybe take a swim in the pool with the kids. I can hear her laughing right now. I can hear her say “Foksies“. I can see her sit on her chair outside that afdak. Lynette sitting somewhere laughing. But always keeping an eye out for everyone around her. Making sure we are okay. Making sure we know we are loved. I wish I could be there now. And just feel her presence and see her smile.

Take your happiest feeling and bottle that. Because that is how Lynette made us feel.

…Lynette Robb…

She made angels. That is what she did. She took us and turned us into these angels. And she let us fly off and do what we had to do in this world. But we always went back to her. Because we were not strong enough. We needed her to recharge our lives. We need her to recharge our lives…

To remind us of the good in this world. To remind us that we can make this world a little bit better. To remind us that tomorrow there will be even more love. Even in the darkness of today.

She made angels. That was Lynette Robb.

No… She makes angels. That is Lynette Robb.

I love her. Not because I have to. But because she is Lynette Robb. My mother. My Angel Maker.

I will live my life to make her proud. I will make angels for her. I will need help. I am not strong like her. But we can make angels for Lynette.

Lynette. I know where you are. I am closing my eyes and I can feel your hand on mine. I needed that. I am holding it. You will always be with us. Always. You made us better people. And I will take your love and make it grow. Make more angels. I hope you are proud of me when you look down sitting there with God. He is a lucky God. He will have you on His side. It will make Him even stronger. Like you made us stronger. You made us angels. I will make angels for you.

I love you. We all do. We are your angels. You made this world a better place. And me a better man. It would have been enough just knowing you. But you showed me love. I am your son. I love you. And I will make angels for you.

Lynette Robb. Angel Maker.

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I know, most people have read this one already. And you know me and my girls… They are my life.  But they also remind me of The Little Girl In The Blue House… Is there someone missing her? Someone talking to her each day? Is she waiting for someone? Is she okay?

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The Little Girl In The Blue House

I always walk the same way to the train station. I take the shortest route. I have too. Way too early to walk one meter further than I have to. Or one minute longer than what is needed. There is another route. Slightly longer. But all the time in the world if it is so bloody early in the morning. My normal route is an easy walk. Turn right, then a quick left and straight down to the station. A quick and easy 20 minute stroll.  And who said I don’t get enough exercise… But today I had to go the slightly longer route. Turn left, turn right and down the slightly longer walk to the station. Not by much. Just about 5 minutes added. But sometimes the longer route brings more than just a longer walk. And this morning I got more than I wanted. Another reason why I never like walking that route. A reminder. A memory.

My oldest daughter always does the “left turn” walk. Her friend from across the street walks with her to the bus stop. They pick up another friend along the way and off they go. But not this morning. The girl from across the road didn’t feel too well so she couldn’t walk with my daughter. Dad duties called. I am the backup. So off we went. On our left turn. 

We were joking as we walked. Doing our “home boy” walk down the street. Me doing funny walks and funny voices to show her how I was going to embarrass her in front of her friend who has never met me. Doing my typical dad stuff. We got to the house. I gave her a hug and a kiss and watched her walk to meet her friend. And off I went. Taking my right turn down the road. The slightly longer road.

I put my iPod on and was listening to A Fine Frenzy when I walked past the blue house. And it brought back memories of the little girl who lived there. The little girl in the blue house.

She was the first friend my oldest daughter made at her new school when we moved here. They were in the same class. Hung out together. I saw her often. At the school. Or at the park. Or just in the streets when we were walking. But she was always there when we took my daughter to school. Running to great her friend. She was scrawny just like my daughter. But she was a little bit too thin. A little bit too pale.

In summer she always had just a t-shirt on. And in winter. A very worn and tatty thin little jacket. And trust me. It gets damn cold over here in Boston in winter. I remember seeing her with her arms folded to try and keep some heat in that little body of hers. You could see she was cold. But that was all she had for winter.

Her mother was always well dresses. With the latest fashion. Clothes and accessories she bought at the mall. She looked well looked after. And warm. Not like her little girl. But we didn’t see her at school often. Or anywhere for that matter. She didn’t walk with her little girl that often.

And they stayed just down the road from the school. It looked like a pretty house from the outside. That blue house where the girl stayed.

I often took my girls to the park at the school. And we’ll see her there often. On her own. On the swings. And she’ll be so happy to see my daughters. She was always so good to my little one. Running up to her and giving her a hug and a kiss and playing with her. She was a nice little girl. That little girl from the blue house.

My daughter always told us about her friend. And how she shared her snacks at school with her because she never had snacks. So my wife put in a few extra snacks for two. Never mentioned it to the little girl. Didn’t want her to feel odd. My daughter just shared because that is how she is. It was her friend. No questions.

And one day she told us that the girl was so exited about going to visit her dad in Arkansas. Her parents were divorced. And she lived with her mother and boyfriend in the blue house. The boyfriend had a nice BMW convertible. Nice car. Pretty new. They obviously had some money. Just not always for the little girl. But she was excited. She was going to visit her dad.

And then we saw her during the holiday. When she was meant to be at her dad. It was the first time I really saw her sad. The smile wasn’t there. She spoke to my daughter in a low sad voice and I didn’t want to ask too many questions. Didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. I just wanted her to be a little girl. Playing with her friend. And having fun the way 10-year old girls are meant to have fun. So I let them talk and watched as they started playing and giggling. And the smile started coming back. She was with her friend.

The odd thing was that apart from that day I always saw her smile. A big old child smile. I never heard her complain. Not in front of me in any case. She always looked happy. But you could see that there was something missing. You just had to look carefully.

I always hug and kiss my girls. No matter where we are. When we drop them off at school. When I say goodbye in the morning. When they go to sleep at night. Or just because we feel like a hug and a kiss. Which is often. No matter where we are. And this little girl saw this. Saw how I hugged my girls. And she wanted one too.

I used to see her looking at me and my daughter when we hug. And then one day she came up to me when I took my girl to her school and asked for a hug. She was a little bit shy about asking. But I just gave my girl a hug and she looked at me with her tatty top with the long sleeves and peeked at me. “Can I get a hug please?” “Of course!” I said. I gave her a big old hug. And she hugged back. Hugging maybe a little longer and harder than what I expected. Almost as if she didn’t get a lot of hugs and would like to get hugs more often. She was only ten.

And that was how it was. Whenever she saw me she would come running up to me and give me a hug. And I’ll hug her back. And I’ll give her a smile and ask how she was doing. It became a standard thing. I never really thought much about it. I knew she wanted a hug and I gave her one. We can do with more hugs in this world. And I didn’t think that she got too many hugs elsewhere in any case.

And then one day she was just gone. Just gone. Her mother packed their bags in the middle of the night and just disappeared. Gone. Not even a goodbye. Not even a last hug. Just gone with her tatty little top. We never knew what happened to her. How she is doing or how she is feeling. Is she with her dad? Is she okay? Is she happy? Is she being a kid? Did she get a warmer jacket? Is she still smiling those big old smiles of hers? Is she getting any hugs? Or is she still playing alone in the park?

Time passed and memories started fading. We’ll mention her every now and again and just wonder.

And then we started looking at buying a house. And one of the houses that was on the market was the blue house. The blue house where the little girl stayed. So off we went to look at the house. Thinking that maybe we can buy it and make it our little house. Until we opened the front door and walked in.

My wife and myself just looked at each other when we walked in. I knew what she was thinking. It was my thoughts to.

The house stank. It was dirty. So dirty. Everything was a mess. Stuff lying on the floor everywhere. Clothes. Plates. Old food. Ashtrays overflowing. Wet spots. I have never, ever seen anything like this anywhere. And I have been to some places… It has been like this for a long, long time. Our shoes got stuck on the sticky dirt that was on the floors. All the rooms were in a mess. You couldn’t even see what color the walls or carpets were. It was brown. From dirt and cigarette smoke. I felt nauseous. Sick. The ex-boyfriend was lying in bed downstairs watching something on a big screen television. On his huge water bed. With plates and empty bottles and cigarettes lying all around him. A pig in a pigsty.

We went up the stairs to look at the real bedrooms. And we walked into the room that would have been that little girls room. It was a mess. Just a mess. No place for a little girl. Any little girl. Dirty. Filthy. Disgusting. You could see little things she must have tried to do to make it a little girl’s room. A little picture here and there. A ripped out poster. A wonky little table where she must have tried to study. Some girlie jewelery lying on the floor amongst the dirt that she must have forgotten to pack in the haste. But it was covered in a floor that ran skew. Holes in the floors and roof. And cold. And this was in winter. No heating. This was the room of the little girl with the big smile.

My wife and myself just looked at each other. We knew what each of us were thinking. We just wanted to get out. Just wanted to forget that we ever came. That we ever knew that little girl. And that she lived there. Her little room in the blue house.

We sat in the car and just stared at nothing for a while. And then she said it. “She lived in that house.” That’s all that needed to be said. We knew. The little girl in the blue house.

And walking past that house this morning reminded me of her. That little girl in the blue house. Made me think. Again. How did she do it? How did she manage? How did she remain a little girl in that house? How long can she be that girl with the big old kid smile? How long before she falls through the cracks? Is she strong enough? Where will she find the love she needs? The hugs she deserves? How is the little girl from the blue house doing?

The little girl from the blue house. I hope you remember me. I hope you remember those hugs. I just wish I hugged you a little harder and a little longer.

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“And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Everyone gets a nice little warm feeling about that speech hey? It’s so stately… So American… But have you answered that call yet? Have you answered the question? Or is it just a nice warm fuzzy feeling?

You know where I stand on Obama. If you don’t… Don’t think too hard as it should be pretty obvious. But I am a bit worried…

What appeals to me about Obama is that he asked for everyone to chip in. A bit like JFK did back then. He asked everyone to get off their backsides and help bring America back on its feet. The problems facing America (and the world for that matter) won’t be solved by politicians. Well, at least not by politicians alone. Everyone should do their bit. Everyone should contribute a little. Not money (except if you have loads of cash!) but a bit of yourself. Have a look around you and look at what can you do to make it a little better. Take some responsibility to help rebuild and strengthen America. And that’s where the problem comes in. People…

Okay, so you know my philosophy – Ubuntu. I am because we are. I don’t expect everyone to believe in that. But maybe everyone should at least look at their own responsibility. What can each one do to make it a bit better. Even if it is for selfish reasons. Do it so you can go back and do nothing later on. But now isn’t the time to do nothing.

I just don’t know if America is ready for this. You know – for everyone to do a little bit more than the usual. Maybe even sacrifice a little. Think about you own actions within the bigger picture. Everyone got America (and the world) in this sad place and everyone will be needed to get us out of this. But are you ready to do something?

Let me tell you a little story about why I have my doubts…

I always try to go with my wife to pick up the girls at school whenever I am at home. I like it and so do they. And I get to hang out with a few other parents as well. We go down to the school and wait outside while we wait for the little one. Chatting away with the parents and they all seem to be more or less nice people. But you can’t really judge them just based on a little chat. You can study them a little closer and see how they behave though. And that is when their true colors show…

Some parents bring their dogs with when they pick up their kids. Nice – I like dogs. I’m a “dog-person”. The last six years without a dog has been the first time in my life that I don’t have a mutt hanging out with me. Dogs are so ubuntu – I am because we are. They love unconditionally. No strings attached apart from the food and a bit of a tickle and play. So I really like seeing people bring their dogs to school when they come to get their other mutts kids. And it gives my little one a chance to play with them and say hello.

But these parents forget that they are responsible for their dogs. Really, if your dog craps right there where the kids play – please pick up the crap and discard in the bin provided. What is so difficult to understand about that? It’s easy. Your dog and your crap – deal with it. Or would you prefer someone else to do that for you?

So we walk our little one to the car like all the other parents. While walking to our car I watched as another parent loaded her little one in the car. And she took the plastic water bottle her kids had and just chucked it on the grass/snow/ice next to her car. And left it there. Got in the car and drove off. Your plastic bottle – deal with it. Or would you prefer someone else to do that for you?

And so it goes. People drive like bastards – not caring about other people around them. People treat those working behind the counter like second class citizens. They take whatever they can to get a little more for themselves. It’s just me-me-me everywhere you look.

I know… Not everyone is like that. Many people clean up after themselves. Many people are polite to others. They get up to give someone else their seat on the train. They help people cross the road. They wait patiently in line instead of trying to “steal” one over the other people waiting in line. So many people know their responsibilities. But these people also knew their responsibility before the economic world fell apart. They are still the same people they were before all the crap hit the fan. But what about those others?

I just don’t know if people even know how to be responsible anymore. They are willing to talk the talk but I just don’t see them walk the walk. It’s all about me-me-me…

Everyone is looking after themselves. “I’m safe so no worries.” The “others” are just statistics and I have no responsibility towards them. Fine. But clean up your own mess please. Start by taking control of what you have control over. Pick up the plastic bottle instead of bitching about “those others”.

Maybe life has become too “plastic” for most people. They buy what they want in nice little packages. Life comes in nice little plastic containers for them. Ready to eat. Ready to drink. Ready to drive. Ready to wear. Ready to watch. All we have to do is consume and consume. More for me-me-me. Someone else will grow it. Someone else will make it. Someone else will manufacture it. Someone else will build it. I use and I throw away. The plastic bottles of life. No responsibility – just neatly packaged for more me-me-me. Hell, we now even go to the telly to get some “reality”!

Don’t have to worry about getting laid off because you are either the boss or safe? Don’t have to worry too much about the troops because it isn’t your son/daughter and just a statistic with no pictures on the telly? Don’t have to worry too much about life because your life is just fine as long as you don’t have to look out the window at the neighbours? Oh it makes us feel bad and it makes us feel sad but we don’t have to do the worrying 24/7 because it isn’t really our lives. Is it?

That’s my problem. I don’t know if enough Americans realize that they have to do something. They have to act more responsible than before. Obama promised change. But he promised it with action needed from your side. You want a voice in DC? Fine – stop bitching and start doing. Too many people are either not interested and just in it for themselves or good at pointing fingers but no good at being part of the solution.

Be selfish. No problem there. But be selfish about your own responsibility. Start with you. Start cleaning your own house. Start being responsible for your own stuff. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize that the solution to the problems in America and the world starts with you. If not – just leave the crap for us to clean will you? I’m just a little worried that there is more crap and plastic bottles than people willing to clean up the mess.

Mind where you step as the next step might be economic crap on the bottom of your shoes. Just don’t ask us to help. I’m too busy picking up the plastic bottles of life. And I don’t have time to recycle…

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I got a talking-to from the lovely suffering wife… Yes, I know… It happens often…

Who said parenting was easy? My wife will respond by rolling her eyes and say, “A parent? You’re a bloody buddy to play with not a parent!” I’ll just be nodding my head with my eyes staring at the floor and my tail between my legs. And peeping to see where the girls are to get them to pull my finger once my “discipline session” is over.

Anyway…

I got the talking-to because the teacher had issues with my poetry teachings…

Apparently, not everyone at school appreciates good poetry. The missus got called in by my youngest daughter’s teacher for “potty talk”. Bah! It’s not potty talk! It’s poetry! Don’t they know anything cultural around here?

Let’s go back to my “poetry teaching” sessions with my 5-year old daughter…

As you might know by now, I bath my youngest daughter at night and put her to bed. Well, that is a pretty boring job if you stick to the “get-it-over-and-done” style of parenting. And I take my job as a parent very seriously. Very seriously… So up the stairs we go every night and in the bath she gets. Actually we do our “pictures” in the mirror first where we pull different faces – happy (Liverpool won!), sad (got to clean the cat litter) , mad (thinking Bush…), crazy (still thinking Bush…), handsome (my normal facial expression…), pretty (my Angelina look) and any other combination of faces. Only once we’ve done our acting classes in the mirror do I allow her to move into the bath. And Grand Master Teacher Angry (or  Guru African to some) comes out to play… hum… I mean… teach…

I have the curriculum well planned and sorted. We will eventually move on to Shakespeare, but for now I want us to concentrate on getting the basics right. Poetry 101… Nice easy rhymes…

So we did a few of the usual rhymes. You know…

“I’ve got a cat in my hat” and “I’ve got a yummy in my tummy” and “I’ve got a bear in my hair”. Just the usual rhymes. And then we moved on to more difficult pieces of poetry. Of course they also had to show me they take their lessons seriously and come up with their own poetry…

I really can’t help that my daughters are geniuses! It’s not my fault that they take innocent little rhymes and create their own unique take on poetry. Should I not be applauded for teaching my child the finer things in life? Should I not be rewarded for bringing the gift of literacy to my youngest daughter? Should I not be celebrated as a teacher and guru of poetry? Should I not be held up as the parent of all parents? Should I not…

And so on and so on. It ends with me claiming the Nobel Peace Prize for teaching my kids silly rhymes that ultimately and directly resulted in world peace and the end of world hunger and poverty. Oh yes, it also ended the current economic downturn worldwide. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the lack of appreciation…

So my youngest daughter decided to share her new found poetry gift with the rest of the class. I was so proud. My little girl sharing her passion for literature and fine arts with others. And, of course, for them to stand in awe and admire her poetic abilities. Bow down and sit at the master’s feet please. There’s a good class. Now sit still and listen. And then she let rip with some of her most creative pieces. Her own poetry in her own words…

“I have a drum in my bum.”

…and the clincher…

“I have art in my fart.”

The simple beauty of it. She makes me so proud. “Sniff.”

But noooooo… Apparently that isn’t good enough for Ms Snotty Nose teacher. Not appropriate language for a little girl. WTF? Does she not appreciate the beauty of poetry? Does she not recognize the modern version of a young Shakespeare? Damn teachers…

The curse of a genius…

Anyway, I couldn’t believe that the teacher didn’t give her a special prize for that one. Or at least push her one class ahead. Advance learning or something. Heck, I say let her teach the class literature! My little genius.

But maybe the teacher just didn’t understand her true ability. Because one of her pieces of genius poetry was in two languages… You hear me? Two languages! Bilingual baby!

“I’ve got a football in my poepol.”

Genius! Genius, I tell you!

I didn’t teach her any of this. Nada. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. She did it all on her own. Like I said, she makes me so proud. Damn teacher…

Oh, the meaning of poepol?

Hum… well… I… it’s a… the meaning is… but… No, I mean “butt”. Backside, arse, behind… You get my drift…

She mixed her languages all on her own and created this piece of beautiful poetry just for her dad. Like I said, she makes me real proud – “sniff.”

But ooooh nooooo, the teacher doesn’t recognize this piece of genius. Everyone is a critic. But maybe it was just a big misunderstanding. Because I also tell my girls to never lie. Not even in poetry.

If only the teacher asked her if she really had a drum in her bum…

My little girl would have kept a beat that will make her dad proud and her mother cry.

And maybe then the teacher would have realized that my little girl really told the truth when she said, “I have art in my fart”…

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I love Saturdays. Come on, don’t be so cynical! No, not only because it is weekend. See, Saturday is my day at the dancing with the little one.

My girls love to dance and they are always off at some dance class. The older one does tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, modern, post-modern and existential. I think the last one is a bit of a rip-off. The teacher only shows up if she wants to and it is a continuous hit-and-miss as you never know if you want to go in any case. Even if you do, you pick your own time to show up anywhere you believe a dance should take place. I think Jean-Paul Sartre’sinterpretation of the Nutcracker hurts in any case…

Wait… Where am I? Oh yes, dancing and Saturdays…

I miss all the dancing sessions of my oldest daughter. Her classes are during the week when I am at work. I don’t think she would like me there in any case. Dad’s cool but also a little bit embarrassing. As you will see…

My lovely suffering wife lets me lie in a little bit on a Saturday. Just for a little while for the little one to hop into bed with me and for the two of us to play draw-on-the-back. I draw a picture on her back with my fingers and she must guess what it is – and she does the same on my back. Heck, it’s the only way I get a bit of a back tickle in our house. I don’t know whether it is the hairy back or just a girl thing, but none of the girls likes giving me a back tickle – including my lovely suffering wife (Yes, the same one that gets a back tickle almost every single night.) I’m not too picky, but I do think that my daughter is cheating. How many times can you draw a ball? A round one? And how many times can I say, “I don’t know what that is. Draw it again!”

Anyway…

We lie in for a few minutes and then it is a rush downstairs to slurp down some serial – Coco Pops! And for me to get my coffee fix. Then we race upstairs (with a giggle or two) to brush our teeth and for me to get rid of some of the coffee…

And then I dress the pretty ballerina.

That takes a while. First I rub her body with some cream so that the stockings and ballerina outfit don’t make her itchy. She’ll stop half-way through with me still trying to get her clothes on – she stops just to do a little twirl and to shout, “Look at me dad! I’m a pretty ballerina!” We are now officially running late. Again… It happens every Saturday morning. We always run late. We always have to work out an excuse for being late while rushing to at least try and make it in time.

“Hurry up you two! No time to play!” That’s my wife reminding us that it we really don’t have time for this. Especially not this morning. It’s a special day at ballet today…

My wife does the little one’s hair while I put on the rest of her clothes. The ballet tag team. I’m not good at hair but can do pants and shirts. Done! Get jackets on. Hats. Gloves. Scarves. And anything and everything else we need to face the cold outside. Then we jump in the car and rush down to ballet class – swearing softly (and sometimes loudly) at the slow driving oxygen thief on a site seeing cruise ahead of us.

I usually go on my own to the dancing with my little one. We are not allowed inside “the room” to watch in any case. So I sit outside in the hallway and read a book and listen to my iPod. I sometimes even blog from there. But not today. Today I can watch! And…

Every now and again the family can come in to watch. And our gang always goes in full force with all the troops accounted for. No one left behind. Today was going to be even better – A special holiday show just for us. The Nutcracker!

Only the little ones and a few of the older and more experienced dancers to show them the way. Always a ball. They were all there – the Nutcracker, Clara, the Mice, the Russian dancer, the Chinese dancer, the Spanish dancer and the Arabian dancer. No, I don’t mean that the class is very international – I think it is a bit of a twist of the original one. I laughed my ass off so many times that my wife had to tell me to shush a few times. And to tell me and the oldest one to keep quiet because we kept on whispering and giggling while pointing at the little one. She was just so damn cute. Our little ballerina. What fun. What a Saturday. And with any luck, it might just get even better for me today…

And then came my moment. The one I have been waiting for. I was made for moments like these. All my years of training. Just for this. Deep breathe…

“Any of the dads want to volunteer to come and do some dancing with us?”

Yeah! Wait…

Play it cool…

Don’t look to eager…

Let them beg just a little…

“Oh, come on dad!” from my kids and the teacher saying “Come now Mr H. We know you want to!”

The big African-American guy sitting next to me gave me the “look” and laughed. The look of you-are-not-really-going-to-do-this-are-you. I laughed and noticed that he never took off his Timberland boots before sitting down. Amateur…

Ha! I took my exact matching pair of Timberlands off before I even came in. I left it outside knowing that I can’t dance in them. I came prepared…

I shook my head as I got up “reluctantly”. A few laughs from the crowd – especially from that section where my gang of girls were sitting and my new boet sitting next to me. I went over to my spot and took a deep breath. Closed my eyes slightly to compose and then… First position…

Or what I thought was first position. The “proper” guy dancer looked over at me and gave me the “sorry sod” smile. He’s a nice guy. But he is about 16 and I am turning… hum… slightly older tomorrow! (Yes, 14 December is my birthday!) He was going to “lead” me through my steps. As if I needed any instructions or help…

Plié.” WTF? Oh! No. Wait… I know this one. Bendy knees!

Head straight and bendy knees. Done. Just look at that composure!

“Again!” Damn… I hardly got up from that last one…

“Again! Three times and then a jump like this!”

What? Who? Where? Hey!

Bendy knees and a jump. And again. And again!

I started losing track of the stuff we were doing. Changement de pieds could have been one. And fouetté rond de jambe en tournant must have been one. The twirling around 360 degrees. No problem… (Getting slightly tired and maybe a bit of huffing and puffing…)

Running around in circles and jumping those scissor jumps or whatever they call it. It looked like I was doing hurdles unsuccessfully. I was losing track of what the guy is shouting at me. More of the jumping in the air and bendy legs stuff. And all I heard was, “Again!” I couldn’t really hear much else from all the heavy breathing and wheezing…

Damn! I was actually enjoying it. But that young dude sure had a wicket little smile on his face. Did he like seeing pain like this? Better watch it buddy… Hope you can handle pain when I grand sas d’action or frappé him in his Nutcracker…

Me? I saw glimpses of Mikhail Baryshnikov whenever I saw a bit of myself in the mirror. So gracious… So composed… So stupid!

I love it. I love watching my wife and kids look at me making a fool of myself. Hearing the other dads (and moms and kids) laughing at the stupid guy doing the silly ridiculous attempts at ballet. I just love it and kept on doing it with a big stupid grin on my face.

I’m a pretty ballerina…

Okay. I’m not.

But boy, do I love doing it. I love it when it was done and I did a little curtsy to the parents and to my danseur. The big smile and big shiny eyes I see from my little one. The high five and giggle I get from my oldest one. The smile and you-silly-you-I-love-you look I get from my wife.

Yes…

I love being the stupid dad that always “volunteers” to go do the silly stuff. That’s me. Just call me Volunteer Dad. Anything to see those faces and feel their love. Anything. Especially when I can be silly and have a laugh as well.

Next time you see the guy doing the stupid thing in front of his family – that’s me.

You should know this by now. Remember Things To Do Before You Die? Or When Dad Came To Watch? That’s me. Stupid, silly and madly in love with my gang of girls. Anything and everything just for them. Because it is also for me.

And me dance pretty…

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A while back I wrote about my memories of Reagan and Thatcher – The blunting of the blood. (You don’t have to read it as this piece is based on that one.) How some of us now have such fond memories of those leaders of the 80’s. Yes, our memories take on such lovely scenery when we think of the days of yesterday. The good old days. Those photos of their smiling faces. When we still had crap music and even crappier clothes. I am so not going to talk about the hairstyles… We can laugh at how silly we were. But we can never allow ourselves to look back at those days and think that they were okay. They weren’t.

But all this reflection and softening of views make me turn to the current leader of the free world. G.W. Bush. Sorry, President G.W. Bush.

Let me be clear about this piece. Very clear. I don’t want any misunderstanding. I don’t want to be accused of something that isn’t there. No misreading please. This is not a reflection on America or the American people. I love America and Americans – and everything this country and the people stand for. I will back them till death do us part. This is one hell of a country and more important than most Americans will know. I am proud of the fact that my daughters have to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. But I won’t go into that today. Let’s just leave it at that. This is about President G.W. Bush and what he stands for and what he has done. I respect the office of the President of the United States and what it stands for – but I don’t respect President Bush and what he stands for. This is about never forgetting and never forgiving. This is about the memories we will have when we look back at the time President G.W. Bush ruled the free world.

__________________________

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I am shocked, or rather surprised, by a few people close to me who mentioned that he looks like such a good dad. He looks like a good guy. Maybe a bit stupid, but a good guy you know.

No I don’t.

I was shocked by my first immediate reaction when the person said that they hated what he has done but that he seems like such a good dad and that it looks like he really loves his wife. My reaction?

“Well, Hitler loved Eva Braun.”

I did regret saying it but it was an immediate reaction. Like the one second rule in self defense. I didn’t think about it – it just popped out.

I regret saying it because I did not mean in any way that Bush is like Hitler. Not in any way. What I meant was that loving someone does not mean I have to have any compassion for you. Or that I should in any way view your actions as okay. It’s not.

You loved someone. So what? There are a shit load of people out there you didn’t love.

You had good intentions? Well… We know about that road and good intentions…

You are better than Hitler. So what? It’s not really a yardstick to measure anyone now is it? I can only judge you on your own actions. And for that reason there will be no forgetting. No forgiving. No favorable views. No good memories. No blunting of the blood.

I can’t look at him and think that somehow there is a good man hidden inside. I can’t read minds. I can’t see his soul. I can only judge by the actions I see. And the bodies in the street.  

I can’t wipe away the bad that happened yesterday. The pain doesn’t actually feel less important. Time does not heal the dead left behind. I can’t blunt the memories of those who suffered. 

Can we look at Bush and think that he was a good guy who loved his country and not remember the warmongering? I don’t doubt or question his love for his country. A great country. It is worth loving. And it is worth defending. But the love for his country does not make him a good guy. It doesn’t change the lies of WMD’s. It doesn’t change the lies of victory never achieved in his time. The empty promises of war and vengeance.

Can we look at Bush and think that love ruled his life before anything else? Even though he never spoke out against terrorists of human rights in Saudi Arabia. He didn’t fund them. But he never spoke out against them. You are judged by the company you keep. And they weren’t nice people. And he wasn’t a nice guy. Sitting on a horse for the cameras or chopping wood for the reporters are called acting. Not real life. How many people died because of his policies? How much blood must he have on his hands before you look at the man and say he was fundamentally flawed? And remind yourself never to forget that this is the man who ruled and not the guy we want to remember as the one who loved.

Can we remember Bush as the President who amused us with his silly words and stupid remarks? Can we laugh at how much fodder he gave the late night shows and comedians? No we can’t. We can’t forget how he slowly but surely strangled the last line in Pledge of Allegiance. “…liberty and justice for all.” How the freedoms and rights and liberties and justice were slowly eroded under his watch. The Patriot Act was sold as the car with the latest safety measures and gadgets. And all we got was a second-hand salesman selling us a car that guzzled gas and made us more addicted to foreign oil. Guantanamo Bay was the victim of the hit-and-run accident that involved that car.

And I won’t forgive or forget his favorite side-kick either. Tony Blair… How can we forget his wishy-washy attitude about the war that was against the popular wishes of his own people. Now hiding behind his religious beliefs as if God send him to go into a senseless war. His willingness to follow Bush to the graves of the innocent. Like Thatcher and Reagan. So was Blair and Bush. Different sides of the same coin. He was bad. They are bad. Bad. Bad. Bad.

I am sorry. I can’t look at Bush and his stupid smile and feel any warmth. I can’t see his love for those close to him. All I see is the people dying in the streets and the erosion of rights. And him not speaking out against the terrorists of human rights. People dying senselessly. Blood on his hands. No forgiveness. No love. Nothing.

I am sorry. I can’t. I can’t… I can’t forgive if the person doesn’t ask for forgiveness. I can’t look at him and see a “good guy”. I can’t. I see him and I see the look of Reagan and Thatcher in the 80’s. He has given leadership a bad name. Because he did bad things. Blood on his hands. No love. No forgiveness. No good memories. Nothing.

I see his fake smile and teary eyes when he realizes his time in charge is over. And then I see his deeds. The blood on the streets. Rights ripped to pieces. Honor gone to shit. Ideals flushed down the toilet. I see him selling me shit but calling it sweets. You didn’t fool me then. And my memories won’t fool me now.

I won’t let time fade my memories. I won’t. No blunting of the blood. You ask for forgiveness and I will forgive. But not an inch until then. I won’t do it. I will honor the dead of yesterday. And I will honor the dead of today. I will honor them by not forgetting them. And not forgiving you.

You should have known better. You should have known better. You ruled the free world. It came with a responsibility. An oath to walk the straight and narrow. A promise to be the shining light in our dark world. And you snuffed it out like it was a single candle in a storm. Without a blink. Without regret. Without a moment given to the dead lying in your path. Without a moment of asking forgiveness. Because you didn’t care. You only cared about yourself. You were selfish and self absorbed.

Wash your hands and turn your back. That’s what you will do. Like they did then and you will do now. I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t think you were a nice guy. I have nothing for you. You are empty. Meaningless to humanity. You have meaning only in the blood you left behind in the streets. The rights lying in the gutters of life. And the blood etched in our memories.

I don’t give a damn about what the terrorist and the fucked up coward in the cave did. I don’t give a damn about what Saddam did. I don’t give a damn about what the Taliban did. They deserve death beyond comprehension. But I don’t care about their deeds. I expected them to be evil. It was in their bones. In their blood. They were in my face. They were bad. And we knew it. We know it. We heard their hatred and saw their murdering ways. Like Hitler they were.

But you. You were supposed to be the promise keeper. The good one. The fair one. The just one. The one who would fight for us. Be on our side. On the side of the innocent. The bystanders. And you spat on us and those who suffered. And gave us a fake cowboy smile and a gun to our heads.

I won’t let my memories be blunted by the troubles of today. Today is today. Yesterday was yesterday. You were bad yesterday. And you remain bad today. I won’t let them say “he was really a good guy who loved his family”. I won’t let them think of you as being out of depth and maybe a little stupid. I won’t let you get away with it. I won’t. You weren’t stupid. Your mistakes were made by you. Knowingly. I won’t forget. Not while the blood is still on your hands. Not while the rights and freedoms and liberties and justice are lying shattered at your feet. Not while I still have my memories of the dead. Not while you forgot to ask for forgiveness.

No blunting. You let us down. You have blood on your hands. You. Are. No. Great. Leader.

No blunting.

Never forget. Never forgive. Don’t let it fade.

No blunting. Of the blood.

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mamaafrica

Mama Africa died. The voice of the people. The song of the people. She is no more. But her music lives on. And with it… Her love for Africa and its people.

This is from one of her first songs that the world got to see. Hum… She was hot! Mama Africa singing Pata Pata.

The one song every bloody Souf Efrikan whitie knows… (And she is still hot!) Miriam Makeba singing The Click Song. (With a bit of an intro into Xhosa and politics – sorry, I had to use a new link so the politics got lost. Someone removed the original from YouTube!)

And this one has a bit of a long intro but it hits you hard when she starts singing. Man… Did I mention that she is hot! Sinead O’Connor of Africa singing Amampondo.

But in the end Mama Africa was about so much more than her music. Miriam Makeba made music. Mama Africa spoke for her people. A glimpse of what she had to say to the UN back in 1963. Being Mama Africa…

Her citizenship was revoked shortly after this. She couldn’t go back to her country. To her people. But she always fought on. Always for justice. Always for her people. The people of Africa. And her people from South Africa. From fighting for justice when she married (and later separated from) Trinidadian civil rights activist and Black Panthers leader Stokely Carmichael to receiving the UN Dag Hammerskjöld Peace Prize. She always fought for justice. Always.

But she saw her country united at last. She came back in 1990. To her home. To her people. And this song was made for her to sing. (The intro is played by Hugh Masekela. Another legend and another ex-husband of Mama Africa.)

Mama Africa never forgot about the fight for justice. Never. She didn’t die at home. She died in Castel Volturno in Italy, in the evening of 9 November 2008, of a heart attack, shortly after taking part in a concert organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation. Camorra finances itself through drug trafficking, extortion, protection and racketeering. It is the oldest organized criminal organization in Italy. Mama Africa… Mama World… Mama Ubuntu… No matter where you were, she was with you in your fight for justice, freedom, liberty and equality for all.

She died just after singing Pata Pata. She died on stage.

In the words of Mama Africa, “I will sing until the last day of my life.”

So she is gone. But live on. Always.

Viva Mama Africa! Viva! Long Live Miriam Makeba! Long Live!

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