“YOu have to be you, because everyone else is taken”
Love without attachment…I am learning the hardest lessons from those closest to me.
It is hard to say it, but I want to say thank you to my nephew for avoiding me, for running from me. Because you teach me every day that this clinging on, this need to hold on to the physicalness of who you are is my attachment to things and people (gawd I still have a chappie wrapper from grade one that a boy gave me).
Love without attachment.
Three weeks ago, after I sat with my nephew in his doctor’s room where we were given the news… “You’ll need another heart transplant. But we are not sure we can give it to you unless we know if your kidneys are properly functioning.”
I sat and stared out the window, and looked at the mountain in the distance. The doctor’s rooms are at the foot of Signal Hill in Cape Town. I tried to imagine what it must be like to walk up there, or perhaps be on top of the hill singing. I even thought of paragliding from that hill. I had a vision of a “the hills are alive…” rendition.
Everything and anything to distract myself from this news which I could feel would lead me to cry. I didn’t want to cry in front of my nephew and his mother. I had to be brave for them.
This was heavy news. I couldn’t crack down. And who was i to crack up.
So I disconnected and kept it together. Put on my mask. And nodded my head as I watched the doctor continue to mouth words I could no longer hear.
The disconnect was reconnected when I heard my nephew laugh. He was joking with the doctor about something. He also seemed adamant that he wanted to ge on the transplant list. “I don’t want to get to a stage where I can’t even walk and have to be on a ventilator,” he said.
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard he’d need another heart transplant. He had gone for a check up earlier that week. And the doctor had come out while I sat with his mom and girlfriend in the waiting room to say… “It doesn’t look good. The heart is hardening.”
Somehow this kid has always defeated the odds. He often says: “I’m invincible, they can’t kill me…” He has spent more time in hospital than most and had more procedures done to him than most. And against all odds from birth has made it to be a dishy, cheeky 20-year-old.
I came home every night that week and cried myself to sleep. You have these movies that go through your head. Him as a young kid, with these boots on, aged five, us both in America with his brothers to try and find a cure for him and his one brother who had the same genetic illness.
Teaching him to tie his shoelaces. And to swim. Jumping on a bus with him. His laughter and naughtiness. Him phoning me three times a day when I was a busy reporter to chat. Him coming to visit me when I was down and out. Him growing up. His first girlfriend. His teenage years. His calls stopping as he got older, and coincidentally at a time that I had more time to not have to say “I’m on a deadline baby, I can’t talk”. I said that too often. And now I wish he would phone. And my heart ached for my brother and my sister-in-law.
Two weeks ago he went back to Johannesburg (where he lives) for a short while, and when I said goodbye to him, a week of holding back the tears just flooded out. I held him so hard as though I would never hug him again and I sobbed. I just couldn’t let him go.
It was dramatic.
I didn’t mean to sob. I didn’t mean to be weak in front of him. And he supported me. He told me not to worry. That everything was going to be okay.
I rue my overly sensitive heart that couldn’t hold back those tears. That reminded him of his own inner sadness. And now he avoids me. And I understand it is because he cannot go there. He cannot face that sadness.
He feels he has to be strong. To fight this battle. To keep strong. To live another day, to breathe another day. With all his might to put in the good fight.
I want to say I would swap my life for his in a flash so that he could live (god knows I have thought this a million times), but I don’t think I could do as good a job as he does of his life. I would be weak, and I would cry, and I’d have probably have given up a long time ago.
I used to beg god to take me instead of him. But I realised quite recently that this is tantamount to my not trusting that my nephew can walk this path. Thinking that I could do it better. Well I couldn’t.
I guess we all get given the life we have because that is the life we can do the best with. I would have been a a hopeless Matthew. I’m not a fighter like he is. Far too squeamish when it come to blood and stuff.
He won’t chat to me about much. About what he feels and thinks deep inside. There is so much I would like to talk to him about. But he won’t let me in. We are polar opposites sometimes, and yet exactly the same. He is my strong tenacious side, and I am his sad soft side. He is just another part of me as I am of him.
Love without attachment.
How can I be so sad for that which can never be taken from me?