Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Monday, 16 January 2017

So what actually happened? Or how the best day turned into the worst fucking day of my life

Well, it's a long story. The big boys were away at Camp Hermanus where we'd dropped them just after Christmas for their 2 weeks of good old 'boys will be boys' fun and adventure. It's always the much anticipated highlight of their year.

I have blogged about it

So we left them there after taking them out to Hermanus and spending some time out there too. We came back to Cape Town on the evening of December 26th. Andrew had opted to work that week between Christmas and New Year. Just 3 work days. Xolisa (Andrew's long standing house helper and also Natey's nanny when he was younger - his beloved 'Kia) had just resigned. Olivia our cleaner was off for 3 weeks. Natey's wonderful au pair Melinda was on leave just for that week, and so was I. Andrew had asked if I wanted any help in those 3 days that he'd be working while I was home with Nate. I said no, I was actually eagerly anticipating having my munchkin to myself and getting to do all the cool and fun things I couldn't do while working, and which him and Minda got to do (while I enviously got photos on Whatsapp). I had no sense of it being a burden, or being stuck with him at all.

On the Wednesday we went for an epic walk to the gym - which is actually 5kms away - with Natey's pram, taking a super scenic route via Camps Bay and Greenpoint and eventually arriving there after a 15km walk. We got snacks on the way and chatted up a storm and Natey had a good nap too. At the gym we swam and played and then walked home. At home we played, swam, and played some more. It was a great day. When Daddy came home we went out for sushi down the street.

On the Thursday we did more playing, swimming, exploring the neighbourhood, chilling and reading. It was Minda's birthday that day and when I told Natey, he immediately said 'Birthday, cake!'. So although she was on leave we still wanted to celebrate it. Natey and I went down to the park to play and then we went out and ordered a nice big piece of carrot cake for her. Which we then ate for her. It was so big we had enough to take home to share with daddy after dinner. We made some videos of Natey wishing her for her birthday too.

While sitting at the table after dinner I got a whatsapp from Quinn - it was rare to hear from the boys while at camp, they are usually just having far too much fun to waste time on their phones... The whatsapp said 'Mom'. I responded brightly; "Hi! How's it going? Are you having fun?"

There was silence for a while... I know the signal is really bad at camp. Natey, Andrew and I kept chatting around the table. Then 3 more words came through: 'Doc Ollie's dead' My blood ran cold.

I sent a flurry of messages asking what he was taking about. Was he kidding? What was going on?? They didn't go through though and I got nothing further. I tried calling but couldn't get through at all. I tired calling the camp leaders and couldn't get through to them either... Eventually I got hold of someone but the line was so bad I had to ask him to repeat what he'd said 3 times and even then I had no idea what he'd said.. I just heard 'Sailing... mast... back'. I thought they'd been sailing, and the mast had hurt Ollie's back. It sounded bad, but I didn't think it was THAT BAD. I was so worried though.

I didn't sleep that night, constantly worrying about Ollie, my boys, and wondering what was going on. I woke at dawn on Friday and immediately tried to contact Quinn. I got hold of him. He told me what had happened. I was horrified. It's a long story - which I won't go into detail on here or now. There's a news reference here.

Doc Ollie was one of our favourite people in the world. He'd saved Quinn's life by fixing his advanced and aggressive cholesteatomas. He'd restored Quinn's hearing. He'd shown us kindness and care beyond measure while I was a newly single mom with no support dealing with a child with this scary and serious condition. He'd fixed my boy with his skill and expertise. And taken us under his wing, made us feel special and loved. And made us close friends. He introduced us to camp Hermanus and he secured his place as my boys' mentor, role model and friend. He was so happy for me when he found out about Natey's pregnancy and birth,..

I asked the boys if they wanted to come home, and they said no. They had all discussed it and the consensus was that camp was Doc's happy place too, and so camp would go on in his honour and they wanted to stay.

I was gutted but decided the best way to honour such a great man, was to try to be more like him. And so I decided consciously to be PRESENT in my day and to focus on priorities. Natey woke up. I had booked a spinning class at the gym. I decided I'd  skip it if he didn't want to go. But when I asked him if he wanted to go to the gym he said "YES!". He cheerfully cooperated and helped me to get him dressed and ready and we set off down to the gym, while Andrew was still sleeping.

Natey happily went into the Junior Care at gym, and when I asked if he was going to stay to play he again said yes. I said "Bye, see you later" and he cheerfully waved me away. An hour later, sweaty and glowing from a good work-out I collected him, still happily playing and having a great time.

On the way home I decided to stop for coffee. So we went to Strolla. He sat on the chair next to me while I enjoyed my coffee. Sipping his juice and proclaiming 'I'm eating my snack!'. I even took a photo to send to Daddy, so he could see how fun and chilled our day was going...

Afterwards, I decided it was close enough to nap time so rather than go straight home, where he may have ended up getting over tired and not going to sleep, I took a meandering drive home. He noticed what I was doing and after exclaiming 'My school' at least 2 or 3 times as we passed it, repeatedly. He became suspicious and said 'Mommy, where you going?'. I told him we were going home. I tried putting the classic station on, reckoning that would be a sure way to lull him to sleep. A lovely guitar concerto was playing. He listened to a few bars, sat up, and demanded "Turn that off. I don't like that noise!" I had a chuckle, thinking classical music loving Grandpa Fraser would be horrified. I even posted about it on Facebook. Still after turning it off, soon enough he drifted to sleep, and I drove on home.

While he napped I had plenty of time to shower, pack bags and get ready for the rest of the day. We were going to be heading to The World of Birds to see my sister and her children. Once Natey woke up I asked him if he wanted to go to World of Birds and he readily agreed. So off we went.

We had a lovely time exploring the world of birds and especially enjoying Natey's favourite part - playing in the sand pit with all the trucks. At one point as we walked through one of the bottom cages (herons I think?), there was a bushy fence to our right. The top had some open space. A large crow suddenly cawed loudly and pecked at the fence in our direction. We squealed and got a fright. My sister said "That's a bad omen" and then had to explain what that meant to her son... Afterwards she said 'I don't know why I said that??".We didn't think much of it and just continued our visit.

We eventually left and said our goodbyes well after the official closing time, as the last of the staff were leaving. Natey and I wound our way back from Houtbay to Seapoint-side. Unperturbed by the holiday maker's traffic. Simply happy to enjoy each other's company as the day wound down. While we cruised through Camps Bay Natey said, "Mommy is not angry. Mommy is not sad. Mommy is happy."
I said, "Yes, I am very happy. Is Natey happy too?"
He said, "Natey also happy"
We drove on in amicable silence. He then said, "Mommy is beautiful"
I was amazed. I'd only heard him say the word beautiful once before (in Rome - more about that in another post). I wondered who had taught him the word. I decided it was his au pair, who must have coached him..? Either way, I was positively glowing with love and happiness. Could the day have been any more perfect!?

As we got towards Seapoint I said, "Hey Natey do you want to go to the beach?". He of course said yes. So I turned off at the first opportunity in Bantry Bay and went to a beach I'd never been to before. He walked down the stairs and onto the beach himself. We sat on a rock and hugged. I took his last 3 beautiful photos and posted all 3 on Facebook right there. We chatted, he played with stones and shells, and we just soaked up the golden warmth of the evening.

After a while we went home. I got us out the car and unpacked and then suggested we swim. He was keen. We went out on the deck and stripped off. Me to my underwear and him naked. We had a glorious relaxed and cuddly swim. I told him I was cold and wanted to climb out. He said "Swim more mommy". I told him I was cold, so wanted to get out, but that he could swim some more and I'd watch him. He said no and decided to get out. We cuddled in the big towel in the last evening sunshine. Then we went inside. (Where I am sure I closed the baby gate leading to the deck. Surely I must have? I always did. I always nagged other people about it!)

Then I started making dinner. Put on a load of laundry. Copied a movie onto our hard drive to watch later. Made us each tea. Fed the dog and cat... And I actually think I stopped to marvel at how amazing this day was and how everything was just easy and RIGHT. I think I even smugly thought the thought "I am winning at life today!". Stupid fucking fool!!

Natey was wondering around with me as I went about things, commenting, chatting, helping, asking what I was doing as he would, "What you doing?", "Why you do that?" And then also appearing with a handful of dog food or something occasionally. I said "Natey. What you doing?"
To which he cheekily replied, "I messing the dog food"
Me: "Why did you do that?"
Him: "Why you do that?" (He never ever did answer that question with anything other than repeating "Why you do that?")

Honestly, I was not bothered. I even thought, "Ag whatever, the dog can eat off the ground..." But I halfheartedly asked him to go clean it up. He disappeared out the back door and down to the dog bowl and came back a short while later. I asked if he'd cleaned up and he gave me one of those head cocked to the side looks as if to say "Lady, do you really want me to answer you?' I think I tickled him and said "You're so naughty!" and just left it at that.

I was still making dinner and pottering about, and then saw I'd missed a bunch of Whatsapp messages from Andrew during the day. Feeling a bit bad that I had hardly communicated with him all day, or much the day before, and being conscious about wanting to connect properly with the important people in my life, I wanted to respond. Natey was asking for Play-dough. I got it out, opened it up and put it on his table. I squashed it down and put a shape in it to show him what to do. I told him I was just going to go talk to daddy.

He followed me. He asked me to play with the dough. He also wanted food. So I gave him a small snack, as we were going to be eating dinner shortly. I had a directory of photos open on my laptop. I wanted to look for photos of Ollie to post in a dedication to him on his Facebook page. I remember clearly thinking 'I really want to do this, but I don't have to right now. It can wait. Right now I am spending time with Natey. I can do this when he is asleep'.

Instead I flicked over to Whatsapp and sent about 7 lines to respond to Andrew's messages. This was at 19:57-19:58 (I still have the time stamped messages.)

I then listened. It was quiet. Weirdly quiet. Too quiet. I almost called out, instead I got up and walked to the dinning room, just a few spaces away around the corner.

He was not at his table. I immediately thought 'Oh he's gone back down to the dog food'. I was about to head through the kitchen to the backdoor to look down the stairs, when my instinct told me to 'sweep the pool'. Something I have always done. Every time I am not sure where a child is I always check the pool first. By default and as a routine. No part of me thought he was near the pool. I knew he wasn't. I nearly turned back, feeling silly...

Then I noticed the dog sitting out on the deck. I didn't think about it really. but how did he get out there? What was he doing there? Why was he sitting there, weirdly still just staring into the distance. So I walked out to the deck. Glanced at the pool and saw nothing. I almost turned back again. I called Natey's name this time... I think my sub-conscience realised that if he was by the dog food the dog would have been with him, right...? I walked another 2 steps forward, to where I could see right down into the pool and was horrified to see Natey there at the bottom of the pool.


WHAT THE FUCK!?? He was JUST standing next to me. Not 2 minutes before. I had JUST said, "Let me just talk to daddy quickly". Not annoyed, or in anger, or pushing him away. In a light and friendly way.

I bounded into the water, grabbed him by the arm, and pulled him up. As I brought him up my main concern was that he was going to be crying and upset, and what a shame it was that I had created this sad blip on an otherwise perfect day... But then I realised it was far worse that that. he was not coughing, or spluttering, or choking. Or anything.

I rushed inside with him, pretty much falling over the baby gate and trying to hold him so the water would drain out. I put him on the dinning room carpet and started mouth-to-mouth and did some chest compressions... That fucking sound of the air exhaling after you do mouth-to-mouth will haunt me forever. Every. Fucking. Time. It happens I am convinced the person is breathing!! (I had also watched this 2 months before when a colleague collapsed at our team building and I helped the guys with CPR efforts before the paramedics arrived... Sadly we watched our colleague die that day. But still the CPR was fresh in my mind. I knew the drill.).

After a very short time I realised I needed more help. I needed to get assistance, and an ambulance. Knowing our neighbour down the road had his full contingent of armed security standing guard a few 100 meters away,  I picked Natey up and I ran out to the street, pushing our alarm panic button on the way out. I yelled out to the guards, "Help! Do you know CPR?!"

They saw me and came running up to us. By which time I had put Natey down and had carried on doing CPR myself. Once they arrived and seemed to indicate they knew what to do, I let them take over. I told them he'd fallen in the pool. And they got started. I asked them to call an ambulance too and then ran in to grab a phone. I got the house phone and my mobile and ran back out to make sure they were doing CPR properly. I fumbled the phones and couldn't remember what number to dial but eventually dialled 107, and managed to place the call. Ages and ages seemed to pass. I still ran inside pulled on some shorts (I was still in my underwear) and then phoned again. They told me I had just called. I told them then why was NO ONE coming? They told me that were coming and to wait. I know I made what I think was the second call to 107 at 20:05. that's 5-6 minutes after sending the Whatsapps! (The SMS reference for the first call came through at 20:06, less than 7 minutes after. That was after finding him, doing CPR myself, taking him outside, doing more CPR, handing over to the security guys, going back into the house, going back out again, and then dialling and making the call to the emergency services. He can't have been alone for more than a minute or 2.

How in that time could he have got out onto the deck and climbed into the pool. Silently, with no noise from the gate. No talking. No dog bark. No splash. And more importantly WHY!?? WHY did he go out there? What was he doing?!

Later that night we found his beloved front-loader truck floating in the pool. It had not been in the pool before. It was drying just outside the door from the day before. He must have climbed in with it. Gone down onto the second step... and? What?? Reached out for it and slipped in??

How can that happen so fast!!!!? How can the child who'd stayed pinned to me in blissful loving amicability all day, telling me every thought and feeling, just wander off like that? I can't can't can't make sense of it or understand it. My brain just can't erase that image of my beautiful perfect baby. Andrew's beautiful perfect baby. Lying there at the bottom of the pool. Probably dead already when I found him.

How the fuck can that have happened when I loved him so much and when I was RIGHT THERE, with him, watching him and caring for him? Loving him and playing with him?

WHY was I so stupid to not let Andrew get someone to help me watch him?  Why was I selfish about wanting to have him to myself??

I failed Natey. And Andrew. My boys and myself. I should have played dough with him like he asked me to!

I frantically called Andrew, the alarm was still blaring. He was riding his bike. I told him to get home immediately. He jumped in a taxi.

I was getting more and more anxious because the ambulances were not arriving. I was running up and down, fetching towels, blankets, pillows, my handbag, pulling dry clothes on. Just running up and down as if that was doing any good. Pacing, praying. Wringing my hands. Asking why no one was coming!!??

Eventually the security guys said, "We have a siren, do you want to go?" I said yes. And so we piled into their Mercedes armoured vehicle. They turned on the siren and drove like mad-men, racing and hooting, accelerating, braking hard... Go go go! After 4-5 blocks an ambulance passed us. Our driver  veered to the side of the road. The ambulance turned around and came back to us. And then another arrived and then another and another and another, and police and who knows who else? There must have been 4-6 ambulances, paramedics and police cars. We all piled out on the side of the road. The paramedics got to work. At first asking about the scar on his chest. I explained it was an aortic vlve condition, but that it was fixed and he was fine. Please to just save him. They got an oxygen pipe in and got an ECG trace going... There was no heartbeat. NO FUCKING HEARTBEAT!!! I watched as they did CPR. Chest compressions, oxygen, adrenaline... There was a some movement on the ECG, then nothing, then something. I was praying to a god I don't believe in, begging, pleading, bargaining. I called Andrew again. Sobbing. Begging him to just get there... Stupidly believing that once he arrived everything would be ok. It always is when he is there.

I paced. I watched. I waited. Some well-meaning bystanders tried to make me go sit down, where I couldn't see or be 'upset'. Fuck that. I was staying right there. Watching. Willing. Being responsible. Wanting it to be ok. Andrew's cab pulled up and he rushed over.

We held each other. We watched. I said I was sorry. I nearly passed out. I thought I was going to faint, or vomit, or die. I wanted to.

I was chanting, "Breathe baby" under my breath. Andrew said, "He's not going to make it".
I just said "No no no no no no".
They said "Let's go to the hospital"
A ray of hope!?

We all piled in to various vehicles. The security guys took Andrew and I in the Mercedes. We flew off in 4-5 vehicles. Sirens blaring on all of them. The whole of Sepoint and Fresnaye knew something bad was going on. We arrived at the hospital at 9pm. We went into the ER. A female doctor dressed in all black scrubs (I have never seen that before?). Took one look and said to the team, "Why did you come here?"

They hesitated and then glanced at us. Someone turned to us and said, "Can we take you to the Comfort Room?"
Andrew said "No we are staying"
I said "We won't interfere, please just do what you need to do."
They were still doing CPR.
The paramedic looked at the doctors and said, "We came because we wanted to show the parents we were doing everything we could."

That line told me what I needed to know. It was over. He was gone. The love of my life. The absolute love and light of Andrew's life. The light of Quinn and Griffin, Melinda,  and all of our families and everyone that knew or even saw him, was gone. Dead.

They all walked out then. And pulled the door closed. Leaving Natey on the stretcher. And Andrew and I standing there. Andrew started taking photos. He also used a pair of scissors to cut a lock of Natey's hair off. Realising he was never going to reach his milestone 3rd birthday and first haircut...

I immediately walked up to him and started taking everything off him. Andrew looked concerned and kind of did a double take (I think he was wondering if I was allowed to be doing that.) I didn't care. I carefully pulled out the oxygen tube, pulled of the ECG probes, pulled out the IV line... I picked up my beautiful perfect baby boy, wrapped him in his blanket and went to sit down with him.

I sat there with him, cradling him, smelling him, breathing him, kissing him. Waiting for him to just open those beautiful eyes and be fine. He looked like he was sleeping. He was soft, warm, his lips were full and rosy. He felt like he was THERE.

They took us to the Forensic Pathology Services (aka the Morgue). We had to say goodbye to him there and hand him over. We had to talk to officials, police men, paramedics. Nothing made sense. I have no idea what happened there.

A kindly police constable took us home. Where we didn't sleep. The next morning we had to go back and see him again at the morgue to 'identify the body'. Worst fucking experience ever.

Our beautiful baby. Beautiful beautiful boy. Our perfect fairy-tale. The End.

One of my best memories of Natey...

Was this precious cuddly bedtime, when he was trying to charm me into giving him a 'lil more Milky. And he just LOVED milky.

It melts me heart every time. Gosh this child was so cute, and beautiful, and loving and FULL of life and love.

In the meantime...

Natey, this song has been running through my head all day today....
"When I look at you I smile. But when I think of you I cry"
"I cry when I think about you all the time. I cry when I wonder where you are tonight."

Facebook Memorial Page

We have created a separate special Facebook page for Natey, which we can keep updated and where we can share and keep memories and thoughts of him. Feel free to follow the page if you want to follow activity, or not if you don't.

Friday, 13 January 2017

May your days be long...

I noticed that Jewish people say 'May you have a long life' to mourners... at first I was taken aback, feeling that was the worst thing to wish for me. A long life of pain and suffering..? Andrew did some research though and established that in Judaism, there is a custom of wishing “long life” to mourners. The original Hebrew blessing actually means “may you have long days” and he found a nice explanation of this.

 “Some of us are blessed with long lives, some not. But we can all have long days. A long day is a day full of meaning, a day spent doing good, spreading happiness and fulfilling a purpose. A day of giving and loving, learning and teaching, building spirits and lifting souls - that is a long day. Some achieve in a short lifetime what others never get around to doing. The difference is not how you spend your life, but how you spend your day. We don't choose how many days we live, but we can choose how we live our days. The length of our days is not measured in hours on the clock, but in beats of the heart, not in minutes, but in mitzvahs [good deeds]. When we suffer the loss of a loved one, we become more sharply aware of how precious just one day can be. A wasted day is an eternity lost. And a day well spent can have an eternal impact. Yes, there's always tomorrow, but there's only one today. And we have many lifetimes, but this one we only live once. Don't wait for tomorrow. Time is short, make today a long day.”

 Well I can say with absolute certainty that Natey had long days. The longest of days. That boy squeezed every minute out of his days.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

A brief journey of time... Nathaniel in pictures.

Nathaniel Leonidas Thor Canter 
29 August 2014 - 30 December 2016
2 years 4 months 1 day

Natey - twinkle boy of love

Where to start...? Ours was a love story. A perfect fantastical fairy story.

Natey you were born out of your father's longing. His life's longing...

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
On Children ~  Kahlil Gibran

​At first you were not mine. You were his and his alone. You see I chose to give the biggest gift I had to give. Because I wanted to do good. To be able to maybe be a little good by doing good.​

So I offered to give your dear deserving father the gift of a child. His own child, to love and care for, and to complete his already happy and fulfilled life.
​It was not a terribly difficult decision for me to make. Sure the thought of giving you up was difficult, but I knew your dad would LOVE you and you him. And I knew that would be ok. And that I would be ok...

I guess I wasn't supposed to bond with you, or love you. But well I have had many hurts and disappointments in my life. ​I have dealt with many difficult to face circumstances. I had already crossed that bridge no parent ever wants to cross. I was already part of that terrible club no one wants to be a member of... That of those that have lost a child. Among many other things you see, I lost a baby. My first baby. When I was just married and just 23. A beautiful, perfectly-formed, live, but too small baby girl. Born too soon...

So I am not afraid to love. And I am not afraid to lose. I have lost before and I knew I could survive it. But I have chosen not to close myself off to any opportunities to love, because really - love is all that makes life worth living.

So there you were growing inside me, and gosh was I happy. I was so FULL of you. Full of life, hope, possibility and pure love. I savoured your pregnancy and relished every moment of it. I loved preparing for your birth. It was such a happy time of anticipation.

By the time the day of your birth arrived I was so ready. Ready to birth you as gently and peacefully as I could.

And your birthday was magical... and just perfect. It was all I imagined it would be and more. Nothing could have been better. It fulfilled my dream of a perfect birth... and then there was this perfect, beautiful baby boy. 

Nathaniel Leonidas Thor Canter. A strong, bold, and really easy going guy right from the start.

No one could help but just dive right in and just LOVE you with abandon. Right for the start. Everyone who saw, or held you became entranced by your happy, and relaxed vibe. You were easy to care for, adaptable and just delightful.

I have consciously been thankful for having the honour and extra unexpected bonus of getting to not only be part of your life, but actually being your real proper MOMMY too. It has been the biggest honour and privilege of my life.

Your brothers, also not knowing whether they'd get to share in your life, also immediately bonded with you and loved you with an intensity and purity I had not seen in them before. You brought such richness, joy and wonder to them.

You taught us what real love is. You gave us real love. You were real love.

Natey you were my absolute unabandoned DELIGHT.

We were living a charmed life, and we KNEW it. We felt lucky and grateful constantly... I don't know why our luck ran out so soon.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.' ~ Kahlil Gibran 

​We were not ready to say goodbye to you yet darling boy. We had so much more to show you, and I am sure you had so much more to teach me. Just went the fantasy started feeling like a real 'forever after', suddenly it was 'The End'.

I am so sorry I failed you - best part of my life. But thank-you for all the love. Keep shining beautiful twinkle in the sky...