Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Together, let’s control your waste

It’s a funny thing, being the ‘Trailing Spouse’ with supposedly nothing to do but luxuriate in the cultural splendour and luxuries of a foreign country. I assumed I’d be writing steadily, giving you all updates (whether you wanted them or not) on life for the Locketts in Geneva with the clockwork regularity and frequency that the Swiss are famed for.

Trouble is, pesky things get in the way such as poor Yasmin’s stroke, Nafeesa needing a guardian/hospital transfer/temporary mother/dietician/entertainment consultant/laundress, a long-scheduled trip to Basel, Love Chunks’ seven-day-a-week workload before his departure to Mexico, a job application and astonishingly violent case of diarrhoea, headache, vomiting and fever suffered by Sapphire.

Nafeesa has decided not to come back and stay with us since our return from Basel. She’s instead selected a friend who exhibits Queen Bee-like tendencies and is, at this moment, favouring young Nafeesa instead of snubbing her. Yasmin is making slow progress in hospital, but her hand gripped mine and she said – no yelled“NO!” – when I explained that Nafeesa wanted to stay at Queen Bee’s until her grandmother (Yasmin’s mother) arrived from Lebanon.

But how do I force a child – not mine – to stay in my home? Especially when that child has already lost one parent and now spends hours every day with her remaining, seriously-ill one? When she can elect if and when she answers her telephone and obviously wants to have some fun down-time with a flaky friend?

Trouble is, Queen Bee’s mother is just as flaky. She’s assured all of us on the official Guardian List*** that she’s fine not only with Nafeesa staying but also tackling the daily transfers to hospital, staying with her during the visit and bringing her back home. In reality, she’s ‘too tired’ or ‘too busy’ or ‘thinks it’s too late’ or ‘too far’ and I’ve been getting the calls – ‘Can you pick me up?’

Is it wrong for me to gently explain to Nafeesa that if she chooses Queen Bee, then she has to accept the full ramifications of that choice? That I have a sick child, a job application, a husband who is working seven days a week in the lead up to two international meetings that he’s solely responsible for and even though we have a car, I’m still too scared to drive it across town in peak hour traffic only to pay around CHF45 to park it in a dark alleyway a kilometre away from the hospital where beggars and druggies like to congregate?

Beautiful, historic, friendly Basel was bliss for three days. LC stayed back to work work work; Nafeesa was granted her request to stay at Queen Bee’s and Sapphire got me to herself again. She’d been overlooked and neglected for the past couple of weeks and her acceptance and understanding of this made me both proud and relieved.

In Basel, we laughed. We imagined that the ‘Together, let’s control your waste’ sticker placed above the bog roll holder in the hotel bathroom would generate a pair of hands eager to pat down or squash our ‘waste’ instead of the well-intentioned but incorrectly-written homily about saving water, reusing bath towels and recycling paper.

We allowed ourselves a naughty giggle at the entrance to the Kunstmusuem and after an hour of room after room of 15th C religious art, Sapphire said, “Not ANOTHER gruesome picture of Jesus on the cross and a nude woman. It’s just an old fashioned excuse for porn and violence!”

Instead we ventured into the early 20th C and I saw the very Paul Klee painting I’d studied way, waaay back in year twelve. Sapphire loved it too and as I leaned forward to point out a detail – WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP – we were momentarily deafened and my shoulder was tapped by the security guard who had bravely left the Mondrians alone and dashed into our room. “Madam you’re too close. No more than 30 centimetres please.”

Discoveries included the best Asian food in Switzerland at a restaurant recommended by a hotel staffer who admitted that she hated the place ‘because it’s too spicy and the vegetables are raw,’ the best macarons in the world at Sprungli in the Marktplazt and that bags of hot roasted chestnuts, despite being avidly eaten by the locals, “Taste like big chickpeas, only much less interesting,” according to Sapphire. And me. All in a glorious location that involved a lot of walking arm in arm and saying, “Oh will you look at that? It’s so lovely!”

The phone started ringing five minutes after we got back home. “Queen Bee’s Mum was wondering if you’d mind picking me up as she’s feeling a bit tired today and she knows that you don’t have a job and have free time?” *Sigh* On paper, yes. In reality: LC’s got the car because he’s currently living at work; Sapphire is starting to feel sick; the house is covered in orange dog fur and the bathroom stinks like a pipe has been blocked with sewage from 1980 and there’s a single tub of yoghurt in the fridge and only a nanna cart and my legs to do anything to change that.....

Love Chunks flew out to Mexico City yesterday, exhausted before it even commenced. Dinners, museum visits, workshops, presentations and a press conference. “Geez I hope they make you all pose wearing sombreros and ponchos like the APEC summits.” The last thing I saw was him rolling his eyes before the lift doors closed.

By bedtime, Sapphire was curled up into a tight ball of agony. By midnight she was boiling hot, throwing up and crying. At 1am she was stuck on the toilet with diarrhoea but also grabbing at her aching head. She was delirious at 3am. “Take these off of me – they’re crawling up my legs and the texture is killing me!” By 5am it was all of it combined, my reassuring patter hopefully not betraying my shaky hands as I stroked her forehead.

Nafeesa’s returning to our place tonight; I’m taking Sapphire to the doctor later this morning and not for the first time I’m glad that I don’t have an official ‘job’ here yet.

*** Compiled by Yasmin’s best friend H and Netherlands-based brother N, it lists all of our names, addresses, emails, contact numbers and who is doing what on what days. Not only for our collective benefits, but also to satisfy the hospital social worker that Nafeesa is being cared for appropriately, to assure Yasmin not to worry but concentrate on getting better and the rather tardy visa-bureaucrats in Lebanon.


tracy said...

Gawd, that sickness alone would freak me out. Add to the list, 'Find doctor you trust'.

Can you take taxis or are they horribly expensive?

Elisabeth said...

Wow Kath, what a saga and it seems to get only more dramatic by the minute. I trust all will go well with your spouse's earth shattering efforts in Mexico and that Sapphire will soon get better. The rest is for you to do as most mothers tend to do: survive.

Kath Lockett said...

Found a doctor whose office is only a block away - still not fun dragging a limp, sweating and delirious child out onto the street under the gaze of curious passersby....

Elisabeth, I have coffee, chocolate and, time permitting, the internet. The holy trio of mother-with-a-sick-child essentials.

Mrs Dump said...

Oh Kath, I hope Sapphire is OK. It is so terrible when your child is ill and there is nothing you can do to fix it immediately. Good luck to LC on his trip, hope everything goes smoothly. I have everthing crossed to wish good luck for you all. Keep on hanging in there.

Anji said...

I have a feeling that Naffesa will be back with you soon. I hope that Sapphire is starting to feel better by now.

Glad you managed to get some precious mother and daughter time.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Mrs D and Anjii. Sapphire is already starting to chatter, which is always a good sign!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Kath,

Oh dear. Sounds like you are all up against it. Hope everything calms down soon.



River said...

Oh dear! What a stuff up for poor Nafeesa. I'm glad she's coming back to your home, although it does make more work for you with all the to-ing and fro-ing from the hospital.
I'm so very sorry to read that Sapphire is unwell and hope that by now she's seen the doctor and feeling much better.
I'd like to see pics of Mexico if LC has time to take any.

Jayne said...

Geeze, I hope Sapphire is better soon, that sounds dreadful!
As for Nafeesa - tell her that whoever she chooses to stay with that's who she's stuck with. You're not Cole's Cafeteria where you can chop and change your life to suit a flaky Queen Bee mother (who has NFI about responsibility).
If Nafeesa has to rely on you to take her to and fro while in the 'care' of flaky bimbo mother, what else is she doing without correct supervision/help that she's not telling you?

Cat J B said...

Who needs a job? You have one already i'd say, settling yourself, a teenager and hubby into a whole new life and culture, that's a fair old job in and of itself!

Hope things work themselves out soon and glad S is starting to feel better already.

The Elephant's Child said...

What a dreadful, dreadful time. I so hope that Saphire is much, much better very, very soon. I fell a little in love with her for her comment on the 15th C religious art. Which has always left me cold. I am so glad that you got your time in Basel before the onset of what my mama call 'echo flu'.
And echoing Jayne on the subject of Nafeesa (despite every sympathy for her plight).

Hannah said...

Thank heavens you're a strong enough woman to laugh through all of this, Kath! One day, your memoir is going to take the world be storm ;)

Pandora Behr said...

Breathe, Kath, breathe. You're getting through all of this with a grace that not many of us could muster. Well done.

Glad Saph is one the mend - and maybe, just maybe, Nafeesa will see some reason too.

And good luck with the job stuff.

You're amazing.


Vanessa said...

I take it you couldn't tell Nafeesa that it is her Mother's request to stay with you? Poor thing is caught in the middle really. A friend of mine has just had a stroke this week - frightening for the first few days wondering if she was going to survive. Relatives have flown in from UK to assist her husband in the day to day with four daughters aged 7 - 12.
Thinking of you while you single-parent with a sick child x

Kath Lockett said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments - Nafeesa has decided to keep staying at Queen Bee's house and hopefully realises that such a decision might mean that she won't get to see Yasmin as often as she'd like to.

I didn't have the heart to push or remind her that Yasmin wants her to stay with us. She's twelve, under a lot of pressure and worry and needs to have a bit of simple fun I guess.

Vanessa I'm hoping that your friend's prognosis will be a good one in the end?

Sapphire is still pretty ill, so having Nafeesa stay somewhere else is probably a good thing. As she said, "How entertaining can I be when I'm sitting on the toilet moaning all the time?" Poor, funny kid!

Baino said...

God with an itinerary like that it's just as well you're not working. Then you have a penchant (like the French word?) for coping with all this and getting through. You're a little wonder Kath Locket, a little wonder. I pulled your card out of my wallet today whilst looking for something....I wish I could meet you for a drink in Geneva. :(

Kath Lockett said...

Any time, Baino, any time. That's why we're in an apartment with a spare room and wine here is the *only* thing that's cheap!


I have to say your life is never BORING, hope Saph is well soon and life settles down. Hope you HAVE A HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Wally The Walrus said...

Oh boy what a fun time.

I completely agree re the Chestnuts. I just don't get what all the fuss is about. I don't even like the smell of them roasting. And the taste... boring, bland and blah.

Red Nomad OZ said...

Asian food in Switzerland, huh? But you haven't lived 'til you've visited the Swiss/Indian restaurant in Alice Springs!!

Sorry to hear about the dramas - am crossing fingers that it's getting better.

Kath Lockett said...

We do have a lot of Pizza/Kebab joints here which can be a bit disconcerting, RedNomad!

Birthday's a quiet one - Sapphire is having a nap; Milly's snoozing at my feet and I'm sipping a coffee and about to enjoy a 'Rayon' which is like a Toblerone with Aero bubbles.

Christine said...

I daresay Nafeesa, her mum and QB situation will sort out in due course. The poor kid has much to cope with. It sounds like, despite the fact that everything is happening at the same time that you are doing as well as can be expected - as the saying goes. Yes the 'trailing spouse' term is rather misleading to say the least... (there are several in my family, actually). It is pretty much as you describe it - keeping the family going day to day while the partner really has to work very, very hard.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party, but oh my! Hope Sapphire is better now? As for Nafeesa, i'd tell her her mother doesn't want her staying with the QB: her NO seemed pretty definite to me, but then again you do have enough on your plate to deal with.