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.