Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
He’s an intelligent man because he’s not only a doctor running a busy clinic but easily switches from speaking French to German to English depending on what patient he is talking to.
Consider though, that English is the most common first or second language here in Switzerland and you may understand how the hot flush of anger and shame slapped me on Friday when he spoke to me in a packed waiting room. “Now you do realise that if we don’t find anything in Sapphire’s stool sample then it’s all in her mind, don’t you?”
My legs wobbled and my eyes stung, rendering me witless and mute. He continued, slightly louder this time, assuming that I was a bit stupid.
“You need to TALK to her. Is she happy at school? Does she have friends? REALLY TALK TO HER.”
I nodded and got out of there as fast as I could, almost forgetting to hand over the bag of freshly-made excrement for the nurse to send off to the lab for testing.
He means well, the pompous git. He’s obviously seen more of life and the extremes of human nature – let alone anatomy – than I have, but the words stung. For two weeks Sapphire has endured vomiting, nausea, blinding headaches, dizziness, lack of appetite and crippling stomach pains. She’s missed school for most of that time due to being unable to stand up for very long or concentrate.
Her blood test results showed that her body was fighting a major infection and she was given four different kinds of medication to take. All the packets and instructions were in French, German and Italian. The pharmacist saw my confusion, took pity on me and printed the dosage instructions in English. I felt like pulling his head over the counter towards me and planting a big wet one.
The vomiting and diarrhoea stopped by the end of week one, but not the pain, disorientation, weakness and exhaustion. The second blood test showed that she’d gotten over the infection.
She was sent to have her face x-rayed, as her sinuses were swollen. The scans showed no polyps or problems but a prescribed nasal spray has made the passages clearer. Her eyes were checked and the optician advised that her glasses – made in 2009 – were too strong for her. New lenses are ready for collection tomorrow.
Walking to radiation clinic across from the train station, we stopped every five metres or so to let Sapphire take a breath and fold herself over to somehow squash away her stomach pain. Inside, the clinic was festooned with prints, paintings and sculptures of nudes. "How is a three foot sketch of a man's willy supposed to make me relax, Mum?" Cheeky monkey.
“You ‘ave made pee pee already,” Scan Man huffed.
“Er yes. We weren’t aware that she needed to have a full----“
“Come back in ‘alf an ‘our. Drink much, so that you have much pee pee but don’t go pee pee.”
Sapphire’s lip drooped in self pity ten minutes later when a bucket-sized mug of gingerbread-spiced latte was placed in front of her. “Come on love, you’ll enjoy this. Coffee’s a diuretic, so you’ll be back with---“ my fingers formed the international quotation sign “-----loads of pee pee for Scan Man.”
She giggled. “Shoosh mum, do we need all of Starbucks to know?” I stood up, put my hands on my hips and played the ham. “Why yes, we do, actually. Everyone should know that---““SIDDOWN MUM,” she laughed. “Oh damn, I’ve spilled it down my front....”
Back home, the phone call came. No discernible stomach issues and the appendix is fine.
I do know Sapphire. I do.
I know that she’s very ill and that her headaches and stomach pains are real, not faked or psychologically manifested. I do. It worries and scares me a little to see how listless and unwell she is. I believe her. I trust her. I know her.
.... don’t I?
Do I have to go back inside, sit alongside her snoozing figure in our bed and ask, “Is there anything that you’re worried about? Is there anything you’re not telling us? Is there anything making you unhappy?”
She sat up, reaching for my hand to comfort me instead of the other way around. “I’d rather be at school than here with you. No offence.”
None taken. I kiss her soft forehead and leave her to snooze.
Love Chunks gets back home from his two week odyssey in Canada and Mexico and finds a 43 year old, a twelve year old and a furry seven year old waiting for him at the door, all smiles.Sapphire’s still in her dressing gown but happy to see him. Milly is pensive – will the return of Alpha Male mean that Alpha Female won’t devote as much attention to her? Besides, she’d just endured having her teeth cleaned, with now-crusty bits of white toothpaste clinging to the hairs on her chin. I just want to breathe in his warmth, scent and strength.
The weekend sees Sapphire improve slowly but still always doubled over in agony immediately after eating anything.
I send her to school today. She’s eager to go despite having a throbbing headache and wondering if she’ll cope with the smell, noise and food on offer at the school cafeteria at lunchtime.
When Milly and I get back from our walk, the phone rings. It’s the doctor’s nurse. “We have found some bacteria in Sapphire’s sample. The doctor wants to see her today after school and he will have some medicine ready for you.”
Her English is halting, so my questions about what is it, will it get better, what sort of medicine and how long will have to wait until this afternoon. I put on my favourite playlist and run like the wind on my treadmill, singing out loud to every song. I don’t wish any misfortune for my daughter, but I am relieved that they found something. I do know her.
Roger emails me. He’s flying back to Australia for a conference tomorrow. Is there anything I’d like him to bring back from home?
The smell of burnt rubber fills the room as I think hard. For months I’ve moaned about things I miss but this morning all I can think of is a wooden spoon. No shop in Geneva sells them, so it’s little wonder they don’t make cake here.
“I’ll bring you three,” he says, noting how the traditional last prize item in Oz is my number one choice here. “Perhaps you can give one to Sapphire’s doctor.”
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Saturday, November 05, 2011
Saturday morning, 8am.
Milly is straining on the lead, dying for a leash-less run around in the park after two days of non-stop rain and only quick visits downstairs for relieving herself.
Sapphire has been left at home, fitfully sleeping, with her mobile resting on her pillow. Mine is in the pocket of my polar fleece and I finger it nervously, hoping that I’m not a terrible mother for leaving her to give a dog forty five minutes of my undivided attention.
Nafeesa’s grandmother arrives from Lebanon today, the lucky recipient of the laughingly-titled ‘fast track’ visa application on compassionate grounds. Yep, only three weeks: how very thoughtful of them to rush it through for a child without an able parent or family..... Nanna will need help though as she’s eighty one, doesn’t drive, is in a strange country and speaks mostly Arabic.
We’ll all pitch in of course and I know that Nafeesa is greatly looking forward to living in her own home again, where things are familiar and the comforting routines can recommence. This past week, she’s been at her friend Paige’s place. Sapphire’s been too ill for us to have her at ours and, well, she’s made it clear that we’re, um, not who she wants to stay with, despite the wishes of her mother and mother’s best friend. Still, if she wants a week of late nights, junk food and sporadic visits to hospital but is having some fun, who can deny her that when she’s endured several weeks of stress?
Love Chunks is in Canada running a conference and workshop; stopping only to head to the airport, bypass the US and do the same thing for another week in Mexico.
I think back to my birthday, two days ago. Sapphire’s blood test showed that her body was definitely struggling with a major illness, but that her major organs (liver, etc) were functioning normally. Her temperature had finally lowered, but the headaches, diarrhoea, nausea, exhaustion and wrenching stomach pains had not.
“Sorry about ruining it, Mum,” she whimpered, head in my lap as I stroked her forehead. “I got up when you were in the shower and your cards and presents are on the lounge.”
She had sewed me a bag for my latest knitting project and alongside it was a golden chocolate Lindt bear. “Look inside the bag, Mum,” she urged, sitting up slowly, the morning light showing too pale a complexion and dark circles under her eyes.
A beautiful hand-made card with sentiments inside that brought me to tears. “No Mum, look in the bag.” Inside was a framed magazine advertisement pulled from a magazine of the month and year of my birth – November 1968. Nestle’s chocolate – Born in Switzerland, their secret is now being shared with you. “I found it on ebay and when we were at Jumbo’s I put the frame in with the ones you had bought and hoped that you wouldn’t notice. Dad did framed it when you were on your treadmill.” Yes, my other present, which arrived a week ago.
More tears from me as I rushed back to the other lounge and cuddled her. She’s twelve now and yet I still automatically breathe in her hair and am instantly reminded of her as a newly-bathed baby. “Mum, you’re not supposed to cry on your birthday,” Sapphire laughs.
Love Chunks writes me an email with a message so simple and beautiful that I’ve read it every time I’ve logged on since. The rest of the day is spent knitting as Sapphire watches the motley collection of Antiques Road Trip shows we’ve recorded, running an ongoing guessing game on how much each item will fetch at auction. The TV is regularly paused for her to recover from a painful stomach spasm or to dash to the toilet and my worry is masked by the rude jokes I make to try and get her to smile. “Everything is about farts and poos with you, Mum,” she says in a not-very disapproving tone.
Two days later and Milly and I are about to walk into the park. A quick glance shows that there are no other dogs nearby for her to scare off, so I bend down to unsnap her lead.
Putta putta putta putta – one of the ubiquitous mini-bikes has screeched to a halt on the opposite side of the street, the driver calling out to me in French.
“Parlez vous Anglais?”
“Yes,” he says with relief. “There was a bakery here...” he gestures to the shop behind him whose windows are papered white, “........do you know where it is now?”
Being an inexplicable magnet for direction seekers, I actually do know. “Here, it’s around the corner, where we’re heading. It’s only been open for two days, very fancy now. Follow me.”
He nods in agreement, driving on the left hand side of the road as he does so, breaking the law. It’s 8am on a foggy Saturday morning, who’s going to notice?
The police, that’s who. Out of nowhere a heavily armoured van pulls up alongside us, six serious faces peering through the dark windows that are now slowly rolling down.
No French this time; I think my ‘Oh My God’ has given them a clue.
“Do you know where Eric’s bakery has moved to?”
Half an hour later, with a muddy but happy dog I’m still laughing as I walk back home, knowing that Sapphire will get a kick of out this story when I see her.
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.