Mother’s Little Helper

 

If Kiera is my soulmate (“karmic-ly” speaking) then I know Alex was sent to try me! He is my blue-eyed boy, the apple of my eye but if ever I had needed to resort to those little yellow pills, it would have been because of him.

He was born 6 years after Kiera and was doted on by Peter and me, Kiera and his beloved grandma, Enna (which is what both he and Kiera call my mum). He was spoilt rotten by us, I admit, and he had us all wrapped around his little finger. As he has matured he has become quite a charming young man, with a quirky sense of humour and a gentle soul. He is currently studying to become a chartered accountant at Stellenbosch University. It is a career that I think will suit him because he is quite a methodical, meticulous kind of person. He has settled into university and residence life quite easily and is enjoying living in Stellenbosch. He has applied himself diligently to his studies and has even managed to obtain quite a few distinctions. He has a really great group of friends, all quite responsible like him. Alex turned 19 years old in October last year.

However there have been occasions when he has sorely tested our resilience and they have all involved alcohol and phone calls at about 4 o’clock in the morning. The first was when he was in matric and was staying over with friends who lived in Mount Edgecombe, just north of Durban. They went to a club in Umhlanga Rocks and Alex, after having too much to drink, left the club and got lost. He then passed out in a bougainvillea bush (I know this because I pulled a bougainvillea thorn out of his head the next day). His friends in the meantime discovered him gone; he wasn’t answering his phone so they actually walked from Umhlanga to Mount Edgecombe (about 20 kilometres) looking for him along the way. When they couldn’t find him, they phoned the police and then I got the call. It is heart stopping to be woken up by someone telling you that your child is missing and that the police need a recent photograph. I was in such shock that I literally could not think straight, as Peter got dressed to go and look for him, I could not fathom out how to find a photograph of Alex. To cut a long story short, one of the dads, who was returning to Mount Edgecombe after being on call at Umhlanga hospital, picked the boys up and went looking for Alex, who finally woke up, managed to give them a street name and, using GPS, they found him. We thought he had learned his lesson.

The next incident happened when Alex came home to Durban for the June / July holidays last year, coinciding with the Football World Cup being played in Africa for the first time. I had returned to the city for a few weeks to spend some time with him. Alex and his friends got together to watch the opening game of the world cup. Of course, lots of beer was consumed and Alex had drunk way too much by the end of the evening. Unbeknown to us he decided to continue the party on the Durban beachfront. His friends advised him against it and what possessed him to go off on his own he doesn’t know, but he caught a taxi to the beachfront, where he joined the other soccer revellers and had even more to drink.

In the early hours of the morning he made his way to a burger joint and was sitting outside eating a burger when he was accosted by several guys trying to sell him some weed. After telling them that he wasn’t interested, he took out his phone to call for a cab but he fumbled with it and dropped it. As he was putting it back together a guy, calling himself Mohammad, came up to Alex, took the phone out of his hands and told him that the other guys were bad news and were after his phone and that he would keep it safe for him. He also told Alex that he would give him a lift home. Alex, in his inebriated state, thought Mohammad looked familiar and asked him if he knew a friend of ours. And of course he said he did, he said he was his cousin! So Alex, thinking he had found a friend, followed Mohammad away from the burger joint. He repeatedly asked for his phone and Mohammad replied that he was keeping it safe and that Alex shouldn’t worry because he had a gun. At that point Alex realised he was in trouble but was too scared to make a run for it in case the guy shot him. Unfortunately he had no idea where he was as he had been led down the back alleys away from the beachfront, eventually landing up at a shebeen in a very dodgy part of Durban. He was taken into a room which, according to him, was full of Nigerians smoking crack. Alex was by now terrified and was starting to hyperventilate! Mohammad had disappeared with his phone and the Nigerians were trying to get Alex to smoke some crack, to calm him down they said.

Again, to cut a long story short, a young, black woman took pity on him and let him use her phone to call us. So at 4am we got a call from an unfamiliar number, Alex on the other end told us that he was “in kak” (as he put it), that someone called Mohammad had run off with his phone,  that he was in a shebeen and that he had Nigerians after him. Then the phone went dead. We tried to call the number back but it went straight to voicemail. I put the kettle on and made some tea, as one does in situations like this, and waited for another call. About 30 minutes later he phoned again to say he was ok and could Peter fetch him from the beachfront.  A street guard (perhaps one of Kiera’s ex-students!) had offered to show him the way back and was well rewarded by Peter for his kindness. So our son returned home at about 5 am, safe and sound but quite shaken and very sheepish.

And then there was the time he got mugged in Margate on New Year’s Eve; another early morning call and more grey hair for me.  So I now have an inkling of what my parents went through with me. I also had the occasion to call my parents in the early hours of one morning when I was 16 years old, so this may just be payback. I was arrested, along with some friends, for smoking weed! We were held at the Hillcrest police station and I had to phone my dad to ask him to come and get us. He arrived at the station as I was having my finger prints taken and he looked so shocked. I remember him telling the cops, who were being really obnoxious, that they ought to be more polite! We youngsters all thought it was a huge joke at the time but I never really appreciated how he got us all out of that sticky mess, without ever holding it against me. I also only now realise, as I write this, that none of the other kids with me that night had parents that they felt they could phone.

So I hope if Alex ever reads this that he won’t be embarrassed or cross with me for telling the story. It’s all part of life; we’ve all been there and done that in one way or another (perhaps not with Nigerian drug lords though). Anyway it makes me incredibly proud as a parent that we are the ones he turns to when he is in trouble but I do sincerely hope that there won’t be any more wakeup calls that result in any more grey hair.

Alex on his 18th birthday, October 2009

Alex on his 18th birthday, October 2009

Alex on his matric dance night, April 2009

Alex on his matric dance night, April 2009

Three Trees at Spionkop, June 2008

Three Trees at Spionkop, June 2008

scrabble with Enna

scrabble with Enna

you've missed a spot Ted

you’ve missed a spot Ted

Kiera and Alex

Kiera and Alex

Peter and Alex, Christmas Eve 1991

Peter and Alex, Christmas Eve 1991

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6 Responses to Mother’s Little Helper

  1. Lex says:

    Wonderful scary story.How times have changed since we were young.We were so safe back then.The only enemy were the cops.Glad I lived back then.

  2. Mark Muggeridge says:

    Phew Cathy! It seems the dangers lurking out there for young people are far more scary these days, like Lex says – the cops were about as bad as it could have got for us (except for the occasional scary trip to a shabeen).

    • Cathy says:

      I have tried to impress on Alex and his friends to stick together, it’s when they go off on their own that the trouble starts. As youngsters we always did things in a group and always looked out for each other. I think they’ve got the message!

  3. Adam says:

    I think Alex will look back on these times and laugh about them as we all do. He is a lucky guy to have so strong a relationship with you that you are his 1st call in a crisis.
    I didn’t seem to get into that sort of scrape, I think I was always calculating my risk, and I am naturally a bit risk averse though I hope that hasn’t prevented me from pushing boundaries. Our trip to East London in Origin in 1982 was the kind of adventure I was up for. We were the smallest & lightest boat to do that race at that time and were generally thought to be crazy. We came 2nd in the end but in spite of that I think we were crazy!

    • Cathy says:

      Was Origin the boat you built? I’ve always thought the coast from Durban down south to be quite treacherous. I was very nervous about our trip to Cape Town in Red Amber but I would never have admitted that at the time. When Red Amber’s sister yacht capsized I was so relieved our trip had been cancelled.

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