Okuribito (Memory)

That early harbinger (don’t you love that word?) of Spring in my garden, prunus nigra (the flowering plum), was in full bloom in the middle of August and I’m hoping that this is an indication that the prospect of severe frost is over, but you never can tell, can you? Other spring flowers, like hellebores, primroses, bluebells and daffies (all very English country garden) are starting to show signs of life and the indigenous osteospermum, scabiosa, and felicia are putting on a lovely show. I planted a variety of over two hundred indigenous bulbs several months ago and scattered several packets of flower-mix seeds among them. It looks as if they have all surfaced and I can’t wait to see what I get. It’s like getting a lucky packet of flowers.

prunus nigra

prunus nigra

felicia amelloides

felicia amelloides

I love gardening; it involves so many different activities, on so many different levels. From sitting in bed surrounded by all my gardening books, planning changes to the existing garden, deciding what follows what in the allotment beds (crop rotation can be quite complicated and records must be kept!), drawing sketches and researching the plants; to shopping at one of my favourite places, the Midlands Garden Centre in Rosetta and talking garden talk to the owners; to the nitty gritty of composting, planting, pruning, weeding and watering; to harvesting one’s own produce and picking flowers for the vase. What’s not to love? I also get a chance to mull things over when I garden and the other day, as I was creating a new bed going down the steps between the wee house and my house, I started mulling over the issue of “dirty pain”. A few days before, I had taken Edna to the dentist in Nottingham Road to have one of her molars taken out. Dr Laz has, in the past, removed a couple of her teeth as well as capping one of mine. He is a wonderfully gentle dentist and neither of us has ever had anything but good to say about him (not to mention the fact that he is also quite dishy!). Be that as it may, Edna told me that she had not been able to sleep much the previous night, worrying about the visit to the dentist. On the day, I sat with her while Dr Laz gave her the anaesthetic injections, which she didn’t feel. I then left to run some errands in Nottingham Road. When I returned it was all over and done with and she was absolutely fine, no pain just a bit of discomfort. So, in fact the actual extraction had caused less pain than the worrying about it. That’s dirty pain!

According to my friend Martha, “Dirty pain is any suffering that comes about from not (the) events themselves but from your thoughts about the events.” Knowing this, why is it so bloody difficult not to worry about stuff that hasn’t even happened and why do we always think of the worst case scenario?

When I left on my travels, Edna, her dog Sandy and my two dogs, Layla and Milo, went to stay in Durban with Peter. Sandy is a farm dog who hates city life, so when she went off her food it was put down to her “pining for the fiords”. After a week of not eating my friend Judy took her to a vet in Durban who diagnosed a blockage in her stomach. Peter then gave her sardines (his cure-all for tummy / dog problems), the tummy worked and on a return visit to the vet, she was given the all clear. We thought that she had made a miraculous recovery; however, when we returned to the farm, I noticed that all was not well with Sandy. She had stopped eating again so I moved her in with me to look after her.  Why do kids and dogs always get sick on weekends? It’s bloody Sod’s Law. On Friday she started vomiting and on Saturday I noticed blood in her stools. So on Sunday morning Peter and I took her to the emergency clinic in Howick. The vet, Pete Johnson, was fantastic. He explained to me that Sandy was seriously ill, and that to survive she needed to be hospitalised,  put on a drip, perhaps a blood transfusion, an ultrasound to determine what was wrong with her, etc. etc. He suspected a stomach tumour and the prognosis was not good. To cut a long story short we took the decision to rather have her put to sleep. What I liked about the vet was that although he didn’t steer us in that direction, once we took the decision he supported us and confirmed that it was the humane thing to do. I appreciated that and the fact that he had a clinic backing up behind us (he’s only open from 9:00- 10:00 am on Sundays, for emergencies) and he never rushed us. Thanks, Dr Johnson, you were incredibly kind.

There are times when I wonder, as many women do, why I need a man in my life. Sometimes, I’m sorry to say, they seem more trouble than they’re worth. But on Sunday, as I stood at Sandy’s side holding her head so that I would be the last thing she would ever see through those huge, gentle brown eyes as she was put to sleep, I thanked god for Peter at my side, his arm around me, as it has always been, without me even knowing it.

So what has this to do with “dirty pain”? Since Sunday I have been asking myself: What if I had taken Sandy to the vet sooner? If only I had …………, maybe I should’ve……….  So when I wake up in the early hours of the morning agonising about my Sandy Girl and what I could’ve or should’ve done differently, I’m going to tell myself that it’s just “dirty pain” and see if that helps. I’m not holding my breath.

Sandy, January 2008

Sandy, January 2008

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2 Responses to Okuribito (Memory)

  1. Judy says:

    Having known and loved Sandy and having seen the movie, Departures, your blog “brought a tear to me eye and a lump to me throat”.

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