Thursday, 13 December 2012

Annus Horribilis

2012. What a rubbish year. I lost my lovely sister, my wonderful mother and my mother in law. I said goodbye to my friends and family in the UK with great sadness to move to Fiji. I said farewell to my work colleagues at the Regional Maternity Survey Office leaving them to the vagaries of the UK coalition government who have systematically destroyed an internationally enviable public health system. Goodbye 2012 and good riddance.

Except 2012 isn’t finished with me yet. Cyclone Evan is slowly making a u-turn whilst sitting on top of Samoa and is setting its sights on Fiji.

Evan on Friday afternoon (Fiji time).

Those of you that have known me for a long time know that John and I have been here before. In 1989 on the island of St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, Hurricane Hugo nearly destroyed us. We lost our jobs, our home and all of our wedding presents (except the horrible ones that we’d put in the closet). What we like to say is that we (barely) survived Hurricane Hugo. A storm is not just the actual rain and wind, though those are scary and destructive enough, but the aftermath. No power, no telephone, mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water carrying dengue fever, evacuation chaos, looting, etc...

It has been dismaying to see how unconcerned people are here about this storm. Some of our friends and neighbours in St Croix were also blasé about Hugo. The last hurricane that had made a serious impact on the island was in the late 1920s so as far as most people were concerned, a hurricane was something that everyone got vaguely worked up about for very little.  As of early this morning, I appeared to be the only one stocking up on provisions – water, batteries, insect repellent, cat food (for the cats), first aid stuff, etc... Let’s just hope that Cyclone Evan passes us by and I’m stuck with a lot of dried pasta.

Fortunately Anna is away in the UK for Christmas, so they’ll be enough room in the linen cupboard for me, John and the cats if things get too wild. I was so sad that she wasn't going to be here for Christmas, now I’m just relieved. In my experience, in the battle between man versus nature, man always loses when Mother Nature is serious enough.

It is difficult to tie in the discussion about the approaching storm with the death of my mother, Marianna Wieder van Erp earlier this week, so I’m just going to jump straight to it. My lovely mother died a gentle death with very good hospice care (by Pathways) in the company of my surviving sisters. They, my brother, sister in law and his grown up girls have worked so hard since she fell ill in November – her prognosis was a moving target so what everyone was supposed to be doing or feeling kept changing. When I left her at the end of November, she was in rehab, planning to go into assisted living. I was convinced that I’d see her again in the spring. I’m very glad that I got to spend those ten days together, massaging her feet with Fijian coconut oil and filling her in on the minutia of my existence when she was too tired to talk. Precious moments that I treasured while they were happening, the memories of my sister’s passing being so fresh.

At a winery during one of the family reunions my mother was generous enough to host in 2009. She and my dad cemented our family together with these gatherings.

One of my favourite quotes is by Gore Vidal – “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies”. Call me a cynic, but I think this is true for everyone except in the case of parents (particularly mothers) who rejoice in their children’s successes without reservation.  I was really happy that my sisters were able to tell my mother that I have a job now, because I’m certain that besides John (who has his eye on the bank balance) my mother would have been the happiest person on the planet about it.

I look forward to posting again soon to tell you about how all of our preparations for the storm were for nought. Maybe I’ll throw a party next week and serve pasta and cat food.

1 comment:

  1. I can see from the weather warnings that your in the storm right now 2100 15 Dec. Mary, John look after yourselves, we're worrying about you! And yes lets get this ghastly horrible year over with!