A friend like Alice

I met Alice when I was in my early thirties. She was older than my dad yet she gave me a completely different perspective on how to be an older person. Up until then, my future looked bleak but as soon as I saw Alice on the badminton court, I knew I could be different.

Alice was a life-long badminton player and what she lacked in speed and maybe some flexibility, she gained in strategy and placement. She taught me how to play soft drop shots that even the fastest opponents couldn’t return. Always first on the courts, she played to win and would often call the shuttle ‘out’ before it touched the ground, to which we would tease her.  She showed no mercy and made the most of every moment on the court. I learned more than just badminton tactics from this old dear.

Her life story was shared to me through the years and although I have forgotten specific details, I learned about her younger years with her being raised by her father in Natal. I heard  stories of her three children of whom she was immensely proud and a life with her husband who passed away some time before I met her. She would bring in photo albums of her grandkids and more recently her great grandkids and her chest would puff out proudly at her offspring.

Alice had an adventurous spirit and planning her holidays gave her immense joy. She would gently stick her toungue out when telling us of an upcoming overseas trip that she was ferociously saving up for. Australian summers, European boat trips and visits to the Uk were just some of the trips that would make her eyes sparkle. Badminton and travel were some of her joys and I enjoyed listening to her plans to make the most out of her holidays. I would marvel at her courage and perseverance and laughed with her when she chastised the other ‘oldies ‘ for being boring.

After some health issues it became clear that she could no longer play her beloved badminton without seriously risking more injuries. With a very heavy heart she stopped coming and I know it must have infuriated her immensely. I popped in to see her a couple of times and I think it may have upset her to be reminded of the game that she terribly missed. She proudly showed me her knitting and her projects and despairingly showed me the infuriating bruises and sores on her legs that were ‘taking too damn long to heal’.

Alice made a huge impression on my life and gave me a great example on not only how to play badminton but how to life my life to the fullest. We would joke that she and the Queen shared a birthday and in my mind she was a queen. A queen of life. After almost 90 years of living her best life, she will continue to remain in our hearts.

Rest in Peace, dear Alice

A friendship of truth

Debbie’s friend  Tony died. He was younger than me and had been friends with Debbie for over 20 years .

He told his truth. The truth is ugly. Not gentle and often hard to hear. Debbie heard and she stayed. She saw past the conflict, his pain of living and struggles and saw him fully. Whole. In turn, he saw her. It was a unique bond but a strong one.

Months, possibly even years, of no contact yet the underlying connection was one of knowing. Knowing that they saw each other. Neither of them were easily fooled.

She called him out when other friends may have let behaviour, words or pain interrupt the friendship. She stayed- logical; supportive and honest .

They seemed to get each other wordlessly. I watched their last interaction behind hospital masks. Standing behind Debbie I watched Tony’s response to her. It was clear. Tired, almost speechless but honest. She got that. She knew. He  knew she did.

Sometimes the best connections are without speech. Even when faced with the grim truth of a fatal end. The thanks expressed through a look in the eyes. The wordless acknowledgement of being a witness like no other. The future unimportant. In that momentarily connection, everything was said, felt and received without it getting gushy and pretty. Nor was it ugly.

It was beautiful. It was love.

RIP Tony.


So now what?

I love music. I have been a groupie, a fan, a fadget and possibly a stalker. I discovered at a young age, that I can jump inside the music and in between the notes and connect to whatever the musician connects to. ‘Live’ music does that even easier. When I was a twenty something, concerts fueled me, invigorated me, and made me feel alive.

I saw most of my favourite bands including David Bowie, in my ‘gap year’ but a couple remained elusive and one of them only formed years later.

I would boldly say, ‘there are only two bands left for me to see and I will do anything to see them’. This proved itself to be prophetic years later, with my zooming off to Dublin, last minute, to see Peter Gabriel for a crazy 3 day trip but it was worth every cent.

The last one remaining unseen was ‘Collective Soul’ – an American rock band.

Fast forward a couple of years and I see the magic words. They are coming to South Africa! I make sure that I will be in the country/city/universe and book tickets .

The day (or night) arrives and I am beyond excited. I feel like an electric cable- stripped and  left out in the rain. It takes a lot of self control to stay in my body all day and I want to go and camp out at the venue as soon as I wake up.

The grown up me is amused but the teenager doesn’t care. All I want is to feel the frenzy of the live music, the songs that have fueled me for the last twenty years.

I meet with my sister and friends rather reservedly and eat dinner, all the while I am restraining the ‘go, go, go’ in my body. I was concerned about the venue because I am an acoustic snob and this venue is not built for sound, but I know I will have to overlook this -for now.

A few short hours later, I am in front of the dudes who have sang, played and drummed   the soundtrack of my recent life. I keep blinking, trying not to sing over them so I can hear them properly and let it sink into my veins. I feel drugged yet surreal.  I don’t want them to stop. They have 20 years of tracks which adds to many hours of possible song play but can only give less than two.  The crowd is drunk wait- dronk- and everyone leaves too quickly. There is no encore. This can’t be it? Surely?

Ed takes his  guitar backstage while playing us Comrades runners’ theme tune ‘We’ve got a long way to run’. I can tell he doesn’t want this to end either.  But the crowd dissolves in search of their uber, or bar and my connection is rudely broken. My last band is done.

I listen to their CD in my car a day later and I feel tears well up. So many songs they didn’t play. It feels like I only read the menu but didn’t get to eat. My mind is searching for ways to fulfill this hunger. Maybe I could follow them to Cape Town, or America…. then Ed (with his dishy brother )would invite me into their basement and I could feed my body while they rehearse. I laugh at the teenage angst with the wisdom of an old person who knows the impossible.

I have to be content with their CD’s.

The electric cable is still flapping about a little, sadly the sparks are dimmer now.  But I do know that miracles can occur and I believe in the impossible. So maybe now, it is just a matter of making a new list….

“She said that time is unfair 
To a woman her age
Now that wisdom has come 
Everything else fades 
She said she realizes 
She’s seen her better days 
She said she can’t look back 
To her days of youth 
What she thought were lies 
She later found was truth….”