Scrapbook: Memory

My scrapbook had been pretty dormant the past two or three years, new content being mainly service sheets for funerals of members of the congregation where I’ve attended as church warden/verger/dogsbody.

One item that I will always appreciate is the regimental condolence card that the SLOB’s (Scarlet Lancers Old Boys) sent me after my Dad, Sunray, died on 16 January this year.  A British Army cavalry regiment is truly a band of brothers.

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The words on the inside of the card come from the regimental song, Old Stable Jacket. Sing mit!

Have a brotherly day, won’t you!

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Not a Coincidence – a God-incidence

We often talk about coincidences when it’s a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Let’s wind back to Saturday just gone.

I was feeling tired and almost decided to head directly back home for a power nap, not go shopping, but order pizza for evening meal. Instead, I forced myself to go to the local supermarket en route, mainly because I had a craving for their banana split ice cream.

I went and did my shopping.

I was then proceeding in an easterly direction out of my local Aldi, when I noticed two elderly men near the entrance, one of whom was spitting onto the ground. It turned out he was spitting blood, having had quite a nasty fall.

It turned out that our man spoke hardly a word of German. His mother tongue was, however, Russian, so I was asked to help out while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I then acted as interpreter between him and the medics, including taking down his medical history. I had forgotten the Russian word for “diabetes”, so I asked him, “Do you have the illness where you have sugar in your blood?”

I explained to him that the paramedics would now take him to the hospital, where they would do a more substantial assessment and get a dentist to stitch up his lip which he had bitten quite badly as he fell.

Job done.  I was exactly where God wanted me to be.

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Have an incidental day, won’t you!

A Quarter of A Century

“A quarter of a century” sounds (to my ear) like a longer time than “twenty-five years.”  It’s a quarter of a century since I last had cause to speak Slovene, a South Slavonic language, spoken, funnily enough, in Slovenia, ex-Yugoslavia.

How did I end up studying Slovene?  Lots of reasons.

  • It was a final-year option on my degree course (BA Russian Studies, University of Nottingham).
  • It saved me having to take a literature option.
  • I thought it would be easy to learn, having done Russian and Serbo-Croat
    • It was not to be.  I kept on using words from Russian and “naš jezik”, much to the annoyance of our Slovene lectrice…

Then today I read a very thought-provoking article on the BBC News website, all about graduates coping after they finished university.  It drew for me comparisons with service personnel leaving HM Forces.  My Dad’s words after he left the employment of the Queen after 22 years were:

I felt like a fish out of water.

That’s how I felt in the summer of 1993.  After nearly two decades in education, including kindergarten, here I was at the Job Centre.

  • What career did I want?
    • No idea.  I just wanted a job, just to pay the bills.
  • Where did I want to be?
    • No idea.  Ideally back at university, studying, but I needed to get a job and like the ex-HMF people, get used to Civvy Street.
  • What next?
    • There was no daddy to speak to one his mates to get me an internship or job in his firm.  There were no graduates in my family to help guide me.  Just armchair experts.

Twenty-five years later, here I am in Germany.  In life the journey is the destination.

Have a careerist day, won’t you!

 

 

Charlie don’t surf – Glasshopper doesn’t hug trees

Glasshopper and I go back to over 40 years to the days when he and I were pads brats “Klassenkameraden” at Wolfenbüttel, Germany.  He is nowadays a police officer, and spent several years as a riot policeman (Bereitschaftspolizist).  On the nerd/jock spectrum he and I would probably find ourselves at opposite ends.

In fact, here we are in this photo from 1977, HM Queen’s silver jubilee year.  Glasshopper is rear rank, furthest left.  I am next to him, with my finger in mouth.  Cute, eh?

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On the last Wednesday in October 2017 Glasshopper’s wife was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

How is it that I remember that date?  Photographic memory?  No.  Did I just check in my Moleskine diary?  No.  It was the night that I had just come home from an excellent comedy evening down the Altstadt.  In fact, when I got home, I had been laughing so much, it was as if I had been doing sit-ups all night.  (Most unlikely.)

But once I had arrived home and had logged onto Facebook, I wasn’t laughing much any longer.

I saw Glasshopper’s posts on Facebook.  I saw his wife’s posts on Facebook.  I had arrived  home at 02:12.  Glasshopper was still up and on Facebook.  Glasshopper told me the devastating news.

My reply did not consist of Bible passages or words from hymns:

F*ck f*ck f*ck.

And then:

Sh1t, sh1t, sh1t!

Today was Mrs Glasshopper’s last of ten chemotherapy sessions.  This week they have several appointments to review progress (or lack thereof) and options.  Frankly, there are few options left.  When I asked Schatz (who knows a thing or two about medicine) a week after diagnosis, I summarised her answer as:

Also, der Tod ist sicher.

(“So, death is certain.”)

Over the last month I’ve chatted to Glasshopper a lot, forming a rapport with him, trying to work him out.  He seemed cheery, but was that alpha-male, riot policeman, bravado?  No, he is genuinely businesslike (perhaps as his coping strategy) and realistic.  He even uses the D-word: death. No euphemisms.  No:

  • The inevitable
  • When she passes away
  • When she moves on
  • When the end happens
  • Etc

Instead: death and dying.  He’s calling a spade a spade.  (DE: die Ding beim Namen nennen.)

Mrs Glasshopper, on the other hand, is in denial.  She’s not saying her goodbyes, because she denies shes going yet.  She is convinced that she will still be alive – despite doctors’s predictions – for her son’s graduation in two years and probably many more family events.  Death is the last taboo in our western society.  Nobody wants to die, at least, not early.

By analogy, I once joked to a female friend of mine:

Women have PMT.  Men suffer from PMT.

Maybe it’s similar here.  The patient has the terminal cancer.  The family suffer from the cancer.  Am I being too cold?  Too clinical here?  Is Glasshopper?

He even ‘fessed up last week:

Sometimes I just want her to go so she is no longer in pain, and so I don’t have to deal with this any more.  And I feel an absolute a$$hole for saying that.

Since then he has called me “Padre Ginge.”

This is not Hollywood cliché.  No:

  • Miraculous recovery
  • Constant hugs
  • Reiterations of “I love you”
  • Final hours in hospital bed, surrounded by loved ones and devoted medics
  • Final beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep on the electronic monitor

Woody Allen is famous/notorious for his quotation:

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

What can I do?  What can Glasshopper do?  Probably not much.  I told him this morning:

Padre Ginge is here if you need to let off steam, swap silly jokes, send internet memes or links to YouTube videos of cheesy 1970’s hits.

We pads brats don’t hug trees.  We don’t even hug humans.  We don’t do group therapy.  We do, however, look after each other in our own unique way, which “bl00dy civvies” never quite understand.

Please, folks, pray for and think of Glasshopper and his wife next time your train is running late or there is too much milk in your tea.

Have a grateful day, won’t you!

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