Life is strange.
There can surely be no-one left on the planet who doesn’t believe this statement.
They used to say “Life is what you make it.”
Do they still believe this to be true?
Because things happen to people that they didn’t plan or have any input into. Lots of things. One can only choose what appears to be the best way of handling a given situation.
Take Grant, for instance. He was born in South Africa in the late 60’s, during the long period of apartheid.
Childhood travels had made me very interested in different peoples and cultures.
My father had talked of South Africa and my brother had chosen to work in Africa. We discussed it in my anthropology classes. So, one way or another, in the 60’s, South Africa was in my mind.
As an airline employee, I was able to obtain tickets for family members to travel at a discount and my mother was always keen to take a break from running the apartment house in Barbados.
One of my mother’s choices was South Africa and I was pleased to finally visit the country I had so often thought of.
Sadly, I have no photographs from that holiday which didn’t turn out as well as we had hoped due to my mother’s health.
She never told me what was wrong. I was thousands of miles from anyone I knew (my brother was by then in the Gulf), worried sick, not knowing what to do. Mum refused to let me call a doctor.
In consequence, I booked “easy” tours that would take us to places I thought my mother would like. She did her best, I am sure, to seem to enjoy it, but I think the holiday was as big an ordeal for her as it was for me.
Such a shame, because South Africa is a stunningly beautiful country. It was Spring and just lovely.
The only reservation I had had, about travelling to South Africa had been the issue of apartheid. But I was determined to be open-minded about it. In the event, it made me uncomfortable, but I was in no way qualified to have an opinion about a system I did not live with. It was a lot more complicated and involved than outsiders could possibly realize.
One of the cities we visited was Durban, on the east coast. Grant was born near there and would have been about two years old at the time.
The reason I mention this is because I can remember thinking of the generations to come in South Africa, wondering how life would be for them. Black and white. Clearly, there would be many difficulties ahead.
How would it feel, to grow up in a country shunned by most of the world? And assuming apartheid would get repealed eventually, how would things pan out?
At the beginning, here, I said life is strange.
When I met Grant, it occurred to me that he is one of those South Africans I’d thought about, all those years ago, who had grown up with all that was happening to his beautiful country.
Some say you get what you think of, but I have never found this to be so, which means that my meeting Grant was just a coincidence. If it was, it was actually a whole sequence, the details of which are unimportant.
Let’s just say there were at least four factors involved. Minus just one, the meeting would not have happened.
Mum and I rode the Blue Train from Cape Town to Johannesburg and I saw a rhino running along the track.(Hence the picture.)
Aside from those other four factors, if Bob hadn’t happened to be on the path that day, just as Grant was on his patio, I would not have stopped to talk to her.
Without noticing the tall bloke taking the air, I would have entered the building to go up and feed a friend’s cats. And that would have been that.
Bob was the latest stray Grant was trying to protect, so when I spoke to her, I guess he recognized a kindred spirit, and he spoke to me.