by Howard | August 28, 2014 1:26 pm
South Africans are both blessed and cursed. We are fortunate in many ways that culturally it’s not a “right-of-passage” for us to have to go to university away from home. And many don’t. They choose to stay with their family, where they can continue to torment parents, siblings and unsuspecting pet cats at their leisure. Only, they are able to do so with full tummies and neatly ironed underwear (it’s a South African thing). Sadly though, often when they do decide to continue their education elsewhere, a non-expired passport with two blank pages and an inflatable neck pillow is required.
We have one of each. And it’s the other one that I want to focus on for a moment, because he leaves tonight. And I can’t wait! Earlier, I received an email from a distressed travel-agent (I still use one of those) to tell me the flight has been delayed by two hours. I wept. I really did. I could not contain myself. Anyone outside looking in would be touched by what these two hours would mean to me – more time to spend with my son, they would assume, to instruct him in the wisdom of the ages and to tell him what a magnificent man he is become. But the truth is simply that I can’t wait. A 45 (okay 46) year old cannot live with a 19 year old practicing alcoholic. And by practicing I mean working hard on it but failing miserably, having sworn off anything above 1.5 % alcohol since last Saturday night when he had an unfortunate experience, along with the rest of the family who had to witness his humiliation (although it was extremely funny).
It is also about the fact that even given that his studies have hardly started, he considers himself a sage. Aristotle meets Freud with a hint of Viktor Frankl. It is clear that he wonders how we manage to keep it together without him (better than he would like to imagine) and his wisdom that he is prepared to share from time to time, when he does look up from “Clash of Clans” on his mobile, is expected to be greeted with awe. Apparently, to add it all, we have also lost our way in parenting his younger siblings, which is very disappointing considering we were clearly not very impressive in terms of his upbringing either. And I have a list of misdemeanors to prove it.
But he is sensitive, pointing out our horrible treatment of other members of our family, our staff and our pets. On his last trip home I caught him displaying vegetarian tendencies when he thought no one was looking, which is akin to an American burning his flag.
Of course what annoys me most is that I could not have been much different at his age, and am probably, at 45 (okay 46), pretty much the same today. And maybe it’s simply that it’s too crowded for so many “know-alls” to live in one house. We can’t all fit on the soap-box, and although we can all speak at once, there hardly seems much point. Maybe we don’t like the mirror that holds up for us to see, and maybe he drinks to forget? If I behaved like he did last Saturday night, I know I would not want to remember it.
And of course, I am now going to be lectured on why this column is a particularly poor idea, and that I should really consider the consequences of my actions. And I will hang my head in shame, that is until we go to the airport, and I can hold the rascal in my arms before I return home to comfort the cat, who I know will miss him desperately.
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