Family matters

Its soppy stuff,

Proud Father

but since I’m on my way home to sunny South Africa for the first time in three years, to see the extended family including new members I haven’t seen before, I do feel kind of soppy.

Family are the people you get stuck with straight out of the womb – not much choice involved usually (well, they can chose to let you live at that point, or not, or if you survive early childhood you can chose to leave later and live in another country – which is NOT why I live in India). Through the actions of Mother and Father the Family provide health services like food, clothing, shelter, medical care and later education, but that’s really only a small part of it.

My family have been a constant inspiration to me on my journey. My dad is a great yogi – albeit that he’s possibly never studied a book or attended a class on yoga, he’s got It anyway. Many of his gentle asides from my unconscious teenage years now pop into my head – practical advice always – a biggie was to respect my Mother for the tremendous sacrifices she’s made in her life for us kids. (Actually, although its embarrassing to admit now, I did need to be told this at one stage – we all have bad patches, sorry to report!)Parents at Traci’s 21st

Dad always insisted we have a plan – even now he asks what you’re planning to do this year, and in 5 years time, and 10 too, and that will automatically drive your monthly, weekly and daily to-do-lists. I’ve seen plenty bestseller Self-Help books written around that wisdom but Dad said it first. The plans can all change of course, but without an initial plan nothing happens. Very true.

He has his adventurous side too though – whatever crazy scheme I have in mind, Dad always says to go ahead and try – do it, and not be in a sad position to regret the missed opportunity later. His experience is that we regret those things in life we missed, never our doings or even our mistakes, which only teach us what to do better next time!

Dad was a great warrior in his youth – a Tzar actually (I can’t say much on this subject, as I don’t know whether the statute of limitations is up, for all his escapades from those days). Apparently he played a robin hoodish role, selling protection from nameless dangers (like detentions) to the stupid, and the greedy, and employing the smart to protect him from same customers – sounds like training for a successful political career to me but sadly he’s never been interested in participating in government higher than the local Neighbourhood Watch committee.

For these sins of his youth probably (karma and all that), he was called upon to teach me to drive – now it all makes tremendous sense, to look left, right, left and right AGAIN at traffic lights, and then to check your mental radar before pulling off as the other guy doesn’t always obey road signals.

However, at the time, my driving was a source of much concern to him as I suffer Left-Right dyslexia – pity the traffic cop who took me for my first driver’s license attempt, and directed me to turn left (or right, doesn’t matter – the other way) onto a busy highway, and panicked (and was rather rude, actually) when I went My way.

Pity my younger Father watching this same confused girl around the same period, driving off with firm resolve to the mountains for a weekend away with equally crazy university mates as passengers in a car she won in a competition (No-one in their right mind would have helped me buy one at that time!). We reached our destination through the simple mechanism of not using the words Left and Right, people just pointed which way I was to turn – it still works better today.

Needless to say we (I) wrote the car off, same weekend, wasn’t a left and right problem though – rather a camel-man attempt to drive quickly, straight through a gravel bed on a fairly wide and sloping turn in the road – which was, must be mentioned, on the side of a rather steep mountain. All got home safely except the car which ended up tucked quite neatly into the side of the mountain, upside down. Pity really – it was a great car from the little I remember, that being the first time I got to drive it.

Typical Karoo landscape

Thanks to those intense driving lessons, I now drive cars comfortably in India (!!), on the wrong side of the road in America, even on the M5 in London, on any road in SA, any vehicle, stick shift or automatic – but I still don’t really know my Left, from my Right. Dad still seems to love me though, and I think he’s allowed me to drive him. Maybe not actually, when I come to think about it – but he has allowed me to borrow the car. That’s what insurance is for, really.

So I am looking forward to seeing my Pops, and trying to persuade him to let me take him out for a drive. I have some good arguements to persuade him I’m ready – its occurred to me you don’t NEED to know your Right from your Left when driving – just follow those nifty arrows on the signposts, painted on the road, painted on barriers along the side of the mountain – its very easy to see which way to go, really. Actually very few roadsigns in the world actually use the words ‘Left’ and ‘Right’. Except No Left Turn perhaps — but I have a medical condition which precludes me from obeying signs like that..

Guess you won’t see me on the road in SA with Dad in the passenger seat then. Maybe next time.