By Patrick O’Leary
It was two years ago that we took some time off to relax at the coast. Our wonderful in-laws, Frans and Elsa Saunders, whose son married my eldest daughter, have a stunning place down in Gansbaai where they plan to retire and offered it to us for our use. I’m so glad my daughter married their son. None of her previous boyfriends had parents with holiday homes at the coast. And what a great place Gansbaai and its surrounds are. Full of Boere whose festivities fill the night air with braai smoke. But, like Barry Hilton accurately describes in his famous skit ‘Nou Gaan ons Braai’, you have to wait until about 10.00pm before that lekker braai smell starts to reach your nostrils. Unlike us Souties, the Boere don’t braai when the sun goes down. They braai when the second bottle of branders is finished and the second bag of charcoal is put onto the fire after the first one has burnt down to cold, useless ash. And that, of course, is if the shop is still open to buy a second bag which was forgotten earlier in the day when they went to the bottle store to buy branders and charcoal and came back with the branders only. I love them.
Anyway, there we were enjoying the peace of my wonderful, kind, generous, graceful in-laws’ home (saying that so they let us use it again sometime – lovely people that they are) when one night, my youngest daughter and I were stretched out on the couches watching TV. My wife was upstairs gathering the washing. She has an obsession with washing. Maybe it’s the gentle hum of the washing machine that does it – or the whirr of the tumble dryer. Whatever it is, she’s a certified washing addict. I’m waiting for the day when I get home, go to the bedroom and she’ll run in and rip my clothes off. Yes, she has read Fifty Shades of Grey. I know I’m going to get excited but I also know that my excitement will be quelled when I’m standing there naked and she looks at me and says: “Why have you got that vacant look in the eyes. I know that look. Don’t even think of it. These clothes need to go into the wash. Out of my way.” And she’ll storm out towards her beloved washing machine leaving her beloved husband to ponder what might have been. By the way, as an aside, on the Fifty Shades of Grey issue I feel us men have been conned for years by our women. There we were, dishing out fortunes buying the prettiest and most fragrant colourful bunches of roses for them when all they wanted was one stem with a good sprinkling of thorns on it. We men could have saved a fortune over the years. But back to the couch.
While watching TV, we heard this thump behind us followed by a plaintive cry: “oooowe.” It was my wife. She was carrying the washing from upstairs to the downstairs washing machine and had fallen down the last few stairs. It looked bad. To cut a long story short, she had broken her ankle and done a proper job of it. It ended up with her having an emergency operation at the hospital in Hermanus where she had 11 pins and a plate put into her ankle. One plate less to wash I thought. When she left the hospital a few days later, we were told by the specialist not to fly back home but to hang in for an extra week or so. It was only later while wheeling her out the hospital holding her crutches that the thought crossed my mind: “Whose going to do the washing?” It was a horrible thought – and it got worse. When we got back to my wonderful, dear, kind, gracious and loving in-laws’ home, it was a monumental effort to get her up the stairs – but we did it. After making sure she was comfortably settled in bed, I thought OK, now for some ‘Me Time’ and turned to go relax with a cup of coffee and a smoke on the verandah. It was not to be. “P-a–a-a- t…” I knew what was coming. This was not good. She always sweetly drags out my name when she wants something. When she’s cross with me, it’s a sharply barked “Pat’. Very sharp. It’s like she spits it out. When she wants something, she rolls it off her tongue. “Can you please take the washing from the basket and put it in the washing machine. And when it’s finished, please put it in the tumble dryer. Also, there are some roasting vegetables in the freezer. (How did she know that?). Can you put them on a roasting tray in the oven at 180 degrees. Oh, and can you also make me a cup of tea please – and maybe a few biscuits with it?” Shame. She’s sore. No problem. I gathered the washing. took it downstairs, opened the door to the machine, threw it in and then – I was stumped. That thing has dials and controls similar to the cockpit of a NASA space rocket – and astronauts train for years to work those dials. How was I supposed to know without proper training? Out came my cell phone. I took pics of all the dials, headed upstairs and asked which ones to push and/or turn. “I don’t believe this,” was her immediate response. “You are useless.” There was no-one else there so I jumped to my own defence: “No, I’m not. I just need training and I’ll be OK. You can’t expect a truck driver to just be shoved into a truck and to start driving. He needs training. You’re not being fair.” Shaking her head, she patiently explained it all to me. Perfect. Unfortunately this procedure had to be repeated for the tumble dryer, the stove (well, it was gas stove you know), and then, horror of horrors the dish washer. As for the supper, I forgot it was in the oven and when I smelt something funny, the veggies were cooked proper. Sort of all crinkled and blackish. So my wife’s first supper with me as chef consisted of some delightful canned peaches sprinkled decoratively with some dabs of that ready-made custard. I thought it was delicious. She tuned over and went to sleep.
The next day I went upstairs, sat on the edge of the bed and said: “You know. I’ve failed to do something very important in all the years of our marriage.” She asked what that was. I replied. “I’ve failed to say thank you for all you do for me. I’ve perhaps taken it for granted because you just get on and do it. Thank you.” She looked at me: “It’s a pleasure,” she said with a lovely smile. As I walked out to make her a cup of tea, I turned back and said: “But can we ease up a bit on the washing addiction?” She laughed: “Get out of here.”
My Christmas wish to all this year is that we all take a bit of time out to say thanks to the people around us. There are probably many people who do things for you – your family, your work colleagues, your friends – and you’re too busy to notice and say thanks. The beauty of a thank you as a gift is that it doesn’t cost any money. And it comes in the best Christmas wrapping anyone could wish for – You! Happy Christmas and thank you to everyone in this wonderful trucking industry for enhancing my life. And to all our non-Christian friends, I extend a warm thank you to you as well. I wish you all a Happy Festive Season. God Bless you all. Happy holidays and stay safe!