This American Australian Kenyan Life (25/4/12)
It’s been one of those weeks where I’m acutely aware of how strange the juxtaposition of my worlds is.
We had dear friends from Andy’s GW days come and stay with us last week. Ann and Patrick brought with them a mini-mall of American delights we had been anticipating with fervour – Sour Patch Kids, Lego, Cadbury Creme Eggs. Joy of joys, they found and brought the 1980 Australian mini-series “A Town Like Alice”, balm to the soul of an Australian surrounded by non-Australians. And they brought their wonderful selves. It was a joy to reminisce and ponder, discuss and laugh with them as we sat in our living room – joining them on a mental trip to Annapolis MD as we talked about their life, their friends, their struggles, their joys. We watched ridiculous movies clearly written with our sense of humour in mind, and enjoyed the excuse to absorb as many calories as possible.
We spent a day hiking Mount Longonot, a lovely crater only an hour’s drive away, while Susan looked after the kids at home. At least that was the plan – until we got a phone call when we were half way up the ascent that Liam had fallen off a chair, hitting his head, and was inconsolable. I figured it was worth a look at the hospital and started to slowly head home to check on him – until I got the second phone call that he was vomiting and lethargic, at which point I strarted running down the mountain. Meanwhile Jennifer, acting as pediatrician and surrogate cuddler in the hospital, was starting to worry, and consulted the neurosurgical team to see if he should be sent to Nairobi for a CT scan. He was asleep when I arrived in the emergency department, and I held his hand and stroked his head, my eyes glued to the monitor looking for clues that he might be worsening. When he woke up, he sat up to ask for a drink. He remembered everything, he wanted to go home.
Worry and uncertainty, beauty and joy.
We found out 2 days ago that Andy’s Granddad Jack, suffering from dementia, was worsening and was close to comatose. Ancient, surrounded by 3 generations of family and his amazing wife, he slipped away yesterday at home as he had wanted. While not a surprise, it is still a grief – this patriarch, an example of wisdom, adventure and Christ’s enveloping love, will no longer be a part of our earthly lives. We found out at 7am, and at 2pm we were told the funeral would be in 48 hours. And we both realised – we wanted one of us to be there to celebrate this remarkable man with cousins and uncles and sisters and nephews from all over the US – probably in one place for the last time for a long time. To take time out to remember that, in the midst of sometimes messy relationships, that we have been so very blessed in a richness of heritage. Which meant leaving on a flight the same night. Andy scrambled to re-arrange his work week, I started to arrange tickets, we packed, we said goodbye.
Grief and goodbyes, remembrance and celebration.
I am sitting on the couch right now enjoying “movie night” with the kids – popcorn and fruit salad for dinner, with even a scoop of *gasp* icecream. We spent the morning going to the markets, doing arts and crafts and enjoying each other’s company. Tomorrow I am at work and on call, but Susan will stay overnight with us so that if I am needed at the hospital, the kids are secure. We have a slow cooker, laboriously carried over here by Ann and Pat, that will make a delicious dinner for us for tomorrow night while I’m at work during the day. Jennifer is helping with another meal, many others have offered to step in while I’m single parenting if any assistance is required. Here, in the middle of Kenya, I am surrounded by surrogate family whose love is palpable.
Andy is on a plane somewhere between London and Atlanta. The kids already miss daddy, and are counting down the days till he returns. They are a little on edge this evening and tears come easily. And I have not been able to get in touch with Patrick to tell him that Andy, rather than accompanying him for a few days to Addis Abbaba, will instead be in Atlanta.
Tears and disappointments, comfort and encouragement.
It feels a little jarring – reminiscing with college friends. Troubleshooting why yet another diabetic child has received the wrong treatment in the emergency department. Escaping to rural Australia in the 1940s. Making sure to remember to lock up the house properly because Andy’s not here to check. Talking to my sister-in-law as she drives from Michigan to Georgia about my nephew’s 10th birthday and the hugs they’ll be getting soon from Andy. Watching Dora with my daughter on my lap.
But I’m glad I didn’t have to say a permanent goodbye to any parts of this life when we moved to Kenya. Even though they don’t quite fit together perfectly and they interrupt each other at the most inopportune moments, I’m glad for the complexity of this American Australian Kenyan life.