Leon Retief. Om in Moose Jaw oud te word

Om een of ander rede is Moose Jaw ʼn gewilde aftreeplek. Moenie my vra waarom nie want dis nou nie juis asof ons ʼn subtropiese klimaat het nie. Die dorp is vol ouetehuise, die hoogste gebou in Moose Jaw (15 verdiepings) is ʼn ouetehuis skuins agter ons woonstelgebou.

Saam met ouderdom kom ook die onvermydelike aftakeling en ek sien elke week twee of drie pasiënte wat nie weet waar of wie hulle is nie. Ek staan soms verstom oor die handevol pille wat hierdie ou mense gebruik – en dan nie oor-die-toonbank pille nie maar medisyne wat net op voorskrif beskikbaar is. Dit wil my voorkom asof Kanadese dokters refleksief na die voorskrifboekie gryp wanneer ʼn pasiënt ʼn klagte het. Of Kanadese so oud word as gevolg van al die pille of te spyte daarvan weet ek nie…

Selfs in die middel van die winter sien mens soms ou mense stap met daardie looprame op wieletjies, hul emfisemateuse asems wat wit wolke voor hul gesigte blaas. Meestal word hulle deur die provinsiale departement van gesondheid se “Home Care Department” versorg en ek moet sê dat Saskatchewan baie goed na hul oumense omsien maar dit plaas natuurlik ʼn geweldige las op die provinsiale begroting. As die huidige tendense voortduur sal mediese sorg van die bevolking as geheel teen 2030 sowat 70% van die beskikbare finansies opslurp – ooglopend ʼn onhoudbare situasie.

Glen Sorestad, die Saskatoonse digter wie se verse ek al voorheen hier geplaas het, beskryf in sy bundel Today I belong to Agnes hoe hy sy moeder se stadige aftakeling beleef het.

 

Care Assessment

 

 The woman from Home Care talks with Mother,

asks her various questions; Mother proffers

quite credible replies and everything is well

until the assessor asks how old Mother is.

“Oh, I’m a hundred years old,” Mother says

without the slightest hesitation; she’s eleven years

off the mark this time. “Really? One hundred?”

“Oh, yes,” Mother smiles her sweetest affirmation

 as the other seeks corroboration in her files.

 

Now why has Mother decided that today

she will be a hundred years old? Was she

thinking of her favourite aunt who lived

to her hundredth birthday? Has she decided

if her aunt could do it why not she? Or is

Mother engaging in a bit of harmless sport

with this earnest woman, leading her on

before her laughter lets the other know

she’s been duped by an eighty-nine year old?

 

I’m leaning towards the latter when the woman

asks Mother to tell her what time it is. “Why?”

Mother wants to know, “Can’t you tell time?”

I sense a caginess from Mother that is beyond

the game she may be playing with her opponent.

 

“Yes, I can. What I want is for you to look

at that clock,” and she points to the wall,

“and tell me what time it is right now.”

Mother looks at the clock for a few seconds,

then turns to woman and says, “I don’t see

why I should tell you the time, if you can see

the clock perfectly well yourself.” Then she refuses

to play the match further. But perhaps she knows,

even at this moment, that time has made

an unexpected turn, one she’ll not set right,

no matter how she plays the game.

 

 

Gatherings

 

It’s been weeks, but seems years now

that we’ve been cleaning Mother’s apartment.

Now that she’s moved to a private care home

she has no need and less room for all

these possessions that have surrounded her –

reminders of who she is, where she’s lived.

At times these comfort objects become puzzles

she’d pick up and stare at: tangible links

to fading times, the confusion of years.

 

This burden of survival to her tenth decade

is that she sees parts of herself fall away

like dead skin: two husbands, a succession

of homes in different places, two children,

grandchildren, great-grandchildren – all

become many-faceted pieces grown

harder to fit in the jigsaw puzzle

that her life has now become.

 

But what are we to do with all these things?

At times despair mounts that I must be

the one to decide what shall be kept,

what discarded of this, my mother’s life,

part of me in the history of these keepsakes.

Of course, we too have gathered our own,

the incriminating evidence of a lifetime,

plot details of a fiction all too real.

Are we to leave four decades worth

of our own packratting to our children

so that they too must someday

lift and hold each item and agonize

over what has meaning or worth,

what is treasure and what is trash?

 

Dit is natuurlik nie net die bejaardes wat deur ouderdom en aftakeling geraak word nie maar ook hul kinders.

 

Visitors

 

1.

 

Each Thursday the tall

immaculate man arrives

without fail to visit

his mother, but only Thursdays.

 

Newly retired he now

looks for meaning in life

without work,

an organisation man

who has lived

a structured life

and will never

bend to chaos.

 

Still, I’d like to ask

him why it must be

Thursday only;

his mother would

be pleased to see him

any day, frequency

would do no harm,

especially since her days

are swiftly moving

to that moment when

one Thursday she

will no longer give

his afternoon its purpose

and the neat order

of his week will

collapse upon him.

 

 

2.

 

This woman must be a school teacher

because she wants to scold her mother:

 

sit up straight now! Where’s your hankie?

Tuck in your blouse! Are you listening?

 

Is this a daughter’s revenge on her mother?

Must it come to this? The daughter can

 

not help herself, it seems. No matter how

warm her greetings, no matter how much

 

or little they have to say to each other,

at some point the visit always comes to this.

 

Perhaps it is a kind of love, the only kind

These two have ever known, or ever shown.

 

 

4.

 

Each time this woman comes

she works so hard to hide

how her mother’s falling back

to childhood upsets her –

as if somehow this should

not be so, as if someone here

must be responsible for

what she sees happening.

She is not yet ready

to see herself

in her mother’s place,

refuses to see

what each of us must see.

 

Ou mense het nou maar eenmaal die manier om dood te gaan en baie sterftes beteken noodwendig baie begrafnisse. Die kombinasie van ysige winters en teraardebestellings kan soms nogal problematies wees. Sommige bejaardes stipuleer in hul testamente dat hulle nie veras moet word nie en dat hulle op die konvensionele manier ter aarde bestel moet word. Nou is dit so dat die grond hier in die winter sowat twee meter diep vries en dus lol dit maar om grafte te grawe. Niemand wil ʼn lyk maande lank in ʼn koelkas laat lê tot die grond ontdooi het nie, dus het die munisipaliteit van Moose Jaw ʼn spesiale apparaat aangeskaf wat die grond oor ʼn tydperk van ʼn paar dae ontvries sodat ʼn meganiese graaf dan die graf kan kom grawe.

Rosedale Cemetery, die eerste begraafplaas in Moose Jaw, is in die 1880’s in gebruik geneem en in daardie tyd was daar natuurlik nie sulke moderne gedoentes soos krematoria of meganiese grawe nie. Die Moose Javians van daardie tyd het ʼn eenvoudige en baie praktiese oplossing gevind: ʼn kapel is in die gronde van die begraafplaas gebou en van ʼn groot kelder voorsien. Voor die preekstoel was ʼn groot luik waarmee die kis na die roudiens tot in die kelder laat sak is. Wintermaande was die kelder koud genoeg om die lyke bevrore te hou totdat die grond genoegsaam ontdooi het om grafte te grawe. Ek neem aan dat daar destyds nie so baie bejaardes in Moose Jaw was as tans nie want vandag sal die kelder beslis nie groot genoeg wees nie.

  

Een van die grafte is dié van ʼn jong lid van die Heilsleër-orkes wat tydens die Titanic-ramp omgekom het en om een of ander onbekende rede in Moose Jaw sy laaste rusplek gevind het.

Soos die gewoonte destyds was kon net blanke Kanadese in Rosedale Begraafplaas begrawe word. Hierdie tradisie is in 1910 verbreek toe die eerste inheemse Indiaanse vrou, Tasinaskawin Brule (Kombersvrou van die Wit Maan) daar begrawe is. Of dalk klink dit beter in Engels: Blanket Woman of the White Moon.

Sy was lid van die Lakota-stam, wat tesame met die Santee en Yankton-groepe die Sioux-nasie gevorm het wat kolonel Custer in 1876 by Little Big Horn verslaan het. Na die veldslag het die Indiane na Kanada gevlug en in die omgewing van Moose Jaw gevestig. Tasinaskawin was die eggenote van Swart Bul, die plaaslike opperhoof. Toe sy besef dat sy sterwend is het sy versoek dat die flap van haar tepee oopgemaak moet word sodat sy vir die laaste keer die son kon sien opkom. Sy het al haar besittings (sewe ponies, ʼn wa, die tepee en ʼn kombers) bemaak aan ʼn blanke Kanadese vrou met wie sy bevriend was. Sy het ook versoek dat sy in Rosedale Begraafplaas ter ruste gelê moet word. Haar graf is die enigste een bekend van al die inheemse Indiaanse vroue wat sowat ʼn eeu gelede hier geleef en gesterf het.

 

 

 

 

 

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Een Kommentaar op “Leon Retief. Om in Moose Jaw oud te word”

  1. Ivan Mocke :

    ‘n Lekker stuk, Leon! Baie dankie. Glen Sorestad se gedigte bly indrukwekkend. Voorwaar ‘n genotvolle ontdekking. 🙂