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The small, personal fears

I used to love airports. The excitement! The adventure! The possibility! I was almost always flying away on holiday, or to visit my parents in Durban… What’s not to love about that?

And then… June 2019. A last-minute flight to Durban because something was wrong with my mom – some kind of cancer, but we didn’t know exactly what kind. I remember sitting in this airport finishing off a magazine article about breast cancer and struggling with the word ‘prognosis’.

Two and a bit weeks later, I was back in the airport, flying to Durban for my mom’s funeral.

And then March 2020. A flight to Durban to check my dad into the same hospital for a routine knee replacement surgery that had me filled with fear that history would repeat itself. It didn’t, of course, because it was March 2020 – the beginning of the unprecedented times. The night I arrived in Durban, our president announced a national lockdown.

And now, April 2021. Flying to Durban to book my dad into the same hospital for a routine hip replacement. And the fear is still there – sitting around my heart, squeezing tightly every now and then, in case I forget for a moment.

Cape Town is burning – a wildfire raged along the mountain and through the university yesterday, into the edges of the city this morning… Driving through the smoke this morning to the airport felt apocalyptic. And made my fear feel very small, and personal.

Isn’t fear always small and personal, though? Aren’t all our little dramas? I had a sense, this morning, as we drove, that it’s a marvel that any of us can lift our heads from our own lives to reach out to others in theirs. And yet we can, and we do… Thank heavens for that.

I wish I was flying off on some exotic holiday, or to visit my mom and dad. I wish there was shortbread waiting for me when I arrive, and fresh flowers in my room, and my favourite snacks in the fridge. All things my mom used to do for me – all things I will now do for myself. It’s not the same, but maybe it’ll still be nice. The way airports are now…

Published inGrief

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