“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times…”
Last week was an interesting combination of dealing with gastro (myself and the boys) and actually trying to recover in order to manage a rare social outing.
We greeted Valentine’s Day with two irritable 1 year old boys with unprecedented rancid nappies.
Not long after, there were throw-up sessions. In particular, Little N had impeccable aim and timing. Crawling on top of my chest, he decided that then and there was the perfect moment to release all sorts of chunky bits from that tiny little tummy.
Warm, gooey regurgitated milk dripping down my top and into my bra.
My job as a mother ? Undignified.
Amongst all this commotion, an old friend from my Tokyo days contacted me to let me he was in town. Was I interested in catching up ?
Does a crazy cat have claws ?
It was a tricky case of juggling projectile vomit clean-ups and finding a free night in the limited time he was in town.
Mr B is a friend through mutual acquaintances. We hung out among group dinners, karaoke sessions (What else do you do in Japan ?) and would get quietly drunk together on many an occasion.
Would I say we were “close friends”? Regrettably, the casual socialising left little opportunity to be anything more than ex-pats sharing the same social circles.
As I drove into the city to meet Mr. B, I was certain that it would just be a simple night of polite conversation. Nothing too deep. Nothing too thought provoking.
Mr. B walked into the restaurant and it was like we were both back in Tokyo.
Reminiscing stories of the past, we also caught up on each other’s present lives. A doting uncle, he showed me photos of his nieces and nephew. I pulled out my mobile and played some videos of the boys being raucous and their usual energetic self.
By the time our main course had arrived, we started to talk more honestly and openly about family, careers and life.
“They sure keep me on my toes ! And they’ve had gastro…oh my gosh…it’s so disgusting…” I started to whine about the crazy week I was having.
“You know, Grace…I don’t think I ever told you I had an older brother,” he mentioned, out of the blue.
Unbeknown to me, Mr. B was only a month old himself when his older brother died of leukemia at age 5.
At around the age of 2, Mr. B’s parents had noticed bruises all over their eldest son’s body before detecting the fatal illness. They hold fond stories of a brave little boy. Staying courageous, he would comfort his distressed mother who had to witness the giant needle going into his own spine for bone marrow examinations.
Mr. B recalled a conversation his father had with a relative, after his brother had passed away. This particular relative was talking about how much of a handful his kids were.
“If they’re a handful, then you know that they’re healthy. And that’s always a good thing.” Mr. B’s father had replied.
I was suddenly conscious how trivial my complaints must have sounded.
Mr. B concluded the story saying that his brother died on the 23rd of November, 1969.
“But you know what ?” He gave a subtle smile.
“Exactly a year later to the day. 23rd of November, 1970. My little sister was born,” Mr. B beamed proudly.
In all the years I had known him, in all those times we spent enjoying the nightlife of Tokyo, we had never sat down and had such a profound conversation about the importance of family and the curve balls life throws at you.
Many years later, in another city, at different stages of our lives, it felt that we had re-connected. Even reaching a deeper bond.
I went home that night filled with a renewed sense of appreciation for life’s little surprises.
You know, that warm feeling you get when you’ve unexpectedly had an exceptional night out ? A perfect chemistry of fine conversation and great company, albeit no alcohol. (Eeks ! Is it possible ???)
In the car, I traced back again to the past week’s dilemmas. But this time I remembered my conversation with Mr. B about his brother and I quickly realised that there could have been other – far more serious – outcomes.
Too often we get locked in – what seems to be at the time – the intensity of a situation. I am guilty of this. I forget that it only takes a moment to realign the issue at hand. To reassess what really is worth the worry or anxiety.
When we finally sort it out in our head, that’s when it hits home.
What’s a little stomach bug, anyway ?