On my fortieth birthday, I had a mini crisis at home. However, I do not think it ranked on the scale of a mid-life crisis.
It was a problem that could have been easily resolved. In fact, it had better chances of resolution than arguing over. My late wife had made a careful list of the people I worked closely with. It did not exceed fifteen. She also suggested adding the few family friends we had. It was her wish to have me celebrate the big 40 in an intimate setting, with people who were close to us. Nothing wildly fancy, she assured me.
I was not comfortable with the idea. I did not know how speaking about attaining that “magical” age would make me feel. Oddly, though, I knew the people who would get the most credit for that “milestone” achievement! My wife and children. Yes, the workmates she had identified also deserved mention because they were people who gave me a wholly challenging and satisfying experience of team work. But I am not and have never been one for “parties.”
When we got married in 1994, my wife took my “handicap” into account and suggested that we hold a garden wedding in place of a loud and flashy ceremony. Again, the operative words were “intimate and close.” My best friend and work colleague, Ray Kandawasvika and my young brothers (including my adopted young brother, Darlington), joined my wife’s three young sisters and one of my young sisters, to form the bridal chain. Ray was my best man, the trusted keeper of the rings on that 18th day of December 1994.
But for my fortieth birthday, I was resolved that it should be a strictly family affair. My wife reluctantly agreed. It was years later that I would sadly learn that the idea of a party was no longer restricted to the confines of my home alone. Apparently my wife had primed my colleagues’ wives and the family friends to prepare for a surprise party. But it was designed to be a surprise in the most friendly of ways. Nothing like being blind-folded, led into a room, and then shaken by shouts of “Surprise! Surprise!” A workmate’s wife was one of the lead organizers of the proposed shindig. He only revealed this to me years after my wife’s death, in the process, having me question that assertion that “time heals wounds.” It does not!
One witty observer has said the only thing that time does is to weaken the intensity of the pain by having us respond to it differently with the passage of time. Never to heal the wounds. I went to bed quite early last night. I normally try and force myself to sleep between the hours of 9:30 pm and 5:30 am, to get the medically-recommended eight hours of sleep. Regrettably, this remains a largely unattainable dream. I was up by 12:44 am this morning. And the thoughts began assailing me. It is a sad day for my family because we remember the loss of our dear father in February 2006. It is such remembrances that quickly set in motion a whole train of unstoppable thoughts.
As I recalled my wife’s plans for my fortieth birthday, I remembered that as I drove my children to school on the morning of the big day, we were involved in what I can only call an odd and chilling accident. Realizing that we were running late, I looked for the earliest and safest opportunity to make up for lost time in the early morning traffic. On a relatively straight stretch of the road, I saw a chance to overtake two cars. I cleanly overtook the first one and as I indicated my intentions to the driver of the second car, he suddenly turned right. My attempts at preventing a collision failed dismally. However both cars suffered containable damage. More importantly, the passengers in both cars were unharmed. Certainly dazed, but they were okay. Incidentally, the car that we collided also had two young children on their way to school. Their driver seemed rather young for the school-run. It was, indeed, instructive that after the accident, as I called the police, he was frantically trying to reach his father. He asked to use my phone.
I decided against taking my children to school after that. Having returned them home, I passed through their school to notify the authorities and proceeded to my work place afterwards. It was one of those unpleasant occasions where one finds the superior already in the office. I apologized for my late arrival and recounted the freaky accident.
Two weeks later, as I began the day’s programme, my superior suddenly stopped me in my tracks. It was almost like he sought to confirm that the accident was not a ruse to cover up for my late arrival in the office. “Some time ago, you reported that you were involved in a road traffic accident. Where exactly did it happen by the way and how are the children doing?”
Admittedly, the mind does run too fast at times. My boss may have meant well. On my part, I was still trying to distill issues, namely the fortieth birthday party which I turned down and the accident on my birthday. I was still trying to ascertain whether they was a message I should take note of, or, were these things that were just meant to be?
In 1999, while on a business trip to Shanghai, a colleague cryptically asked why he had not “heard” about me involved in an accident. Was he such a bad driver? Was I that good? I think we agreed that we could not honestly answer the question. I believe I once caught a line in a TV series or movie that says simply “accidents happen, and that’s why they are called that!” Well, two days after we returned to Harare, I was “finally” involved in an accident. A haulage truck simply sat on the left front side of my small car. And then he phoned to assure me that his question had not in any way sought to wish me bad luck. I believed him.
But I do remain with lots of other incidents and occurrences where I still find it challenging to know what to believe and inversely what to ascribe to the arcane world.