Monday, October 18, 2010

Cataracts, in-laws, and a new house: The continuing adventures of Sweet Violet

Come Wednesday it will be three weeks since my first cataract surgery, two weeks since the second. Newsflash: the world doesn’t come to a screeching halt because you can’t see well enough to chop an onion without chopping fingers into it!

The way they do the surgery, they do one eye at a time with a one (or more) week break in between the ops. Since both of my eyes had cataracts, I opted for the “soonest” option…I am one of those people who hates having a sword hanging over my head so, knowing a second surgery was necessary, I chose to have it sooner rather than later.

Well, it was a good thing the first surgery was so uneventful because the second one was not. I was in a different hospital (same surgeon and anaesthetist, tho) and the chaos in the place was unbelievable! It was a specialist eye hospital, from which I expected a superior experience in comparison with the little general clinic where I had the first surgery…didn’t happen. The nurses were running around like headless chickens, the admitting office was not admitting people in the order of the surgical schedule causing the doctors to moan “where’s Mr. Schmidt? He’s on the schedule next, why is he still in admitting?” and all kinds of other dislocations. Because of the chaos, the nurses apparently didn’t get as much of the numbing drops into my eye as they were supposed to because when the surgery started, I could feel it!

OK, no searing pain or other horrifying experience, but when I said “ouch!” the second time (I was drugged, so I didn’t have the presence of mind to use the Afrikaans “eina!” so maybe they didn’t understand me the first time) the doctor called for additional sedation injected into the cannula embedded in the back of my hand and it all went ok from there…until I got back to my room, that is. Seems the hospital was out of hard plastic eye shields and couldn’t discharge the surgery patients without them! In my case, I had my shield from the previous surgery and was allowed to go home, but the little packet of tape, gauzes, and eyewash solution I was given at the first hospital was conspicuously missing. Had this been my first surgery, I would have faced the second with some trepidation!

Puddin’ was such a little darling! When I came home from the hospital and lay down to sleep off the drugs, she came up into the bed and refused to leave me. Hubby actually picked her up and took her off the bed, thinking she might be disturbing me, but she stubbornly came back up and curled up beside me. She refused to leave my side until she was satisfied that I was okay. Isn’t that just sweet? I tend to think of Yorkies as narcissistic little balls of hyperactive energy, but obviously there is more to her than that!

My mother-in-law, bless her heart, came up to stay with us. She has had the surgery so she knew what to expect and just took over the kitchen. Bright lights and pungent odours were extremely painful for the first week or so…ordinarily I can chop an onion without shedding a tear, but not this time! Also, the week between surgeries was hectic on my vision…my right eye had a clear lens set for distance vision (I need reading glasses now), but my left eye was sorely nearsighted and it was like looking at everything through a yellowish-brown veil. Trying to coordinate the two was something less than amusing and more often than not, I would have to close one eye or the other which, of course, screwed with my depth perception. Thank you Ma, for coming to our rescue! We had three weeks of fabulous curries, chutneys and breyanis, and I didn’t cut off even one finger!!

We continue to add to the list of things that need fixing. This house has great bones and the original builder, a German mechanical engineer, did a great job of planning both the structures and the garden. Unfortunately the owner between him and us just lived here. He maintained nothing, he fixed nothing, he just lived here until it began falling apart around him and then he sold it to us, never bothering to tell us about the delayed maintenance issues he was dodging. We dug into our cash reserves (always slim after buying a new house!) to address the most critical issues: non-functioning kitchen stove, five (out of six) malfunctioning toilets, dead kreepy-krawly in the pool, and dangerous electrical problems, and got those addressed, but we are waiting for the money from the sale of our house in Cape Town to finish the extensive list of second-tier problems…carpeting (they took the carpets that were custom cut to fit over the under-carpet heating pads), fixing the garage door, security gate motor, and adding a wall/gate combo to separate the driveway from the street, increase the gardener’s hours so we can get the mess that should be a beautiful garden cleaned up, etc. When we replaced the faulty tap in the kitchen we discovered to our horror that the thing had been leaking under the sink and because the cabinets are pressboard covered with melamine, they have rotted under the sink. So, some serious work in the kitchen will be required as well.

The pool is about 90% recovered from its ordeal…we signed the papers on this house in late March and the Seller lived here another five months without doing even the barest minimum of maintenance. The pool, which was sparkling blue when we offered for the house, was a murky green when we moved in and seriously low on water. I think he neither ran the pump nor topped up the pool in that five month period. He must not have watered or cleaned the garden in that time as well, because it was a mess, complete with dead plants and heaps of fallen leaves that should have been raked up (remember, March is the beginning of autumn here, September is the beginning of spring…we moved in on 1 September and last fall’s leaves were still strewn over the garden and planting beds!). Hubby has spent a small fortune for the pool to be repaired (the suction line had a leak and needed replacing, which required digging up the back lawn and removing some of the pool surround paving) and a slightly smaller fortune on chemicals to kill the algae and whatever was making heaps of white foam on top of the green water. It was disgusting, but it has improved somewhat.

Once we got here and started watering, the change was amazing! We are just up the road from a small river and the soil here is remarkably fertile. There is a trumpet vine climbing the wall of the front courtyard and after a month of watering, it has begun blooming…profusely!! The flowers are kinda pinky-coral coloured and quite lovely . Sadly, much of the giant papyrus in the same planting bed has died back from the neglect, but hopefully copious and regular applications of water will wake it up. These things are astonishing…some are at least 3 metres tall! I’ve only ever seen papyrus that tall in a tea garden in the Midlands, where the weather is like Oregon…wet, wet, and on a good day, wet.

Yesterday morning we went to an antique show and sale at the Wanderer’s Cricket Ground, a very old-school clubby kind of place. The ballroom had been taken over and only the members of the SA Antiques Dealers Assn were allowed to show, so it was a fairly high-end event. And man, were there some beautiful pieces! One guy had a penchant for Tiffany, Lalique and Gallé, and he literally had several millions of rands worth of inventory on display! There was a Tiffany lamp, looked like gilded calla lilies (arum lilies) for half a million rands (around $200K) and some magnificent Lalique vases approaching a million rands each in price. His was probably one of the best displays because of the sheer beauty of the Lalique pieces. I found a beautiful little chased sterling silver needle case that Hubby kindly purchased for me. After a little research I have determined it is English, .965 silver, made in Birmingham in 1909 by the Birmingham Guild of Handicrafts. It will do well for my tapestry needles, which are blunt at the end and therefore difficult to store in a pin cushion.

MIL went home yesterday, and so I now have the house back to myself. Seems a bit quiet and empty. She’s such a nice lady…I don’t think my husband truly appreciates how lucky he is to have a mother like her. She is neither intrusive nor critical, always supportive but has no compunctions about stating her feelings on a matter…she just has that magical way of making her feelings known without trampling on anyone else’s. I am truly blessed with her as a mother in law, and I miss her (and her culinary expertise!). We are going down to visit her in Durban next month and she has even invited Puddin’!

I fear Hell House is treating the new tenants no better than it treated us. Saturday Hubby got two phone calls from the alarm company for that house, saying the alarm was going off. The new tenants haven’t given the alarm company their phone numbers, so the company called us. We tried to call the tenants but nobody answered the phones. I sent an SMS and got a reply last night…the electricity keeps tripping off, which for some reason is setting off the alarm. I swear, that house has a malevolent spirit and I am so glad we have moved away…far away!

But for us, life continues apace, fixing that which is broken, keeping ahead of the dust and dirt and entropy, making this house into a home.

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