Authors: Melissa Delport
© 2013 Melissa Delport
First edition published by
Melissa Delport 2013
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Published by Melissa Delport P O Box 2045 Pinetown South Africa, 3600
Edited by Cathy Eberle
ver designed by Wendy Bow
For Murray, who is my Adam – my soul mate.
A big thank you to my husband Murray, and my beautiful children, who allow me to indulge in a passion that at times consumes me, and leaves little room for anything else.
To my wonderful and multi-talented friend Wendy Bow
, who travels this journey with me on a daily basis – designer, beta reader, support base – without your input I would be lost.
dear friend, Annamarie gey van Pittius, for proof reading an unedited manuscript and still loving it.
Rahimi, psychologist extraordinaire, for the “professional” advice.
And finally, to
all the special ladies in my life, friends and family: This book is especially for you!
It was raining the day I met Adam Parker. It was March, early spring, one of my favourite times of the year and it was my mother’s birthday. I was all too aware of this as she had phoned me every day for the past week to remind me. The morning had started out sunny and mild and, as a result, when the afternoon thundershowers hit I was caught wearing a vintage-inspired teal lace dress that ended just above my knee and silver peep-toe kitten heels. I had only managed to find parking on the other side of the lot and I had a lot of ground to cover through cascading showers and massive puddles. The thing is, though, I've always loved the rain. As a little girl, my mother constantly struggled to keep me out of the garden in the wet weather. She claimed this is because I’m an Aquarian. I told her that Aquarians are water-bearers and that just because one carried water didn’t make one a fish and she was possibly confusing me with a Piscean. She had clicked her tongue at me in that annoyed way of hers.
Now, at 25, I am still utterly besotted with the rain. Here, in Long Beach, California, we experience an average of only 36 rainy days per year, almost half of which take place between January and March. Those 36 days keep my spirit light; the glorious deluge is like food for my soul.
The day I met Adam I can only imagine what he must have been thinking, watching this maniacal, sopping wet woman running through the rain and giggling like a five-year-old, splashing in as many puddles as possible in my now quite ruined heels.
Before I reach the safe haven of the store I stop and turn my face skyward, opening my mouth and tasting the drops on my lips and my tongue, the water running down my nose and parting my eyelashes like starfish.
Feeling almost giddy I take two steps under cover and then shake like a dog, slipping off my wrecked heels and slinging them over my shoulder. Maybe I should just grab a new pair of shoes while I'm here. I turn around, trying to remember what I came to the store for in the first place, hoping that this is not a bad omen, remembering my father’s early symptoms and this is when I notice him for the first time.
He is standing at the door of the store in the process of opening a very plain, generic, black umbrella. His blue eyes are fixed on me and a ghost of a smile plays about his lips. Feeling suddenly and uncharacteristically shy I wipe the excess water from my face and drop my eyes to the floor, trying not to grin like a village idiot and failing miserably.
I have always been a happy person. It’s not that I have had the perfect life or that I’ve never been hurt, I just prefer to look at the positive. My father was always optimistic and he rubbed off on me, I guess. Now, of course, he doesn’t really remember much, but even so, he's certainly the happiest Alzheimer’s patient I’ve ever met and I’ve met my fair share at Fairview, the permanent care facility that has been my father’s home for the past five years; ever since his Alzheimer’s became too incapacitating for him to live on his own. My parents divorced when I was four and my father never remarried. My mother, on the other hand, tired of being what she referred to as “middle class”, attached herself to the first wealthy suitor stupid enough to fall for her poorly executed seduction routine. Unfortunately for poor Frank, my long-suffering step-father, one night in Georgia cost him dearly. I still think that the very high profile affair that his first wife had enjoyed with her fitness instructor had left his ego so badly bruised that he momentarily lost touch with his common sense and that my mother had preyed on this vulnerability.
By the time Frank’s errant wife had grown tired of the virile young fitness instructor, Frank was safely ensconced in my mother’s clutches, never to respect himself as a man again. Much to my mother’s delight, Frank lost his legal custody battle with his ex-wife and, as such, was only entitled to visitation with his two young daughters every second weekend. Frank was gutted. My mother set about redecorating their bedrooms as guest suites, arguing that, as the girls were to be spending so little time at the house, the family guests might as well enjoy the best views. I am still pleasantly surprised at how patient my step-sisters are and how well they tolerate my mother.
Despite everything, my mother failed to realise that rich and upper class are not necessarily synonymous and has spent the better part of the past two decades annoying everyone at the local Country Club, spending copious amounts of Frank’s hard-earned money and eating far too many cream buns.
While I adore my mother and all of her silliness, I am eternally grateful that I take after my dad. My father,
Christo Petrova, was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1945. In 1980, at the age of 35, his fiancée left him at the altar. Heartbroken, he booked a one-way ticket to America, determined to make a new start far away from the memories of his first love. Being a qualified teacher and a diligently hard worker he soon found employment lecturing economics at a local college. It was only a few short years later that he met my mother, Georgia Frost. She was 28, a student of his and 11 years his junior. Unable to resist the comely young woman my father took the moral high ground and resigned, found a new job and within two years they were married. Another two years later I was born by caesarean section, a healthy nine pounds with a mop of dark hair. At 43, my father was delighted to have finally started a family and looked forward to settling down and taking things slowly. He was a devoted, hands-on parent and I grew up a healthy and happy child.
My mother, unfortunately, did not take as well to parenthood. Selfish to a fault, she could not cope with the demands of a new-born baby. She was also spoilt and accustomed to my father’s undivided attention and soon the fragile threads of the marriage started to unravel. My mother filed for divorce the day before my fourth birthday party and the marriage legally ended a mere three months later. To everyone’s astonishment, my mother fought for custody of me and won. This soon made more sense as my father was forced, by court order, to pay
both maintenance for me and alimony for my mother, who had not worked a day in her life.
Safe in the knowledge that she would be taken care of financially, my mother proceeded to neglect me and was quite happy for me to raise myself, leaving her free to pursue her wealthy quarry which turned out to be poor, unsuspecting Frank. Grateful as I was to have Frank in our lives, I stayed very close to my father and as soon as I was old enough to decide for myself, I spent more and more time at his house. I don’t think my mother really noticed, although Frank often sent me a packed lunch for two and insisted it was my mother’s idea; not that she deserved the credit.
I was 16 years old the first time my father called me by my mother’s name. Slightly taken aback I ignored him, convinced it was simply a mistake he had not even realised he had made. A few months later he had called me Georgia three more times and I was becoming concerned. There were times when he did not appear to even remember where he was. On his 60th birthday, which we celebrated together playing Scrabble and eating Oreos, my father forgot who I was and tried to forcibly eject me from his house. I finally had to admit what I had been trying for six months to ignore and I phoned my mother. It was Frank who arrived 20 minutes later and helped me to coax my confused and frightened father into the car, and it was his gentle smile that soothed my fears slightly. On our way to the hospital I asked him where my mother was.
“She decided not to come, sweetheart,” he answered, keeping his gaze fixed on the road and refusing to meet my eye. “She thought it might make him uncomfortable.”
I snorted in disgust.
“Don’t talk shit, Frank,” I spat, my fear feeding my anger. “She’s too busy watching Dallas re-runs and painting her God-damn nails.” I blinked a few times trying to force back the tears.
Early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
The words rained down on me but I couldn't absorb any of them. They call it early onset if the diagnosis is made before 65. My dad was only 60. He deteriorated rapidly and within two years he was no longer able to live on his own. We moved him into Fairview a week after his 62nd birthday and he has been there for 5 years since. My father is now 67 years old and he is still my best friend although he no longer knows it. All is not lost, however. He is still intrinsically the same positive and happy person that he has always been. Of course he gets frustrated every now and again. I think on a subconscious level he is aware that there is something wrong with him, but over all, he is content. He will always be my hero. I am eternally grateful that I am so like him and he also loves
The only time I remember being really, truly and unbearably sad was almost two years ago. I was 23 years old and the world was my oyster. I had attained a post-grad degree in English and was determined that one day I would become a world famous author. In the meantime, I would serve my time as a lowly sub-editor for the local paper. My life was finally beginning, and it felt great. I was also fairly certain that it was only a matter of time before Kevin proposed. We had been together since my first year at college, my first day, really. Kevin had been assigned to show me and my friends the ropes. He had gone above and beyond; complete over-achiever I always teased. He loved everything about me. He loved my dark sexy looks, my olive skin and my long brown hair. He claimed that my brown eyes, which were so dark they sometimes seemed all pupil, were the windows to my soul.
Within a week, we were fooling around, and within a month we were monogamous. Four years later, just after my 23rd birthday, Kevin and I moved into a one-bedroomed apartment and spent the first night on a mattress on the floor, planning all our great furnishing prospects and laughing while we enjoyed the fruits of our labours; a bottle of cheap red wine.
About half-way through the bottle, we decided we might as well make the most of it and Kevin had dropped a kiss on my nose and ventured off in search of more alcohol. We had noticed a corner shop during our countless trips moving our tacky, donated furniture into our new home.
Kevin never returned. The corner shop had fallen victim to an armed robbery and Kevin was the sole casualty. The owner of the store told me that Kevin had tried to stop the suspect from hurting his wife who had been serving at the till at the time. He died a hero, he said. He died, was all that I cared about. It didn’t really matter how.
For the first time in my life I fell apart. I stopped visiting my dad at Fairview which was really the only true reflection of the pain that I was in; I loved my father more than life itself but even for him, I could not pull myself out of the hole I had fallen into. I took so much unauthorised leave, simply lying on the floor and dreaming of the life that I would never have, that I lost my job, without which I could no longer afford my rent and I was evicted from our sweet apartment within three months of moving in.
Mortified, I started to make changes. Losing the only home that Kevin and I had shared, regardless for how brief a spell, was the catalyst that I needed to sort out my life. With a monumental effort I began to pull myself together. I moved back home with my mother and Frank and started visiting my father every Sunday, shocked at how quickly he had deteriorated in the few short months that I had been absent; and ashamed at my behaviour.
Then the attorneys summoned me. Kevin had been very responsible and had taken out a life policy on his 21st birthday. Nobody could have known that only four short years later, the policy would pay out four million dollars, and that the sole beneficiary, as stipulated in Kevin’s last will and testament, would be Miss Paige Marie
I was determined that Kevin’s faith in me would not be unfounded. I would not squander the money that he had left me. His parents never wanted any of it; they were wealthy in their own right and while they mourned the loss of their son, they would never have contested the will; they simply honoured his wishes.
I eventually decided to follow my father’s long-standing advice and invest in bricks and mortar. For as far back as I could remember he had always told me to buy myself a home the first chance I got, claiming it would be the best investment I would ever make. I bought an apartment in a sought-after estate for just under a million dollars and invested the balance of the money. Furniture would have to wait, I decided, just as Kevin and I had thought only a few months before. For now I had a roof over my head and an interview lined up at a small publication: a local magazine had recently launched in our area and were looking for someone to freelance.
I got the job. I now spend my days writing articles on any attractions or pieces of interest in our area, as well as the occasional book review. I have moved on and have found peace with what happened to Kevin. His murderer was found and sentenced to 40 years in prison. It will never be enough, but I have chosen to forgive rather than harbour the hatred which I know would fester and would ultimately hurt me far more than it would him.
More than anything, I am determined that Kevin’s death will serve as a constant reminder that I should live my life; live it fully and passionately and with every fibre of my being. If I have learned anything it is that nothing in life is certain and that we never know when our time might be up. Someone once famously said that we should live each day as if it is our last because one day it will be. And I do. I hug the people that I love and I try to do one thing each month that scares me. Last month I went sky-diving. I nearly peed in my pants, but I do crazy things and I refuse to sit back and let life pass me by. I laugh; a lot. I cry now if I need to, or sometimes just to remind myself that I can. I drink cheap red wine, not because it’s all I can afford, but because it means something. I visit my dad, even though he doesn’t remember who I am and I become his new best friend every week. I throw myself into everything that I do. And I dance in the rain. I dance in the rain every time it rains because it is a gift that I can. This precious gift of life should not be taken for granted.