Taking time out to have fun during March Break

By Murphy Browne Thursday March 22 2012 in Opinion
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By MURPHY BROWNE (Abena Agbetu)



The saying “Time flies when you’re having fun” had special meaning for me during the recent March 12-16 March Break. It was a time that I needed to bring a different perspective to what has been a stressful few weeks after my siblings and I learned that our father had suffered a stroke. As an active man who has just entered his 80s, this stroke was devastating for my father and for us because he was in Guyana at the time.



Nothing makes you conscious of time and the passing of time more than when an elderly family member who has enjoyed good health suddenly becomes incapacitated. You realize that we are all becoming older, whether we are in our 50s or our 80s. Tasks that we could easily perform when we were in our 20s get a bit more challenging as we go through the 50s; how much more so for someone in their 70s and 80s.



Surprisingly, when my siblings and I were in Guyana last December and early January we marveled at how agile and energetic our Papa was. The man was running up and down stairs, dashing across the East Coast Demerara Public Road faster than my sister and I. He seemed at times to have as much energy as his youngest child, my brother, Ingvar. We commented that it would be great if we had that much energy in our 80s if we were fortunate to live that long. It was shocking news that a stroke had laid him low shortly after we returned to Canada.



Returning to Canada almost immediately after suffering the stroke, my father has been receiving care and therapy to help in his recovery. It was a bit distressing to see him struggling to communicate but we soon had him singing and that effervescent laugh of his that we always loved, although somewhat tamed, was in evidence. It would have been even more devastating for us – and I am sure for him – if he was miles away where we could not visit him. The time that we visit is always precious as we think of how suddenly and unexpectedly our fragile lives can change. And the time does fly as the children of this special man try to ensure that he does not dwell on the fact that he cannot (for now) run up and down stairs or dash across the East Coast Demerara Public Road – or any road.



In the midst of coping with my father’s incapacitation, my cousin, Joy McLeod, who lives in the U.S., called with amazing news that she had connected with one of her childhood neighbours from Mora Street in McKenzie. This was great news because this was someone who was a part of our lives during our childhood and teenage years. We had not seen this former neighbour since the 1970s. As a child, my sister Carol and I had spent many school vacations in McKenzie where my mother’s sister and her family lived on Mora Street and my father’s brother and his family lived on the next street (Greenheart Street) so we visited back and forth between the two homes. My aunt’s two neighbours on either side (the Anthonys and the Liverpools) were like family.



As we entered adulthood, we left the country, some to live in other South American countries, some to live in various Caribbean islands, Europe, North America even Australia. Thinking of the distant places to which we have scattered is mind boggling.



That first night we reconnected and chatted for five hours. As I chatted with our friend from Mora Street who now lives in the U.S. after spending a few years living in Suriname, I realized that the time had flown without our being conscious of that happening because we were having so much fun. Where did the time go? Not just the five hours reminiscing about Mora Street people, many of whom I could not remember other than the Anthonys and Liverpools, but the years since 1975. It seems that we were all having great fun because the years just slipped quietly away and here we are in our 50s and remembering people and places of childhood and youthful times.



I recently read that “scientists have come up with a theory for why time flies when you are having fun – and drags when you are bored.” These scientists who are based in France (at the French Laboratory of Neurobiology and Cognition) have determined that “if the brain is busy focusing on many aspects of a task, then it has to spread its resources thinly, and pays less heed to time passing”, meanwhile concentrating on time passing will trigger brain activity which makes it seem that time is passing slowly which leads to boredom.



During the March Break I had so much to concentrate on that there was no time for boredom. Not that I ever have time to be bored. Too much to do in too little time, especially as I spent time with the three people who are the most important in my life – my grandchildren Malia, Taiwo and Kehinde who kept me busy during the week of March Break.



We discovered downtown Toronto, including a new and different kind of park close to Harbourfront. In spite of it being March Break this newly discovered park was never crowded. As a matter of fact, there were never more than a handful of children playing there. We also visited Miss Lou’s Room at the Harbourfront Centre where they listened to stories and tried their hand at storytelling. I think I have a budding storyteller in my family in the form of my grand-daughter, Kehinde. That would not be surprising because it is part of our culture as African people to love participating in storytelling and as a child I was treated to great storytelling by family members.



All in all we spent a truly exciting March Break, at least from my point of view. I am not sure that my grandchildren felt it was all excitement since, sometimes, I was lagging behind trying to keep up with all that youthful energy. It has been a few years since I parented small children and I only had two to deal with. Keeping up with a seven-year-old and four-year-old twins for an extended period of time can be a challenge for a woman of a certain age. Ooh, but it was fun! And time certainly flew from the time they woke me up in the morning to the time we negotiated bed time at night. And I can attest to the fact that if those three do not grow up to be union negotiators they will become lawyers. They are tough negotiators!



We read; I helped with homework (special March Break homework); they played video games and watched DVDs that I borrowed from the library. At one point I had to leave five DVDs at the library amid storms of tears because I was at my limit of 50 items borrowed. When did that happen, I wondered; when did I borrow 50 items from the library? Time flew while I was having March Break fun and I forgot to return library material which became overdue and cost me money. Unfortunately, the libraries are now closed because library workers were forced to go on strike when their employer failed to reach a negotiated settlement with them. No worker wants to go on strike. Strike pay is the pits for those who have rent and mortgages to pay and other expenses.



Well, March Break is over, Papa is receiving speech and physical therapy to help him recover from the stroke while his dedicated family members have visited and cheered him up daily and I am still having lovely long chats with my childhood friend. I had fun and the time flew during March Break.



How was your March Break? I hope you had fun and that time flew for you also, tiakoma@hotmail.com


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