My stupid body

by barbznz

I don’t remember when it started but gradually I had difficulty going out. it was stupid really. Basically if I went to far away from home, I needed desperately to go to the toilet. Going to Kohanga was ok. It was a very short walk and once I got there, I knew there was a toilet so I could cope. 

The ten minute walk to the shop however was completely out of the question. Going further created even bigger problems. Marty would have to load all the kids in car and be ready to start as I came out of the house.  And then we would have to leave immediately. If there even a small hold up, I would have to go back in side again, go to the toilet and start again. 

It was worse if I was going somewhere stressful or far away, particularly his parents.  They lived on the other side of Katikati and there were few places to stop. Coming home was a completely different matter. I was totally fine.

I just blamed my stupid body for behaving in this way. I didn’t think there could be any other explanation. It was years later that I discovered they were panic attacks. It really made going out anywhere really difficult unless I knew for sure that I had ready access to a toilet. 

Remember, this was probably one of the most stressful times of my life. Suzanne was getting bigger and more difficult for me to lift. There was very little support apart from the home help and the nappies. Jenni was still play devil to me and angel to Marty. And of course Simon was getting bigger. 

As I have said before, having Simon really brought home to me just how much Suzanne’s disability affected her.  Every day there was something new. Now he was at Kohanga, his dual language skills were developing. While my Maori pronunciation was improving and I could do some waiata and karakia, I really struggled with the language. I still do. While I occasionally surprise people with my comprehension particularly of written Maori my oral skills lagged way behind the other mothers.

In January 1984, I even attended the first conference for Kohanga Reo in Ngaruawahia. A few of us from kohanga went. I travelled with Manuhopukia and Tepara, It was my first visit to a marae. I even saw the Maori queen.  Travelling out of my comfort zone was tricky and I am not sure how I got my stupid body to behave but it did pretty much.

It was a huge event. I had never seen so many Maori in one place. When we went to find somewhere to sleep, some asked who the honky was. Tepara told them that I was with them and they didn’t say any more. I didn’t take offence at all. In  fact, Ngawai, Matangi’s baby and our first kohanga baby use to call me Aunty Honky.  Eventually,  Matangi stopped her  as she didn’t think that others would be quite so understanding.

Manuhopukia wanted me to have a Maori name. She gave me the option of  Puawai which meant blossom and Tauhou which means stranger the same meaning as Barbara. I thought Puawai would be more suitable for a cow so I stuck with Tauhou for a while. That did cause some confusion when we had visitors to the kohanga because they couldn’t figure out why people were calling me a stranger.  In the end I settled on Papara, which is the Maori version of Barbara. It was much easier to remember and so much easier to pronounce.

So in spite of my stupid body, life was good. But you know, there is always something around the corner. 

© Barbara Hart 2014