School Is Out

©2013 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 21 October 2013: 7 years 1 month on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce

We are all happy.


As I write this, the rain gently pours down on a very parched earth – from the Sunshine Coast to the Great Karoo. We haven’t seen good rains since November last year when ironically we flooded away and even lost my station wagon in the deluge!

In Africa, rain is seen a sign of good things to come; the promise of good luck. That is a good omen because at this time:

We are all sad.

In the last week, school has come to an end for Phillip and for us and for so many others that have celebrated this milestone over the last few days.

Yes, school is out!

For Sean, three years ago; now for Phillip and for us – school is over!

 There will be no more hostel, sandwiches, cadets, rugby on Saturdays, cricket, water-polo, school uniforms, lifts, meetings, fundraisings, prefects, awards, trips around the country, fellowship with other parents and children, dances, staff soiree’s, stories, supporters’ clubs, boundary walls …

Life is no longer Grey!

I guess this is what life and parenthood is all about. We have children and we educate them and train them and teach them and raise them up to fly away from us.

So we are sad and we are happy.

And we are excited!

We have come to the T-junction – one of many that Life will bring.

For Phillip, will it be Stellenbosch, will it be NMMU, will it be mechanical engineering, will it be mechatronics, will it be home, will it be hostel? Decisions, decisions at this T-junction … and all hanging on the results of the NSC (the national senior certificate examinations) that lie ahead over the course of the next month.

The road over the last few weeks that has brought us to this junction has been a busy one. For the record there has been:

  •          The cadet Retreat parade
  •          The prize-giving
  •          The Heritage March from the “new” school to the “old” school
  •          The Valedictory service
  •          The Father and Son Luncheon at Old Grey
  •          The Barneys Bash

So at this T-junction, what will Life bring?

We are excited by the promise and possibilities and choices that we face. We were motivated, encouraged and inspired by the various speeches that we heard at the Valedictory on Friday made by the Rector, the previous head boy of 2003 and the current (lol .. now previous!) head boy!

And all of this, in our home for one, has to be seen against the ever-increasing challenges that are brought about my illness.

For the record only, this month has been the most challenging, physically and emotionally, for me since I embarked on this CBD journey. The shadows become increasingly longer.

From the top down, let me once again do some sort of an inventory.

My mind is becoming cloudier, my vision becomes blurrier and my speech slurs every now and then (no it’s not the red wine!);

The left shoulder is painful and I can’t raise my left arm above shoulder height. The left hand is practically useless now and the fingers are curled up into the palm of my hand. The right hand is more and more affected, too, but it is still my life-line as I continue to become a now right-handed person. My writing ability has all but come to an end. Both arms feel like bags of cement!

My left bum and leg and muscles are painful and uncomfortable. My left leg gives way under me and for the first time this weekend I have had to use my walking stick at home. Sitting is the most difficult thing to do at this stage – it is painful and sets my body off into rounds of spasms and muscle twitches. I sometimes feel like a volcano ready to erupt! My left foot wants to move from the 90 degree position to 180 degrees and even further if it could and my left toes want to curl up too.

So the challenges increase.

At this junction, we are happy and sad, excited and apprehensive.

We Live Life!

Good luck, Phillip and the Class of ‘13, for your forthcoming examinations and for your roads of life that lie ahead of you.

For some, 13 is a lucky number; for others an unlucky number.

May you all get lucky!

The End of the Beginning (and the Beginning of the Next)

Tuesday 26 October 2010: 4 years 1 month on …

“You have a condition called corticalbasal degeneration.  You will become severely incapacitated within three years … and may have some five years left. Go back to Port Elizabeth and enjoy what time you have left …”

Those are the words that I remember from my consultation with Prof Carr at Tygerberg Hospital on 8 February 2007.

I set myself three goals, one of which was to see Sean finish his grade 11 year and enter his matric (Grade 12/Senior) year at High School. That was a year ago now, and I reached that goal quite comfortably.  I then set a new goal of attending his Valedictory Service at the end of 2010. I have slowed down and it has been more difficult to get here.

But, here I am, and – thank God – still not severely incapacitated. Although I am aware that the last few weeks have been the most difficult so far, I am still able to manage well.

And, here Sean is, finished with High School and about to write his final examinations over the next six weeks.

Eighteen years into Life and the last twelve years spent at school preparing for that Life. The last week or so has been hectically spent by him and his mates (and their families!) celebrating the end of those formative beginning years.

All of this has been well-documented and pictured on that new “can’t live without” in our lives, that euphemistically called social networking site FACEBOOK. (Our generation seems to have done quite well without it, but somehow have also slowly become addicted to it!)

First, they had their formal dinner at the Edward Hotel. A crowd of his mates arrived at our home before the dinner to have photographs taken.

I spoke to the matrics on Tuesday in the school hall ( read Fasten Your Seat Belts).

Then there was the Heritage March last Wednesday afternoon. With the military band resplendent in their reds leading the way, the Grade 12 class marches in their cadet uniforms from the present school buildings in Mill Park (just 3 years short of its centenary – will I be here in 2013 for that and Phil’s Valedictory? – my next  goal!).

They march towards St George’s Park, around Park Drive, cross Rink Street and down Pearson Street (I wondered if that Pearson is family of the current Junior School Headmaster Lindsay Pearson?) and head for the original school building on the Donkin, opened in 1859 as the Grey Institute for the first classes of the Junior School there.

The original buildings were bought by the Mediterranean Shipping Line and they have spent millions restoring both the school and the Rectory.

The school leavers form up with their “backs to the Southern Seas” in front of the school “with its front to the Southern Seas”. And so, witnessed by their parents and friends and many Old Greys, at the top of The Hill and with the white beaches and the Indian Ocean below, the Rector, Neil Crawford spoke to them about the wise man who built his house upon the rock, as opposed to the foolish man who built upon the sand.

 After Bible reading, prayers and the school song, the boys get to throw their berets into the air and to “klaar-out” for the last time. This is all very emotional and stirring stuff and the beginning of the many tears that flow over the next few days.

Wednesday evening saw the Officers and NCO’s celebrate the end of their year at a formal mess dinner in the school restaurant.

 Thursday is the Prize-giving and Valedictory services. Congratulations to all the prize-winners and the new Headboy, Alex Blumberg, and all the new prefects who were announced at those functions. Graeme Clarke, the outgoing head prefect made a very stirring speech as his farewell to the school, on behalf of his peers.

After the Valedictory Service, the parents all lined the avenue together with the staff and boys remaining behind, and bid our son’s farewell from the school, as they “walked ‘neath the Tower” for the first and last time as a school boy – and then headed off to the Old Grey Club at Kemsley Park.

Continuing with tradition, there, we, the fathers and them, our sons and now the newest Old Greys, had lunch together. (The mothers now head off to another venue, Elizabeth Place, this year, to tea and reminisce together.)

And then, after lunch, we all met up at what has become a new tradition – Barneys on the Beachfront.  At age 14, I was bringing Sean home after an evening cricket practice at Framesby when I reminded him that Mom was out and we were going home to an empty house. He suggested then that we go to Barneys for a beer! When I advised him that it was a bit soon for that, he invited me to have his first beer with him at Barneys when he turned 18! He would buy the round.

Well, (and although not his first beer!), true to his word, he bought the first round (with my money!).

There, the celebrations lasted well into the night, complete with school song and “For all the Saints” sung with gusto on the tables and chairs. Dad eventually got home after Son!

Twelve years as school mates and family friends have come to an end – the end of the beginning of the preparatory years.

And, now, after a week of festivities, the final crunch lies ahead, with school-leaving examinations taking place over the next six weeks. Then, it’s the Plett Rage, when our school-leavers and students head off to that wonderful place, Plettenberg Bay, to do whatever they do best in Plett!

 It brings back memories of my very own end of exams at Stellenbosch University, when we (four guys and a girl – names to remain anonymous to protect innocent persons!) arrived at the Piesang’s River Caravan Park – music (70’s and 80’s!) blaring from the car speakers, and were refused entry based on the fact that the Park was a family park and the owners were unable to distinguish a family in our Peugeot! We ended up camping at the Plett Caravan Park …

Nowadays, it’s all much more formalised and organised and patronised and socialised.

 I’m sure there will be many stories to write (and some not to write) about. In the meantime, a lot of hard work lies ahead. Good luck, with your exams, school-leavers, and good luck to us all, as we all face the beginning of the next of our lives!

Three Years On . . .

 Tuesday, 27 October 2009
October 2009 and it’s now been three years since I became ill in September 2006. When the illness was diagnosed in February 2007, Professor Carr said that I would, most probably, have another three years of quality life left. It was the morning of 8 February 2007 when he looked at me over his desk – “Go back to PE and enjoy the next three years”, he said, “that’s all you have left.”

I set myself three goals at that stage – firstly, I wanted to see Phillip leave Grey Junior School at the end of 2008 (tick!); secondly, I wanted to attend the 25th reunion of the 1984 Grey matric class in May 2009 (tick!) and then, thirdly, I wanted to be at the valedictory service at Grey High in October 2009.

What a month October has been – an emotional rollercoaster ride!

On the evening of Sunday 11, I fell down the stairs at home and ended up at St George’s Hospital for midnight surgery. A broken right elbow (my good arm), two days in hospital and a cast for four weeks is the end result. What a mission to be reduced to two working fingers (this note being typed with those two!). The week after the fall proved to be the most difficult and challenging since my illness began. Suffice to say that my emotions were very low – the term used, I think, is feeling “down”!

However, you can’t stay down and you can’t give up. Once the pain subsided, a shower could be taken and the healing process started – both physically and mentally. Two weeks later, the pain has gone and just a bit of discomfort remains – it’s amazing what one can do with the toes! (And even more amazing at how my left arm has had to respond to the challenge – where does the dopamine come from all of a sudden?)

Thursday, last week, was the valedictory service for the matrics of 2009 – the third of my goals and,yes, tick!. With it, came the big announcement of the 2010 prefects. We were proud when Sean’s name was read amongst the group of 21. So Thursday evening meant celebratory pizza’s, Sunday we braaied with the Clarkes (Graeme is Headboy and David, is a prefect too) and Stapletons, and Monday 26 October, saw us at the Induction Ceremony and tea at the school. Graeme delivered a magnificent induction speech and we could see on Monday evening, when we went back at the school for the Toastmaster’s Evening, where it all originated. What amazing public speaking was displayed by the boys in the unprepared and prepared speeches! Grey can be so proud of its pools of talent!

I now look forward to 11 November – that’s when the splint comes off!

And I now have to reset my goals – Sean’s valedictory service and lunch at Old Grey (and Barney’s!) in October 2010 and – dare I beat the medical odds and plan so far ahead? – Valedictory 2012/2013 for Phillip!

I’ll see you there . . .

Gavin Loon
Amazing stuff Ed, we are very proud of you!!
27 October 2009 at 19:07 ·
Philip Henderson
seems you still setting your sights on new challenges ed.another reunion and as good!!! well done my friend
27 October 2009 at 19:51 ·
Jake Andrew
Congrats Ed! Your strength is makes you a role model for us all.
27 October 2009 at 22:59 ·
Kevin Whitley
Ed, you are an answered prayer! My advice, don’t set the bar too low…I’ll be happy to pitch in a few more, starting with a trip to the states!
28 October 2009 at 02:34 ·
Lindsay Lovemore
Ed, you’re a Champion !! You have many more years to go boet, keep your faith up and you will be rewarded and blessed beyond expectation !! See you soon !!
28 October 2009 at 08:46 ·
Ann Easton
This is great Ed! So glad you don’t have to do it alone – you have a fab wife and 2 beautiful boys to help you along the journey…
28 October 2009 at 09:48 ·
Paul Williams
Ed, People (i.e. doctors) can tell you 1000s of things about the future, but it is God’s purposes that prevail. You know He has gifted you with each day and you are a witness of how each day is a gift to each of us. You are an example to us all of someone living life to the full, but more, you are a wonderful man we are glad to call our friend. Keep trusting Him and see you in SA in December.
28 October 2009 at 10:08 ·
Ed Lunnon
I am humbled by the support and prayers that I receive from around the world. I stand in awe when I realize just how many eyes are upon me and the task that has been set for me – despite my so many shortcomings.

In the early hours of this morning – when I struggle to sleep with this cast! – I heard a song on the radio “Everyone hurts sometimes”. I realize again that I am not unique.

My prayer is that my disease will remind us all that we are surrounded by people who carry their varied burdens in a far less public way than I do. They are constantly in need of our assistance, support and prayers…. See more

Please support such people today and every day – then the fight is not in vain, and together we can make our world a better place.

“For it is in giving that we receive….”

29 October 2009 at 09:23 ·
Mike Begg
Ed, you are an inspiration to us all. I cannot begin to understand the depth of the emotions you must go through, but suffice to say that God in His grace will draw you near in the down times. May the goals Big or small be your motivator and may the Lord be your Guide and comforter.

You are so right that we need to be reminded that we are not… See more islands, and what/who got us to this point and what will take us further is not ourselves alone, but so many others who walk alongside us, loud or silent, strong or weak, and His Grace.

Thank You for the inspiration, you are being used for His purposes – may you know his presence and peace.

30 October 2009 at 22:15 ·
Andrew Barton
You are a huge inspiration to many Ed! There cannot be another that has so many folk out there proud to be counted as a mate by yourgoodself. Of course, there still remains the little matter of a fair number of bottles of good red to be enjoyed….and then of course out 40th reunion that you are arranging….
31 October 2009 at 05:58 ·