Today I was thinking about an amazing fourteen year-old kid I once wrote a book about. (It was called The Best of Lauck and it was a limited edition book, which is unfortunately out of print.) His name was Tylor Lauck.
Tylor suffered from childhood cancer and even though he had his leg removed and suffered through more than forty surgeries (many of those to remove brain tumors) he still had the guts to stand at the door of death with a baseball bat and say, “Come and get me.”
I was there the day Tylor challenged death. I was at his home sitting by his bed with his sister Heather, his aunt Marlaina, his little bro and sis and his mom and dad.
The game was on!
Life against Tylor.
Life was pitching and, yes, you guessed it, Death was the umpire.
Tylor played his heart out but this was the hardest game he had ever played and, unfortunately, he began to run out of steam.
Tylor struck out twice.
Then Life pitched one final curve-ball and Tylor went for it. He hit that ball as hard as he could, but he missed.
“Hah!” said Death. “Steeeerike. You’re outta here!”
“Yeah, right,” said Tylor, who grabbed his crutches and headed for first base hopping on his one leg.
Tylor touched first base with his crutch and continued moving.
Death was fuming. “I said you’re out!” he yelled, as Tylor hobbled toward second base.
“Who died and put you in charge?” yelled Tylor over his shoulder.
Death stood at home plate seething. “What the hell is the world coming to?” he mumbled under his breath.
Tylor hit third base and headed home.
Death was waiting. And he was pissed! He was damned busy and didn’t have time to mess around.
Tylor hobbled as fast as his one leg could carry him. He did not slow down as he reached the home plate. He kept on running and bowled Death over in the process.
“What do you think you’re doing?” yelled Death, picking himself up and dusting himself off.
“Geeez,” said Tylor, “Why don’t you get a life…and sense of humor?”
“Besides,” said Tylor. “I wasn’t ready. I had some goodbyes to say.”
“Okay, okay,” said Death, “Like I’m sorry. You don’t have to get all snitty.”
“You’re killing me,” laughed Tylor. “Get it?”
“Very funny,” said Death, trying not to crack a smile.
Tylor hobbled over to the bleachers and said goodbye to his family.
Death waited impatiently.
Tylor hobbled back.
“Okay, now I’m ready,” he said, flashing his broad Tylor smile. “Let’s go. I can’t wait to see what trouble I can get into in heaven.”
And he strode off.
“Wait up, wait up,” said Death hurrying after him. “You don’t even know where to go, dude.”
“Well, show me,” said Tylor reaching for Death’s hand. “Show me.”
And Death gently took Tylor’s hand and they walked away together.
“Now there’s a few things I need to tell you about,” said Death. “Firstly, the dude at the gate’s name is Peter. Actually he’s a Saint. You’ll be able to tell by that yellow circular thing that’s floating above his head. Now, don’t piss him off. At least not right away.”
“Okay,” said Tylor.
“Okay,” said Death. “Let’s go buddy.”
And they were gone.
R.I.P. Tylor Lauck!
When I was a kid, the best gift I ever got was a box. A simple, plain old cardboard box.
I don’t even recall what came in the box because the box was better than the gift itself.
Over the next two weeks the box took me on the most amazing adventures. My particular box could fly, travel underwater, become invisible and morph into whatever I wanted it to be.
I was able to visit outer space in my box where I recall having tea with an extraordinary nice “hippocrockanellieduck” on a purple planet.
I went back in time in my box and witnessed my grandfather winning The Great River Jump. Nobody has ever been able to achieve that feat since according to him.
I won the Cape to Cairo motorcar rally in my box, beating out more expensive and faster rally vehicles.
I hid from a nasty thunderstorm in the box.
I kissed the girl from across the street in the box.
I got slapped by the girl from across the street in the box.
During that time I was spared certain death from a killer Parktown Prawn (a red cockroach) that chased me into the box and held me hostage for at least three minutes before my mom perfumed it into submission with a full can of deodorant spray. (My box smelled pretty good for a while after that.)
I flew three missions over Germany during the Blitzkrieg and shot down four Stuka Dive Bombers in my box.
I hid in the box when my dad lost his job and my mother was crying.
I smiled in the box when my dad climbed into the box with me and held me and told me everything was going to be okay.
And it was.
When I was an early teen I used to sit by myself on the hill behind our house in Johannesbburg, South Africa, and write songs, and stories in a little notebook.
I could see the whole of Orange Grove, Norwood, Fairwood, Linksfield, Alexandra and even Highlands North from up there. On a good day I could see past Sandton.
In my special spot on a big rock I worked through a lot of my teen angst, emotional growing pains and heartbreak. That spot became a special place of solitude and comfort for me. (It still is.)
Late one afternoon, when I was upset with the whole damn unfair-world, and wallowing in my own self-pity thinking about a girl who broke my heart, I became aware of the most haunting, memorable, soul-filling sound I have ever heard.
It was incredible.
I had never heard anything like it.
The sound wafted on the late summer breeze and touched my soul.
Even though I was taken by music from when I was a little chap, this was the first time I really ‘felt’ music.
For some reason it touched the very core of my being. It was so moving and sweet that I got goose bumps.
I was mesmerized.
I got up and walked towards the sound. I moved quietly through the veldt to a house that sat on the side of the hill below my secret writing place.
The sound was coming from the servant’s quarters in the back of the house.
I stood and listened for a bit and then, in the gloom of the darkening dusk, I was drawn to a pale flickering light where the sound was coming from. It was so beautiful and touching that, like a moth to a candle, I found myself needing find the source.
The yellow glow was coming from a small window in the servant’s quarters.
I stood on my tiptoes and looked into the window.
What I saw inside I will never forget. I will always remember the power and realization of the sight before my eyes.
Inside the room I saw a young African woman holding a swaddled little infant. (At that time in South Africa, due to the pass laws, servants were not allowed to have their babies in the city if they were over a certain age. I don’t remember the details of the law, but I know many babies were illegally hidden or a least kept out of sight in the backs of people’s houses.)
In the flickering candlelight I saw the mom with her cheek against the baby’s soft and pudgy face. I saw such love in the mother’s eyes as she gently rocked her baby.
Love for her child was flowing out of every pore in her body.
And she was singing an amazing traditional African lullaby.
“Thula Tu Thula baba Thula sana.”
Oh my God was she singing.
Talk about straight from the heart. Her voice was beautiful and haunting. The lullaby left her mouth, like a rabble of beautiful butterflies, and enveloped the child in the deepest and most profound way. The child was so peaceful and at one with the mother.
Sometimes, when I think about that lullaby, I can see myself standing on tiptoes and looking in the window and hearing that beautiful, haunting voice. When I remember that moment I still feel that distinctive sound of Africa stirring in my soul, no matter how many different places I have lived since then.
Talk about striking a chord!
That early evening, as the crickets started their night symphony and sang in harmony with the young mother, I learned something. I learned that the indoctrination and crap we were led to believe in our ‘controlled’ society… about how Africans don’t have feelings like the Europeans do and are less sensitive and not as caring and they don’t feel pain the same way… was wrong.
It’s amazing what nonsense people feed you to help them (and the societies they live in) control other people by sub-humanizing and de-humanizing them.
Thank God, that night, my young eyes and heart were opened and I was able to see love, comfort and deep caring coming from that tiny room. A grungy storeroom, like many servant’s quarters, where many white South Africans believed treason, crime, disease, subversive-behavior, violence and sorghum beer was being brewed.
I am so glad that I saw and heard the song with my heart and soul, and not only with my ears, because it surely changed the way I look at the world.
To hear a version of the song please visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzhUs2Xg0VI
I had mono when I was a kid. (It was called Glandular Fever in those days.) I was as sick as a dog. The dangerously high fever, that caused severe nosebleeds and kept me in a pool of sweat for days, took great pleasure in creating horrific swirling hallucinations that scared me and made me mumble incoherently.
During that time I woke up in the middle of the night with an extremely high fever and felt so awful I thought I was actually dying. My throat was parched and I had an terrible headache from dehydration.
I was frantically screaming for my mother from deep within my soul but all my mouth could do was groan incoherently. (I still have nightmares of trying to scream but no voice will come out.) My parents were just a few rooms away and I wanted my mom to hold me because I didn’t want to die by myself.
I was petrified because I knew my parents couldn’t hear me groaning due to the storm that was brewing outside.
The wind was wrestling with the bushes across from my window and the corresponding shadows on the wall looked like creatures from hell coming to take my life.
I squeezed my eye shuts, trying to get the images away.
I clenched my teeth because I knew something was in my room.
I opened my eyes in a panic.
A shadow moved away from the wall and loomed over me.
I heard a soft whisper that mingled with the leaves rustling outside.
I could not hear what the voice said. I didn’t want to hear what the voice said. It was a hissing whisper and I was too afraid.
But the whisper came closer and closer and suddenly I could hear it clearly in my ear.
“It’s okay. It’s okay, my boykie” I’m here.”
It was my mother.
I suddenly felt a cool cloth on my forehead.
Then mom climbed onto the bed and lay next to me.
And held me all night.
Thank you for hearing my soul cry out for you ma. I will never forget that.
I love you ma.
Today I would like to make a toast to something remarkable that happened about forty years ago in Yeoville, Johannesburg, at the KES High School bus stop across the road from the Black Steer.
Yup forty years.
I had just started high school at the time. I was an avid photographer and due to my dad losing his job and lack of funds I took pictures with a borrowed camera (and because I didn’t have a darkroom) I developed them in my parent’s kitchen after everyone went to bed.
I really enjoyed taking pictures of my sister who graciously modeled for me and I loved taking photographs of the school’s First Rugby Team in action. My alma mater, King Edward High School, had a fantastic team that year. One of the star players was a chap by the name of Shane Carty. Shane was a big, strong, guy and a brilliant rugby player. (He played for the South African Schools rugby team that year. They were the top fifteen schoolboy rugby players in the entire country.)
One Monday morning after a fantastic win against a tough team, I went to school clutching a really nice photograph I had taken, and developed, of Shane leaping up for the ball.
I wanted to give him the picture but I was afraid to approach him. Shane was one of the most revered and worshipped guys at the school. I mean he was a kind of God at KES. A sports hero. Even the teachers fell over themselves to say hi to him and shake his hand. I was a very small guy and four grades lower than him. I was so little he may not even have seen me because I was about level with his knee caps.
I waited all day for the right moment and, at the lunch break, I noticed him at the Tuck Shop and gave him the picture. I about shook right out of my ‘Bata Toughee’ shoes.
I saw some of the kids in my class with their jaws gaping in surprise. They were gob smacked that I had the audacity to speak to someone of Shane’s stature in the school.
I handed him the picture and beat a hasty retreat. In two strides he caught up to me and said, “You took this?”
“That’s great. Thanks man,” he said patting me on the back with a giant paw-like hand. “What’s your name?”
I told him my name and got away as quickly as possible.
I saw him every now and then and he always nodded hi to me when we passed in the school halls.
One day towards the end of the year two older boys were giving me a hard time at the bus stop after school.
They always did.
We all wore school ties and blazers and one of the boys had grabbed my tie and was pulling me around like a dog on a leash and almost chocking me in the process, The boys were kicking and barking at me pretending I was a dog while other kids at the bus stop laughed their arses off.
Those kids often embarrassed me. Especially on the bus.
As they were shaming me Shane Carty and some of his rugby-team buddies rounded the corner and, from a distance, saw us. The boys let me go and were horsing around with each other pretending nothing had happened.
Shane continued walking toward us and greeted me as he passed. “Howzit Trevor,” he said.
The boys who were bullying me stopped in their tracks. They couldn’t believe that THE Shane Carty was greeting little pisswillie Romain.
Shane walked past me and stopped right next to the guy who had grabbed my tie. He looked down at him sternly and said, “Leave him alone. Don’t let me ever catch you doing that again.”
They never messed with me after.
In fact nobody at school ever bullied or teased me after that.
I recently found Shane’s e-mail and thanked him personally for the making such a huge difference in my life. What he did actually changed my school experience and I will never forget his kindness.
He had no idea that he had done that and told me he cried when he got my e-mail.
Sometimes even the smallest we do can actually change someone else’s life…without us even knowing it.
Cheers Shane. Thank you so much.