Last week Thursday we sat outside the labour ward at the Parklane Clinic in Johannesburg waiting for news. My daughter-in-law was having a baby and although we were told there was little need for us to be there, there was not much that would keep us away.
Besides, we have never been good at listening to instructions.
My wife covered her hair and I wore a "Yarmulka" or traditional skull-cap. We had brought along our own food (because we always eat when anxious as well as when we are not), and we are observant in the laws of kosher. We had brought ample supply with us as we didn't want to take the chance (God forbid) of being caught unaware by the sudden onset of hunger (one never really does know). Not that anyone in the family has ever been at risk of anorexia or even low blood sugar.
Across the waiting room was another family. The men also wore traditional garb, the women had their heads covered and they too seemed unnaturally interested in what they would have for lunch or dinner, depending on the labourer's dilation.
They knew they were having a grandson and throughout the afternoon they consulted the Holy Koran, debated various names and called uncles and aunts for their views.
They were observant Muslims. We are observant Jews. And for those few hours we were more like each other than we were different.
It was not a short day and as each family waited for dilation and contraction updates, other visitors came and went. Our younger children came past the hospital after school ended, as did theirs. Chocolates and drinks were offered and shared, opinions were asked and given, and sympathetic glances exchanged. Especially by those who actually understood what it meant to be in labour.
We met uncles and aunts, we met the future great granny (who reminded me of my late mother) and we helped them to settle on the name, assuming the future mom liked it. At least I hope we did, because it was quite cool.
Around 16:00 my son came out to tell us that my daughter-in-law was to have a C-section in the next 45 minutes. Our new friends were very concerned, but it was also clear that their labour experience was most likely going to end the same way.
Our granddaughter was born an hour later, to joy and excitement.
Their grandson was born an hour after that, by C-section to celebration
For the few hours that we spent together in the waiting area of the Parklane Clinic the outside world ceased to exist. For the few hours that we spent together in the waiting area of the Parklane Clinic there was no mention of Israel or of Palestine. There was no Gaza and there was no Jerusalem. There was no Hamas or Iran or Trump. There was no EFF, there were no land issues. There was no crime. There was no blaming. There was no disagreement and there was no conflict.
We were simply South African parents and grandparents waiting together, praying together and wishing the best for each other in what was a stressful but exciting moment. We were parents who worried and cared for other parents and for their children and for their future grandchild.
We met Ruby Sophia later that afternoon and we should have forgotten the family that we sat with. But somehow, we haven't. They will always be part of our experience and I am certain that we will always be part of theirs. At least I hope that we will.
Perhaps the birth of our little granddaughter and their little grandson into an environment of joy, love and peace will be the catalyst to change our country for the better. Perhaps it will be the reminder that we all want the same thing and that at the end of the day what we care about is the health and wellbeing of our children and of each other.
At the end of the day we are all just parents and future parents and that should unite us more than anything divides.
- Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the daily breakfast show presenter on Chai FM.
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