On my hike down memory lane, I stumbled across this gem……….


When I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes about thirty years ago, I ignored the fact.

Rather like sticking one’s head under the blanket in the belief; “if I can’t see it, it can’t see me”. Sadly, it could see me, and snuck up on me in two different ways.

I knew the condition was sugar diabetes, but having a sweet tooth and no self-control, I continued to use it in my tea and coffee.

I also indulged in sugary delights such as lemon meringue pie, chocolate cake and jam tarts. Then, of course, the whole range of chocolates and sweets, from nougat and turkish delights, to any of their sister candies. I say “sister”, as I imagine only females can be so alluring, yet so dangerous.

With feet so hot, they felt on fire. I had to wrap cold, wet towels around them to get some relief. A thirst that could not be quenched, and debilitating drowsiness, all the symptoms were there.

Screaming warnings at me, but I kept feeding the monkey on my back.

I remember finishing off a Mars Bar and then standing in front of the fridge’s deep freeze. Scraping the frosting from the sides and cramming it into my mouth, trying desperately to quench an unquenchable and fiery thirst.

This monkey also enjoyed fried foods, which were a no-no as well, but so yummy.

Eventually, my sins caught up with me and my eyesight began to diminish.

In my day I had enjoyed painting. From wildlife to landscapes, to enormous eight-foot by eight-foot murals. I tackled them all and loved the challenge.

I remember buying flat brushes, from two inches wide, to the tiniest size; 001-Pointed brush, and even then, pulling out all the bristles until only one remained for the small details in my pictures.

The day came, however, when my two worlds collided. My love of chocolate damaged my eyesight. Also, a nasty little melanoma showed up in my right eye, which was successfully treated by radiation but left me with significantly impaired vision on that side.

Finally, just for fun. I woke up one day to a stroke in my left eye. It seemed; I was being sent a message that my creative days were over.

My grandson, Vaughn, hated watching my disappointment when I could no longer see well enough to paint any works of wonder. He quietly packed away my paints, brushes, turpentine, and all the paraphernalia that went along with painting.

So, ok. No painting then! Ho hum, what to do, what to do? Ooh yes, beads! I had about three thousand rand’s worth of beads sitting neglected in a cupboard, from the day’s when I was making jewellery.

Fortuitously, at this time a friend of Vaughn’s came around with some air-drying clay. It is an excellent and fun medium for people without access to a kiln. She rolled out a circular sheet about 12cm across, and then using beads of different colours, created the most beautiful Mandala.

A mandala: For those who do not know, is a series of concentric circles of differing patterns.

It was something I could do. I had my spectacles and magnifying glass, and that three thousand rand’s worth of beads. I was set!

Okay, so now, let us begin.

All went well, until I made a mistake and tried to pick up a bead out of the wet clay. My fingers could not get a grip on the smooth surfaces of the beads. When I tried to pick up one that was misplaced, I could not do it without spoiling the rest of the mandala.

‘What I need’, I pronounced, ‘is a pair of tweezers’.

In my mind, that would solve my problem.

Vaughn dutifully bought me a great pair; they were unlike any other that I had seen. The ends were bent downwards, which made picking up and placing the beads easy-peasy.

The day came when Vaughn was out of the house, and I found myself a bit bored, wondering what to do.

Then, I remembered the beads. Aha, I would get them and finish the mandala. I found the piece of clay we had rolled out ready to be dressed. It was dried out and cracked, so I poured water over it and let it soak in a saucer for a while.

Then, I went looking for the beads.

I kept them in plastic containers, with about a dozen compartments for different shades of the same colour. All very organised, but I also had an ice cream tub where I kept any odd beads leftover from the necklaces and earrings I used to make.

I found the tub of assorted leftover beads, it was in a very odd, out of the way place.  Vaughn had shoved it under the lounge curtains, by the open garden door.

When I picked it up, I was surprised at the weight of it. It seemed very heavy for the number of leftover beads I remembered having, then I recollected having a lot of cheap white beads that I kept in a tub and figured these, were those.

I settled down with the beads and the clay disc.

Ready to prove how incredibly clever I was, and to finish making a beautiful mandala all by myself, not needing anyone’s help.

Just as I was settling down to create an exquisite work of art; Vaughn came home, unexpectedly early. I quickly stashed the beads on the floor next to my chair, hiding what I had been trying to do.

The following morning, as he was vacuuming, he found the beads, picked them up, and looked at me quizzically.

‘Gran, what’s this’? he asked.

‘My beads’, I owned up.

‘I was going to surprise you and make a mandala. I wanted to show you that I do not need you to watch me all day and every day. You know; if you want to go out, or something, and that I can entertain myself’.

He looked at me, and I could see he was struggling to hold back his laughter,


‘Why’ I asked,

‘Okay, Great! You were going to make a mandala. Hmm’.

He rubbed his head, and grinned, 

‘Sooo, what are you doing with the birdseed’?

‘Huh’. I looked at the container and its contents more closely.

‘Oh’, no wonder it had been so heavy, it was filled with birdseed!

Realising that my eyesight had let me down so badly, that I was about to try and make a mandala out of birdseed.

I had to admit defeat.

Apparently, they were not kidding when they said, if one did not take care, diabetes could damage eyesight.

So, I put down the clay, but working on the lemons to lemonade theory, thought,

‘Oh well, at least it gives me a topic for my next blog.’

Then picking up my iPad I started to write and, this was that story.

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