He was never a good father. He did not love enough to maintain his marriage. He provided but never freely gave…not of himself or of anything else. He was a victim of his own life. He was a street child and a survivor of severe poverty. Poverty that was so severe that he never even slept beneath a blanket in the worst of times. In the best of times he couldn’t call anything his own. He was driven by a fierce hunger to acquire a better life and he never could understand that Life itself had a fatalistic pattern. As a boy he drifted towards the kinship of other boys in the same position of need and want and neglect. 1936 saw him at 8years of age moving in gangs that had strict codes and methods for survival in economically depressed South Africa. How often he had promised himself he would one day rise above the need and want that walked alongside him each day. He learnt how to not love anything too much….someone would always come along and take it from him. Like his toys….the very few he had saved from better times when there was still Christmas and birthdays….those toys were one day just gone…and only an empty battered suitcase remained . His heart was crushed and the tears that welled in his eyes wouldn’t fall….they just wouldn’t fall and he swallowed back the anger and frustration he felt towards his siblings and yet again pregnant mother. No one in the dysfunctional family circle owned up to taking the toys from its precious place. He never forgot the hurt. He always remembered.
The boy grew into a man who at 13years of age had to work to provide for the family. There were older brothers who could do this but they chose not to and he promised himself he would one day break free. And he did. But he broke free an already damaged man who would not love. His child heart did not mature and grow.
It is difficult to adequately and with truth bridge the distance of a mans life between his youth and adulthood…and then into old age. What happens to us as children may be buried deep within the subconscious but it comes like the ghost of Bob Marley to haunt us when we are old and once again as in childhood defenceless against the merciless march of circumstance and time.
He had no friends and was a solitary man. He lived alone even when he was married…he was always alone.
He tried to fit in with his adult peers but their constant need for some form of friendly commitment was something he was never prepared to give. He was afraid of almost everything but he had learnt to hide it well.
Life taught him that people will never remember your good deeds but always the darker side of ones comings and goings and he had many darker sides….dark shadows that he hoped and prayed his wife and daughter would never discover. But they did. To the black people he was a man of strength,and although hard, he tempered this inflexibility in his character with fairness. They called him “ngonyaam” which loosely translated means ‘the lion’.
In April of 2013 the lion fell. The isolated and solitary soul fell victim to his past. He died confused by shadows and events of the past. Events and realities that suddenly became exaggerated and out of control. The only communicant in the last years of his life, his daughter, did not understand what was actually happening in his mind. Every experience seemed to be a temper outburst. Every nightmare was irrational behavior. And it was speculated if he was silently drinking again. The damage and hurt inflicted by this ‘silent’ killer upon the one person standing on the peripheral of his life can never be measured. To her it seemed as though he was back to old behaviour…she was after all used to these verbal tirades and harsh judgements. She distanced herself and his demons became larger than his own life….and they haunted him constantly. His behaviour became desperate as he locked himself in his flat….banging at windows and chasing away shadows. The senile dementia finally won the battle he fought each day. And she watched helpless and not understanding that this disease chooses even the most strong of men and women.
He died alone….in silence and solitude as he lived….a solitary death for a solitary man. Whatever burdens of past sins he took with him finally rested in a quiet place. Whatever fears he constantly had born of past physical attacks in the later years of 1997/8 could finally be laid down…like an old and worn out dragon he would return to the place of his beginning and know that another dimension waited.
There were no mourners…only one person sent him on his final journey. The regret and remorse was more than she could bear. The lost years holding memories of hurt and rejection is with her constantly. She understood too late what Alzheimer’s was….silent killer for solitary people.
He died surrounded by excess..excess of food, medication,blankets……the boy who had nothing as a child, who drank water to still the hunger pains could in the end not eat a single thing. He was emaciated and almost starving. The boy who longed for a bed of his own died on the floor of his flat.
Today this boy who became this man would have been 87 years old. It is hoped that he is at peace and in his spirit he owns his mind once more. It is hoped that he is again that man who was dedicated to his profession…brilliant at his strategies to bring safety and control in all aspects to the lives of others. It is hoped that QM has his sanity again and that even if he sees with sorrow and regret from the other place he can again be free.
In nomini Patris (published poem in the Book The Gift of Time published by Christian Poetry Association)
Jy verskeur my tussen jou
outoriteit as ouer
en jou behoeftigheid as bejaarde.
Jy druk my vas teen
die klip van jou siel
en hoop om in my oë
verdraagsaamheid te sien
Jy gee aan my woorde
sonder die patroon van ‘n sin
terwyl jou oë my oordeel
en die kritiek begin.
Jy neem van my die menswees
wat ek so lank na smag
en stuur my drome verbode
verlore in die skadus van die nag
En tog is jy my ouer
die een wie vir my ‘n naam moes gee
en van kleins af
staan ek voor die staalvorm van jou bors
Sal ek ooit eendag kan sê
ek het dors!
Written by the author of this blog…