Though a thief, death brings with it some lessons.

Friday , February 14 2014

The 12th of this month marked 5 months since Boaz’s family found out about his passing, but most recently for me and my family, it marks a month since my step-dad passed away. For a couple of years leading to his passing I was comfortable referring to him as my "step-dad" as I narrated stories of all the abuse I had suffered in my upbringing under his hand to anyone who would listen. But now, writing this, and over the past couple of weeks, having had so many different dreams about him, I acknowledge that that man was my father. I know this from the inner-most part of me. He was my father! Obviously our relationship was a difficult one. I do not think any child would appreciate their mother being bruised and abused, this being emotional or physical. They just begin to hate the perpetrator. I didnt care what he did to me. Children who are exposed to abuse lose sight of themselves. My concern was my mom. I cant even begin to count the number of nights I spent with one eye opened, wondering if he would chase her with a knife again. Wondering if there’d be another argument which would lead to a major fight. I remember the one time they had such a big fight, that even afterwards I was still so scared that I couldnt calm down. I cried until I started puking. Perhaps this was the way of life in this place of my birth. A squatter-camp on the outskirts of Pretoria. This, my home, a place alienated by governments and forced into a municipality that no one wanted to belong to: the North-West.

If I could write a letter to my dad, it would read as follows:

Dear Dad,

I want you to know that at the time of your passing I had forgiven you. In fact, when I got saved in 2009, God renewed my heart and I forgave you completely. I know we never shared many conversations as was the case when I was an only child. I could not relate to you anymore. I know I have forgiven you and everything, but all the things you did to me- to my mom, they affected me. Growing up I struggled with self-worth issues. This was after Remo (my little bro) was born. I did not feel like a priority anymore. Things changed. Then I found out that day when you were drunk with your friends that you were not my real dad. In my mind, it all added up, how you changed as soon as he was born. What hurt the most was how you always insulted me for having female friends only. How bad it made you look. I remember how you tried to bribe me, saying you’d give me money everyday to go play pool just so i’d stop playing with girls. I wanted to do it, to make you proud. But you never left the money.
I was so proud that one Friday night when we were at Roba-letheka’s shebeen, and you had one ball left to win the pool game, then I insisted that you let me play for you. I remember how everyone watched in anticipation to see if I’d get the ball in. And how they cheered when I helped you win. You were so happy.... so proud. You’d keep saying to mom (and people), "he’s a good boy, if only he would stop playing with girls". I dont know why I was like that. I wished you could have understood.

In 2008 you turned me against my mom, yet you never knew it. She didnt know how much I despised her, and I did. I hated that she would pack up our stuff every time you had a big physical fight, only to unpack and go through the same motions again, over and over. She did this even after you pulled a gun on my face in February 2007. Even after you hit me in April of 2008. She still came back. What hurt most was in April 2008, when I was convinced that I would be free from all the abuse, then you ruined it for me. You promised to buy her a laundry machine just so she could stay. I felt worthless, that she valued that machine much more than me. All those things, every single one of them made me feel inferior. I could not receive free gifts without a sense of guilt. I never liked branded clothes, and when my aunt would do things for me, I would feel unworthy as she lavished me in expensive clothing. It took me a long time to get over those feelings. Even when I got to varsity those emotions continued to haunt me. This has become the story of every child who’s been abused, or been exposed to abuse. They feel worthless. All I ever needed was your love.

But I want you to know that I forgave you.

You were my dad, my only dad growing up. I recall the Christmas goodies you'd get from work every December, and all the clothes you'd buy for me. I always have this memory of us together, I must have been 6 or 7, when I fell and bit my tongue. Dad, it was so painful, but you made it better, just your being there. My head on your fatherly thighs. I felt so safe! That's a one memory I have always treasured of you. You, my dad.
Remo and I will always remember the goodies you'd bring back every Friday after getting paid, the chips and the pies from BunnySmile. All the yogurts from Meatgood. We would always look forward to your arrival on Fridays.

And I wanna thank you.

I do not think I would ever be where I am without everything I went through growing up. Books and tv became my hiding place. I wouldnt have needed a hiding place had my life been smooth sailing. So maybe this was my destiny. I worked hard just because I wanted a better life for my mom. So thank you, 'cause indeed God has caused all things together for my good.

I want you to know that I cried a lot at your burial.
In the week of your passing I felt strong, I kept feeling like this was an indirect death, that it didnt affect me. Maybe I wanted to be strong for the kids. But on the day that your lifeless body was brought home I couldnt hold back on the tears. I realised that I loved you, you were my dad. I loved you for myself and for my siblings, because they love you dearly. Pontsa(my little sister) misses you so much! Your passing hurt them. I was worried about Remo, but God is good- he's much stronger than I thought.

I have become their dad. I want the best for them. We packed away all your machinery and tools and locked up for Remo’s future. I worry about mom sometimes though .. when I call her, her voice is so low. I’m just happy to hear her laugh once in a while during our conversations. It is sad that you passed 2 weeks before I headed back to Cape Town. I would have felt more comfortable being home with them during this time. But it is well!
What was hard for me at the cemetery was realizing that man’s life possibly ends in a box like yours. Glamorous and all, yet still a box. A lifeless box! I couldnt believe that I was pouring a bit of soil on your coffin. Yours!
You are still very much alive to me.... I find myself singing all those 'weird" gospel songs you used to play by Barorisi ba Morena , I grew into them, I guess. I even play them on youtube. Sometimes I just stare at that last photo of you that was taken from mom’s 40th birthday celebration, in disbelief I keep hoping this was untrue. I’ve had so many dreams about you this week, each one different. Am I thinking about you a lot?

When I prayed for your wellness I told Daddy God how I wished for you to see me graduate at the end of this year, and that you would see my first car. I wish this was the case. But it is well!

I am happy to have seen you the day before you gave up your spirit.

I will miss how you always called me "pastor", and how your opinion of me had changed over the years.

Papa, ke a leboga. Ka go gopola. ( Daddy , thank you. I think about you and miss you).
I miss you!

This piece was first published on my blog:

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