Growing up our parents always went to funerals and family funerals were often the ones with drama. We would often hear about the fights and disagreements that took place at these gatherings. Some of these fights get violent and it’s never good. There is a lot of resentment in families especially were money and resources are involved. Your brothers and sisters can gang up on you if they feel you are not doing your part to aid the family household. I was too young to ever attend such and with my father being a taxi boss they feared him enough not to try and of that bullshit. There would be consequences if that happened. This is why I really did not want to be part of this meeting because this family hated Sizwe and with good reason. This could turn ugly at any moment. The family meeting was already gathered and arguing when I arrived at the meeting one of the uncles said,
“We have never met and I know normally you would not be part of this discussion but our sister insisted you should be here. I will have you know that you have no friend here! That much is a fact!”
He said in what was almost an angry tone and there were grunts of approval from the others. I was not welcome here nor should I be here. I agreed with him. Why would Sizwe expose me to such really? I was the woman who he had left their daughter or sister for so obviously like Sizwe I was public enemy number one!
“The question is whether to cremate or not to cremate! You are the modern ones and are from Jhb. I am surprised you are fighting it because you are the clever blacks!”
Someone laughed. There is this myth that people from Johannesburg are so learned and wise. We are expected to be the most modern and open to new ideas. The irony is most of the people from Jhb or Pretoria is not even from there in the first place. Come to Jhb or Pta at Easter or Christmas if you want to see how empty the place. The exodus to Limpopo, KZN and Northwest is actually quite astonishing. All these people all come back with their belief systems so there nothing likes us being better than others. We are the same just that those who stay behind in the provinces refuse to see it as that. To them is privilege hence why they will always be backward. We go to a city of criminals, traffic jams, strikes, violence you name it but oh no, they are the lucky ones!
“You can’t cremate her. She needs to be buried like anyone else. She died less than three days ago and already you are saying burn her. Does that make sense to you?”
Sizwe argued immediately. No one backed him up. In fact it felt as though it was everyone vs him just to spite him.
“Who are you to come and tell us what to do? There was a time when my sister had no food and no clothes to put on that child, where were you? You were too busy eating salad and lasagne in the suburbs to care!”
The uncle shouted which made everyone laugh. It’s amazing how wealth can make you be hated. Salad is often made up of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes and these are all things everyone can afford but they would rather buy beer with their friends. This thing called Lasagne seems so luxurious when it’s just spaghetti. It’s like the mystery and awe of Dubai to Instagram girls when they see pictures the way lasagne sounds to uninformed minds. This wealth, people make it seem as though we stole it from somewhere when we went to school to achieve what we have today. My father for example started off with one taxi which he says he began as a driver and when his boss died with no one to give it to as it was old, he had used it to build his fleet. To them that’s privilege but to us that’s hard work. I did not get a degree to be a doctor because I had money but because I worked so bloody hard for it. That’s the reality of my life. Everyone wants to judge what they don’t know.
“It has nothing to do with what we eat at home. I must show care for my child!”
Sizwe protested again.
“You want to care for her now that she is dead? Are you sure about that! Sies!”
He said and he spat towards Sizwe’s way. Sizwe immediately jumped up deeply offended and they had to be held back from killing each other.
“Stop it! You two fighting is not going to bury my daughter!”
The mother spoke eventually.
“I want the best for her and the best is that we cremate her so I can keep her ashes next to me for eternity. Sizwe you would never understand that because you did not see her grow up. You were not there when she came back from school crying because someone was bullying her? You were not there when she won prizes at school nor did you care when she was sick at any point. Sometimes I would ask you for money for her but r500 was so expensive for you when your other daughter goes to a school where she pays more than r50000 a term. Sizwe really how could you have done this. You did not hear her laughter when she was happy and every time she had to come to your house she would be so happy until reality sank in that you did not want her.”
Everyone was deadly quiet as she made those words. They cut deep to such an extent that even I felt her pain. It’s true that Lintle’s school was very expensive but she had exaggerated the fee. It was not that much but I think she was using it as a figure of speech.
‘Are you not even ashamed as you sit there hearing what she has to say about your own daughter, your flesh and blood?”
A second but more elderly uncle questioned him.
“I am sorry for the role that I have played. I know I let her down badly and now it’s too late to do right by her.”
He said in apology. He sounded humble and contrite. I don’t think they agreed with him but I suppose it had to be said.
“So it is decided then that we cremate!”
The original uncle said totally ignoring the apology and dismissing Sizwe like he was not even there. I felt humiliated for him. Sizwe stood up angrily yet again and said,
“You do this on your own but you do not have my blessing. Nothabo let’s go!”
He said walking away.
“Runaway yet again. You can’t even bury your child because you are not ashamed! Go!”
Sizwe turned around,
“Bury her where? I must come and mourn my daughter in her mother’s house looking at an urn? Where is the reasoning in that?”
With that we walked away. I actually felt sorry for Sizwe because its true he had messed up in raising Nozipho but not to be able to bury her will haunt him forever. A lot of men deserve that though but I also blame us the wives that allow our husbands to be unavailable fathers to the children they left behind. A lot of women will fight him, punish him or simply make him feel unwelcome in the house if he talks of a child that he left behind. We sometimes are also to blame because we are selfish and too proud to accept that the children he has with you were not his first. We are also blinded by this to see that we aid in isolating and punishing children for crimes they did not commit.
“Please drive I am not in a good place!”
He said when we got to the car. I didn’t mind because I was driving to my mother’s house. We had forgotten about Lintle who was sleeping in the back seat.
“I thought you said you will find someone to driver her!”
I said to him. He turned around and saw her sleeping there.
“I didn’t get a chance to, you know that! Besides, it’s a good thing the car was still here otherwise we would have been stuck with these people!”
“What’s your plan now? You can’t miss whatever ceremony they have no matter how much you disagree with them. They raised her and they have more say than you do in this!”
I warned him cautiously. I could see he was hurting and hurting a lot. He loved her but I can’t say it had always been like this.
“Nothabo how did we mess up so badly on her though?”
He asked me.
“She was not a bad child but we never gave her the same time of day. What was it about her that was so distasteful?”
He was telling the truth in that much as I never shut the door on her I actually never welcomed her. What’s worse she was not like Nelisa who was in your face and did not seem to care whether or not you liked her. She was perhaps quieter and reacted to situations instead of creating them.
“I don’t know. We are both to blame on this!”
I sighed in resignation.
When I got to my mother’s house Sizwe tried to convince me that I must go with him and we leave Lintle here. I refused and told him that I wanted to resolve things with my mother because I have put it off way too long.
“I don’t want to be alone tonight!”
He said but I had no choice. I had to go.
“Lintle come love, let’s go!”
I said waking her up. It’s been a very long time since I last woke her up like that. Reminds me of when she was younger. We took our bags from the back of the car and went through the gate. My mother and Sizwe spoke for a few minutes then she came in.
“Welcome welcome! Lintle, you have grown so much. Your breasts are huge now!”
She said. What a line! Lintle immediately protested,
She moved in and hugged her grandmother.
“Where is grandpa?”
She asked her.
“He is still out but he knows you are coming so he will be back sooner rather than later!”
What had I missed? Last I checked they were not staying together. They had deliberately shut me out and I had not even seen it.
“When did that happen?”
I asked her but instead she changed the conversation and started talking about how church was keeping her at peace.
I watched him drive away and felt as though it was a bit of a betrayal. Part of me had put at the back of my mind that I was done with him.
I had just sat down when my phone rang. I did not know the number.
I said when I answered,
“Who is this?”
“It’s Nozipho’s mother. We have decided that we will bury her the day after tomorrow. Please tell Sizwe. Tomorrow my sister and I would like to meet you so we can talk. It’s time we all had a grown up discussion. Is 11am fine for you?”
She asked me.
Michael Nkululeko Maphoto
I am 23 years old and 3 years ago I was raped by three men on my way back from campus. All three men were caught and sentenced already but I can’t move on. I have gone for counseling and are part of survivor groups but every time I attend these meetings I feel as though I am reliving it all over again. It was not even at night when this happened meaning I am even afraid to walk during the day. I was told that I can’t have kids because they damaged something inside me. How am I supposed to live like this? I cry so often, I don’t trust anyone and now everyone who knows my story (it was in the newspaper) looks at me with pitiful eyes. The guys in my neighborhood whisper when I pass and no one hits on me (not that I want it) because I am damaged goods. I don’t date nor have I had sex since that day. I screamed so much when it happened but nobody came. Imagine, in broad daylight. Why would people do that?
Two weeks ago my little sister who is 16 was raped too, this time by a neighbors child and his friends also her age. What do I tell her now when I cannot even look at myself in the mirror half the time? Why has God abandoned my family mara? It’s so hard living with this thing now she has to go through with it too!
Please help me understand