Yesterday I had coffee with my mom.
We met at a lovely coffee shop in a wonderful shopping centre.
We had coffee.
We spoke for maybe an hour and a half.
We spoke about my brothers and my sister.
About their lives.
About their partners & their children.
We spoke about their recent move to a nearby coastal town.
About how they’ve settled in.
How they are adapting to the new season in their life.
We spoke about technology and how so many of us at our radio station are now using BlackBerry phones & how technology has changed everything.
We even spoke about my children.
About their education and how the whole home-schooling thing is working out for us.
I told her about their Karate grading.
I told her about the goat Pippa wanted for her birthday and how that conspired to add to our eclectic mix of animals five new members who now roam the little piece of land & surrounding commonage.
As our coffee cups had cooled down & the waiter brought the bill she told me that she was actually in town for a few days. At seventy she is into jewellery and she has some sales events over the next two days.
I invite her to come around to our home, today.
She had not been there in the past four years.
The last time she saw our Theunsie was when he was six and he is now almost eleven.
Which is okay, I suppose, at least he still remembers her, but our Pippa & Soffie, they were three and four when they last saw her. They know of her, but they do not know her.
October it was four years.
Four years since I had been ousted from my family.
I have two older brothers and a younger sister.
I wouldn’t say we ever had deep intimate relations. Perhaps my sister and I shared something.
Four years ago, though, ties were broken and even the semblance of intimacy evaporated.
We were in business together.
My father and I.
I could not agree with the way they did business.
I preferred integrity.
I preferred collaboration and honesty.
I gave up my shares and empty handed walked away into forging my own future in my own way.
It wasn’t acceptable to them.
The only ‘acceptable’ future for them would’ve been if I irreversibly gave up myself and my own convictions and life in service of our father’s dreams and desires.
It was a difficult time.
The struggle for freedom.
The starting over with less than nothing.
I remember our children dragging their bedding into our room, night after night, too insecure to sleep away from us, too traumatised by the ugly, nasty, destructive words and lies flying our way.
I remember not knowing how we’ll service the bond.
I remember selling Zuko’s car.
Selling the last properties to buy food & fuel & power.
I remember swearing at God in a desperate plea feeling utterly forsaken and alone.
I remember finding my way.
Finding a new life.
Gradually coming to peace while often crying at the realisation that if it was this easy for them to cut me and my family from their life, then what we had could not have been of much value in the first place.
Every now and then I would make a phone call which would not be answered or write an e-mail which would not be acknowledged.
Eventually reluctantly agreeing to the deathly silence and harsh denial of a history as if I had materialised onto this earth from nowhere and had grown into a man in isolation.
Then this year I get a call from my aunt.
My mother’s sister.
“Did you know your mother is in hospital?”
I go to visit.
It is uncomfortable, but they can’t exactly run away and it isn’t in their nature to make a public scene, those are reserved for private moments when no record can be held.
Later, after she returns home to recover, I visit there.
I feel my father’s relentless, scorching anger.
It is still uncomfortable.
Perhaps even more.
And it is superficial.
“How are you?”
“Glad you’re getting better.”
“Hope you recover completely.”
I make a second visit.
On this visit the thin veneer of decency rubs through.
The discontent with who I am and what I’ve chosen and the life I live boils over and sears away my flesh.
I politely say my goodbyes.
I walk away.
I hold onto a desire not to be what they say I am
To be me.
I touch my Zuko.
My Theunsie & Pippa & Soffie.
I drink the intimacy of them & friends who’ve come to love me and accept me for who I am. Who has done more than that. Who has embraced me in all my eccentricity.
It soothes the pain, but does not silence its cry.
And one day a text message.
Would I like to join my mom for coffee?
We have coffee.
It is the same conversation.
Her other children’s lives.
And months later, yesterday.
Zuko brews coffee & serves freshly baked stone ground bread with cheese.
We talk more about her other children’s lives.
Pippa shows her the goats.
She has to go.
I hug her.
“Thank you for the visit.”
And she is off.
Theunsie & Pippa & Soffie has questions.
“Where do they live now?”
“Why is ‘Oupa’ not with her?”
“Is ‘Oupa’ still mad at you?”
I have no answers.
I am empty.
I am only reminded of isolation.
Of how easy it was to forget my existence.
I question my value.
I question my life.
My friend, Al encourages me.
“Perhaps she doesn’t know how to go about it.”
“Perhaps this is good. A sign of her desire to connect with you again.”
It is painful.
It is sad.
It astounds me that we may have the most wonderful and intimate of relationships, but if our parents turn their back on us it seems to leave an emptiness that cannot be filled.
I wonder how many more of these superficial visits we’ll have.
How many more of them I’ll be able to endure.
I wonder if my father even knew of our coffee.
How messy relationships are.
Perhaps there will be coffee again.
Perhaps my father will agree to share life with me without wanting to ‘own’ me.
Perhaps that is not within his repertoire.
I savour the moment.
I embrace my Zuko and resolve never to find relationship in ownership or control.
To pursue freedom.
And give it.
To nurture this indescribable sadness.
To keep it alive.
To let it be fuel to an unquenchable desire to love & accept without any conditionality.
To let it be fuel to an unquenchable desire to give of myself, completely, as I am, and be at peace about those who cannot or do not want to ‘enjoy’ that for what it is.
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