A Decade Has Passed
April 29th 2019
Dammit Dad, today marks 10 years. It’s now been a decade that your voice and laugh are no longer with us. It’s now been a decade that your farm’s fields lay dormant just like you left them. For the past decade the dirt road has been calling you, the pebbles begging to crackle underneath the wheels of your bakkie/truck. The pieces of wire that you and Shadrak used to fix the fence with are starting to disintegrate. As if they too are ready to let go, to let loose and break free and to release everything it’s been protecting for so many years, out to run free. They’ve started to realize that their master is never coming back and they are ready to say their final farewell.
Metal fatigue over the past 10 years is starting to weaken my own wires slowly but oh so steadily. The thing is dad, I was trying to keep my fence strong for you, but you’re not coming back, are you? I don’t know, perhaps it’s supposed to break? Maybe my fence should become weak in order for me to grow strong? Perhaps my fence should fall to the ground so that those who want to leave can leave, and those who want to stay, stay.
You see dad, I didn’t only lose my father on April 19, 2009, but also my brother, my sister and a part of myself. I buried on that day a part of Werner that was a son to his father. Something I would never get back. And together with this a part of me that was an older brother. For a decade now, I’ve not been either one of the two. I went to back to being an only child. My brother, sister and I were all victims in the wake of your death. Over the course of the past ten years, I have been wondering about them. I’ve wondered whether my brother looks like you or whether he has your soft temperament. I’ve wondered if my sister is still as smart as she was the last time I saw her.
I hoped, man, I dreamed and wished that they would reach out to me. But even more than that, dad, I wished, no I yearned for them to reach out to grandma. She has been missing them immensely for 10 years now, and it was/is painful to watch. I want to say that I can relate with her, but for me they were a brother and sister, for her they were your children. Your children were the only part of you that grandma had left. For me, they were all I had left of a life of which you used to be a part of. A part of my history was buried with you under rock and dirt. The end of your life was also the end of a relationship between two brothers and a sister. Dad, ten years is a long time to miss someone. It is a constant feeling of clawing and gnawing on the inside. It feasts on you like a hungry lion, but it is time for this to stop.
Not to forget about you, dad, but rather to let go of the omnipresent unanswered questions. I will always miss you and the earth will still make decades worth of trips around the sun leaving my feelings unchanged, but I can’t keep longing back to my life when you were still here. My life back then, when I was still a brother. The time has come for me to finally part ways with what was and to let go. I accept now that I am an only child. I accept that I am no longer anyone’s brother. I wanted things to turn out differently for your sake, but you are not coming back and now I should repair things for the sake of my own sanity.
My fence’s wires are rusted, they are starting to break, and I am not going to try and fix it. The time has come for my fence to fall. It might be difficult at first, letting go and saying goodbye, but over the course of time the memory of the fence will fade into oblivion under the thousands of footprints moving in and out.
I am angry at you dad, I’m angry because you were an alcoholic. Your drinking habits were the cause of your divorce with mom. It’s because of your drinking habits that I grew up with a father I only saw every other weekend. Your need for alcohol led to my need for a dad. Alcohol has deprived me of the privilege of ever knowing or experiencing what it’s like to grow up with a dad, a privilege that is taken for granted by so many.
I remember you with a glass in your hand. I remember how I found bottles of Cape to Rio in your cupboards, under beds and behind furniture. You were hiding your alcohol just like you hid the pain inside of you. On the inside, you cried, your thoughts milled and the demons in your head screamed. With every sip you tried to put them to rest/show them up, to drug them until it became thunderously quiet. You looked at me with gauziness in your eyes, looking for love, looking for acceptance, but instead you saw disappointment. You saw a son that was ashamed of you. You saw a son who wished he had a different father.
It must have been heart-breaking seeing your reflection in the disappointed eyes of your son, and today I want to say apologize, dad. I want to say sorry for not seeing you; I want to say sorry for being prejudiced before I enquired. I didn’t understand or knew anything about the wars you were fighting on the inside. I am sorry that my short-sighted religion saw an alcoholic, but failed to see the beautiful soul behind the glass.
Please forgive me
There were many things inside you, ugly things, raw things that you never told anyone about. Things you took with you the day you died. You waited for us to ask you, to help you, but instead we failed you. In the hospital, nearing the end, I could see in your eyes how desperately you wanted to talk, but the tracheal tube in your throat would not allow it. Did you finally want to shout out your frustrations; did the realization sink in that this would’ve been your last chance to let it all out?
What happened in the border-war, dad? What did you see? What did you have to do? That was the beginning of the end for you. You fought your own war and you lost. There were no allies to help you then. Patriotism seems to be one-sided. Where were they when you had to wrestle with your demons? Where was their love? If only they would have fought as hard for you as you were willing to fight for them.
Your fence was strong and it kept most of you and your thoughts on the inside, but at the same time it kept me on the outside. Ignorant 18 year old me didn’t know any better, and it was frustrating. I scolded you when you poured a brandy, instead of listening, instead of noticing. I felt ashamed when you showed up drunk to my rugby games.
I got angry when you complained about paying alimony, but I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to listen. I saw, but I didn’t notice. I was blind. For years I wanted you to apologize to me, but today I want to apologize to you. I am so sorry that I couldn’t help you. I am so sorry that I didn’t make an effort to notice you. Today I wish I could’ve helped you cut the wires of your fence. I wish could sit down with you and cry out all the ugly and all the hurt. I now know that you were sick. You couldn’t help it.
You had a family yet you were alone. Nobody was a someone for you but you were a someone to so many. Thank you for everything you taught me in the short time you were here, thank you for allowing me to tell you how sorry I am today, thank you for understanding, but most of all thank you for being my dad. On April 19, 2009 your fence finally fell down and you were liberated. The shackles were broken and you walked, a free man, into eternity. I can see you looking back, waving at me, with that shy smile of yours.
I don’t even have a picture with you.
A decade is a long time, but love makes time relative.
You live on Daantjie Donderbos.
Love, your son