Thursday, July 13, 2017

Inmates are the Scourge of the Earth

To most people, inmates of prisons are the scum of the earth.  How many times have I heard the “He did the crime, he must do the time” and how often have I heard derogatory remarks about prisoners?  We watch the news or read the newspapers and actually get a kick out of reading about another person who is put in jail for a long period of time.  Inmates are viewed as the scourge of society and I am going to do my very best to show the world that prisoners are people too.  I think the worst thing I heard being said about an inmate is that “I hope he rots in jail”, or “he does not deserve to be treated like a human being and therefore should have no human rights”.
I made a commitment today – a commitment to the young and old men in Medium B at St Alban’s Prison.   I have committed myself to be their liaison officer, their mentor, their go-between, their friend and their confidante.   Against doctors’ orders and the absolute horror expressed by my mom and my husband, I went and did a three-hour workshop on debating, reviewing and writing skills for approximately 25 men.   I don’t know who had the better time – they or I.  I had an amazing time spent with such an incredibly diverse and yet coherent group of men.  Not once did I feel threatened in any way.  I was in a very safe space, no wardens around and just the inmates and me.
I prepared nothing – I was skating on my arse with the experience I already had.  They had prepared so many things for me; two reviews on one of my books, a Capella with rap, poetry written and recited to me … they were amazing.  And Heinrich van Rooyen organized all that to take place.   A huge big thank you must go to Mr PC Plaatjies, the warden who made this all possible.
We were serious, we laughed, we squealed with delight – there was nothing but sheer joy in that classroom for three hours today.
Those are not animals in there, as I have also heard them described.  They are gentlemen; they are intelligent, pleasing to the eye and most entertaining.  And each and every one of them have crept into my heart.  As I always have to have something greater than I am to live for, I will be living for this group of amazing human beings as well.

Who amongst us all, have not committed a sin?  Who amongst us all, have never made a mistake?  It was a privilage and an honor to spend those three hours in their company.  Those are my boys now!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Open Letter to my Siblings

I hope you will look at all your good qualities and realize how important you are to those who love you.
Reflect on all the things that make you – you.
I hope you’ll find ways to make the difficult times easier, your cares lighter and the days brighter.  I pray that mysteries will unfold for you to make a difference in your life now.
I hope you’ll tap into that source of strength I know is within you, that place where hope and courage live and new ideas are born.
I hope you will connect with the kind of faith that helps you to reach your chosen goals.  As you ease from one day to another, I hope you find time to consider the miracle of your own life and the beauty of your humanity.

I hope that a band of ministering angels will hover around you and protect you. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Some Days are Just Shit !

Some days are just shit. We all have them. There is no other word to describe it. You feel so down and demotivated that you can fly kites under a carpet with ease. No one can say anything to lift your spirits and even if there are those who care, not even their words can lift you out of the doldrums. There is just no wind beneath your wings. You don’t know what steps to take to change the situation. You stuck in a no man's land, alone with just your overwhelming negative thoughts that come from something that was done to you that was unfair, cruel or even something that you would never do to another person. This period of unrest of the soul is needed so that the debris and the dirt can be discarded and a new plan and life can be carved out of the old. So, sometimes these shit days are necessary. Today was one such day for me. Tomorrow will bring numerous ideas and plans. And then the kite can fly in the sky again

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Why Would Someone Risk Everything to Make a Stand for Human Rights

Ken Wiwa, the son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a human rights activist who was executed in November 1995 in Nigeria, asks in his book "In the Shadow of a Saint", "What is it that compels a man to risk everything - his life, his family, the lives of people around him - to make a stand for human rights?"

I am trying to answer this question. It is not religion. It is a deep horror of injustice that drives me to do something about it. It is also a feeling of being the only one to really see the pain and abuse, the feeling that not enough people are prepared to do something, or to take action...this is what drives me to take more and more risks. It is a feeling of not having enough time and of a job that is too large to complete. It is a feeling of living in the moment because tomorrow will be too late. It is a feeling of every life being precious and if nothing is done about the other out there, then nothing will be done about these around me. It is a feeling of "if I look out for those, then these of mine will be OK". It is a deep resentment of the abuse of others. It is a loathing of unkind and uncompassionate behaviour. It is the contempt for those who sit by and do nothing, knowing that while they look on they are as much to blame as the abuser and the oppressor. It is a feeling of frustration that pushes me to the limits of my endurance. It is an all-consuming love of the people, of those who need protection the most.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Truth Teller - The Impimpi...Why Now?

The year I got sick 
It has taken years of chronically and often life-threatening illnesses to strip away slowly at everything that I held dear in my life.  And suddenly I was facing an adjustment disorder.  I have my own psychology degrees, so it has been a case of healer, heal thyself.

Apart from ill-health, there has been enormous financial strain with added expenses which have made us fly kites under a carpet.   It is not easy to start a new life at the age of 61 for my husband, starting from scratch in a country he had not lived in for over 20 years.  

With what I thought was an amazing opportunity, I got an online computer job writing web content for the SEO of a pharmaceutical company – yes, writing about Viagra and all the generics for erectile dysfunction.  No one else wanted the job, so I took it.  I know one hell of a lot about impotency and soft and flaccid penises now.  The remuneration was wonderful and for a month, we were starting to float.  The following month, the person in charge dropped the ball and all the writers were fired, without pay and with immediate effect.  After chasing the story down it was found that the pharmaceutical house was nothing but an online drug dealer.  So that went out the door.  Back to flying those kites under the carpet.

Then I got very sick. I was drowning in my own fluid.  Discovery are amazing – they have come to the party and I am being home nursed with drips and all the paraphernalia I need.   While I have been lying here, writing and thinking and pondering and reflecting over the last three weeks, I have had to take a good long hard look at what I want from life.  Being one in ten million people with this disease does not make me special – it makes me a problem.

The crying and the grieving has been done.  It is time to dry the tears and get on with the business of living.  My spirit does not belong in this body. I am like the old lady struggling to move down the street, but her shadow is a young girl dancing with abandon.

I made the decision to share my life, every bit of it - the nice, the good, the ugly, the bad, the not too bad and the not too nice; leaving nothing out…telling the truth 100% of the time.
There are many reasons for my decisions. Some are:
  • Giving the abused child of my heart a voice 
  • Allowing my soul to soar with freedom
  • Making myself transparent
  • To be truly authentic I must be brutally truthful about everything that has been, is and will be in my life 
  • To allow those who have been damaged by part of my own past to come to terms with their healing as well 
  • To show that child abuse affects a person their whole lives but that there is a way to become a survivor
  • To become a ferocious activist for prisoners - particularly for those who are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit
  • To inspire, help, encourage and provide my own brand of quotes for people to use to reflect on their own lives and to just have a good laugh
  • To do what I love and love what I do and that is to write – so the books will come, the blogs will come and … we shall see what the good Lord Himself has in store for me.

There will be those who will not like what I write, but that is their business and not mine.  They do not have a gun pointed at their heads forcing them to read what I write.   But I do know now that there will always be thousands more people who will appreciate truth rather than the bullshit that is spoken so often

I want my life to have meaning and I want to leave a legacy with my stories for my grandchildren to know who I was one day.  What better way than to tell my own truthful stories. 
I am now a freedom writer!  And probably an impimpi as well!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Childhood Memories - Dedicated to Those who Think they know Better but were Not there

My Paternal Great Grandmother, Shane, Joy & I 
There has been so much wara-wara about me writing the truth about my childhood and living with a father who was a street angel and a home devil, let me put you in the picture why it is that there are friends of my siblings that say that he was never anything but charming to them.  These people who are phoning my sister Joy, are creating a furore about nothing but I understand.
I was the first child born, my poor mother did not know what was happening and she had her head buried in the pillow with her bum in the air, screaming and flailing her legs up and down from the knees.  She was in a nursing home run by nuns and in those days, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room.  Well, out came this pink baby with red hair and it was a girl.  I do think that my father was a little disappointed that I was not a boy, although when I asked him about it when I was in my 30’s, he just looked at me and did not answer.
We were Roman Catholics so there was no such thing as contraception and even the reverse method was frowned upon by the church.  So the babies came.
The next child was Joy.  My mother had tuberculosis and spend her second and third trimester in an isolation hospital with few visitors other than the Catholic priest who would often come and play cards with her in the afternoon.  Little did she know that her husband, with the full knowledge of his mother, was carrying on with other young and loose women.  My father could charm the panties off of any woman, married or not.  I once witnessed my father pick up a young hitchhiker when I was around 10 years old and take her to the Lounge Tearoom, the only place in Umtata where women could also go and be with their men and have a meal or a coffee.  Pubs in those days were for men only, although there were ladies lounges where women would sit and drink on their own, with the husband bringing out a drink for them every now and again.   The Lounge Tearoom had a juke box.   Holding this young girls hand (She could not have been a day over 19), he put money into the juke box, chose a song and danced with her around the tearoom in the middle of the afternoon.  She was smitten.  I could never have told my mother that story.  She was already hurting too much from his infidelity.
While my mom was in the Isolation Hospital, I was being taken care of by my grandmother, who I called Mom.  It kind of made sense; because everyone else called her Mom.  My grandfather I called Pa, because everyone else called him Pa.   I was the apple of Mom and Pa’s eye.  They showered me with clothing, with everything to match, from frocks to shoes.  Mom kind of took me over from my mom and when Joy was born, Mom ignored her most of the time.  Joy was born at home with my father in attendance.  Because my mom had been so ill during her pregnancy, Joy was a small blue baby who the doctor did not think would live, so she was christened at a day old.  My father tells the story of how he promised God that he would always take care of Joy if she lived.  He says he gave the breath of life to Joy.   My mom says that is hogwash, but I was not there.  Joy was always my father’s favourite child.  She never smiled until she was over a year old and her first words were “Mommy, I think you are a bloody fool”, and spat her food out.  My mom could never get Joy to stop swearing.  She broke a wooden spoon on her but still she swore.  It was just who she was.   My father would never have acted out anything bad when in the company of Joy, so it makes sense that her friends know nothing about the home devil he was.  Look at the picture on the blog where I speak about my father beating my mother and my inability to sleep ….he did not take photographs of Joy.  Joy was left in her bedroom to sleep, while he made us watch him beat my mom up and then take photos of us.   So to those friends of hers that do not believe my story, I know why you don’t.  BUT, this is my story so don’t deny me the right to my own truth as I would never doubt your story of your own truth.  My mother had four children under the age of five; all born at home with my father playing midwife.  He was a very good medical person for someone without any medical training.  I believe that if he had had the chance to channel his brilliance into something like medicine, it would have over-shadowed his dark side.  Shane came after Joy, Yolanda after Shane (and my father denied his paternity to her until she was an adult, saying that she did not look like his other children.  She was beautiful (still is) with the same olive skin as my mother.  She too is a brilliant person who could have been anything she wanted in life, but sadly, that did not happen so her dark side comes out every now and again.   Because Shane was 11 when my mom left, he missed out on the mothering that would have made him a well-rounded person.  He had a terrible time with my father even when my mother was still at home.  I have a lot of empathy for that boy.  When I was 11 my mom had her last child and her name was Gizelle and she was born in the same nursing home as I was in Umtata.   Gizelle is a story for another day.  This story is about Joy and why her friends are involving themselves in my story and not believing that what I am saying is the truth.  I think that since they are my friends too they should have asked me before going mouthing off to Joy.  I have been doing a blog for the last 8 years and not one of my siblings have read a thing I have written, but now it is all wara-wara and big deal stuff.  Well, let them wara-wara if that is what is making their little worlds go round.  Like Shane’s wife, Mary-Ann, the friends have taken things out of context from my blogs, while Mary-Ann took things out of context from Shattered.  
I started school at 5 and because Joy was adamant she also wanted to go to school, my mother let her go to school at the age of 4, bluffing that she was older.  Joy was brilliant at school, top of the class all the way through until matric when she fell of the school band wagon.  My earliest memories of Joy are those where she is playing teacher/teacher to the flowers, with a ruler in her hands and admonishing the flowers for not listening to her by chopping their heads off with the ruler.
Memories are made from being there, from the age it happened and the connection between the people.  This is something that Joy’s friends have not taken into account.
Naturally, Joy is upset with me, but if she had taken notice of what I wrote about or even read my books, she would not now be shocked by the ‘out of context’ remarks that are being made to her by her so-called friends.
But another amazing phenomenon has also occurred.  Since writing the blogs of my childhood, other people my age have been calling me and telling me things that they witnessed, things they had done to them, some things I know about and others that I don’t.  I am going to be writing a book called A Love Story, and these snippets are the beginnings of that story.  It would make the book far too long if I were to include these blogs I am doing.  It would end up a trilogy and I do not have the time afforded to me on a scale of probability.
I will repeat again what I have always held true is that family is not defined by the DNA we share, but by shared values of others.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Framed Heinrich van Rooyen's life in Prison

We must find a way to un-frame him 
As most know, I have been visiting Heinrich van Rooyen at St Albans prison for a while now, every second Sunday if I am well enough to go.  But I had to go on Sunday, sick as I was with staphylococcus pneumonia but dressed warmly, masked and had a drip up. I also took my nebuliser with me just in case.
Heini was looking good and as usual overjoyed to see us.  We were also asked if I could see another prisoner who has a problem with his parole hearing and when I looked into his eyes, I saw that there was no killer there at all.  I am going to see how I can help him chivvy the legal aid board that deals with paroles.  But that will be a story for another day.  His name is Marius, and as I have experienced, a gently and soft man in the wrong place.
Because this was a good staff complement this week, everything went quite smoothly and we did not have to wait long to see Heini.  There was a bit of a scuffle because inmates have to sit on iron benches and visitors on wooden benches and my wheelchair could only stay on the side of the prisoners.  Not that it bothered me in the least.  I have met a lot of wonderful inmates during this time and they have all been kind to me, far more kind and considerate than the wardens.  But again, this particular group of wardens who work every second weekend really show their humanity and compassion.
In the visitors area is a shop that gets put up and taken down after visiting hours.  No one may bring any food into the prison and everything has to be bought from that shop.  Now here in lies a slight problem.   The shop is not allowed to make money out of the inmates.  There is a court order that the shop is not allowed to profit 0ff the inmates.  It can be found in the Correctional Services Act 11 of 98; Section 121, 122 and 123.  The shop should not be allowed to make an internal policy that is not in line with the law.   This law deals with goods  sold to inmates.
Every time I go there, I go with my scrap of paper that has written on it what the prisoner needs to purchase.  The prisoner is not allowed to go buy but the visitors are and in a wheelchair it can become something of a problem.  Nevertheless, we always buy bananas, tomatoes, Russian sausage, pies, niknaks, suckers and cheese.  Nicknaks and suckers are what you can use to trade for something someone else has that they need and you don’t have.  This internal policy of St Albans should be stopped.  
Over the last month, prisoners are being transferred without their permission (they must want to go) to other prisons (Kirkwood and Middelburg) but are not allowed to make a phone call home to let their families know that they are moving to another prison because the wardens cut the phone lines. This is an illegal transfer. More forced transfers are expected but because of no phones they are unable to complain to their families.  They can’t phone their lawyers.  If you go to the psychologist or the social worker to make an official call, you are being told that they are not allowed to make the call for you, although they are subsidised by the state monthly to make official calls for us.    This kind of treatment of the inmates proves that they don’t want any information to get out, just as I put onto my FB page today on St Albans.
The procedure on transfers states that an inmate must have written a request to be transferred.  Such an application needs approval and that inmate must provide an address of a next of kin that is staying close to that prison.  That is the ONLY reason the inmate would want to be transferred.  This is also apparent with what was done with the beaten up inmates on the Boxing Day 2016.  Many that were injured were just shipped out to other prisons so that there would be no coordinated procedure for ascertaining what had taken place.  It was blatantly obvious that AFTER the situation was under control, the wardens and dogs pushed and shoved the inmates into a corner where they could not get out and they were set about with batons, leaving an alleged 3 inmates tortured to death.  While I do not condone the behaviour of the inmates to stab wardens, there does come a point at which the oil boils over when no human rights of prisoners are given to them and they are in lockdown constantly and are never allowed out for exercise.  The frustration levels must have been the culprit here, but the wardens did not have to beat or torture people to death after they had secured the situation in three separate passages.
At least the inmates are paying for their crimes.  These warders make mob justice and corruption appear legal.  I have the names of the wardens responsible for this atrocity.   The inmates think that those wardens are just murdering gangsters and the inmates feel above them in their value structures. They belong in prison more than a lot of inmates.
Then I had a full blown asthma attack.   The St Albans Investigating Officer was fast to find a plug for my nebuliser and to help set it up and put the medication in.  The prisoners were concerned and the Investigating Officer was concerned.  The kindness I was shown on Sunday by the Investigating Officer and the prisoners was a sight to behold.  I wish I knew the investigating Officer’s name so I could thank him properly, but I will do that when I go back to visit Heini. As you can imagine, once the breathing was under control, we left a few minutes earlier than normally.  I did however, have the chance to speak with Marius Rondganger about his parole.  His case is also a travesty of justice.   And before I end off, let me tell you what Heini told me about his court case.  “At the end of the first half of my trial, Terry Price informed me that Judge Nathan Erasmus that we have to bring an application that he, the judge must be changed.  During the break, the whole atmosphere changed.  Terry convinced my family that it was necessary to change the judge.  He heard from a Judge friend that Nathan Erasmus told that judge that he’d found me innocent.  This was a trick forcing us to keep Erasmus.   That was the biggest mistake because from there everything went south.  The decisions made around all the Trial within trials were so biased he could not even give a reason why he denied my application to appeal.  This was total bias.  Terry Price’s move cost a man his life and his family 1 million 8 hundred thousand rand in legal fees.  For what?  To put an innocent man in prison for two life sentences and 28 years with no leave to appeal?”

It is a not so well-veiled secret as to why the 2005 murders of Victoria Stadler and Jessica Wheeler and by whom.  Most people in Knysna know who did it.  I have been told the names as well.   Drugs, dealers, young girls, lack of money and gangsters are the recipe for murder.  Who murdered those girls?  Why won’t the Independent Police Investigative Directorate open the case again?  Are they shielding their own or will it be too much of an admission of ineptitude if he is released and he can sue them for wrongful arrest and imprisonment?   The police want Heini to go back to court and the Judiciary want Heini to go back to the cops!!!  And in the meantime the years of sitting in prison continue unabated with little hope of a decent closure for this family.  They have all been punished. 

It is my Own Fault ... an awakening !

Without fail, every chronically ill person is asked “But you don’t look sick” and every cancer patient universally knows they have cancer before the diagnosis.  I seem to have filled my head with inconsequential things. Is sick supposed to look like these downcast people begging at the robots or walk around with a sour face all day.  It is those who are sick that really live and those who have health, forget to live.
People don’t like to hear negative things and most want to only view the good things like what restaurants, coffee shops and general good pics of braai’s and weddings.  Who would want to see what it is really like for thousands of people who have cancer or another misunderstood, little-known about rare disease with no cure?  It makes sense that these rare diseases are called orphan diseases by the medical profession.  No one will fund research for a disease that affects only 1 in a million.  We just become the cadavers that will have autopsies to see if that adds anything to the science of medicine.  But despite this all, the only outlet I have to communicate with the outside world is through social media. 
 I had an awakening when I realized that it is my own fault that no one understands why I am not well.  It is because I fake being well so well that I could win an Oscar.  I fake being well so that I cover up a shameful illness – shameful because it is so rare that only 1 in 10 million have it and no one knows anything about it. Discovery told me that out of their 3 million clients, I am the only one with this dreaded disease.   I know more about it because I am a participating patient.  I do not just lie there being a patient and allowing the doctor to shrug his shoulders or send me off with a prescription and telling me that he will pray for me.  Every event, whether it is being pushed in a wheelchair (which I call my wheelbarrow) through Woolworths food market, or going out to an outdoor coffee shop where there won’t be many people so I don’t have to wear a mask, or to visit my mother but before I do I have to make sure I do nothing else beforehand so that I don’t turn that one visit into a vomiting sick event.   I also want to be out there in the coffee shops, out there in the sunshine mixing with friends and associates.  I too want to be able to plan something, knowing that I will be well enough on that day to do whatever I have planned.  I too want to wake up just one day feeling good.  Just one day!  I fight every day – to just get through the day, sometimes taking it moment to moment and other times when I am lucky taking it one hour at a time.  There are some things that make it even harder to bear living with a condition that is life-threatening:
·        A cold for you is a nuisance.  A cold for me is life-threatening
·        Every infection I get I wonder if this is the one that will kill me
·        People tell me “But you look so good, you can’t be ill” as though I am making a mountain of a molehill.  Don’t people know what steroids do to one’s body?   We are no longer skinny and slim but the product of Mr Michelin and Mrs Oros
·        I can’t plan anything in advance because I don’t know how ill I will feel in an hour from now let alone in a week’s time so friends forget about me – the person me and not the social media me.
·        I have very few people I see because the circle of friends moved on and left me behind
·        Every moment I am in the company of someone else I put on a show of being normal that could easily win me an Oscar Nomination
·        No one knows that my every word, my every action and sometimes my thoughts drain me of life-giving energy
·        I have spent more time in hospital over the last 7 years than I have spent at home
·        My body has changed so much that I do not recognise myself.  My hair went grey overnight and a vertical hernia down my abdomen makes me look 12 months pregnant.  So other people see me as a fat, grey-haired old woman when inside of me the fire of living still burns bright.   My body no longer fits my spirit
·        I feel guilty because my mother at 84 looks after me when I get bad.  It should be the other way around.
·        I am so tired of pretending I am well that I am withdrawing into myself and becoming a hermit.  I live alone inside my head and what goes on in my head I share on FB or I blog.
·        I am tired of people telling me to get well soon – I want to scream at them and tell them I will never get well but I don’t.  They mean well.
·        I am tired of doctors that don’t care – who brush me off with a prescription for the new symptom I have.   I want a physician who is interested in this rare disease. I have been everywhere in this country and we don’t even have an immunologist.
·        I want people to know that I have overwhelming fatigue – not just tired, but overwhelming that sometimes it takes too much energy to talk or even to breathe.
·        One reason I write about my illness is because so many others are in life-threatening conditions and they need a buddy too; so I run support groups for others so they don’t feel like they are paddling up shit creek without a paddle – that there is someone in the boat with them.

·        I see a world that needs love – a reflection of me.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Childhood should not be an excuse for bad adult behaviour. We all have a choice.

I earned it 
I remember one particularly horrendous night when you and my mom came home from a dinner and dancing evening.   You had given me your revolver and told me that if anyone came to the door I was to esquire who it was and if I did not recognize the, I was to shoot holes through the door.  He marked out the positions the bullets had to be placed in.  I was 12 years old and already familiar with guns as he would sometimes take me with him to the shooting range.  He had a huge cache of weapons and ammunition.  Not only was I a crack shot, but I could drive a vehicle and tractor, panel beat, lay foundations and strip and sand floors.  Wall papering was my best skill I learned.  We were the kind of family that would go from riches to rags in days because my father was not lazy and he was a really charming entrepreneur.  He taught me a lot of things that only a man would know and for that I am grateful to him.  I have always managed to fix whatever was broken, including replacing clutch cables in the clapped out Golf I owned when my children were small.  So, my father was not all bad.  I just had to be super vigilant to gauge his moods so as to keep my mother safe. 
I could hear him screaming at her before the front door even opened.  He was shouting something about other men looking at my mother and blaming her for it.  She could not help it that she had a beautiful body and beautiful skin and brilliant black hair with an olive skin.    I strained my ears to hear what he was saying.  My younger siblings woke up and I shushed them and put them into my bed, holding them close and telling them not to make a sound.   The fight moved into the lounge, just under the stairs.   I heard furniture being thrown and I heard him say, “I am going to fucking kill you………” and I started screaming, jumped out of bed and ran down the stairs.  He grabbed me by the arm and jerked me towards him.   He said in a very scary voice, quiet out of control, “You want to lie there and listen to us fight, now you go upstairs and bring your brother and sisters down here and they can watch us fight”.  
I begged you not to send me and to stop fighting and you pushed me up the stairs and told me if I did not do as you said you would kill my mother anyway so I ran up the stairs and collected all the little ones, trying to stop them crying and brought them downstairs with blankets wrapped around them and I put them on the couch in a row and tried to shield them with my arms.   And then you made my mother sit in a chair opposite us and said, “Now watch this!”  He hit her so hard that she flew onto the floor and started bleeding from her ear.  I remember sitting as quiet as can be so that nothing would send him over the top again, trying to keep the children quiet but at the same time being vigilant so that I could jump up and save her when the time was right.    She really did not have anywhere to go with five children.  Her parents had both died when she was really young, so when I just turned 15, we started hatching plans for her to get away to live with her younger sister in Port Elizabeth with only two of the smaller children.  We eventually did that with the help of Patrcik, the beautiful boy that I loved so much at that age.  Of course, that was forbidden too.  He would sit and get drunk with Patrick but would not allow me to see him.   I defied him and used every trick in the book with excuses of having to be at extra-mural activities and would run to Patrick for the duration of whatever excuse I had made.
I remember my mother going to hospital for 10 days to have her tubes tired.  She had too many children and the doctors advised her to get herself sterilized.  My father was so mad at her that he never visited her once in the 10 days she had been there.   I was almost 12 and I ran the whole house, from cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking, bottles, homework and even found time to visit my mom every visiting hour.   And I remember having bronchitis at the time but my father would not visit her.  And it rained a lot during that time so I could not take the little ones with me.  When she came home she take to take care of me because my chest by that time was very bad.
I was 11 years old when my mother brought Gizelle home.   She was crying and crying and my father would not let my mother get up to see to her so I slipped into their caravan, collected the baby and the bottles and nappies and took her to my bed.   And there she stayed until she was 4 years old.   She was my baby.  I fed her, took care of her, bathed her and only handed her over to my mom when l went to school.  She became my baby. So when the divorced finally came through, I am sad to say that the greatest hole it left in my heart is that my baby was gone.  That year brought me two surprises – one was the birth of a female sibling and the other was the death of my beloved grandfather.
After a while I moved back into the family home but was supposed to spend as much time with my grandmother helping her to get over her grief over my grandfather.   The most I remember was her making me lick stamps onto black rimmed envelopes and her constant pre-occupation with my bowel movements.  If I had not had a bowl movement, she would force me to remove my panties and insert a glycerin suppository into my rectum and make me wait and wait until she had decided I could go to the toilet.   I hated that but afterwards she would give me hard boiled imported sweets and tell me not to tell anyone about it.   It was good for me to get rid of all the junk that my mother fed me, she would intone.
Every Friday we would go down to the sea.  We would either return the night before or in the early hours of Monday morning in time for school.   All school holidays were spent at Coffee Bay.   There we were brought up as sea urchins.   If we had not packed sufficient clothing for the time we were away, that was our problem.   The smaller children’s packing, Yolanda and Gizelle, was my responsibility as well, so often when I had forgotten something for them, I would have to go without a jersey or whatever it was that was needed.  
Joy was my father’s favorite.   I remember him swinging her on a swing one day.   If Joy wanted something, she was only to ask Dad, and he would provide it for her.   I remember we were both asked to go to the hostel dance.  Joy wanted a special pair of high heeled silver shoes that cost a fortune.   Her dad bought them for her.  I had to use my mother’s shoes with cotton wool stuck in the front so they could fit.   He never hit Joy or called her names.   She missed out on much of the abuse and when I asked him why years later he told me that when she was born she nearly died in his arms and he made a promise to God that if He would save her, then she would be his child.    Joy always had more and better, but I never resented her for it.   I wonder why?   Probably because she was a special person in her own right and I love her much still.  At that age, I figured that my father was disappointed that I, the oldest of the children, happened to be a girl and not a boy.
 My mother still loved my father to distraction and when he told her to come home, she was beside herself with joy.  She arrived he asked her, “What are you doing here?  Go back to where you came from”. I cannot begin to comprehend the enormous amount of hurt she felt.  She and the two smaller kids moved into a caravan on my uncle’s yard for a while until she was on her feet and she returned to Port Elizabeth.
I thought her return would be happy ever after but it was not to be so.   Leopards never change their spots and life continued as before.   It was during one of those holidays at the wild coast when my mom’s families were down when they noticed that my mom had been beaten.   I don’t remember why the three older children were in a caravan park with my father and the rest of the family were in the cottage but my father came to us and told us my mother was leaving again and she had decided that she did not want to take us with her.   I was devastated.
I did not know at the time that he had told her the same thing and so we were separated by lies.   For years afterwards, my mother blamed me for choosing to stay with my father.   That blame lay heavily on me for many years and no matter how I tried to convince her otherwise, she did not believe me.   It hurt me deeply. When my mother eventually overcame her love for this madman, we were able to sit and talk about how it had come about that we had been separated like that.
My last hiding I got from him was during my Matric exams.   I only had one more exam to write and that exam was the next day.  I wrote that exam with a dislocated jaw, bruised ribs, swollen and blue eyes and lacerations down my legs from the horse whip.  The children in the class laughed at me until the teacher told them that they were lucky not to be beaten as I had been. 
I had one more exam to write before finishing Matric.  As soon as I could manage it, I asked Patrick to run away with me to find my mother in Port Elizabeth and for us to go to the Welfare for help.
I was living in England and my father still contacted me, phoned me and asked  me how I was.   I give monosyllable answers as though I am speaking to a stranger but sometimes find myself telling him something that I think he might be impressed with.   Why do I still need that acknowledgement?   Why does he brag about me to others?   Perhaps being diagnosed the same week with cancer, we finally found a place of reconciliation.  I was sad when he died … for he was alone and with no one to hold his hand.  But I am pleased that he cannot hurt me with his words anymore.  He never, ever stopped pushing Patrick down my throat, telling me that he saved me from the devil.  It was anything but.   When I think of him now, it is only to wonder how his body looks in the mausoleum that the Ama-pondo buried him in.  He was an elder in their tribe so he had to be built above ground so no ground would touch his body.  What a waste of a charming, intelligent, popular, charismatic person.  He loved us in the only way he knew how. 

Dear Dad letter from your Eldest Daughter

It was in 2001 when I was in a psychiatric hospital trying to make sense out of my life after my friend was killed and a note left on her chest to warm me that I would be next.   I had an epiphany.   Onee of the things that I have been made aware of is that I am only able to accept male compliments.  Compliments like “You drive like a man” or “You have really big balls”.   Why can’t I accept compliments like “You look pretty today, you sewed that well?”  The answer is horrific.  I am still looking for your approval.    You approved of courageous, male things and so I still yearn after compliments that are male orientated.  I am devastated that you are still linked to me in even this small way.   I don’t want to be linked to you in any way.  I don’t want to feel anything for you.  I have prided myself on having gone past it all and forgiven you and moved on and thought I had dealt with it all.   I have been to psychologists, psychiatrist who have committed suicide, done self-help books, read child abuse survival books, confronted you and told you that you would never hurt me again, but still, it comes up and I am shocked.   I am removing myself from these memories by writing all this down – the truth of what happened. 
My grandmother was on Largactol all her life.   She had two sons.  Her one son she sent to boarding school and the other to a psychiatric hospital – you. You did something terrible but it is a family secret and no one knows the truth.   You loved and hated my grandmother.  Did you suffer from some mental illness?  Is that why you and your mother were so close? 
Your erratic behavior should not have made such an indelible mark on me.   Even when a tea cup breaks and we glue it back together, after all these years a person does not even notice that there was a crack.  Why then, is the crack so visible to me. 
Those six and a half years are the ones that I remember.   I only know that you beat my mother senseless when she was pregnant with me and that you threw me out a window when I was six weeks old.   The story I am telling is that one which I remember that stretched a period of 6 and a half years. 
My grandmother had a house built behind our house.   She was always in the background and everyone knew that I was her favorite.  She would always give me the best pear or the nicest present.   I did not enjoy that extra attention because it made me different to the other children.   There were five of us.   I was the oldest, then Joy, my father’s favorite, Shane, the only boy, Yolanda and then Gizelle, the baby.   
My father always took my grandmother’s side against my mother and my grandmother was cruel and evil towards my mother.   She would take our fresh bread out our bin and replace it with her stale bread and if my mother complained, my father would accuse her of lying, even if I had seen her do it.   She would tell lies about my mother to cause problems in the marriage.   I could not put these two people who were my grandmother together – the woman who spoiled me and the one who tried to get my mother committed to an asylum for insanity.   My mother spent a lot of her time crying and trying to help keep her marriage together with my father.   She loved him so much that most of her energy went into pleasing him.   But this is not my mother’s story, this is mine and I must stick with mine.

Hey Dad, I remember the time you said that I would never swim across the Umtata River when it was in flood with all the sharks swimming around and that you would give me a pound to do it and….. I did it.  Why did you always ask me or encourage me to do such dangerous things? 
Why did you put that river snake in my bed knowing that I could not reach the bed side light until it was too late?   Why was it always with me?
 Why did you expect me to go and empty the long drops at night without a light or touch, knowing the place was full of snakes? 
 Why did you put piss inside a beer bottle and offer me a sip once hot day at Coffee Bay?  And then scream with laughter when I spat it out?
 What did you see in me when you always beat me for being so much like my “fucking mother”?
 Why did you give me no acknowledgement for any achievement?  If I came home with a First Certificate in swimming, did you ask me why I did not break the record?
 Why did you humiliate and embarrass me in front of your mobile police friends?
 Why did you always introduce me to others as “My flat-chested daughter” and then go on to say you would have a t-shirt printed with Front on the front of the shirt so that people would know the difference between the front and the back of me? 
 Why did you only beat my mom and me? 
 Why did you always make your mother sit in the front seat and my mother at the back?
 Why did you always take what your mother said was truth, but what my mother said as a lie?
 Why did you do those things to me?   But you know what Dad, I got you in the end.  I am the strong one now.  And you helped me to get this inner strength and spirit that nothing can damage it.  I am, as you said of yourself, as strong as Mother Russia.  I am having the last laugh.   I have done something that will drive you roll around and squirm in your grave.  The much bigger story is still coming.  Your daughter. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

When my Safety Net Broke

My grandfather, Douglas Lang
I had the most wonderful grandfather.   I remember going for walks with him up into the forest with my little hand in his big one and I felt so special and so loved.   He called me “Little One”.   We used to always go to the quarry and continue to build a wall with stones.   We called it our building society.   It was our secret.  Each time we went, we would build it a little higher.   It really was quite a small wall, but at the time, I thought it was great.

My first really painful moment in my life came when he died.   It is not that he died but how I was exposed to it.   I knew that he was sick with TB - that was a secret.  We were living in Engcobo and moved in caravans to Umtata so we could be near him in the hospital.   I had one of those folding top bunks in the caravan.  There were three caravans, one for my parents, one for my grandmother and one for the children.  

One afternoon, my father came in and told all of us that Pa (that is what we called our grandfather) was sick and would we like to go and visit him.  Of course I was in the car before anyone else.   When we got to the hospital we walked along an outside verandah that was polished red.  We entered a private side ward, although at the time I did not know that it was private, and there was Pa.  But it was not him.  He had tubes coming out of him all over the place and he did not even say hello to me.   So I left and went to swing around the verandah poles, my thoughts on other things.   Pa was not in the hospital.

That evening, my father told us again that Pa was very sick and that he was going to die.   Being brought up as a Catholic and knowing that St Bernadette of Lourdes cured people who went there I went and asked my father to please take Pa to Lourdes then he would not die.  He said no.   I begged and pleaded but he just said no.  He did not explain why.  I remember lying on my bunk bed, pulling the curtains aside and staring at the stars and thinking that my father did not love Pa enough to take him to Lourdes and I begged God to find a way for me to take him or for Him to make Pa better.

I never was told that Pa had died.   I was told to dress in my little white shirt and blue pleated skirt, with long white socks and black shoes with a tie across and we went to church.   I remember standing in a front pew with my grandmother on my right hand side in the church and a long box with white flowers on it was in front of the alter.  “What is in that box?”, I whispered to my grandmother.   “That’s Pa in there”, she said.   “But he can’t breathe”. “Shh, be quiet”, she said.   “But ….”.  “Shhh”.   I held my  breath.   If I held my breath then Pa would also be able to hold his breath.    I held my breath until I couldn’t any more.   I took a deep breath and did it again and again until I almost fainted.   My grandmother was singing on top of her voice, using some soprano voice and embarrassing me at the same time.   My mother and father and other children were sitting on the other side of the pews.

Before long, the box was carried out by my father, uncle and some men and put into a long black car and then we were at the cemetery.   The men were lowering Pa in the box into the ground and I started screaming and running and jumped into the hole to try and get Pa out but some strong arms lifted me out and I was sent with some woman I did not know, who had two children, to her house.   I remember sitting at her kitchen table and she gave me some cooldrink and I watched her children playing on the kitchen floor.  I was very confused.    It seemed like hours before I was taken home.   When I got back to the caravan, my parents told me that I would now be living with my grandmother because she could not live alone.

I slept with her in her caravan every night for three months,  to keep her company, and spent all weekend with her and during the week, I was going to school with the other children.   We build a real house, my parents, laborers and we children.   I was 11 and from this point on my memory of things are quite clear.   Without Pa, I had no safe place to be.  And with him gone, the vicious sadomasochism was released upon the family in full force. 

My father - the King of Porn

I have decided not to put my porn photos up.  It is the truth that I write.  I do not have to show you the proof.  And if you have to see them, then you have no respect for me. 

Sexual innuendos, vibrators, lotions and potions, strange contraptions abounded.   I was told to try on all kinds of things.  Photos were taken.   I remember that nude photos were even taken when I was about 11 years old in various poses.  He had become an avid photographer and had his own darkroom.  He spent hours in the darkroom and we knew that it was out of bounds and he was not to be disturbed when he was inside.   
Having found and seen those pornographic photos when cleaning up my bedroom after the move a month ago, I came across a photo album with the photos.  I don’t think they should be published, not because I am afraid, but because of the nuisance fall out that will happen.    But these memories will never hurt me again.   I am going to build a bonfire and let them go up in smoke.  

Those who wondered why I took care of abused, abandoned and neglected children can now understand the driving force that go me to take the Department of Social Development to the Supreme Court and I won both times.  Inside of me was born a terrible anger at injustice and the inability to turn the other way.  I have to do what I can if I see injustice, especially with children and now with prisoners.     

My First Orgasm

One night, he did not come home with anyone.    He called me to come to his bed.   I was half asleep and he was not very drunk.   At least I smelled no liquor on him.   He held me in his arms ever so gently and he was listening to the radio.   I fell asleep, feeling comforted and safe.   
I woke up with his hands in my vagina, my panties were off.   It was not an ugly feeling, but a gentle, nice feeling.   His hands were covering my breasts, stroking them ever so gently.   He was kissing me.   That is when I really woke up.   His mustache started tickling me and I knew that what was going on what not right but at the same time it was not so bad either.  And then I felt a hotness run around my stomach area and a quickness of my breathing and felt my pelvis lift towards his fingers and my breath caught in my throat.  I had had my first organism.    And suddenly, “You whore! Get out of here!   What do you think you are doing”    “Get out, get out, get out” and I ran confused to my bed, not knowing what had happened.
He had groomed me well - I never saw it coming.  I was 15. 

When I got home from school the next day he took me into a room and locked the door, the horse whip behind the door came down and it began again.   I felt nothing.   I floated in the corner of the room and watched him grow more and more tired.  He stopped eventually.    He walked out and I cleaned myself up and continued living life as I knew it.  At least Joy was safe from him.  She was in boarding school.   And my mother and little sisters were in Port Elizabeth. Now I knew without doubt that he had slept with some of my friends and my cousins.