April 2011 Archives

Aftermath

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On February 28th, on the morning of her 43rd birthday, my sister woke up to a house filled with beautiful flowers and refrigerators and freezers heaving with food that had lovingly been prepared by friends and even strangers. It might sound like a dream come true to many women (especially moms of small kids) out there, but to my sister, this was evidence that the events of the preceding days had not merely been the worst nightmare she has ever had.

Just a week and a half before, her beloved husband of almost ten years was shot to death by a gang of men who had been trying to invade their farmhouse in the middle of the night. He successfully staved them off, in the process most likely saving my sister and the kids, but paid for his bravery with his own life. My sweet, seven-year old nephew woke up from the shots and incessantly pressed the panic-button on the alarm. My adorable two-and-a-half year old niece, usually a light sleeper, mercifully did not wake up during the entire horror. She has hardly slept through a single night since then. I would not be able to sleep again either if it meant that the people I love the most inexplicably disappear when I do. Would you?

How does one explain something so incomprehensible to a toddler who desperately calls out to her dad? She worshipped him and the adoration was entirely mutual. Not even at 36 years old am I able to wrap my mind around the fact that this larger-than-life man – who benevolently took me into his home when I returned from the States broke, broken-up-with and with a shattered spirit, and who bought me two cars (for which I still owe him money!) – will never ever come back again. Almost two months later, I am still solidly in denial. I cannot and will not allow myself to believe any of it. I still expect him to come striding back into the house at any moment, greeting all of us with a cheerful “Yes, yes!”, scooping up his little girl and flinging her into the air and playfully wrestling his brown-eyed pride and joy of a boy to the ground.

He cannot be gone. He is simply too loved. Too needed. Not just by my sister, his kids, us and the rest of the family, but by all the hundreds of people who depended on him for their livelihoods. Some also received regular hand-outs, we have since discovered.

My sister has been nothing short of a heroine. With two traumatised little ones and several farms and businesses to juggle and keep running, she has not been afforded the luxury of sinking into her grief and giving in to the mourning. I stand helpless and wish I could fix it. I’m so useless. I’m too filled with my own stupid neuroses to be of any practical use to her. Most of all, I want to be able to somehow bring him back to her and the kids. The light has gone from her eyes. All joy has been snuffed out. She was a passionate cook. She has not touched the stove since that day. I now know that she cooked because of him; for him.

People tell me that they don’t know what to do for her. I’m next to her and I don’t know either. My attempts at showing how much I care are hopelessly inept. I have at times been shamefully bratty, like a petulant child. Perhaps I subconsciously want her to snap and cry, because I know that she’ll eventually HAVE to, for the sake of retaining her own sanity? Even if that were true, my loathsome selfishness can’t ever be justified.

But she remains strong, swaying under the enormity of it all instead of being broken by it, as I and any other lesser person would have been. At rare, unguarded moments, the fissures of suppressed grief spread across her face, but instead of cracking, she holds steady, gathers her wits and carries on.

She is incredibly clever. Attacks are coming from all sides. She is surrounded by condescending sharks who underestimate her intelligence and knowledge. She is a woman, after all. What can she possibly know about farming? Quite a lot, it turns out, even though it was the last thing she ever wanted to do with her life. She handled all the books for more than a decade. He also spoke to her about everything. That which was undocumented (he was organised, but he also kept a lot of information in his head), she is learning to figure out as she goes along. It does not let up though. Every day, about a million crises pop up that have to be dealt with.

My brother-in-law would have been immensely proud of her.

She remains amazingly free of bitterness. The only reason why she’d ever want them caught is to save anyone else from possibly having to go through this. She also does not dabble in futile exercises such as asking: “Why me?” Unsurprisingly, I’m not as gracious about this as she is. *I* want justice. Normally a pacifist, I suddenly crave revenge. I feel slightly manic: one minute I am incredibly angry, the next I feel no emotion at all.

 

At first, my brother-in-law didn’t quite know what to make of me. When I came back from the States, I was a bundle of raw, exposed nerve. He could merely LOOK at me in an odd way, and I’d dramatically burst into tears. Despite his somewhat brusque way, I know that he absolutely hated to see anyone unhappy. He was a doer, a fixer and it unnerved him when he couldn't make something right. Sometime last year, when I burst into tears yet again over something (probably relatively inconsequential – any stress I've had before now pales in comparison to what has happened to him), he threw his hands in the air and asked: “When are you going to stop crying about everything?”

Perhaps he will feel offended to know that I finally seemed to have stopped crying on the day that he died.  

 

It is not entirely true. At home, I try and stay strong for my sister and the kids’ sakes. No tears here. I clown around until I make my nephew and niece giggle and laugh. So I have developed this nasty habit of breaking down in very public places. A few weeks after it happened, I stopped at the pharmacy to run an errand. Suddenly I remembered that I had an entire bag of my brother-in-law’s prescription medicine in the trunk of my car and took it with me. I got what was on the list and then dropped the bag on the counter and stammered: “My brother-in-law recently passed away. Is there a way that you could please safely dispose of these for us?” And then I dissolved, right there, in front of the somewhat bewildered pharmacist.

 

To other people, my brother-in-law’s murder at 44 years old was just another fleeting news headline, to be read and forgotten. It is just another in a too-long line of South Africa’s violent crime statistics (which is swept under the rug and the severity of it denied by the government). Yet to all of us – but especially to my sister, my nephew and niece – that fatal shot was like a bomb exploding, forever destroying life as we knew it.



















about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Terra: YES! Wait... you didn't think that I would be this possessed to post for NO REASON, did ya???... [go]
  • Terra.Shield : OH! ... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: Be a bit like serving drinks at AA?... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: I personally think it is a mindset that has been cultivated over the years, and one, if not stemmed,... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Ms. Crazy Cat Lady Pants!!! Squeeeee! Sooo good to see you! (I thought NO ONE was bothering to read ... [go]
  • Ms. Pants : Kitties don't get enough credit sometimes. (All times, if you ask me, but I'm a Crazy Cat Lady.)... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Hey Tamara! I know, right?? That is a tough act to follow indeed. I adored that dentist. He used to ... [go]
  • Tamara Tipton : Well, I am not sure how any dentist could live up to that standard! LOL! I hope your appointment was... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: I'm really really glad that I'm not the only one, Po! Sometimes I drive myself mad with all the what... [go]
  • Po : Those questions run through my heads for various times in my life too, that is for sure!... [go]
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