For the whole month of February, I will be posting a letter of gratitude to the people who have contributed immensely to the woman I am today. Some letters I’m thinking of sending to those I’ve written about and some I hope are never read. This will be the first time I post daily. So I am really keen on seeing how it will turn out, both for me and for those who follow this blog. I look forward to your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below. The theme for all the letters is that ‘We Are Stories’ and I will be telling mine in #29LettersOfGratitude for a whole month. If you would like to join me (PLEASE DO!!!) remember to link me in your posts.
‘I try to conceal him in my blood but my mirror still screams out his name.’
‘I’ve written a memoir’
He’s been a principal and English teacher for many years, I assume he knows what that means but I still explain.
‘I’ve written a book about my life’
Silence. I continue.
‘I know we don’t see each other often enough but somehow the chapter about my relationship with you was the first I wrote about in the book’
He gleams that familiar duchene smile. I share his DNA with ten other siblings and all twelve of us have the same eye muscle contractions that display amusement and pleasure.
I don’t wait for him to follow his condescending smile with a sentence.
‘I thought you might want to read it before the book is published. I can’t promise to change anything but any parts you have issues with, we can talk them through and see where we go from there’
My dad lives only 90 minutes from where I grew up but we haven’t seen each other in 5 years, we don’t even talk on the phone. I usually see him when I attend funerals in Centane -his and my mother’s home village- because he still lives there. I’ve seen pictures of both of them as children but never together, I always assume their romance was short-lived. I know that my birth was the turbulence that ended the affair of my young parents.
This village is the place he insists is my ‘real home’ an interpretation I have always found flawed as it only limits me to a clan name I’ve never used and just a man with features I resemble but nothing more.
It’s hard knowing my birth is still an unhealing scar to my mother even after thirty years. She’s never volunteered any information about him, something I understood as a silent request for me to never ask.
Every year I plan trips with the best intentions to visit him but I always find myself changing my mind at the very last minute. The strain spills over to the relationship I have with my siblings from his side because they don’t understand my anxieties and constant feelings of rejection.
‘Okay, I will read it. I didn’t know you’re a writer but again I don’t know anything about the precious happens of your life.’
I can feel myself tensing up so bad at his words, I start trembling. I attempt a grin to soften up my face, so I don’t stand there with condemning eyes. I have nippy answers for his criticism but I decide to let this one go. I am not here to get closure for my faded scabs; because I’ve learnt through the years, that there can be no healing found from the same places that have broken me.
After he’s had the chapter for three whole days, I receive a text ‘I am done, come fetch your chapter,’ It doesn’t come as a surprise when he tells me there aren’t any parts he wants edited out, even though he’s made chunky notes in red. I am eager to read all of them. I respect him for letting me tell my story in my own voice, even though it was a bit shaky in the beginning. Somehow I knew the teacher and ardent reader in him would not compromise the content but I expect his notes to fervently challenge my perspective on my account of events.
So I decide to ask him.
‘Do you think my version of our truth is inaccurate?’
‘You are your own person, you have always been that way even as a child and I understand the chapter from that view. But when I was young, I would have never been able to talk about my parents the way you have. But again, I would have never had the questions you have, it was considered rude and invasive. I never allowed myself to cross those boundaries even alone in my own quiet thoughts.’
He doesn’t answer my question but I appreciate the attempt at answering the countless accusations he knows I hold in silently. He is a stringent and a traditional man, his background a complete contrast to the way my mother and stepfather have brought me up.
When I still made frequent visits to Centane during the school holidays, he would always tell me stories about his life growing up, I always felt sorry for him. His life had not been easy. Constant rejection has ensured I am no longer bursting at the seams with questions he can’t answer. I have however stopped being the only one who calls and having a job has ensured I no longer have needs that he never cared to supply for. I am convinced his unsettling past has contributed to the broken father he is and in some way this offers me solace on days I reach out my hand to find his isn’t on the other end.
Cover Photo By: Lutendo Malatji
Have you ever attempted writing your own biography? Which experiences would make it into your book first? Is it easy writing about your parents?