Her grandfather, on the mother’s side, was the voice of reason in the midst of the insanity that was her life. He was the rock. The one who did everything for everyone without ever expecting anything in return. A devout church member and leader, with the biggest heart. He lived an exemplary life and touched the lives of many people.
He would come to the house on a Saturday morning to make sure that things at the house (which he had bought for them) were being seen to. His attempts to talk sense into the mother would generally lead to an argument after he left. On a monthly basis he would come and sit with the mother, separating the money into different envelopes for the various expenses, i.e. budgeting. He had been retired for some years by the time the girl finished high school but he was always busy, always involved, always on the go. He would never leave her without imparting some wisdom or motivation on the girl and she would never forget his voice. Steady, confident, loving, wise.
After his sudden and unexpected passing a few years later, from a heart attack, he was berated in his grave for not making sure that the mother was “looked after” when he died. He had done everything in his power while he was alive and the girl thought that surely it should have been the opposite.
All she wanted at that stage was to get away. After the end of her dancing career, with no inkling of what she wanted to do, she thought that a “gap year” sounded like a good option. He would have none of that, insisting that she get “a qualification behind her name” before considering anything else. He had found a business college nearby that offered a one year diploma in Tourism Management (which was the buzzword at the time) and in consultation with her father it was decided and done.
That course would turn out to be worth zero in terms of education, but simultaneously one of the best things that could have happened in her life.
Her father ensured that she became a licensed driver and gave her a reliable set of wheels, in other words, freedom! She still lived in the house but she was now allowed to go out as she pleased and she took full advantage of that. Friendships were cemented for life, mischief and laughter were the order of most days and one never had to search too hard for a reason to celebrate something with a party!
Inside the house, things continued to intensify. The mood became darker and the fights increasingly more violent as the woman explored her own past in therapy. Through this process she discovered that she was molested by her own father, who had passed away a number of years before. This, and being diagnosed as a borderline schizophrenic, opened up an entirely new can of snakes, the depths of depression were dramatic.
There were nights when the girl would wander into the kitchen and find the woman manically drawing the most disturbing images… she had a phenomenal talent for detail in her art.
The two women were planning a trip to Cape Town. They would be away for two weeks and the girl would stay to write exams.
On one of those strange nights in the house, the woman went to talk to the girl, telling her that she wanted them to have a mother and daughter relationship as she never had children of her own. The time for bonding had been and gone but she wasn’t going to risk unleashing any kind of episode. In the detached way that she had developed, she managed to tiptoe gently around the idea that the relationship between them was “unique” in its own way.
Shortly before they left for the trip, there was an argument of epic proportions. Whatever the cause of the argument was, the woman had been having a relationship with a colleague. This had been going on for some time. As most of them did, the fight became physical and at one point, the woman threw the mother out of the front doorway where she fell onto the grass, crying out in pain. How it happened she still couldn’t say, but the girl, suddenly having reached a limit, ran out to try to stop it… anything.
Both women were on the ground in a totally out of control fight. Like watching a movie, she saw herself kick the woman in the side as hard as she could. That was all it took.
That was the end of the fight.
The woman sped away in her car, disappearing for hours in another supposed suicide attempt.
It had been two peaceful weeks alone. The girl arrived home from a friend’s in the morning and ran a bath. She had just settled in to soak for a while when the phone rang. Wrapped in a towel and dripping with water, she ran to answer the call. Strangely, it was a woman she hadn’t heard of since her primary school days…
There had been an accident on the road back. The police must have dialled any number they could find. She was calling to let the girl know that the woman had been killed on impact, the mother critically injured. She had to get to the hospital in Bloemfontein.
Within a couple of hours she was on the road with two friends who refused to leave her side. Arriving at the hospital, she didn’t recognise the mother, her face was so badly cut and bruised. The girl and her friends were given accommodation on the floor in the lounge of an elderly couple, distant relatives that she didn’t know at all. The days went past in a blur of police, belongings, phone calls. Her grandfather would follow in a few days to transport the mother back to a hospital near home.
It fell to her responsibility to inform people, speak to all the friends and family who phoned, make arrangements, clean and nurse the mother’s wounds, deliver a speech at the memorial service… it was surreal.
She didn’t cry. Someone had to welcome the guests, keep the house in order, support and console the mother, cook. Only one person, who was oddly enough the distant grandmother, ever asked the girl if she was okay.
Through this experience she realised the power of the universe. That person’s life had spiraled out of control, beyond help, and there was no other way. Every person had their time and the universe knew, God knew, it was time.
Without the escape of dancing she would find solace in reading and also, became more focused on writing. She wrote down her thoughts, feelings, poetry and stories and as she built up a composed exterior, the emotions inside flowed from her heart in ink.
In the year following the death of the woman, the girl would leave to go and study for a degree in a new town. True to the promise she made to herself as a little girl, she would never return to the house she grew up in.
She would say goodbye to her loving grandmother, leaving a kiss on her cold, damp forehead and hearing the last breath leave her body.
The car that she was given by her father would become her little nomad-mobile over the coming years as she navigated the dunes of life. Occasionally stopping at a little oasis for a while before packing all her belongings into her car again and moving on.
There were relationships of course, some had seemed so important at the time but over time the feelings and events of each one faded. Her first love was sweet, at one point it would become a long distance thing with long letters posted and bus trips to and from. After that came to an end her well guarded heart left a few others broken.
There was the fun one, more like a favourite party friend than a boyfriend. His mother took her under her wing and did so much for her. There was one who was highly intelligent, emotionally deep but complicated and possessively jealous.
Then, along the way, she would meet up again with the Golden Boy… but that is a tale all on its own and leads eventually, to where you will find her today.
We genuinely appreciate the love on this series, every comment, share and like gets her story seen by more people. In honour of #16DaysofActivism against the abuse of women and girls everywhere.
Catch up on the previous parts: