To a Dad long gone

Bra Mnaks

On the last day that I would hear you speak, you called me early in the morning, both of us were on our way to separate hospitals for surgical procedures. You recited Psalm 23 in SeSotho, and I didn’t even know you in that light. When we said goodbye, I promised to check on you as soon as we were awake.

You never woke up.

You, Maker and Braza never lasted beyond what life had measured for you. But I…I have a right to my memories of you.

I was at your bedside a few days after my surgery. I felt your cold skin and looked into your hazy eyes. Praying to God and speaking to you, I imagined that you heard me.  At your funeral I was on crutches, all your children called up to stand next to your earthly remains, I found the courage to get up there and take my place when your eyes were closed as a testimony to immediate family, to the neighbours, and to myself, that you cannot ignore a man’s legacy, you cannot wish his realities away even at death.

I own the memory of your steadfast fatherliness, your impeccable housekeeping, of your hard work and creativity. I’ve watched you administer your authority in silent appreciation and defied the same authority when in my view you were not being fair in your judgements. I’ve watched you use every hour of your given days exploring new talents, assisting others, finding means to provide for your big family, and solving life’s problems. I admire you still as the soberest thinker I have ever met, with narrow eyes that saw in the big scheme of things and a perceptive heart.

Although you did not last to this age, your memory keeps my treasure full to the brim and I testify as a child that you raised. I only wish I had the right to call you Dad then. I reserve what I have – the right to memories of my father.

 

It has been 10 years.

It takes a dream to remind me of the disadvantages of my childhood.

I was that child who sat still in my home, book in hand, either reading or writing my thoughts. My mind was never absent from my immediate surroundings, I recorded it all – the laughter, the conversations, and the love shared. I watched my mother’s face when the family was happy, when she and her husband were playful. There were joyful times when they would roll sheets of paper into balls and hit each other while the rest of the children joined in on the fun.

Outside of this little coven, my physical and emotional scars were more exposed. I was the other child and so labelled during introductions, never as part the family and never embraced as one of them in the streets. Neighbours had their favourites too- this was made evident in the pitch of their voices, the glow on their faces when the group of us greeted them one by one. Oh, and the gifts that all the children were given, that I wished I could share in as well. During these strange disappointing times, my mother’s warm smile was enough.

In this car where my dream located me, I was with the people who knew my Stepdad closely, I was sharing the memories in our short ride, and we all laughed and commented with our most cherished moments. And I recall how he and ‘Maker’ (our neighbour) would spend some nights listening to jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, and others. From Zakes Nkosi’s Our Kind of Jazz album, Hoshhh Hoha blasted through the room, setting the tone for the weekend while Maker and ‘Mnaks’ (a street version of my stepdad’s last name) tapped their feet and reminisced about the past. Maker lived right next door to us and when he called it a night, Mnaks stood outside and made sure that he reached his door safely, and the two of them bade each other good night.

Some moments are more vivid, like ‘Braza’s’ (another friend) spirited walk when they met to share a joint. And on one day Braza brought me a box full of books! I spent my quiet days pouring over the writings.

Memory takes me back to when I had joined a local church. Mnaks must have shared the news about me attending church- a Pentecostal church, with Braza who had just arrived and took a chair next to where we all sat outside and started rolling his joint, he turned towards me and said, “Eish, kana Pati o holy!” (I forgot that we now have a saint among us).

During my dream state car ride, my reality hit when I mentioned that I was often asked if my Dad was a doctor by my peers. This was because I grew up during a time when a kid that wore full school uniform properly with polished shoes was thought to have come from a wealthy family, so, most kids thought that I came from a secured family. “Yes, my dad is a doctor!” I would say in affirmation.  The faces around me frowned and the conversation died. The men’s stares reminded me of what I had no right to, calling him “Dad”.

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Undecorated

Many of us silently struggle to recover ourselves from past glories. If this is not true, I will then speak from my own experience.

There was a time in my life when I was in control of the time and schedule of my significance. Those days were so good I hardly had time to think or to overthink anything, the schedule was set out, day in and out, chase purpose and life, seal, stamp and mail it with my assumed title at the end of the week. It was fun and although it consumed my energy, it masked me from the reality of being alone with my thoughts and my real name.

This period came to an end with what was my inner turmoil, a reaction to the changing horizon. But one thing was clear to me after a period of reflection that led to my accepting that I should exit the race. This was that ‘I am me’, not a title or an office. I needed to catch up with this woman that I was growing to be. In retrospect, I can add that the catching up was rather urgent.

Since then, I have been able to see my shortcomings during my glory days. A crease I have sought out to learn from and to correct. I have found and lost (maybe they ended with their appointed seasons), the purposes that I was called to, friends, companions… all of it seems like a total loss of direction. Imagine that one minute an awesome idea comes with a possibility of a wonderful and enduring partnership, and then after a while, it falls through the cracks. All of these ups and downs taught me the value of authentic partnerships and the true circumstances of our age and it’s challenges to the human spirit.

We are altered. If before we could embrace one another at different life stages in all kinds of our partnerships, that value is totally lost today. We seek people, lifestyles and causes that boost our level of perception of who we are. Masked, by our schedules and careers.

I confronted a tough question, ‘who are you without all that?’.

I have always lived in my head and more now with the frills gone. I have befriended my crazy mind. There are crazy ups that I share with whoever touches my life daily or seasonally, and there are lows that I reveal maybe more with the shadow on my face than words. It does feel strange to my nature to not have so much to prove either for a reward or another form of recognition.

Should I throw in the towel then? No! I don’t want to miss my next encounter with seasonal chances and companions. I live for such moments that sometimes I search for them deep inside a facade of a human, working my way into their soul with the only shovel I have, insight and kindness. Sometimes I find them, and they reward me with a smile and a joyful pitch in their voices when we bid each other au revoir. It is all good.

Who am I then? Who am I without the embellishments of life’s expectations fulfilled?

I am a soul appointed to walk this hour of life, not zooming past on the fast train of accomplishments, not distracted by a schedule, not pressured to fulfill someone else’s demands. I am a heart, listening for the pauses and breaks in rhythm, anticipating a raised chorus at the top of the hill. I am human, recognizing faces, dreams, callings, experience and our oneness in all.

Should we fear then, when we are forgotten for a moment?

Should we fight to be loved and celebrated?

We are enough. And life is meant to be lived with shifts and alterations to allow others a seat we once occupied, the experiences we once shared, a chance to live so they too can have a story to tell.

If you’re outside of a defined schedule, don’t despair, live and look forward to your personal touch in this revolving circle. It is our heart, your hand print that makes the tapestry of humanity all so beautiful.

Don’t give up.IMG_5094

Tales of brokenness

In the many stories of men and women who trusted their God in the Bible, there is a parallel shared in the way that they revealed their intense emotions about what they felt and were going through, and equally in their hope for a satisfying answer during trials. We may reason that God was the only solace these people had, and to them, the only and last hope. It fascinates me that one such person went on to write that should they fail to remember God and Jerusalem as their chief joy, may their tongue cling to the roof of their mouths (Psalm 137:6). Or consider the woman, who repeatedly pleaded her case with tears and brokenness for a child she didn’t have, every year, in once place, doing the same thing! (I Samuel 1).

What drives a human being to be so intensely emotional and to spiritually bare their true self in a manner that shows no concern with what others may think? Gender dynamics were never an issue in these cases especially when a man had to cry out to another man, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10: 47).

We know that for us humans, it is either you love, or you do not. There is no grey area. And because we are made with the ability to be intense, whatever we choose, we give it our all, be it human, material or a deity. But there are moments as they will surely come of separation, of forgetfulness, that may culminate in a loss of relationship with what we love. To some, it is caused by pain, some a momentary distraction, and yet some a memory lapse perhaps caused by lack of investment in time that was initially offered to what they love over a period of time.

The heart in its nature does not choose what it loves for sport. We call those achievements, as soon as one is in the bag; we are on to the next one. But God is not an achievement; essentially, love is not an achievement but devotion. It is us being sold (souled) out to one person and to a cause.

Where would we look in order to remember? I point out to LOVE, to GOD. Love is expressive, and love has a home, love belongs and love is meant to grow and to sustain. If a seed is left in the dry ground to only receive nourishment from seasonal rains, it may not grow or even thrive as the one that receives constant nourishment, because beautiful gardens have regular and enthusiastic garden keepers.

Love unexpressed – love without a home – love stunted, is the inability to breathe as naturally as we have been designed to. In this unfortunate circumstance, it is like blowing your air in a paper bag in a moment of panic only to have the air sucked back into your lungs again during the frantic and repetitious act of trying to get a release from the tightness building up in your chest. The opposite is also true, love expressed is freeing, satisfying and promising. Just as remembering to love God stimulates our minds to action and inspires our hopes, to consciously remember may clarify the question as to why and how other people manage to love with so much abandon. When we love, we forget about and lose ourselves in the act, but when we fear, we want to remember ourselves more. We do so because we think that losing ourselves will banish us to into oblivion.

Patience Noah (1 June 2017)

Scripture references are taken from The New International Version (NIV) Bible

These Walls

The tremor shook the foundation,
the damage felt but invisible.
We thought it was normal, that this would go unnoticed.
The chirp through the gloss caught our eyes. Nothing major we said-
we will fix it in due course.

Broken clumps of cement came down loudly on the floor,
we swept the dirt away, convincing ourselves that we could hold up a little longer- 
after all, sweeping fixes the problem, no one will notice.

Another crack from the upper corner caught our attention, does this mean that we need to repair the wall?
Call the builders, we said, but that too went unattended.

Now the dust, the crack, working together little by little,
damaging the walls and our space. The cracks are everywhere,
passersby stare.

Bit by bit and in much more visibility,
the walls are falling.

Hurry, a pole here! and a nail there!
Yeah, “that should hold until we fix this”, we thought.
The pole came down, that too could not balance the walls that needed fixing.

Bring down these walls, the foundation is shaking.
Replace them with lasting rocks that will never fail when
the harsh season visits.

(Edited. Written 2007, published May 02, 2009 – Facebook)

Patience Noah

The thief that stole ‘the song in my heart’

My mouth cannot form the words that I knew so well before, I am not familiar with the rhythm – there is no melody. I hear the instruments but I cannot dance to the song in response.

Nothing makes sense and I am overwhelmed, each little piece takes something from me. I sat in silence and pondered, trying to figure out what may have gone wrong; this is eating me inside, bringing to destruction the peace I had within. I cannot be turned into steel for I am a gentle soul. Yes, I know who I am and I know that the tune has changed, there is nothing there anymore – this does not make sense.

A woman said that it was a spirit, that ‘it’ will pass. “Be strong and let wisdom and peace reign”. I walked in that conscience and I am still in search of the thief who stole the song from my heart. When I find the thief, regret will envelope him, what he used to mock will be unchallengeable. My heart is troubled, you stole what is rightfully mine; the melody of my life.

You left glaring holes where you drilled senselessly, leaving my heart a tattered and old muscle.

Who is to blame? Who will acknowledge the sin and return my treasure?

I am guilty, I am to blame, I let you steal the song in my heart! It is a shame, that I wallow in the pain that I created, embracing this sorry feeling like a cushion, and in the process, I erased the song in my heart.

(Edited. First published May 02, 2009 via Facebook)

Patience Noah

Life with Orion

I decided that I needed something in my life that I had lost in my early childhood years, the first thing was to rekindle my love and care for dogs and a particular loss clouded my mind, of a chihuahua named Lady.

How the dog came into my young life is that my stepdad got her as a gift but expressed his lack of fondness for her. My mother, seeing the detachment towards the new family acquisition as an opportunity for me to take care of the dog,  decided that Lady would accompany me to my gran’s house where I lived, and there I was to take care of her. I didn’t have a say on what would happen the instant my golden coat Lady and I walked into my grandmother’s house. That night we would be separated and the next morning she lay dead in the yard, mauled by the bigger dogs in the family.

I mourned Lady in silence and without consolation, keeping her alive in my world.

I met Orion at 3 weeks old, so named by my youngest daughter. A scrawny mastiff mix, flea infested and paid whatever price the young men wanted and brought him into our new establishment after a few months absence in SA. Orion was my new baby, a son I never had. He was a load of work, pooping everywhere, hiding in my bedroom and giving his sisters occasional heart attacks, digging gardens and toppling my tomato plants, he was the boy I came to love.

One season one of Orion’s sisters attended classes near Lanseria Airport and I found a good school for my boy to attend as well.  A week passed and on an embarrassing turn of events, I took Orion to school to be told that he wasn’t welcome there anymore because he had torn down a fence and terrorized the sheep the previous day. His sister had gotten him from school and forgot to deliver the sad news to me.

And so this boy was kicked out of obedience school and I started searching for other schools and gave up, him being a “mongrel” gave me all kinds of doubt.

Orion is energetic, guess I need him more and we spent our good first year together wrestling and getting used to each other. He occupied my mind and gave me something to look forward to. The girls love him as their brother. But him being kicked out of school hangs like a cloud over his tan coated furry skull. He did master nibbling, and never biting my hand. He is the joy of the family after all.

Where my future is, I dream of many mastiffs, them and their many folds of skin and scrunched up faces. Orion will have many brothers and sisters, and together they will blend into a world of mad barks and breaking down barriers.

Hopefully, the Little Lady rescued JR that was added to our family in 2016 will keep the beasts in check.

Orion’s mother❤️

 

 

For His Name’s sake

The closing of the third verse of Psalm 23 is cause for my rumination on the meaning of the words spoken about God by the Psalmist. That as the sacred writing provides an assurance of God’s provision and presence, of his rescue and justification as well as the rewards; God is doing this to sustain me, a chosen recipient of his undeserving grace. But it is for the ’why’ of his actions that I endeavour to get to the truth of who God is. To get there, I look at written testimonies about God and his own claims.

God is kind to me because He is kindness; He is loving to me because he is love. He delivers me from adversity because he is deliverance. God is everything that he does and everything that he gives. When looking at his action on restoring my soul to righteousness, and that he does this for his own name’s sake, His name becomes a promise to me that he requires nothing except what he is giving me. For instance, the righteousness from God as a gift to me inspires righteousness back to him in service, and mercy from God as a gift equally inspires mercy back to him in service.

God is a giver, wanting nothing else from me but to walk and practice what I receive from him. My understanding of the last part of the verse in question brings me to the nature of God, that: God is true to his name and to his nature, true to his attestations and to the result. He cannot deny himself or forget his edicts (1 Timothy 2:13). Neither can he withdraw himself or dishonour himself because he is the Word! Because he is the living and active word (Hebrews 4:12), he is also operational to bring the result (Jeremiah 1:12), assuring me that there is no way he can forget who he is. God, therefore, embodies his nature and is above any notion that he could be a work of fiction.

And further, God is real; God is true and trustworthy (Psalm 19); God is hands-on; God is dynamic; God is efficient; God is observant; God does not forget; God is not absent; God brings the expected result; and God is the result.

This all is in his name and it is for the same holy name that I receive grace and mercy from the nurturing hands of the Almighty. God’s name is good for me and is good to me.

Shalom