Chapter 7

“Not how long but how well you have lived is the main thing.” — Seneca 

Dimakatso Makwetla

I was having such a pleasant day with Connie tending to me so well.  I didn't even feel left out and my mother was too busy drinking.  My brother Frans was so happy to see me.  He literally stopped braaing and came straight to greet me from what I gathered.

Frans: (excitedly) “Dimama man!  Kgale le tla waitse (you took so long to arrive).”

He gave me a warm hug and frowned as he took a good look at me.  I swallowed hard as I grew anxious thinking that he could see right through me.  I hadn't told anyone my secret and I wasn't prepared to tell them until my last days.

Frans: (frowning) “Dimakatso keng o kare ga o shap (why do you look a bit frail)?”

Dimakatso: “Hai (no) I'm okay.”

Connie: “You know perhaps working for her entire family all these years is finally taking its toll on her.  Frans should really find you something less strenuous I mean I also have a lot of contacts so - “

I didn't even wait for her to finish.  The last thing I needed was a handout job.  I never liked bothering Frans and I knew he just didn't like handing us jobs for free like that.  Unfortunately he had to be the only one who shined in the family.

Dimakatso: (interrupting) “No thank you.  I really appreciate it but I'm okay.”

Connie: “Well think about it.”

She gave me a wide smile and I just changed the subject.

Dimakatso: “Did you guys renovate the kitchen?  It looks so different.”

Celia: (laughing) “Hehe I had no idea you could identify taste.”

I won't lie I was so hurt.  I just didn't think that she would still try to be so petty even during a family function.

Malome Frans: (annoyed) “Celia o tla ka go ntena (you are about to annoy me).  I called you all here so that we could all spend the holidays together.  You know just how much I hate disrespect.  Dimakatso is your eldest sister man.  Have some decency or at least pretend to have some!”

Frans was the youngest and the only male – yet everyone was afraid of him.  I just wish they could give me an ounce of the respect they had for him.

Celia: “Askies (sorry) I was just joking.”

Frans: “Don't forget that I can still send you away.  It doesn't mean that this holiday would be nothing without you.  Remember that.”

As always Celia just saw it fit to start a fight.

Celia: (angrily) “What are you trying to say Frans?  Just because I'm the only one without children doesn't mean I don't have anything to contribute to this family.”

Salome: “Ai (oh) Celia.  You just always choose the best occasions to start a fight.  Is it our fault that you didn't have children?  You are the one who said that you didn't want to get married and didn't want children because your career was too important.  Akere wena o career woman (you're a career woman aren't you)?  So now why do you always have to throw it in our faces whenever shit hits the fan?!  Aowa (No) man!  Re lapile ka wena (We're so tired of you)!”

Celia just didn't take well to being ganged up on.

Celia: (fuming) “Oho (oh) so this is how it is now?!  All of you just decide to gang up on me like this?!  At least I don't bother anyone for food or clothing unlike Dimakatso!  You guys never take me seriously!  I mean even Mama insults me whenever I'm not around!”

Koko: (frowning) “Nna (Me)?!”

Celia: (shouting) “Yes!  O nagana gore a ke tsebe Mma (You think I don't know Ma)?  Ka tseba o mpitsa nyopa ko di khoneng (I know you call me barren behind my back)!”

I was so annoyed to be honest.  I was truly heartbroken.  So many negative emotions were running through my mind.  My own siblings just hurting each other whenever they had the chance.  I didn't understand how they even lived.  I mean their way of thinking was just too materialistic and they were swimming in vanity.  Life is so futile you know.  It was as if they just forgot about that part and actually forgot that they would not take that money or their assets where they were going after death.  We are all going to have the same sized grave and no excepts will be made for those with money.  I felt a strong headache coming my way and I just didn't have the energy for conflict any more.

Dimakatso: (softly) “Constance so sorry for being such a party pooper  but may you please show me to my room?”

They all kept quiet as I was speaking to Connie.

Connie: (smiling) “Of course follow me.”

She had Masalesa on her hip as she led me to one of the bedrooms.  I just tried my  best to hide the threatening tears while we were walking up the stairs.  I could tell that Connie felt so sorry for me.  Part of the reason why she was always so nice to me was most probably out of pity.  She knew just how mean my siblings as well as my mother were to me – with and without my presence.  

Connie: “Here it is.”

As soon as she opened the bedroom door I just let the tears flow.  I didn't mean to cry but it just happened.  You know when you have been carrying years of guilt regret heartache and immense pain you will literally cry for no reason at all.  That is why people suffering from mental illness were never taken seriously.  Some people were called needy just for being so soft and crying for basically anything.  I had reached that stage and it was not a pretty one.  

Dimakatso: (teary) “Thank you.”

Connie closed the door behind her and put Masalesa on the bed as she came close to me and held my hand.  Her warmth always felt like home.  I never received that from any of my siblings.  Frans was helpful only when he wanted to be so I just never took him seriously.  

Connie: “Dimakatso I know just how hard this must be for you.”

She was most probably saying that just to make me feel better.

Connie: “You know I never told you my story.  I grew up just like you; I had siblings who were my mother's favourites while I was just not.  I was constantly on the receiving end of negativity and hatred.  I was always the cursed one and I could never understand why.  One day when my mother was on her death bed she called us all in.  I had had a very distant relationship with her at that point.  She started with me and told me that she didn't mean to be so vile towards me throughout the years and that she blamed me for my father walking out on her.  I am the last born of the family and I didn't look like the rest of them; I am very light compared to them and my hair is quite silky and curly.  Rumours would emerge and they'd say that I wasn't my father's child – that is what made him disappear.  Only to find out when my mother was dying that I looked like her grandmother.  That was when I realized just how backwards black people were and still are.  We are a long way from being nice to one another.  My siblings hated me for that – my skin tone.  Imagine that.”

Her story was painful but I couldn't understand how one's siblings could hate you for the way you look honestly.

Connie: “I know you're probably thinking it is one hell of a crazy story but you know your story is a lot similar to mine.”

Dimakatso: (frowning) “How so?”

Connie: “Your siblings despise you – and I'd like to tell you why.”

I raised my eyebrows in disbelief as I awaited her response.

Connie: “You see you are the strongest one believe it or not.  You are the smartest one – believe it or not and you are the prettiest one.  You are the only one who had the heart to withstand poverty just so that they could be where they are today.  People know – everyone knows that they are where they are because of your sacrifices.  Your mother despises you because you actually became better than her.  You see

you have been focusing so much on the negatives – that you never actually looked at the positive.  All you hear is how neighbours gossip about you and your children but you have never heard or paid attention to those who literally applaud you and wish they could be just as amazing as you are.  Last year we spent New year's at Mama's house and after church I heard a few of your neighbours talk about how strong you are.  It is always so difficult to see through the pain the tears you have wasted all those years the guilt you felt because you feel as if your children will suffer while their children are well off but you know I will tell you another secret.”

I listened further in disbelief.

Connie: “Frans worships you but he feels so guilty.  He feels that as the man he should have been there for you – that he should have gone to look for a job instead of you.  He is so successful but deep down he just can't enjoy it because of the guilt that is eating him up.  He does not buy you food or anything because he assumes that you guys are sorted.  He gives your mother money – every month for  basics and utilities and he just never understood why Bina had to leave school.  Even though I still feel that Celia and Salome influence him otherwise he has a good heart.  All you have to do is just take it easy Dimakatso.  God is with you.  He has pulled you through so much and I know he will do miracles for your children.”

I cried as she was talking to me.  I just wailed and let it all out.  I could never cry like that in front of Bina I mean she would just be extremely worried and I always felt a bit weak if I did that in front of my children.  I really didn't have anyone to vent to so I had just kept everything bottled up.  I didn't have the heart to tell anyone that I was nearing the end but Connie just made everything feel so right.

Connie: “Don't you worry you must have such a headache now after all that crying.”

Dimakatso: “Connie thank you so much for listening.  It really means so much to me.”

Connie: “That is what family is for.  Listen how about I go get you some pain killers some wine or Amarula or even both and we can just chill on the balcony?”

I wasn't much of a drinker but it sounded like a good idea.

Dimakatso: (smiling) “I'd love that.”

Connie: “Cool I'll be right back.”

She walked out and headed downstairs and I just knew that my sisters wouldn't like the idea of Connie hanging out with me alone.  She came back literally after five minutes with a bottle of water a bottle of red wine and a bottle of Amarula an ice bucket and two glasses in her hands.


Connie: (smiling) “Here are some pain killers.  They won't make you sleep I mean you and I still have a whole lot to talk about.”

I chuckled as we went to the balcony just next to the bedroom I would be sleeping in.  It was a cosy room used for relaxation as a balcony lounge.  Connie poured us some drinks while Masalesa was sleeping at that point.  She lay him on one of his blankets on the floor while we sat right at the edge of the baclony.

I tasted some of the Amarula and it tasted really nice the wine was also nice even though it felt a bit too strong for me.  So Connie went back to the kitchen to get some Ice Cream and mixed my Amarula with it.  Apparently it was called Dom Pedro.  After about two glasses I was feeling a lot better.  I guess that was the reason why my mother used to drink so much; alcohol numbed her pain.  I was just guessing because she was a very mean woman.

Connie: (laughing) “Gosh you are so fun to be around.  You are so much better than your sisters to be honest.”

Dimakatso: “I thought everyone wanted to be around well achieved Nurses.”

Connie: “Most definitely not me.  I mean I earn way more than they do and I am still very humble.  All they want to talk about is what they bought and what they still want to buy.  It could never be me.”

Dimakatso: “Can I ask you something?”

Connie: “Anything.”

Dimakatso: “How come you never had any children with my brother?”

Connie: (sigh) “Well to be honest Frans didn't want any children when he married me and he made it very clear but I was actually born without a womb.  I am able to have children via surrogacy but I just vowed to myself that I'd never have children of my own.  I didn't want to turn into a mother like mine.  You know she still visits me in my dreams but I forgave her a long time ago.”

That was a shock to me I mean I just thought that she didn't want to have children by choice or that she was respecting Frans's wishes.  She was being so open to me so I felt like doing the same.  

Dimakatso: “I have stage four breast cancer.  I don't have much longer to live so I was hoping that this coming two weeks would be the best.”

She just couldn't believe it.  She shed a few tears as she looked at me with disbelief.  It actually felt a bit nice to tell someone about my pain and share that with them.

Connie: (teary) “Are you sure?  I mean what about chemo?  Radiation?”

Dimakatso: “I just found out two months ago.  It had already spread so I just want to die in peace.”

Connie: (crying) “Dimakatso what about Bina?  Oh Modimo (God).”

Dimakatso: “Please don't tell her – or anyone.”

Connie: (nodding) “How long?”

Dimakatso: “A few months if I'm lucky.”

Connie: “You will be okay.  I don't know what will happen but I have hope.”

It felt so good to just be embraced and cry in someone's arms.  I just felt so safe around Constance.  We were so wrapped up in our emotions when Salome just barged in.

Salome: (loudly) “Oh there you are.  Kgale ke le nyaka lona (I've been looking all over for you).”

Dimakatso: “O batla eng (what do you want) Salome?”

Salome: “Ah ne ke re e tla o tlo re direla bogobe (I just wanted you to come and make us some pap).  The meat is already done.”

I was so saddened by Salome's behaviour towards me and I saw just how angry it made Connie.

Connie: (angrily) “Salome ga o swabe (you have no shame).  Why don't you go make it yourself?”

Salome: “Because Dimakatso can make it.  She is used to cooking and cleaning after people isn't she?”

Connie: (shouting) “Fokof (fuck off) Salome!  Voetsek (Piss off)!”

Salome: (shocked) “Ko botsa (I'm going to tell) Frans!”

Connie: “Tsamaya (Leave) before I beat the shit out of you!”

Salome was just as shocked as I was and she hurried downstairs.  I mean Connie was one of those soft spoken people and I had never seen her tell someone off before that day.  It felt a little good to have someone in my corner for once.  I was just happy.  Constance showed me that even people who aren't your blood can show you real love.  

1 Corinthians 16:14 says; “Let all that you do be done in love.”


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