A sacrifice for love
Bathed in sunlight I watched as my father chase my mother up the sandy dunes of Swakopmundt .It was a beautiful summer’s day and the sky was bathed in an array of colors; from mauve to orange, pink and sapphire. The sun was set high as day gave way for dusk. At just nine, I watched contentedly as my parents ran along playfully, I followed suit ,as children love games .
My mother in her radiant prime at just thirty-three and my father, three years her senior at Thirty-eight. It was a summer of love, a summer of irrevocable bliss but as inevitable as change was, the comforting certainty of my place in the world was soon to come to an end.
My parents had been born and bred in the heart of Windhoek, Namibia, which is situated just between the Namid and the Kalahari deserts .A small country that experiences little rainfall and has a population of 2.1 million people.
We had been out, climbing the sand dunes, which are said to be the highest in the world. On our return home we were met in the drive way of our small cozy villa by a stern faced officer. His grey faced disposition sent shivers down my spine as I watched my parents reluctantly clamber out of the car. From the review mirror I watched as my mother collapsed to her knees, covering her face in quiet despair. My father remained still in disbelieve, making no attempt to comfort his heartbroken wife. The grey faced officer shook my father’s hand and then jumped in his car and was gone.
Later that evening my parents called me into the lounge. They sat me down with a cup of hot-chocolate and told me that my uncle Marley had tragically passed away. My mother then smothered me in a suffocating bear hug and broke down again. I felt terrible for her but truthfully hadn’t known my uncle Marley all that well. I always suspected he disliked me. Always staring at me without so much as a word and never spent any time with me. Despite his conspicuous abhorrence of me however he always remembered my birthday and always sent gifts and cards. The cards always contained a mere ‘happy birthday’, no more, no less.
I bore a strong likeness to him; we had the same distinct jaw line and deep brown eyes. My uncle Marley was a sad man. When I think of him now I’m reminded of his silent disposition and poor appearance.
My parents had been on the phone all night. They put me to bed early but I simply couldn’t sleep. With the telephone ringing endlessly and the forlorn atmosphere that reverberated throughout the house, I found it impossible.
“He was shot” my mother said agonizingly,” No, they haven’t caught the perpetrators”her voice echoed off into the distance and I eventually dozed off heavy with fatigue.
The three hour drive to Windhoek was uncomfortable. We drove in silence for three hours, scarcely stopping to relieve ourselves or for a bite to eat. Soon on arrival I’d noticed that the same forlorn cloud of despair hung over my great aunt Louise’s home. It was filled with family, friends and unfamiliar faces. Aunt Louise worked meticulously to keep the house presentable and make sure our guests were comfortable. She served tea, and some of the dishes that were perpetually streaming in.
Everyone looked at me despairingly. I suppose it was because my uncle Marley had been deprived of the opportunity to have children and perhaps a family. It was better that way, I thought. I simply couldn’t bear losing my father.
The day dragged on depressingly. I despised the strained atmosphere, the inquisitive guests and the mournful state the house was in, most of all I despised my uncle Marley for dying and breaking my mother’s heart.
Eventually the flocking mourners departed as did the pandemonium in my head and I once more I drifted off into a peaceful sleep. I was disturbed by a intrusive knock. Outside a violent storm raged, like a bad omen for what was to come. I crept out of bed into the foyer and watched aunt Louise let the drenched, sandy haired women in. My parents sat in the living room, still chatting to someone. Concealed behind the pillar I watched in fascination as my aunt protested. Evidently ,she wasn’t welcome.
“She’s my daughter!”The women pleaded, “You can’t keep her from me any longer” she pleaded. ”I’ve come to fetch her”
My aunt tried to silence her and usher her out but it was all in vain. The women just wouldn’t budge. She was relentless.”Please, this is the worst time Emily. Now please leave, its late and the girls asleep”
My parents came out into the foyer when they heard the commotion. One look at her and my mother was mortified “HOW DARE YOU SHOW YOUR FACE HERE!’ She screamed. Forgetting myself I came out from behind the pillar and I immediately caught the sandy haired woman’s eye. My mother looked back at me indignantly
“Get to your room!’’ she repremanded. Frightened and confused I couldn’t move. The Sandy haired women couldn’t take her big blue eyes off me and in her eyes I saw recognition. It was like glancing through a mirror. I immediately knew that the women with the same Sandy colored hair as mine was my mother. My whole life suddenly felt like a sham. I didn’t know who I was anymore. My father or the man I’ve always thought was my father, ushered me back to my room without so much as a word. Soon the sandy haired woman was gone and so was my certainty in life.
Nothing was said about the brief encounter with my biological mother and at that point I just simply didn’t want to know, out of fear of the unknown. Truthfully I just didn’t want to believe that my parents were not in actual fact my parents.
Years elapsed but still it stayed with me. The mystery that was my biological parents. Two weeks after my sixteenth birthday my mother lost the fight to cancer. My father never quite came to terms with it and drifted off into a permanent state of desolation.
I had just graduated from High school and was preparing for my move to Cape Town, where I would be attending The University of The Western Cape. I was just a fortnight away from my eighteenth birthday and afterI’d be leaving my safety net for newer horizons . In my room I arranged all my belongings into boxes; things I would be taking, things that would go into storage and things I’d donate to charity.
Beneath my closest I found an old album. Sitting on the floor I opened it up and was confronted by a picture of my parents and me. I bared no resemblance to them and again was reminded that I was not their biological daughter. I wondered about my mother and then dismissed the daunting thought from my conscious. From inside I heard the pitter patter of footstep and in came my father. His face drawn and Haggard, his stance slumped as he sat down on my bed. I looked at him with concern and knew by his expression something was amiss. In his hand was a big A4 manila envelope. I looked at it curiously and wondered of the contents. I knew whatever it was, it would significantly affect me. Sighing heavily with exasperation he looked down at me and handed me the envelope, nervous with fear and apprehension I took the manila envelope and reluctantly began to open it.
What is it” I paused, assessing the envelope. It was relatively light. I looked at my father for an answer and noticed trickles of sweet on his forehead. ”It concerns your biological parents. Your mother and I are not your biological parents’ honey “Sighing again now he paused and began again “We adopted you when you were just an infant. The truth about who you are is sealed in that envelope. We always meant to tell you but your mother just couldn’t bear the thought of you blaming us.” He stood up and left my room, closing the door behind him. I felt a knot in my chest as I assessed the big manila envelope. Here was the entire contents of my truth, wrapped up in an envelope that suddenly felt so small. I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to know, I’d blocked it out for so long, who I was and why my mother had given me away, I wasn’t certain I could face the truth.
Despite my nagging doubt I emptied the contents of the envelope onto the floor, before me. Out fell several documents; a picture of the Sandy haired women huddled up against a tall, dark man. His face looked familiar .Along with these pictures came my birth certificate, the death certificate of my uncle Marley and three page letter addressed to me.
I assessed my original birth certificate and It suddenly became painfully clear to me that my deceased uncle Marley was my biological father. The thought made me bitter .He was a distant, depressed man that spent little or no time with me .A stranger to me.
In the picture I could see the love he had for my mother, he smiled at her adoringly and she embraced him with love. I wondered what could have caused them to separate and give me up, perhaps I was the reason. Sighing now, lethargically, I wondered if I’d ever have all the answers. I picked up the death certificate and assessed in inquiringly.
“Marley Harrington born 16/08 1965
Died 14/01/1998” I read. The death certificate stated that the cause of death was under investigation. It left a big question mark in my head. My uncle Marley was a stranger in my mind; I couldn’t quite imagine him as a father. I have a vague recollection of him riding his motorcycle but that was it. He scarcely smiled and spoke very little. I now realized that perhaps my presence made him uneasy. I put it back down and regarded my own birth certificate once more t. It was straightforward, stating my name and date of birth and the names of my parents. Emily Sandton, was her name. They weren’t married after all.
I began to wonder who had named me and whether my parents had been married. All that was left now was the three page letter. I presumed they’d answer the questions I had, I prayed they would. It was addressed to me. I began to read.
To my baby girl Kate
Hey my little angel. If you’re reading this it means you’ve just turned eighteen and your aunt and uncle have followed through with my request.
Happy birthday my love. I know this must be hard for you to perceive and a lot for you to take in but I am your father. I haven’t been there for you like I’d promised your mother when she gave birth to you but bear in mind it was hard for me as well. I tried my best to be the father you required but I just wasn’t cut out for it. I remember placing you on the car well I worked on it, we jammed to some good old Bob Marley back then. But you needed more .I never wanted to give you up my sweetheart, please you have to believe me. You see, your aunt and uncle couldn’t have children, they fell i love with you the moment they first set eyes on. When they had asked for you at first I had refused, the thought infuriated me but towards the end I just couldn’t manage. I wanted you to have the very best,; a family, a future and I just wasn’t good enough. I just couldn’t give you all that. But I tried. I went to Cape Town to try and get your mother back when you were just two and left you in the hand of your aunt and uncle in the meantime .I was devastated to discover that your mother had married someone else and despised her for it.
When I returned home I simply couldn’t face you, you looked so much like her, so I let you stay a while longer. When I went to fetch you I saw how content you were with your aunt and uncle and decided to be selfless for once in my life and let you have the life you deserved. I let them adopt you. They didn’t want to confuse you so we all agreed it would be best if you didn’t know I was your father and as time progressed you had forgotten. It broke my heart, so I avoided you as time went on.
With time I became bitter and depressed. I could face losing your mother but not you. Your aunt didn’t want me around you anymore because I had started drinking. With my drinking and bad temperament, I knew she was right and tried my best to stay away.
Watching you now I feel overwhelmed with love, at just nine you’ve bloomed and flourished into such a magnificent creature.
If you’re reading this now, it means I may no longer around. I got involved with the wrong people you see and owe them a lot of money I just don’t have right now.
I’m sorry if I disrupted your life. I need you to know that I love you more than life itself and so does your mother. She comes from a different world than we do. Her name’s Emily Sandton. She lives in Cape Town with her family. Her father, your grandfather is a renowned businessman and forced her to give you up. She has tried getting you back since but he simply wouldn’t have it. Please find it in your heart to understand that despite everything we love you immensely and always will.
Your loving father
Tears trickled down my cheeks as I read the last bit. He loved me. My uncle Marley was not my uncle at all but my father, who was a broken man and he loved me. I suddenly felt overwhelmed with grief for my real father, who had made such selfless sacrifices to assure security in my life, sacrifices of love. As a result I had always felt sheltered and safe. I had a wonderful childhood and it was all thanks to this man who for nine years had been a ghost in my life. My heart broke at the thought.
I still had many questions about my mother but put them on aside for now and I went into the living room where the man I had known as my father for sixteen years of my life sat despondently and deep in thought. I understood the guilt he felt but in turn felt nothing but love for him, simply because he had raised me unquestionably as his own and showered me in nothing but adorning love my entire life. I kneeled before him on the floor, tears streaming down my face and simply said
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