My “liberal” credentials might take a bit of a beating here. But, what the hell, I am African… I can’t pull punches just to make people feel better about themselves. I have some beef with what we eat…

You know I don’t like Palin. She an empty head with lots of background noise. I’m not even going to go into that. Just have a look at a few of the things I’ve written about her to know I am not a fan. See the letter I wrote to Sarah, or how six degrees of separation makes her anti-American and not a maverick, or what I want in a Vice President. Oh, there are many more. But those will give you a sense of my dislike of the lipstick pig.

And here I am defending her. Dammit. I thought about it for a while… But I know I have to. It’s about meat you see. And I am a meatarian. Ooh… Not everyone likes that part of me. Mmm. A few nice tjops and a boerewors on the open fire… Mouth watering sh*t I tell you. Anyway. Go have a look at my views on eating meat. Unpopular? Maybe. Do I care? Hum… Sorry… Was that a question? I eat meat. Live with it.

What am I talking about? I am talking about the “turkey incident”. You know, the one with Sarah “Empty Head” Palin talking to the media while a guy is busy cutting the throat of a turkey in the background to drain the blood. And of course, kill the bird. Here is a link to that just in case you haven’t seen it yet. Do what I did… Turn off the sound and just watch the guy in the background. I really have no reason to hear her voice. She sounds just like a bunch of turkeys in any case. And about as predictable. Have you ever stood with a bunch of turkeys and made the turkey “kulu-kulu-kulu” sound? Yep, they all react the same way by singing it all back to you in unison. Just like Sarah and her gang of bigots. You push the button and she’ll sing it back… So predictable. Anyway… Here is the video.

It was all over the news. People were up in arms about her being so stupid to stand in front of the cameras while the guy is killing the bird in the background. How could she? Is she that stupid? Hum… Yes, this “bird” is that stupid but it has nothing to do with the bird in the background. I really don’t get what the fuss was about?

Are you shocked about the killing of the bird? WTF? How did you think that turkey got on your plate over Thanksgiving? Do you think they were massaged till they died a peaceful death? Or that they died of some natural cause?

Yep. They did die of a natural cause. Natural for a turkey in any case. They got slaughtered. And nicely packaged for your convenience. Ready to place your order for a 16 pound turkey and pick it up at Roche Brothers the day before Thanksgiving. And then you stick it in the oven for a few hours and… Wallah! Turkey time!

(Oh, we had a chicken on steroids for Thanksgiving. Eight pounds – the smallest one you could order. Hey, the butcher frowned at our un-American size turkey – even after we explained we are four very normal size people. Two kids and two grown ups. But that maple syrup did the trick. Nice and juicy! Thanks babe.)

Back to reality… The meat you eat were once little calves and chicks and little piggies and little baa baa white sheep. Yes, they were cute once. But now they are dinner. Or maybe just mashed up into a burger or something. Get used to it. The things we call meat were once alive. Now they are nicely done (medium rare as the chef said) and on our dinner plates. Live with it.

More importantly, own it.

I find it amazing that people were shocked at the video. I just can’t understand how people can think that food comes nicely packaged without any consequences. Meat doesn’t grow on trees. Their natural state isn’t wrapped in plastic and in cold storage. They don’t grow up from little 1 ounce steaks into the half-pounder you slap on the grill.

I don’t have a problem with what I eat. I slaughtered a few sheep in my time. And cattle for that matter. Plucked a few chickens. Even helped a turkey or two from their kulu-kulu state into my plate. That’s life. I am from Africa and had to go to the farm when there was a break from school. I’m glad I did it.

And I am happy that I slaughtered the sheep and cows and chickens and rabbits and deer or whatever else came my way from the farm or when we went hunting. We ate what we killed. It wasn’t for fun. It was for food and to control the numbers. Too many wild animals and the semi-desert area would turn into a desert area if we didn’t cull the animals and control the numbers. Like I said, it wasn’t for fun.

But I am still glad I knew what I ate. And I am glad that I could take ownership of what I ate. From the farm to my plate. I knew the animals and knew what they were for. We always looked after them and fed them. Gave them space to live and kept them healthy. But they weren’t there to be played with. We respected them and treated them well. And then we will slaughter them in the best and quickets way we can. Always with respect and acknowledgement that we owe them as much as what we own them. Because we knew that in the end we will eat them. And live.

My only problem now is that I don’t know where my meat comes from. I know about the force-feeding of turkeys and the steroids for juicy steaks and the transporting of sheep. I don’t like it. I don’t. But I have to make a choice. I either eat it and know what might have happened along the way or I should shut the f*ck up and go eat some celery.

Oh I try to be organic when I can afford it and when I can get it. I make sure I have as much information as possible. But I am not going to live in the clouds and think that there are no consequences. I know that there are some major sh*t going on in the US when it comes to the stuff they call meat. Those large commercial farms are not a pretty sight. But that happens when you want your steaks and you want your burgers. It’s as horrid as you can imagine and then some. Sh*t happens when we want to eat meat.

Know what you eat. Live with it. Don’t try and think you are all “eco-activist” by getting worked up about the turkey getting slaughtered. Those horrid pictures… That’s life. That’s how you get your food. Know it. Live with it. And then eat it.

I do. I’m not going to bullsh*t myself. I might be a disgusting bastard and barbaric African for eating meat, but I am not going to be a hypocrite. I know it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Don’t think your all organic green salad is that much better. Farming soya is killing the Amazon forest. And it tastes like crap. (No thanks, I’ve tried it many, many times in different ways. It always tastes shite.) What makes a plant so much worse than a cow? Just because it doesn’t have whiskers and a heartbeat?

It’s so stupid. People trying to humanize the animals we eat. Cows with glasses on? Yeah, it is funny… But it is also a piece of steak away from being on my plate. Chicken Little? Wait till he grows up. Babe? Mmm, wonder what the farmer did with him when he got old? Sorry, these animals don’t live the lives we are told on the telly or read in those nice bedtime stories. Those are stories, not life. I laugh at the stories of animals done so beautifully by Pixar and the Disney gang and I love Back To The Barnyard. But I also know that calling the main cow Otis doesn’t mean he won’t be eaten when the time comes.

You like cats or dogs? Guess what… The stuff you feed them? Used to be the crap left over after they cut the choice meat for us. Or the fish heads left over after we got our frozen bits cut into nice cubes. We eat meat. Or some of us do. And we should know what we eat and not be disgusted by how we get it. That is bigotry. Or at least hypocritical.

Thank God we don’t hear the broccoli scream as you snap the stem, dry freeze it before it is stuffed in a plastic bag and then dropped in boiled water or nuked by the microwave. Oh, those poor, poor broccoli. And the cute little peas. What did they ever do to you? Or do you wait for the carrot to die a natural death?

No. I am not going to eat roadkill. I know what I eat. Or at least as much as what I can know. I am not going to flinch when I see a picture of a dead animal getting slaughtered and packaged. I am going to look at it and then slap it on the grill.

I know it. I see it. I own it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Do you?



So the people are in the streets everywhere. London – stiff upper lip protests and Brown decided not to touch the torch. France – pull off a riot and put out that flame like only the French could. San Francisco – hanging off the bridge to stop the hanging. Yes! China is all over the news. Well, not China only. The Olympics and China. It seems as if there are a few people who actually do care about this little world and the people who live here. It’s not only the warmth of the globe that gets people going. No. It’s also the warmth of the human heart that makes us look after each other.

But where do they all go when the torch passes by? I always hear that people don’t really care. That people worry more about their own lives and where the next big buy will come from. You know. That Westerners don’t really care about the world where people suffer and die. But again we have seen that they do care. Yes they do. It’s been with us this whole time – just hidden away where the press can’t find them. Why? Because there are no stories and pictures to go with the protest of the heart. It’s not Seattle ’99 every day you know. But I have a plan.

All we need is a regular chance for people to express their outrage. To show their anger. To highlight their unhappiness with the world. To come out in their numbers and stand up against injustice. To give the media the stories and pics to go with these scenes of protest. And I have the perfect solution for that. The Oh-Limp-Pic Games.

This is how it works. Every four years the tyrants of the world will come together and celebrate the ways they murder people. To show the world what they are made of. To give the world a chance to take pictures and see for themselves how tyrants and oppressors deal with anyone who stand in their way. The Games to celebrate all those broken limbs and the limp of humanity – the limp of death and destruction. It’s a time for the world to stand up against these bastards I mean… tyrants and show the world we care. We can hang banners off bridges. Protest in the streets. Pressure our governments. Lobby our politicians. Boycott our companies. You know – get the stories and pic to the media for front-page news. Yes. Every four years we will have our Oh-Limp-Pic Games. A celebration of broken promises and the death of the innocent.

Of course we will need someone to coordinate all this. Don’t worry – already thought of that. How about the IOC. The International Oppressors Committee. They will set the guidelines and select the winning regime who will host the next Oh-Limp-Pic Games. Only those who murder and kill can sit on the IOC. I mean really. Murder is too good to share with everyone.

Some guidelines for selection? You have to be a warlord or tyrant in charge of the country or have “People’s Republic” or “Democratic Republics” in the name of your country. Sorry Tamil Tigers and Al-Qaeda, you just don’t make the cut. Honorable mention, but you haven’t done enough to be part of this exclusive group. Work harder. Maybe next time. But just murdering from behind a mask doesn’t do it for the IOC. You need to be loud and you need to be proud – in your own country of mayhem and death. Just attacking other people you don’t like is way too cowardly. Get your own spot to practice proactive oppression. Until then – get in the back of the line please.

I have a short-list ready for those who can lead the IOC in these early days:

1. China – Hu Jintao. The clear leader of the field. It takes a special regime to rule a country of that size with an iron fist. Well done. You make the IOC proud. You deserve the first Oh-Limp-Pic Games. I mean really – it took balls to kill that Tibetan flame quicker than the French did in Paris. See you in the summer.

2. North Korea – The Eternal President, Kim Il-Sung, would be proud. Not only do you execute and torture like there is no tomorrow (or yesterday), but you rank dead last when it comes to democracy. No pun intended with “dead last”.

3. Sudan – President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, excellent job in keeping genocide in Africa. Just when we thought we got over that… You even managed to make Darfur a household name across the world. And in such a short period of time.

4. Equatorial Guinea – President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, or as the state-operated radio and you declared – that you are God who is “in permanent contact with the Almighty” and “can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell”. And Condieven calls you a good friend. Man you managed to pull this one off big time. Thank you oil. Thank you oil. Even the Pope sees you. Just wonder if they pray to you? Special touch – cannibalism.

5. Burma – Senior General Than Shwe, no need to pussy-foot around with titles hey? How do you manage to stuff up a country for so long and still not get caught? Guess it must be big brother from the North hey? Oh stop moaning – the name change didn’t change anything.

These are the Five Rings of the Oh-Limp-Pic Games (also know as the Ring Leaders). The Supreme Gods of the IOC. They embody the spirit of the Oh-Limp-Pics – torture, death and war-on-their-own. They will have to decide who would join them in the IOC. A few just missed it – Saudi Arabia (King Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud) could well lead the Middle East in the IOCas they have special connections to hide their abuses; Zimbabwe (Robert “Bob” Mugabe) just missed the cut with an inflation of 100,000%, but the possibility of him losing his own rigged election really hurt him.

The Oh-Limp-Pic Games itself will have “sports” such as shooting, shooting and more shooting. The winners will all receive a medal. Of course they will. But not just gold – that’s so yesterday. Nope, here we will hand out blood diamonds set in child-laboured gold. Second place prizes? No medal sorry. Remember in this sport of shooting and mayhem there will be no second place at all. Maybe just a Free Tibet with every Happy Meal.

But the biggest reason for having the Oh-Limp-Pic Games is to give people the chance to show their distaste for tyrants and oppressors everywhere. So the IOC will bring the tyrants to you – the people. Every four years the torch of torture will be paraded through all free countries across the world. It will be the theme of the stories and the pics to highlight our distaste. Of course, the flags we burn and the posters we hang will all be made in China, but that doesn’t matter. We are here to protest, and damn you we will. But the path of the torch of torture will give us a chance to show we care. The Pic of moment.

Yes, it is a joke. But we need a regular opportunity to show our feelings and show our numbers. Because those who care. Those who really care. Those who hang off the bridges and those who force their Prime Ministers to not hold the torch and those who extinguish the flame all deserve to be heard more often. I blame the media. They need their moment they can capture in a picture. Their soundbite. And those who care? Well, they don’t live in a soundbite. Or in a picture. They live for others to live. For others not to die. They live for humanity. I salute you bridge hangers and protesters. You are my brothers and sisters. The media should be embedded with you to learn about humanity. To remind themselves that they were once the watchdogs. Today? More like watch, dogs.

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This will the the hardest thing I ever write. Writing about my mother. She was everything my dad wasn’t. That was easy to write about compared to this. Because my dad was an ass. But my mom. She was my mom.

You see, I was her favourite one. Sorry sis, but I was mom’s favourite one. She loved us all. But I was her favourite one. Maybe because I was the youngest. And a bit unplanned. But I was her favourite one. She always dreamed of me as a little boy of about 6. In my khaki outfit and long socks and sandals. I never grew up in her eyes. I always stayed her little baby. Although she always laughed when I still tried to sit on her lap when I was older – much older. But I was her baby. And I was her favourite one. Maybe it was because I lived at home. Always there to be with her. Someone she could look after. Someone she could look after when no one looked after her.

We were very different. My mom and I. She was a proper lady. Never coughed in public. People shouldn’t see the inside of your mouth you see. So she laughed in a funny way as well. Always trying to keep her mouth closed while she laughed. Not me. I tried everything to make her laugh. Stupid things. Because we were so different. I am the “pull-my-finger” type of dad. My mom – she never pulled my finger. Not without having a closed-mouth laugh in any case.

But that only made it more of a challenge. How to gross her out. And boy did I try. Especially during the big Sunday lunch. I’ll mix up all my food and stuffed my face. And then I’ll start talking to her with my mouth full. Really full. She couldn’t look at me. But she laughed with that funny mouth of hers. And she ate so bloody slowly. Three rice grains and a pea and that was it. And she believed in the “chew-your-food-30-times” before she swallowed. And that was always my next chance to get her to laugh. I’ll gulp down my food and get up and announce to the world that it was time to feed my mom. So I’ll sit next to her and feed her. And we laughed. Oh, the tears that ran down her face was just a sight to see. Desert was a special time. Ice-cream and jelly for me (jello in the US). And I’ll make as if I am snorting it up, but meanwhile I was making the noises with my mouth. She was so disgusted in me. But she laughed and laughed. With a hoo-hoo-hoo – she laughed like an owl. And in between the laughs she will say swearwords that will never-ever cross her mouth at any other time. “O donnertjie tog, my kind” (rough translation: “Oh, bloody hell my child”). She couldn’t control her laughter. She might not laugh with an open mouth. But she laughed so easily when I did my tricks. And sometimes. Just sometimes, she would lose all control and have to run to the bathroom to stop herself. Although she didn’t always make it in time. Yes, my mother loved laughing at my silly jokes. And I loved making her laugh. We loved each other. My mother and I.

We had to. We had to make each other laugh. We had to have fun with each other. My mother and I. Because my dad wasn’t much to laugh at behind closed doors. Always the funny man in front of others. But never to my mom. So I made her laugh. And she spoiled me. She spoiled me rotten. That was my mother. She spoiled me rotten.

She made me breakfast every single morning while I stayed at home. Even when I went to university. I stayed at home. In my own little place outside, but at home. Close to my mom. She could see me sleeping from the kitchen. And she got up before me every morning to make my waking up the best part of the day. She’ll make me coffee and come into my room quietly. Yes, quietly. She’ll put my coffee next to my bed on a cup-warmer and talk softly to me to try and wake me up. “Morning my boy. Time to wake up. It is lovely day.” I’ll wake up slowly while she talks to me. And she’ll prop the pillow up for me to sit up in bed and have my cup of coffee. The extra-large mug that said “I Love Mom”. I bought it myself.

She hated me smoking. But she gave me a clean ashtray to have a smoke while I drink my coffee and have a quick chat to her. And she knew how to time her morning routine perfectly as well. Half-way through my smoke she will get up and get breakfast ready. She timed it that she started making my breakfast the minute she saw me get up to shave and shower. I’ll get dressed and walk straight into the kitchen with her perfect timing. As I sat down she gave me the breakfast I wanted every single morning. A slice of toast, some marmite on it and a fried egg – soft in the middle. But still hot as it just came off the pan. A little bit of pepper and salt – thanks mom. Always perfect. Every single morning. And she sat and had her tea while I had my breakfast. We’ll talk about my day and smile at each other. I’ll tell her a funny joke or two to make her laugh. And she’ll tell me to stop it because it is too early for that. And then I’ll get up give her a kiss and she’ll give me my daily 5 Rand (about 80 cents) for the day – enough for a sandwich, coffee, smokes and a beer. And she’ll stand at the door and wave at me while I drive off. Just her and my dog. Ready for her day. My dad will be out playing bowls or visiting his friends. I knew she was just waiting for me to come home and share a cup of tea together (always the Three Trees brand). My mom and me – we had fun. Fun when I was there. But I don’t know what she did while she waited for me to come home. Just her and the dog.

Weekends was the best though. We had a ball then. I would go out surfing a bit and come home ready to take my mom out on a date. Just the two of us. We’ll jump in her car and head for the mall. It’s time for the movies and a bite to eat. We’ll watch whatever I wanted to watch. It was always an action movie for me. She’ll buy us tickets for the latest Harrison Ford or Stallone movie and get ready for some action. She always said she loved it, but I wasn’t always that sure. She used to grab my arm tightly and whisper little swearwords (“O donnertjie tog”) every single time something  happened – just a change of scenery got her jumping. She always expected the worse. But she was all smiles when we got out and headed for the Pizza place – always the same place. Panarotti’s. I’ll have a huge pizza and she’ll have something small – a salad or something. And she’ll stare at me while I ate. And we spoke about the movie and how much fun it was. And we wondered what we will watch or do next weekend. You see, my dad never took her to the movies.

Watching her watch television was fun too. We were one of the first people in our street to get a television. And she was gripped. She watched everything. But she loved The Protectors. We had a full house of people coming over each time The Protectors was on. And she got so involved in the story. She believed it was true. And she even believed she could make a difference. I was very, very little, but in one scene I will never forget, Contessa di Contini was being followed by a guy with a knife. And he was slowly but surely creeping up to her – ready to pounce. He was about to stab her when my mom jumped up and shouted – “Agter jou Contessa. Pasop. Hy is agter jou!” (“Behind you, Contessa. Look out. He is behind you!”) Oh we laughed about that one. And we laughed many more times at each Sunday lunch. Especially when I used to shout that in the middle of my dad praying when I spied the dog sitting behind her. Yes. She believed she could make a difference.

But I grew up and eventually had to move out of the house. I only did that when I got married. Oh how my mother hated my wife in the beginning. But she got to love her when my wife became a mother – and my mother saw this beautiful child and knew she was the one for me. But in the beginning she thought that my wife took me away from her. Her little boy. She didn’t want me to get married. She just sat there during the service and stared at my wife. She never smiled. And she phoned me to tell me to come home – the day after I got back from honeymoon. But I grew up. And she had no one to wait for anymore. Just a few visits – maybe once or twice a month. She had no one to spoil anymore. Even the dog had to be put down because of illness and old age.

But we had fun whenever we went to visit her. She’ll make my favourite food – buttermilk pudding, potato salad, braai (barbeque), her special cake, and home-made bread. Oh yes, the home-made bread. I was never allowed to cut the bread. I was going to cut my fingers off you see. I was just a little boy. Her little boy. But I got her laughing her funny laugh with that one as well – a new trick. It involved a knife and some tomato sauce. Needless to say, she was in a panic for a while. Grabbing my hand and putting it under the tap. Until she realized what I did. And then it was all funny laughs again. Yes. We still had fun when we had a chance.

But she wasn’t too healthy. She suffered from many illnesses. Not sickly. But she had many problems – from vertigo to depression. And it was tough for her. With no one at home. Not even the dog. And my dad was always out with his friends or playing bowls. It was tough for her. For someone who always had me around to spoil. Now it was just her and her thoughts. And no one to wait for at night. Just hope for a weekend or two each month.

My sister called me one night from her home. My mom was crying and called out for help. She couldn’t get hold of me. So she phoned my sister. My dad was cheating on her. She didn’t know what to do. I had enough. Enough of him. I raced to their place and got them to sit down and talk to me. I told my dad he was now messing with my life. Messing with my mother. Time to grow up and be a man. Time to take responsibility. She needed him. She needed him to look after her. To be there at night for them to share a meal. Sit together and watch television. I told him to make his choice now. Be a man or walk away. He didn’t walk away. And maybe that was a mistake. Because he said he will look after her. I wasn’t there to look after her. And maybe that wasn’t what she wanted. Maybe she just wanted someone to spoil and someone to wait for at night.

I think my mother died a little bit each day. With a husband who didn’t love her. With a house that was empty. Just her thoughts and herself. It was always about me. Always about what she could do for me. The breakfasts. The movies. The pizzas. The tea. The laughs. It was always about me. And what she could do for me and with me. I was her life. While she had me. And when I left? What was left of her? I don’t know. I loved her. But I don’t know what she wanted from life apart from making me happy and looking after me. Her little boy.

And when I left – what was left? Could my mother have done things differently? I don’t know. I think she was drained of who she was so slowly that she didn’t realize what was happening. Drained by my dad and what he did to her. Drained by her kids who meant everything to her. You see. I was sleeping while she watched me. I was sleeping while she lived her life just for me. I was sleeping when I got the call. It was 3 in the morning.

It was my other sister. She was at my mom’s. She was just visiting. And she was crying and shouting. She didn’t make sense. Something about my mother. Something about my mother. Something happened to my mother. Something about a gun. Something about my mother and a gun. It didn’t make sense. Did someone shoot her? It didn’t make sense. We both hated guns. And then I heard it. Time just stood still. I heard it. But I couldn’t understand the words. I knew the words. Three little words. But it didn’t make sense. And then she said it again. And it hit me and drained me of everything. Time didn’t stop. My heart didn’t stop. It just felt like it. It was my soul that got ripped out.

“Mom shot herself”.

I know I drove there immediately. I was on that road for 30 minutes. But the next thing I remember was standing there looking at my mom. The police wasn’t there yet. And my sister and dad was in the kitchen. The kitchen where I had those breakfasts with my mom. My mom looked so peaceful. Lying down. She always had beautiful skin. And her skin looked beautiful. She had a little funny smile on her face. Just as I remembered. She looked happy. Like she always looked when she saw me.

I sat down next to her and took her hand. “Don’t worry mom. I am here.” I just sat there with her and held her hand. Knowing not to look beyond her face. Not to look at the other side of her head. Whispering to her while crying. Crying because there will be no more breakfasts together. No more movies together. No more tea together. No more funny laughs. No more feeding her. No more snorting ice-cream and jelly. No more waiting for me. My mom was gone. She couldn’t wait any longer.

I slept while my mother died. I slept while my mother lived. I was there for her. And I wasn’t there for her. I never knew what she did during those days when she waited for me. And I don’t know what she did when there was no more evenings to look forward to. I slept while my mother died. But I loved my mom. I loved my mom. I love my mom.

To my wife: I love you more than life. Thank you for being with me and making me a better man. I always want to know what you do while you wait for us. While you wait for the girls to come home from school. While you wait for me to come home from work. I always want to know who you are and what you do. Because I am because of you. Without you I am nothing. I do what I do because the strength my mother gave me and the strength you give me. I love you.

And thank you for being there when my mother died. Thank you for helping me remember my mom the way she wants to be remembered. And not because of that last 5 minutes of madness in her life. Thank you for reminding me that we will never know. That all we can know is that I loved her. And that she loved me. Even when I was sleeping.

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My dad inspired me. Inspired me to not be like him. I am sure other people had worse dads. Hey, my old man never beat me up or anything like that. But he was a tough old bastard who wasn’t always there for my family – even when he was present.

I remember as a little kid doing Greco-Roman wrestling. Don’t laugh even if you can imagine me in that little 1930s bathing suit and weighing 44.1 pounds – the lightest weight division was 44-49 pounds! My grandad loved the idea that I wrestled. He loved wrestling – he was into professional wrestling. And don’t dare say it wasn’t real. He had ways to convince you even at the age of 80. He didn’t need much to convince people of his views – at nearly 7 foot and 270 pounds. But he was my mom’s dad and I was close to him. He came to every wrestling match he could attend. Or rather when my dad was willing to take him. He was poor and old and couldn’t do it by himself and had to rely on my dad to bring him.

I made it through to the regional championships in my first year – I was six years old. I was too light by less than a pound, but they felt sorry for me (being the youngest there) and allowed me to go through and wrestle. And surprise, surprise, surprise – I won. And there was no one there to watch me. My dad had a game of cards he said he had to go to. So no one came. When the bus dropped me off I ran over to the house where he was playing cards – ready to show him the trophy I won. I ran in beaming and shouted, ‘look dad!’ He just looked at me and said, ‘well done’. And then returned to play his hand.

I can remember the number of times he attended my events – sport or whatever. It was less than a handful of times. He always had something to do at the office or out in the field. See, he was high up in the prison service in Apartheid South Africa. In fact, he was head of political prisoners for many years at Pollsmoor where many of the political prisoners were held. And he was a bastard at work as well. People used to get paid to hand out lashings and other corporal punishment to prisoners. And he made more money doing this than from his weekly wages when he was young. And he was always right at work. No one dared to question him. It was his way or the highway.

And this was where our differences really came to light. His political views and mine. His approach and mine. He supported Apartheid South Africa and I supported the struggle against Apartheid. I was open to change and he fought change everyday. And it all exploded in the late 80s and early 90s when it became clear that Apartheid was going down faster than the Titanic. He couldn’t stand the fact that his world was falling apart. And he couldn’t stand it that he was wrong. And he couldn’t stand it that I was on the side that was fighting his believes.

I hoped that it would all become a bit better – at least once Apartheidi fell. His world view was proven wrong and it was time to look ahead now. He was retired and well off. He had everything in place to just enjoy the rest of his life. But no. He had to continue to make it his job to wind me up whenever we saw each other. To always say something racist about the new government, my job, and especially my hero Nelson Mandela.

But I could handle that. I just switched off and concentrated on giving my mother all my attention. She suffered on her own when I moved out so it was only fair that I gave her all the attention when I visited – she didn’t get it from him when at home. But then we had our first baby – a little girl called Emma. And things changed completely. I did not want her to be exposed to any racism and expecially not to my dad’s racist comments. So I made a rule – no one was allowed to make any racist remarks when visiting my house. Respect my space and family and I will respect you. But he couldn’t. He continued to make his remarks. And so we just stopped seeing him and banned him from our house.

I saw my mother once in a while, but I went to see him and my mother together as little as possible. I would rather meet her on her own at the movies or a restaurant. I just couldn’t face him anymore. He was everything I didn’t want to be. And just seeing him made me become more like him. Full of hatred and distaste. And I didn’t want to be like that.

Then I got a call in the middle of the night. It was my sister crying her heart out. My mother just died. My sister was visiting my folks and she woke up from a loud bang. My mother just shot herself. Fucking guns. I hate them. Even when they are locked up in a safe – just like my dad did. I raced through to my parents house and from then on had to sort out everything. The funeral, identifying her body, police investigation, picking up her stuff at the shops, keeping everyone from cracking, speaking at her funeral. I hated it. I felt it was wrong – I was the youngest of four kids so why did I have to do it? I didn’t want to do it, but I did. Because someone had to do it. My dad wasn’t going to do much. He was to distraught. And thinking of himself and how he feels.

But now I had only one parent left. I tried to talk to him. Say that we only had each other left now. That we should be the family my mother would like us to be. That we should leave all our shit behind and look ahead. That we should just focus on each other and the good things we saw in our family. Be what we would like to be for each other. Stop the shit and look at the good. And he agreed. We cried a little and looked ahead.

But it didn’t last. He went back to the woman he was with when he cheated on my mom. Not thinking for a minute that it was going to drive my sisters crazy. They believed that my mom shot herself because my dad cheated on her. Me? I just don’t know. She never left a note and I want to remember the good years we had – not a few crazy minutes. But my sisters took it hard. Blamed themselves for not taking her away from him. And when he went back to this woman. Well, I had to choose and I chose my sisters.

I went to talk to him. I told him that this wasn’t going to work if he brings her into the family. That he should do what he feels is right, but he should never bring her into contact with me, and especially not my sisters. And he ignored me. It exploded the day before we left South Africa.

He phoned my older sister to say that he was going to marry this woman. And my sister cracked. Again. And I had to take it up with him. No one else was going to do it. So I phoned him and told him to stop the crap. To please just think for a minute about my sisters. And think about his responsibility as a dad. I can’t even remember what he said. I really can’t. I have been trying to figure it out for years now. But I just can’t remember. But whatever he said made me explode. I have never been that pissed off with anyone. I shouted at him and told him to leave me and my sisters alone. That we are done. No more chances. And that I will personally come to beat him to a pulp if he doesn’t leave my sisters alone. If he can’t look after them then I will. And I will come back to South Africa at a drop of a hat if he ever, ever messed with them. And then I threw down the phone.

That was 2002. I saw him once in 2004 for about 30 minutes at a family gathering. And made sure that he wasn’t at the next one. And I spoke to him once in 2005. But it was civil. As if I was talking to an aunt many times removed. he meant nothing to me and I was just being polite to him. Trying to not actually engage with him. Not calling him dad or anything for that matter.

And then I spoke to him in 2007. Less than 24 hours before he died. They phoned me to say that he had only a few days left – if that. They were keeping him alive. He has been suffering from his terminal case of leukemia for a few years. And it has now caught up. There is nothing more to do. Everything was failing. And so was he. And they told me he was waiting for my call. He just wanted that before he died.

So I phoned him. He answered, but I could hardly hear his voice. He was going and so was his voice. I kept quiet for a little while. Thinking what to say. I knew he was waiting for this call. But what was I going to say? What do you say to someone that never inspired you? To someone who was never there? But I also knew that I was like him – stubborn like hell. And I knew I owed him everything. I am who I am because of who he wasn’t. He inspired me to become who I am. The anti him.

I took a deep breath and whispered slowly, ‘It’s okay dad. It’s okay. Just take it easy. Don’t worry. It’s okay. Just let it go. We’re okay’. I could hear the barely audible whisper back, ‘thank you’. I said good bye and told him I will phone him again the next day. But there was no next day. He took himself off the machines and medicine – just after I phoned. And he died a few hours later on the same day.

It’s okay though. It’s okay.

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