In a green painted two roomed flat, in a mountainous valley near the running river, I was raised. I was living with my adoptive parents the Sibekos. Mrs Sibeko became a widow when her husband died in a car accident six years ago. She had two children, Themba which means hope, and Sibusisiwe which means “we are blessed”.
Themba had a great heart, a real gentleman who knew how to take somebody’s situation and make it his, oh! And Sibusisiwe was a walking devil. I would wonder sometimes how God could make a saint and devil relations. But I didn’t complain God’s actions need not our comments or quarries.
Then here I was; me, the orphan who lost her parents from HIV. They didn’t know they were infected, the doctors only found out right before they died.
What had happened was that my father, Bernard, was working in Gauteng. He came home twice a year and my mom, Lizeka stayed with me at home. She took care of me and made sure I got everything I wanted. I had love, good education, clothes, you name it; she made sure I had a life.
When my mom got sick I was doing Grade 11. She had restless nights, rough coughs, burning headaches and a running stomach. I was the only child so I had to take care of her. I would have to bath her, feed her; help her with everything. This was getting worse every day so I called my father and told him the whole story. He promised to come home the following day so that I could focus on my studies; final examinations were around the corner.
I had hope. I couldn’t cease telling my self-everything will be fine, but God! If only I knew! My mother got even worse that night and as a result she was admitted at hospital the same night. I was there, I watched my mother puking blood, lying there helplessly. I could feel the pain on her body but I couldn’t transfer it to me.
Standing on the window, transparent enough to see the doctors taking blood samples from her, brought tears to my eyes. They were trying to save her and I was depressed and stressed. After 30 minutes of standing there and watching from the window, I saw the doctor looking at me with eyes full of pity. By these actions I knew there was something wrong. But I waited for him as he walked to me with papers in his hand.
“Are you Precious?” he asked holding my shoulder. I nodded with fear.
“Is there something wrong, Doctor? Is my mother going to be okay? Tell me!”
He never answered any of these questions. He held my hand and told me to a seat.
“Where is your father?” He asked.
“Johannesburg,” I replied quickly, so eager to hear what he had to say.
He held my hand and looked me in the eyes. He told me that they tried their best but it was too late, the virus had already spread all over her body. He said her immune system was very weak. I was so furious so confused.
“What virus?” I asked as if I was expecting him to change his statement.
“Preci… Your mom was…she had AIDS. I’m really sorry.”
For a moment I felt like I have stopped breathing. Everything went to pause and I ran out of words; I couldn’t utter anything. Tears started falling that very moment. I just went loose and I didn’t know what happened next.
I woke up the following day lying on a bed. When I opened my eyes I saw a man sleeping on the chair with his head on the bed I was sleeping on. When he heard I was awake he woke up. It was my father. He was so hurt and stressed, you could tell by the look in his eyes. He told me everything was going to be fine. We went home and prepared for my mom’s burial.
We buried mom and life had to move on. It wasn’t easy for me to live alone with Dad. My thoughts were filled with mom’s glimpses and exams were knocking on my door.
I wrote my exams in November through all that. I was so sure that I failed but surprisingly I made it to Grade 12. I wished my mother was there to see me working, excelling. I know she would be so proud of me. So I spent the Christmas holiday with my father, just the two of us, in that one hut filled with mom’s scent. Days passed and the thought of me being motherless flashed. Dad had to go back to work and I had to prepare myself for Grade 12.
I was so excited and looking forward to a great life. I gave my all to my studies. My father would send me money to buy food, clothes and everything I needed every now and then. Time passed and I wrote my March examinations and passed very well. Life was so exciting; that time everything was actually going my way.
One day on a Saturday afternoon, I was admiring the work of God on the river just looking at the beauty of nature. While seating there staring at those silent hills, something came in my mind and told me to take a look at my territory. And yes, I did. But when I was looking I saw a man standing on the yard. I quickly rushed home to see who the man was but from a distance I recognised the face. His face and body shape looked so familiar. I wanted to say it was dad but the man was horribly black.
He looked like a ghost or a man from death. I stood there with fear. I thought of screaming and asking for help but something drove me to go closer.
“Father! Dad is this you?” I uttered those words surprised, my hands on my mouth, shaking.
He looked me with helpless eyes, tired body, and he dropped the bag he was carrying.
“Come…come…” He opened his arms for a hug. I hesitantly went closer. For a second I stood there trying to stop myself from hugging a man I could not even recognise. He was my father. After some minutes I hugged him and I could feel his meatless body full of love. His heart beat was racing. I could feel that fatherly love through his bones although I could see the man was in terrible health.
We spent minutes in each other’s arms and I wished to never let go. He stumbled like he was going to fall but I held him tight. I walked him to the bed where I lay him down and put blankets over him.
“Father, are you okay? Can I get you water to drink?”
He shook his head and painfully coughed.
“Come… Come sleep next to your father,” he said.
I took off my shoes and slept next to him with my head on his chest. I could hear his heart beating slowly. I suddenly sat up and looked at him. His eyes were closed and his mouth was wide open.
“Daddy… Daddy! Daddy please don’t lea…”
Just when I was about to say don’t leave me he slowly opened his eyes. Tears fell as he struggled to speak.
“Remember when I went to hospital to identify your mother’s body? They also checked me… I’ve got AIDS.”
I couldn’t stop my years from crying. “Does that mean I’m HIV positive too? Dad? Are you…? Does this mean I’m going to die?” by this time I was crying nonstop. I sat on the bed and felt my dad’s hand on my arm.
“Don’t cry my baby… Stop crying, you are not HIV positive.
I stared at him wiping tears off my face. He asked me to go and fetch water for him. I took a cup and went to get water from the tap outside. When I got back I saw dad’s head lying there with eyes closed. I dropped the cup and ran to the bed. I was shouting to him but he wasn’t replying. I felt for a heartbeat; his heart wasn’t beating. I felt his neck for a pulse; it was ice cold. I froze.
I crumbled on the bed from shock for the whole afternoon. When I came around I went to report this matter to the neighbours; they came the same night and slept with me. After a few days the social workers came and helped with the burial. A mother came forward and promised to look after me; that was Mrs Sibeko.
It turned out that Mrs Sibeko never took care of me; she only wanted the money from social development for orphans. By this time I was writing my trial exam and I did pass but not with flying colours. Final exams came and went very well as a result I got only two distinctions.
So here I am this year, taking a gap year because I didn’t apply for university. I thought I was not going to pass but the social workers have assisted me to apply at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal to do medicine. Ow! I forgot to mention that they are also building me my own house so I’m going to be free from the Sibeko house that brings out the worst in me. A new house; new life. And I’ll live happily ever after.