Tonight I’m trying a new recipe: bean and butternut curry. It’s fairly inexpensive if you leave out the coconut milk, which I am, because I don’t like coconut. I’m hoping the extra spices will help my father not notice the healthier side of the dish. After all, he always ate Mama’s chakalaka without complaint. Of course he was smothering it over his samp and beans, and samp has too much starch for somebody with his health condition.

What I don’t understand, however, is how my father isn’t losing any weight. I’ve been cooking for him for over a year now, and he only seems to be getting bigger. The clinic was very clear that he needs to shed some kilograms to help avoid diabetes 2.

Suspicion has me asking, “What did you eat for lunch today?” as I set down his plate.

He sniffs, and looks up at me. “This smells good.”

I fall into my chair with a thud. Four hundred and thirty-one days of cooking for this man and this is the first time he’s said that to me. “Um, thank you.”

He scoops up a mouthful. “Do we have any rice to go with it?”

I shake my head, bracing for the reprimand. But instead, he just shoves the spoon into his mouth. “Mmm,” he says. “Not bad, my child, not bad.”

He squints at me, like he’s trying to find something. I look down, checking to make sure I haven’t spilt any food all over me. I can be a bit clumsy, and washing curry out is not easy. But when I do, I use one tablespoon of Sunlight, one tablespoon of white vinegar and never hot water or that will set the stain, and then it’ll be permanent.

“I was sorry to hear about your boyfriend,” he says. “Tough.”

I blink, no idea what he is talking about.

“A shame, he’s good on the pitch. Always thought he had a chance at playing for Bafana someday. But I guess that now depends how well he heals and if he can get back into condition next season.”

I shake my head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

My father puts down his spoon. “Clinton. He broke his leg at practice today. It was all anybody was talking about on my way home.”

My eyes sting, and I don’t know why.

“Are you crying? If you need me to take you to the hospital, say so, and I’ll get us a ride. Although I do worry that visiting hours will be over.”

I shake my head. “Visiting hours are at 15 hundred hours to 16 hundred hours, and 18 hundred hours to 19 hundred hours. It is currently 19 hundred and 10. Visiting hours are over.”

“My daughter, sometimes living with you reminds me of the military.”

I blink at him.

He smiles. First time he’s smiled at me in a long time. “I suppose you remember the times from when your mother was in the hospital.”

I blink.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure your young man will be home by tomorrow. It is only a broken leg, nothing too serious.”


Tell us: Winile and her father often miscommunicate and irritate each other. Why are relationships with relatives often so complex?