I still don’t know why you re­jected me

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

IDO NOT KNOW for sure the point at which you first made con­tact with my mother, but I be­came aware of it from her in 1994 when I was in Stan­dard 4. I gather from my mother that you made the first con­tact. You worked at the then head of­fice of the Bo­phuthatswana De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion in Mafikeng. The aca­demic re­sults of the Stan­dard 4 chil­dren, the then-fi­nal year of pri­mary school, were cen­tralised and ac­cessed at the head of­fice. My mother thinks that you must have tracked down my re­sults and no­ticed that I was the best per­former in my school and de­cided that per­haps it was a good time to make con­tact. I do not know the ex­tent to which this is true.

I wouldn’t be sur­prised if, how­ever, my per­for­mance was what brought you back. I was in­deed the top-per­form­ing learner in the school. Apart from my cousin-brother Moitiri, no one else came close to me. Moitiri and I com­peted only against one an­other. I re­mem­ber the days when schools closed. We would take our re­ports hand in hand and run home as quickly as we could and hand them to our grand­mother. She would open them, con­grat­u­late us and tell us which one of the two out­per­formed the other. Only he ever gave me a chal­lenge.

I do not know for sure that my mother’s ver­sion of the story that you con­tacted her be­cause I was in­tel­li­gent is true, but it made per­fect sense to me. How else could I, a 12-year-old girl who is just start­ing to fig­ure out what is go­ing on with her body, make sense of your dis­ap­pear­ance from my child­hood? How else was I sup­posed to make sense of your re­turn af­ter all those years?

I ac­cepted the fact that you made con­tact and as strange as that was, I ap­pre­ci­ated that you were start­ing to care. I must ad­mit that the thought of be­ing ac­cept­able to you only be­cause I was in­tel­li­gent has plagued my mind for my en­tire life thus far. As a child I built my sense of ac­cep­tance, or of be­long­ing, firmly on the ba­sis that I was in­tel­li­gent; it was the only thing that I could hold on to, the only thing that could buy me love and ac­cep­tance.

I some­times asked my­self whether you would have dis­ap­peared from my life for­ever if you had not found out that I was in­tel­li­gent. I would ask my­self why you thought I was un­ac­cept­able and unlov­able. In 1995, then in Stan­dard 5, my school made a trip to Mafikeng. The trip was to be my first phys­i­cal con­tact with you since that spe­cial me­mory when I was about four years old. The day we met, I didn’t know how to feel, act or be around you. I didn’t know you. I didn’t know what you looked like, what you liked, what you smelled like. Most im­por­tantly, I didn’t know whether you would like me. The only way that I can de­scribe how it felt to meet you for the first time in over a decade is “awk­ward”. You came to pick me up from the host school. When you ar­rived and I fi­nally met you, my heart skipped a beat, not with the joy of fi­nally meet­ing you, but more out of fear. I started to won­der whether you would bring me back in time so that I don’t miss the bus back to Thaba Nchu. The thought of miss­ing the bus rushed through my mind, al­most putting me into a panic. I was very scared.

You took me to Molopo Sun, one of the two Sun in­ter­na­tional casi­nos that were thriv­ing un­der the Bo­phuthatswana gov­ern­ment. Al­though I was hun­gry, I didn’t want to em­bar­rass my­self by eat­ing in front of you.

I never quite un­der­stood why I felt that I didn’t want to eat in front of you. Per­haps in my 13-year-old mind I needed to be per­fect in front of you.

Af­ter that en­counter in Mafikeng, I do not re­mem­ber for sure, but I be­lieve I must have met you once more while I was still in Thaba Nchu. At the end of that year, 1995, I left Thaba Nchu to live with my mother, my step­fa­ther and my sis­ters in Bloem­fontein. I moved in with my fam­ily in Bloem­fontein at the start of high school in Stan­dard 6. I have great re­spect for my step­fa­ther.

I re­spect the role he played in my teenage years. Here is a man who mar­ried my mother when I was just four years old, and was pre­pared to adopt me as his.

He ul­ti­mately made “sac­ri­fices” and took in a 13-year old teenage girl, the one he was not al­lowed to adopt as his own, and gave her the very best of what he could, un­der his cir­cum­stance, of­fer her.

In your ab­sence, my step­fa­ther “stepped in” and fa­thered me as best as he could. I can­not re­call a mo­ment in the five years that I lived with them, from 1996 to 2000, where he de­lib­er­ately made me feel like I was not his child. Not only did he pro­vide me with food, cloth­ing and shel­ter, he was also the ac­tive par­ent with re­gard to my school­ing; he is the par­ent that at­tended meet­ings at my school.

How­ever, there re­mained a void in my life that he couldn’t fill. It would have been too much to ask of any­one to fill a void that only you, my bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther, should fill. There was a large emo­tional empti­ness that continued to plague me through­out my teenage years, and per­haps even be­fore I moved in with them, that al­though he “stepped in”, I was acutely aware that I was not his child and, truly speak­ing, I never would be.

There were in­stances at that time that kept re­mind­ing me that I was not my step­fa­ther’s child, but those were mainly from his fam­ily – not him. I don’t think they ever saw me as his any­way, so the treat­ment I got from some of them was, to some ex­tent, ex­pected.

Some­times when these in­stances oc­curred I won­dered where you, my own fa­ther, were. I won­dered how you slept at night know­ing very well the po­ten­tial hurt­ful things that grow­ing up with­out you brought me. I longed for you; I longed to just be ac­cepted for who I was.

A part of me won­dered why I ex­pected ac­cep­tance from any­one else if you, my own fa­ther, had re­jected me. I some­times cried my­self to sleep.

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