This is the story of two families, one father, two mothers. Or one husband and two wives. The man is my father. I am from the second wife. We lived in Swaziland.
The first wife had two children, a daughter and a son. Sadly, she died at a young age, leaving her two small children with a man, who had no family to assist him in taking care of them. He was convinced by well-meaning friends, and the children’s godmother, that he should allow them to be adopted. She had a wealthy family lined up.
My dad was a policeman who earned enough money to get his family through each month, but not much room for luxuries. He agreed, believing he was doing the right thing.
Enter my mother, they got married and a year later I appeared. My father was sixteen years older than my mother, but that did not seem to matter to any of us. My childhood was happy. He was transferred to Piggs Peak, where he was the commandant of the station, with a large area to supervise. He would often take me with him to outlying posts, and we would always stop on the way home for a spot of fishing in one of the two rivers of the area, Komati or Lomati.
Fishing, cricket and tennis consumed most weekends. They were times when I met up with friends who lived spread through the forests, and we played on see-saws and maypoles and swings, and watched our parents behave quite badly it would seem in retrospect. Much drinking, little concern about getting us home to bed at a reasonable hour. I remember a number of nights waking up cramped and cold on the floor at the back of the police Land Rover.
It didn’t matter back in the fifties and sixties. That was how it was.
He had made an agreement with the adoption agency that he would be allowed to see his children when his daughter turned eighteen. On the appointed day he travelled to Johannesburg only to have the door firmly closed in his face.
“Your children are no longer on the continent, and you will never see them again!”
A few months later he died. My mother was 34 and I was 9.
It was many decades before I caught up with my siblings. What an exciting moment that was!
We met up in America where they had been living. The, I want to call her ‘wicked’ or ‘nasty’, but suppose I shouldn’t really, Godmother had not lied. They family who adopted them was enormously wealthy. They lived in New York City, in one of the best suburbs – Gramercy Park. They attended the best schools and to all intents and purposes had an idyllic life.
All that money, however, did not buy them happiness. Their lives were marked by unhappy squabbles, always struggling to fit into their new identity, and no amount of money or privilege could give them the peace and happiness they craved, and deserved.
Why am I telling this tale?
I see so much on twitter and other for a about privilege, and the perception of how people of supposed privilege think and live. What you see is not always what is true on the inside.
Please don’t think for one moment that I am negating the plight of the poor. The living conditions of the majority of Africans appalls me. The level of poverty is so intense in places that I don’t know how people get up in the morning. A friend and I used to help in an impoverished area in Swaziland.
Each time we went there, our hearts broke a little more because what we did, the food parcels we took, were such a tiny drop in an enormous ocean that at times it hardly seemed worth the effort.
Each and every person who has enough, and by that I mean a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your belly and certain degree of security that this will continue to be the state in which you live, needs to do something about those who live in shacks, without toilets, running water, in some places no water, no jobs, nothing. Pointing accusatory fingers and making suspect judgment calls are not the way to go.
We need every bit of energy, every resource be it donations or ways to impact political leaders, locally and nationally, to address the wrongs of the huge divide between rich and poor, the haves and the have nots.
The saying goes ‘Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.’ I believe evil flourishes when men are so busy throwing stones they do not see the child lying motionless, trampled underfoot.