A few weeks ago I went to visit my grandmother whose amongst many other illnesses is suffering from old age aches. My grandmother is one of those people who can be reserved or very straight forward, depending on which direction the sun rays are shining.
Due to tribal conflicts in the mid to late 80’s my grandmother moved from her place of birth to the city. After a very long while of being a traditionalist in the city, years of being home sick and enduring enough constraints from her passé ways, she went back to her place of birth like she never left. And to this day she proudly uses a candle as a light bulb and makes a washing line out of tress.
The sun was touching the sea shore as the taxi left the tarred road near Port Shepstone, leaving Louisiana behind. The gravel road and all its bare cracks after the heavy rains of the New Year greeted us with its openness. That taxi ride was like being on a car with a first time driver – instable.
Finally we arrived; dusty, safe and somewhat sound.
I wasn’t shocked to see that electricity was still a dream here, for I knew more than a decade and a half ago that they would never smell things which we previously disadvantaged South Africans associate with the ‘new era’ – tarred roads, flush-toilets and nearby schools amongst other things.
On the other hand, I was very shocked to hear horrid stories of a terrified old-age pensioner.
As a person who grew up in this village, I have encountered, more than enough times, settings of all kinds of teenage pregnancy. I have also seen young boys dropping out of school for submitting to beyond the pale substances and later becoming young men who petrify the villagers, with the elders taking a greater strain from this.
In South Africa, there is a high rate of grandparents who mother their grandchildren due to many possible reasons, one of those being negligence. Therefore our elders as a country of people, who are likely to be brought up by grandparents, are a prestige.
I noticed amongst other odd things that my grandmother’s old and fragile body worried her as with bereavement and the assistance of two walking sticks she stood up and locked her door immediately after dawn. Dawn to my grandmother is the time when she has done her routine with her chickens, which will be any time after 5:45pm – unless weather conditions are not favourable for the chickens to be loitering at their own free will till sunrise. This was as equally shocking as it was awfully early to be locking doors in the rurals where crime hasn’t been of high regard. And traditionally, people spend most of their time in the veld with their doors left wide open at their homes.
As I questioned her on the situation, a can of worms feasting on each other disgustingly opened, with a bitter-sour taste, I let in a very distasteful tale.
With an almost close to a whisper voice and sharp focused eyes as that of a hyena whose about to feast on a carefree springbuck told me horror stories which till this day, I am struggling to believe.
At her last pension pay out, one of the people she usually exchange small talk with told her that one of their peers was found thrust to a tree in her yard with nothing but her bodice. Her old weary skin indicated that all of sun’s excruciating rays had had their time with her. She had been lifeless for a while. Her bedroom was broken into. The furniture showed that a major search had been carried out and the small box which served as her safe was smashed into pieces and all her old age pension welfare money had vanished.
Two days after that had happened; a man in his late 70’s was found with a rope on his neck. The rope had produced marks which had turned from red to navy blue, a clear indication of extensive strangulation. He was pronounced dead at the scene (which was his own home) with all his savings and half his pension pay out in one of those tiny bags old people usually keep underneath the clothes they wear – gone.
Stories of this sort are common and there is also whispers of young men out to get the elderly’s pension pay-out immediately after it lands on their hands and killing them instantaneously so that they do not live to tell the tale, especially to the community nor the police officers.
As a South African whose been mugged more than enough times, I instantly felt her fear, the thumping of the heart when you know that you could be next, especially more so if you’re the primary target and your knees won’t carry you neither will your fragile body for without walking sticks, your body is your own burden.
I cannot describe the feeling of having your own child, who you bore and nurtured turn against you but I know the thrills of being brought up by your grandparents. The jolliness of having to share in your grandparent’s late life; the fun, the games, the laughter and the stories, it is blissful.
The other day I left for town with my grandmother. She was on her way to see one of her close friends that she was once young with. She was in hospital. Her grandson has knocked her unconscious with a shovel for her money was not enough to buy him these expensive branded shoes that teenagers can’t go without nowadays.
My grandmother locked herself early because one early night somebody paid her a visit. It was a man, who claimed to be blind and looking for a way to his house. My grandmother is uphill, where if you were lost, climbing up to her house wouldn’t be your option unless you have absolutely no option. This man said a surname that was familiar. It was of a man my grandmother knew and he had eye problems. But this was not the man. My grandmother didn’t open the door. The man left. And as he left my grandmother’s yard, she heard that the man was not alone, they were two of them as she peeked out her window.
This might happen again, she is not sure of the day and whether that day she will be lucky or gone. Each and every day, she lives with that horror.