I hope I won’t be judged for writing an open letter, as it’s season has come and gone so swiftly like a tourist in inner-city Joburg after dark. I wrote this a year ago, when open letters were what it was….letters in the mail that we opened.
It’s not that I don’t have anything new to write; its just that it took me a long time to write this letter to my dad (although I’ve edited it a bit), after just forgiving him for dying on us, and I don’t think I have the energy to reach deep enough in my past to write about the two people I never knew, who gave life to me.
I hope this make sense.
An Open Letter To My Dad:
Its been a little over a quarter of a century since you passed away and if it is true that people are able to look down from heaven, or hell, I trust that you know things has never really been easy ever since.
I hope you were pained by everything we went through.
What did you taught your older son, my brother, that turned him into the monster he was? That, amongst a million other things, has been haunting me for all these years.
I guess life really does not come with an instruction manual. Sometimes I so damn wish it did. Things could have been different, right? Needless to say, I didn’t have a manual and things were different, just in a different way as well. I once heard from a movie, “If it wasn’t this, it would’ve been something else”.
Throughout my entire childhood I lived with only two choices: To fight or flight. And through most things I fought, but I also remember a lot of times that I fled. In those moments I remember my mother told me what you used to say, “Liewer Bang-Jan as Dooie-Jan”. With a lot of my life’s decisions, I wish I had taken that advice more seriously.
I wanted to become a doctor you know. Rumour had it back then, doctors were the richest people in the world, and I wanted to be rich. I wanted to be everything you never could be. I don’t know what you wanted to be, but I know you wanted a better life for us, that’s why you worked away from home I suppose.
Nevertheless, I did not pursue a medical career. In fact, I lost all interest in any career path when I went to high school. I chose the street life. I chose a couple guys my age, robbing, stealing, drinking, and drugging our way through our teenage years. Unlike you, their dads walked out on them during their toddler years. They became my new family. I thought I was a man, and it felt good, honestly. I had no pathway through that black forest towards becoming who I wanted to be but I had to get to the other side, broken and bruised like an African child soldier whose tears had turned to dust.
By the way, I’m still on the journey of becoming.
Speaking of becoming, I’m having a hard time convincing Peter that he also deserves to become, whatever it is. He’s so screwed up. I pain for him. You have no idea he much he hates me. However, I remain hopeful because underneath that newspaper-tattooed skin there’s a confused boy trying to understand why he lost both his parents so young. He’s forever searching, for you, in things that bring him nothing but more pain. It’s so fucked up how the dead can transfer their pain on the “left-behind”.
Prison changed me you know. On the inside of one of the cells it was etched “I broke my mother’s ‘hart’ to please my friends”. I almost had that tattooed on my arm, for the humour and gravity it contained. I chose against it rather, but mom died right at the end of my prison term and I’m still carrying with me the weight of those words every second of every day.
Before this gets any more emotional for the both of us, I don’t know if you believed in God or not, but I’ve found a great deal of comfort in Him. I would NOT have found my way to my 30th birthday in less than a month if it weren’t for the people God set me up with. I have so many people in my life who believe that greatness would meet me somewhere along my journey even though I sometimes doubt it. But I do get days when I feel I could walk on water, like every time I stand in front of a group of people, sharing my story, proving to them being human also means to hope, fight, and dream, big.
However, sometimes, when I look at my life, my mood swings from anger and bitterness to resentment and depression. Those are the times I tend to compare myself to those around me. You know, comparison is poison; it’s the thief of joy. From what I heard, you had quite a joyful spirit yourself.
I spend a lot of time with people, often wondering what you were like, or how much of you are still beating in my heart. I get to see places I only dreamt of, and as soon I can get my prison record cleared, I’d be traveling the world. I also hope to give life to our story by turning it into a book in the near future. I bet you’d be proud of me- not for where I’m going but for where I’m at right now, at this very moment.
Honestly, I’m at the best place in my life I could ever wish for: the past is behind me; I’ve learned to be fully present and the future, MY future, is loaded with possibilities to become what I deserve.