The worst thing about being the oldest anything, is that you’re expected to be strong, instead of being allowed to do a simple thing… like grieve.
It’s been exactly 2 years 2 months and 17 days since my grandfather died. I’m surprised that I remember the exact date because I sometimes feel like the memory of that day was taken away from me. I really do not know what time it was when the hospital called us, and I answered the phone. We had just fallen asleep, I think. I was sleeping in the lounge; I always do when I’m visiting my grandmother’s house. Anyway, she came into the lounge with the phone in her hand and told me, “This looks like the hospital number.”I was groggy, and I took the phone. I didn’t check the time. Maybe I should’ve. Anyway, I said hello, and they broke the news:
“Tine urombo, Sekuru Sewani vatisiya”
Loosely translated, it meant, “We’re sorry, your grandfather has passed away.” I’m sure they said Mr Sewani or something like that, but I don’t remember it like that. My reality crashed around me, and I heard it the way I wanted to hear it. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t. I had to tell my grandmother that her husband of 55 years had been taken from her… just like that. Then she started crying, and that toenail of Satan started telling her to stop crying. Stop crying? Did she know the gravity of what just happened? I got angry. I had no time to cry anymore; I had to defend my grandmother’s right to grieve. She probably hates me now, but I don’t care. I don’t want to be told to stop crying in a situation like that. I even threatened her with physical harm.
The next day was getting in touch with people and getting the burial ready. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was too busy. I still couldn’t grieve. I was the one on the ground. Their only surviving daughter, my mom, doesn’t live in Zim, so I had to sort things out as an extension of her. I didn’t have my husband; he was in Harare waiting for my mom to arrive, so it was me, my sisters, my best friend, and a family friend. They’re the ones that kept me sane. I cried once that day… holding his IDs and BD-12 in my hands. I quickly wiped them off… I had to be strong. I signed so many in my career. I never realised the gravity of that blue piece of paper when it was you holding it. I think my heart broke right then.
No time for healing broken hearts; I needed to make sure he had a death certificate, so on we went. It went smoothly. The rest of the time was a blur because we stayed cooped up with my grandmother. Either that or we were organising things. I don’t know how the time flew. I only remember one relative being upset because I gave her borehole water instead of bottled water (she was coming straight from Chivi. Pardon my snobbery), the same one who was upset because I did not give her food in a plate. Or something, who knows, she was always upset about something. That toenail of Satan nicknamed herself “Mbuya Rudo”, and I wondered how much love she really had for her late cousin’s wife. Her son took over everything; he’s a pastor and all of a sudden he was the go-to person. We didn’t care. I didn’t care. I was tired.
They even wanted to pick out the coffin. Fortunately, my very organised grandfather had already done that. At least they respected the dead’s wishes. The printers messed up the programme after I expressly told them my grandmother’s wishes. I almost went back in there in a rage; my husband held me back and told me to sit in the car. It was then I just wailed. I didn’t know what to do anymore but wail. Why did he have to die? Why did he leave me?
It’s been 2 years, 2 months and 17 days, and I have not yet grieved, because I had to be strong. But now… let me grieve, please. He was my dad when I had none. I have a memory of him always taking me to the plot to check out his crops. I remember seeing a goat give birth. He was silly; he’d always break things, wondering how they worked. Even in his old age. He broke his glucose monitoring machine because he wanted to know how it worked. I see a little bit of that in my son. He didn’t care for unnecessary meetings and conflicts. He’d be the one to solve them, and it was, “This is how it’ll be done, if you don’t like it, oh well. Just leave me out of it.” That is so me.
When he died, a little piece of me died too. I loved him so much. He was a cantankerous old man I had no qualms arguing with. Why not? He helped raise me. He had a very significant input in my life. He was stubborn, and I understood him. On his last day, I showed him videos of his great-grandson and he was so chuffed… I saw the life slowly draining from him… and in that one moment though… I saw his life return.
This is the eulogy I should’ve written. I couldn’t even view his body, I was too overcome. Time heals nothing if you don’t expose the wounds. I’m still hurt. I’m still in shock. I’m still angry. I still feel cheated. I haven’t even started, but I start now. So please. Please, let me grieve.