i only met my biological father when i was 14. let’s just say that after years of fantasies of what he would be like, who he would be, reality fell short. it was not love at first sight for either of us. i remember exactly what i was wearing – an appalling beige outfit that could only belong to the 70’s, my hair in the ballerina bun i used to wear then. i was standing on the stoep of his house in the bo-kaap, waiting, when i saw this red-faced, brandy-boeped man come strolling up jordaan street. we looked at each other for a long minute before he said, “don’t tell me you’re sandra”. i looked right back at him, said, “no, i’m not!” and turned away. and those are the first words my father and i ever spoke to each other.
his wife, however, auntie esther, a beautiful malay woman who’d given up her muslim faith in order to marry my father, was amazing. she welcomed me with open arms, never made me feel any less than welcome and loved and would introduce me to people as her children’s sister. oh yes, i also discovered 4 half-siblings i didn’t know existed before then. when i’d go and visit on a sunday afternoon, auntie esther would make sure that she always packed some of her amazing chicken pie – you can’t imagine how much that meant to an impoverished university student. though she was packing more than food, she was making sure that i went home with some love.
right now, auntie esther is in hospital in cape town and the doctors are stopping treatment. she’s in and out of a coma, has spreading gangrene in her legs which is poisoning her system and all her children have flown in (from as far as britain) to be with her. i wish i could be there. she didn’t birth me, but she never made me feel any less than her own, she never showed any resentment towards me for the fact that her youngest son, my half-brother, was but 6 months older than i was. she never blamed me for the fact that my father was a scallywag. and i wish i could be there to show her the same love she has always shown me and help to send her on her way to a better place. i love you auntie esther, may the next world welcome you with the same love and open arms you always showed me.
updated 17h58 RIP ESTHER VAN GRAAN. the next world is lucky to have you.