Egypt and the Old House

In Everyone has one, Features, Opinion by Marelise Prinsloo Jacob

There used to be a house in Auckland Park with a big, green garden and beautiful flowers. It used to have a little wired fence all around it with a gate that squeaked every time it was opened.

There used to live a family there, but they’ve all gone now. Now a tennis court stands where once this little house stood. No trace of the beautiful garden remains, no little gate to welcome old friends.

This was the home of my grandmother, where my mother used to live and play. I remember it well, the stone steps leading up to the front door, the smell of the house once inside.

My grandmother would bake lemon meringues and we’d listen to her old radio. She didn’t believe in television much. My sisters and I would play in the garden, just as my mother and her sister did when they were young.

But as time went by my grandmother grew old and lonely, and at last decided to move away. That was many years ago. She moved to a small town far from here and I have seen her only once since then.

Though she still lives, she has become more of memory than the real person she once was. I try to remember the good times from long ago, but even the house is gone now with only a few photographs to remember it by.

A mother is a child’s center of the universe, the end all and be all of everything. It is easy to forget that she too had a family once, a house and maybe a dog. That she was a little girl with dreams and nightmares and homework to do.

It is easy to forget my mother had a teddy bear to sleep with at night and boyfriends at school. That she was a young girl once with dreams to go to Egypt and become an actress on stage.

But the young girl grew up, got married and became a teacher instead. And even though it took her almost 25 years, she finally did take that trip. From a boat on the river Nile she could at last see her Egypt.

If she has regrets about her life, she doesn’t show it, if she fears someone she loves is in trouble, she doesn’t hesitate to fight.

This being said, I doubt she ever considered her youngest daughter would be born disabled. It was something of a shock for her and the whole family, and even that is an understatement.

A very strong woman, she has fought for me my entire life, she has never allowed anyone to discriminate against me, which leaves me with the biggest irony of all.

In my life, I have had only to prove myself to one person, to show that I too, can have a normal life, and that person was my mother.

She does not believe in discrimination, she herself was mocked as a child for being the poorest in the family. Yet somehow she believes everyone has his, or her, place in life.

Ugly woman will never marry, single men are always gay, white people are always better and disabled people will never achieve what normal people can.

These are all facts in my mother’s mind, and it has taken me my entire life up till now to try and prove otherwise. I think through the years I have managed to convince her that I am not like other disabled people; I will not just roll over and disappear.

Or spend my life thanking everyone for the goodwill shown to me. What she still believes of other disabled individuals however is anybody’s guess.

In a strange way she has been my greatest supporter and my greatest obstacle. She wants to believe that I can make something of myself, but in her heart she knows, or think she knows, that disabled just don’t get anywhere, no matter how hard they try, simply because life is too difficult for them.

It has been hard to except this truth, but it is the way it is and it will always be that way.

I am not an idiot, of course I can understand why she feels this way, and I would probably have felt the same way had I been an able bodied mother with a disabled child.

I think some of my biggest issues had been to get over the jealousy towards my sisters, two normal sisters with normal lives.

I would not like to admit it, but I would give anything to have their lives for just one day. Or so I thought, in the past. I have since realized that looking at me through my mother’s eyes is only peril.

I have my own life to live, and I thank her for protecting me and helping me, but I must learn to grow up and be my own person.

From her I have learned strength and patience, love and understanding. Either because of her, or thanks to her, I have learned to forgive and move on.

There had been times when I wished I could wish myself away, where I could just fall asleep and never wake up.

But those times were long ago, and somehow we all got through them. It was not easy for me, but it was not easy for her either. With no knowledge of my condition she, and my father, have raised a woman who fiercely believes in herself, who loves others completely and knows the meaning of hard work.

My house still stands, but my family have since splintered into too many directions. Nothing is as it once was in my home and I wonder sometimes if our memories will also be demolished one day.

Only to be replaced by a cold tennis court where people come to play, unaware of the happy days once spent on the ground beneath their feet.

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