Ntate ba thokahetse. Those were his exact words. My grandfather’s dead. I have one black skirt. I have one grandfather. Had. He died at 10:30 in my world. At 10:29 I had just left the shower and I was wrapped in a blue towel wondering if the black pair of jeans hanging on the chair by my white bedroom door were clean. And at 10:30 my grandfather was dead. He’s still dead; it appears that’s how that works. Even though at 10:28 I was reading texts from my mother and willing my grandfather not to stop breathing. It happened anyway. And now I am sitting here and I am not my grandmother who has just lost her husband of years it takes me many seconds to count and I am writing this thing for me because I don’t know what to do I don’t know what to say to the woman I love most who has just lost her father.
Today has been long and short as I’ve told the people I need to tell so that I can do what I need to do to get to my family. Ntate has been dead for about 11 hours and my body has been hit by fresh waves of realisation at least twice every hour since 10:30 this morning. I have cried. The tears dry as quickly as they come. I think this is shock. I keep forgetting my grandfather’s dead. Remembering is a sharp pain in my throat and a tightening of my chest. The onset of grief is a repetitive and torturous thing. I laugh and Modisenyane’s not dead my grandma’s husband’s not dead my mother’s father’s not dead and then he’s dead and…laughter escapes from my body and flees as I imagine the breath in Ntate’s body fled even as he tried to catch it. At 80. It was 80, the breath that fled. Perhaps it was…time. What a disgusting thought.
I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go to the funeral. His burial. This life, this whole thing, I can’t believe it ends with part of my heart locked in a box inside the earth. Do caskets have locks? It doesn’t matter. He’ll never get out. Ntate will be put in a box and Ntate will forever be in that box. In the ground. I don’t want to go and witness his end but I must. I must because if I don’t the onset of grief will be the onset of grief until I am in a place where he should be but he’s not because he’s in a box wrapped in earth and I never said goodbye. Goodbye. What a ridiculous word.
Ntate ba thokahetse and I have no idea how to process it. I am thinking baking rock cakes will never feel the same again because since 10:30 this morning I cannot say my grandfather loves my rock cakes. He loved them. Past tense. I love him. But he’s dead, my grandfather. I won’t ever see the dark flesh of his cheeks rise and fall as he speaks or hear the rough texture of his voice. The distinct smell of his living is…gone. Because his body is now somewhere out there performing lifelessness. Being a fraud. Since 10:30AM. Ntate is dead and there’s no return button.
I am hurting in slow, periodic waves.