I thought I should write you a brief series on who your tribe is- I will release these posts on birthdays so that they serve a double purpose for you. You will know who they are, and you will know their birthdays. I will begin with someone very dear to my heart as he is now your best ancestor and arch angel, my dad, your grandpa or Sekuru Dan.
Grandpa was born in Zimbabwe on the 22nd of July, 1948. He was then the third child and son of his mother Bertha and his father Takaedza Raymond. I would like to think that God smiled on his family that day, let me explain.
Your grandfather was a very jolly man, he loved a good joke and he found humor in some of the strangest places. He laughed. Hard. Most remember him quite fondly- as do I. He found reason to laugh where most could not- and he did it often, not all the time, often.
Dan expected a lot from people, certain people, like me for instance. Let me elaborate. When I was 12 I was expected to know my passport number off by heart, and to do well in school, and recite Shakespear. I failed on the Shakespear, but I sort of did ok on the other two. He did not just expect us to be great, however, he invested in us so that we could be. You will hear from many of his brothers and sisters how he helped them when they were in need and how he invested in them. Dad wanted to remain in politics for as long as possible because it was my dream to be President one day, and he did it so that I could have a history to refer to. Like I said, he invested in us. Judging by those who attended his funeral, he succeeded in ensuring that your uncle Kudzi (the actual politician) and I (the staller) have a great history to refer to. They know his name. And now they know ours.
Your gramps was quick to warn about stupid people- you are never allowed to use that word- warning that you must never expect anything from them, because they will disappoint you over and over. There are very few smart people in the world. He was very honest about not being the best student in his class, but always being very smart in his life in general, and to him, that was more important. Do not be stupid. He was a great dreamer, and made very many bad financial decisions, but he had the best ability to put two and two together, and that, I hope he has passed on to all of us.
My relationship with your granddad was the best father-daughter relationship I knew- let me tell you why. I was never considered a normal girl by anyone- ever. I am stubborn and outspoken, headstrong and a bit unreasonable from time to time. I do things my own way and scoff, loudly at the thought that men are given more respect by virtue of their anatomy and not their minds. Your grandmother and grandfather were both very instrumental in my upbringing and indeed my character. Your grandpa refused for me to submit to anyone just because they were male or even older. Often times, he would take me to gatherings of different people, and make sure I spoke my mind- this included very many business and social meetings. He was proud of my mind, and I of his.
We had quite a thorough understanding of how we each thought and knew each other’s limits and boundaries. Your granddad called me too empathetic, I told him back that he was too heartless, and in our understanding of one another, we worked around our personalities (which are mostly the same) to come to middle ground. I impressed him once when he arrived in Masvingo for your aunt Tsungai’s wedding to uncle Rugs. I did not know that he had arrived and eventually was sent for. He was sitting in the lounge with his brothers and sisters, already very caught up in the merriment of wedding festivities and everyone being there to see each other again. I came by his side and said ‘Hi dad’, he looked at me with a smile (that you have, Mambo) and said to me ‘Shau, why is it that you never kneel in front of me and my siblings like some of my nieces and nephews have done, and ombera like a good girl’. Everyone expected an answer or an action from me, I thought for a minute and then responded ‘Truth be told daddy, it is all of you who should kneel and ombera to me, because I am the namesake of the matriarch of this family, and if we really take it seriously, you should all call me Tete’ there was a round of applause and much laughter, I proceeded to ombera and greet everyone in our traditional manner, but my dad sat there watching me, eyes gleaming (like yours do) with a huge grin on his face and I knew that my wit had made him proud. I in turn did as I was expected to as a young person in my family and the lesson had been learnt. I have so many stories for you Mambo, I hope I can tell them all to you one day.
Your grandfather was a dreamer. He never ran out of ideas. By this I mean that even when we thought he would have no more ideas, he found more. Every single encounter with life was your grandfathers muse- as you were in the brief year he knew you. In the year that he knew you, he could finally see what he had worked for, as he often reminded your uncle and I that he wanted to create generational wealth, and that was not for us, but for our children. We were tasked with working even harder for our children’s children, because he had done all he could for our children. He was visionary, your granddad, and had God granted him all the money in the world, I am sure we would have witnessed some bizarre and whimsical fantastic experiments in our time. I am sad we never did, but I am very glad I have memories of him talking to us about floating house boats down Save River and making Birchenough Bridge a pure economic hub for Zimbabwe. I will never forget it- ever.
Sekuru was incredibly passionate. I know by the time you read this, you will have witnessed one or two of my own passionate episodes, I at least hope so. I become passionately angry like your grandfather, I also become passionately excited like him. Not as much as him, however, as I also inherited your grandmothers practical senses and they manifest from time to time. Sekuru was passionate about a lot of things. Taking care of your future was one such thing, good eduction was another, but to get a really good feel of Sekuru, one would just need to start up a political conversation. History and literature were very close to his heart and all you need to do to feel close to your Sekuru is open up ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ or ‘Macbeth’ to read Lev Tolstoy or Jane Austin. The day your grandfather died, I had packed Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ so I could let him know that I was with him by reading to him. Your Sekuru loved music- and it is where my great appreciation of ABBA, The Commodores, The Temptations, Whitney Houston, Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, Leonard Dembo, Terrence Trent D’Arby, Michael Jackson and MAAAAAAAANY more comes from. I cannot tell you how many countless hours were spent listening to music in mutual appreciation.
Sekuru loved a good movie. When I was pregnant with you, your grandpa struggled with an idea for a gift. He asked your grandma and still they had nothing. I decided I wanted him to experience what we call Cinema Prestige for my birthday. He gladly paid for the tickets and as we walked inside I could feel his excitement at how cinemas have evolved over the years. He, grandpa David and I walked in to watch ‘Sully’, a good movie in the end. I could not contain my laughter as the two men sat on either side of me in the big red chairs that I am sure in their day were enough space for two people. They took pictures of everything end exclaimed excitedly when they figured out how to recline their seats. I found it quite amusing that they wore the exact same sandals, very practical and incredibly unfashionable- two straps around the foot secured by Velcro, and the same around the heel. I found it so amusing, I took a picture and that will be the picture that my memory keeps of the second last birthday I spent with my dad. It was so special for me Mambo, because I had grown so much from the little girl who wanted money for clothes or to go to dinner, what really made my heart happy, was to simply sit and watch a movie that my dad would love, and luckily so would my uncle, and have them experience something new. After the movie, your grandfather reached for his wallet and gave me a very worn ten dollar note, you will see it framed somewhere in the house, because that act, made me feel what I always felt when I was with your grandpa, that I was his little girl. No matter how much I make and take care of him, he can and will reach out for money for those sweets. I am glad I never had any intention to use it. It was the last money he ever give me in that manner, that manner that told me I was his daughter, and even though things change, they still stay the same.
Mambo, I know in this post you can tell that I loved your grandfather very much, that is indeed the greatest truth that anyone can attest to. We had one of the best relationships I could have with any human being. There was mutual respect, there was love, adventure, debate, arguing, making up, teaching, learning, affection.
The last two things daddy ever said to me were ‘I love you’ and ‘Fine’ and truth be told, I can still feel his hand squeezing mine and noticing our sweaty palms as we listened to ABBA from my mobile phone in a hospital room somewhere out in Midrand. My head right next to his chest, but not on it because he was my dad and he was fragile and I wanted him to get better. His breathing steady but slow. His ears lost in a world of ‘What’s the name of the game’ and ‘Take a Chance On Me’, my heart just happy to be with him. I lost my first love the next week- and I am not healed, but I hope you know a little more about why I mourn when I do because your grandpa was more than just a father, he was my daddy.
Happy birthday babaVaShau.