Although my young and healthy body’s theoretical advantage over my dad’s, it was no match for his spiriting ability, and the fact that he had been energised by the fresh air of Tokai Forest.
“Wait up, Pops!” I exhale at the man.
He chuckles to himself and pauses at a wild mushroom patch, where clued-up locals take their pick. Even after a few minutes rest, his lungs still wheeze as the radiation-damaged tissue struggles to absorb what t needs from each breath. The soft grey fuzz has started sprouting. It will soon be necessary for those biting winter mornings up the “Boerewors Curtain” watching my brother take on its local meat-eaters in rugby.
He’s fiddling with his port – the visible bump below his collarbone scarred with needle pricks. The stubborn old man would never admit to weakness, so he starts again towards the car park. He’s soon ahead of me, but I keep in time with the stride of his lengthy pins for legs. The muscles were soggy from the chemo and had been atrophied by the weeks in hospital.
His body, beaten and scarred, does not only tell of the recent history of his battle against disease. His eyes reveal a past pushed within, but visible nonetheless.
Firstly, there’s the frustration with his failed marriage with my mother. The pain of admitting that what was once a love naively lit with passion and eternal commitment has been reduced to monthly child support payments. He insists that my brothers and me are the only good thing that came from that disappointment, but he doesn’t say how we’re also the reminder that it happened and force that links him to her forever.
Deeper than the many issues that spring form the loss of the supposed love of his life is the trauma of the Bush War. The untold stories of regiment brothers bleeding out at the hands of terrorists, and the painfully inevitable loss of his nation, are evident in the creases of weathered skin around his eyes. The violent helplessness of war and death involves experiences no 17 year old should have to carry and suffer with long into life.
As Widget says in “The Might Circus”, the past really does stick to one like powdered sugar stays on one’s fingers. However, it may not always be as sweet. Our past should not determine our future, but it has pushed us to where we are presently.
Although the pain and suffering of life “sticking” to my dad, his eyes still continue to reflect his will to fight and the cyclic spark of life. Inevitably as a result of his disease, one day it may be extinguished and his only relief will be death. Until then, the pleasure he takes in living will motivate others to do the same.
By Xènia Greenhalgh