A week ago we got word that a lifelong friend of my mom’s went missing. Missing! By the time the news reached us, she’d been missing for a week already. This was surreal. We half expected her to come waltzing in at any given time and say “Surprise!” Like she always would back when I was a kid.
Many people go missing everyday and I’ve seen their families and friends hopeful that they would return. I’ve witnessed this years ago with Keith’s cousin who went missing. After months of hoping and praying they didn’t give up hope that he was still alive somewhere, yet as time passed they kind of knew the chances of him being alive somewhere were very slim. Some families do accept the inevitable but need closure in order to move on. In the end we learnt how he died and the brutality he’d suffered before death.
Was this to be the fate of my mom’s friend too? We hoped that she was ok wherever she was but truth is, we expected the worst. Not because we’re a bunch of pessimists but this is a cruel world we live in and the odds were against her.
Somewhere during the last few years she wasn’t the woman my mom was friends with. We’d see at least once a week but she wasn’t the ‘aunt’ with the cherry flavored Dimes and Vogue cigarette breath who spoilt and teased us in equal measure. She wasn’t the woman who used to be immaculately dressed and took pride in her appearance. She wasn’t even a wife or a mother to her husband and son. The woman who frequented the salon because she couldn’t do her own hair.
Instead she was the woman who didn’t recognize my younger sister who happened to be her God-child. She’d grab my son’s buddies and embrace them in a hug and give them a sloppy kiss because she’d think it was him. She was the woman who would run around with my 6yo daughter and I’d seriously wonder who was 6 and who was 60. She genuinely enjoyed playing with Little K and not in an adult playing with a kid way. More like two kids at play. The woman who would wander aimlessly and find her way to my mom’s house and fall asleep on the couch without bothering to talk to anyone present.
I wish I could say that it was an ageing thing or blame it on an illness, but it wasn’t. Her story is not unique. In fact it’s one that plays out in so many lives yet no one notices or hear these women’s cries. Her story is one of a mother who ‘lost’ her son to drugs and whose husband failed her when the going got tough and left her to fend for herself. She’s the mother who suffered abuse at the hands of her only son because of his drug addiction. She’s the scorned wife of an adulterer who shamelessly flaunted his affair in her face and moved in with his mistress. A woman who’s lost touch with her family years ago and had no one, save for my mom and another friend.
Friends who fed her and would try to encourage her and offer useful advice. The same friends who got frustrated with her because she was stubborn as a mule. Friends who could only do so much because, you know, you can only help someone so much but they have to want to be helped too.
Her story is one of a woman who loved deep but the only two people who she really craved love from turned their backs on her. This caused her to lose her mind. A woman who was a victim to the effects of drugs.
There is such a lot of focus on drug addicts and little to none on their families. Those people need support too. Probably more than the addicts. It’s something not many people speak of and something others haven’t ever considered. Fear of drug addicts stealing from you as a family member is not the only consequence. It runs deeper.
On Sunday we received news of her death. She’d been the victim of a car accident. The search was over.
The past few days we’ve been filled with emotion. Not only for the woman she was years ago but also for the woman she was at the end. I wish she could have a happy ending to all the turmoil she endured during her life. It would have been such a better ending if her life could be turned around and once more experience some happiness. Wouldn’t be nice if she somehow found herself or some happiness before her passing? All the positive outcomes I had envisioned and prayed for for her. All futile because God knows best. I guess that it’s better this way. No more suffering. Then there’s also a part of me that wonders if we’d done enough for her while she was around. I don’t know…
Some of my fond memories of my ‘aunt’:
This woman was there when I got lost on Langebaan as a two year old.
My sisters and I spent holidays and weekends at her house.
She used to give us birthday cards with R1’s taped on the inside. She gave the most beautiful cards.
Cherry Dimes. They don’t make those sweets anymore but I remember that taste and smell.
We’d never have to worry about doing dishes as kids because she’d loved doing it and always took that chore from our hands.
Whenever I see Penny polonies, I think of her.
She gave birth to the human who introduced me to my husband.
The way she’d say “Surprise!” when she would come for a visit. As kids we feigned being surprised even if we knew she was coming just to entertain her.
PS: Life is short, so don’t ever take your loved ones for granted. Do what you can for people in need.
PPS: Always remember that people don’t get to choose their circumstances.