Tag Archives: courage

With Arms Wide Open

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Happy Wensfriesday! – Strong As An Ox

Well it’s the middle week Friday break again. I hope you have your chocolates or goodies ready. What would you consider as your special Wensfriesday treat?

I wanted to share an update with you about my mum, but more importantly, share a story about who she is/was. She has reached a point where her memory is partially wiped again. She can speak and some of it makes sense. Most of the time her mind is in a loop and she mutters comments that don’t make sense. They are considering moving her back to the nursing home as there is nothing further they can do. She has renal failure and a weak heart. Talk about the odds weighing against you!

I think my mum has always lived that way…against adversity. With a feisty personality and the ability to out-swear a sailor, she seemed to invite, shall we say ‘challenges’!

Riots were a frequent occurrence in Zimbabwe at one point. My first riot experience happened when University students decided to set the city on fire because they were not happy about something. Can’t remember what it was, but I do remember the damage done. Of course the riot police took great care to beat the crap out of anyone they caught and corralled the citizens (rioters and employees leaving their city jobs) between a long straight street with palm trees. Most employers had released their office staff early, but on this particular day, the rioters overtook the streets of the city without warning and the violence escalated fast with street yobs inciting the crowds.

Now a sensible person would leave work, meet her daughter and advise against walking through town to “see what was happening”. Not my mother! No. Instead, she waited for me outside work, had her mischievous grin planted securely in place and asked if I fancied taking a walk to see the burning cars down the road. Of course, how could I refuse? I am my mother’s child after all! We happily skipped to the end of the road where flames rose from the overturned vehicles blocking half the road. People were scattered everywhere. Some, like us, were just there for the show. Others were there to wreak havoc and were attacking cars and shop windows, breaking them and shouting aggressively.

Before we had a chance to change our minds and turn back, two pumas (giant reinforced army trucks) pulled up and out poured the riot police like red ants scenting a dead animal. They viciously attacked the perpetrators with batons and sent the rest of us running for safety. Jeeps with more police followed the retreating crowd, firing tear gas into our midst. Men, women and street kids fell like flies as clouds of white smoke permeated the nauseating smell of burnt rubber. Sweat and tears mixed with the sounds of screaming and what was at first a crazy idea turned into insanity.

We ran into an alley that joined onto the next street but had to stop and hide. A jeep was parked at the other end, stopping anyone from escaping the street we were on. Suddenly a canister smacked against the wall two metres from me and clattered to the ground. Smoke filled the alley. The feeling of crying, coughing, choking, and wanting to throw up overtook our senses. We fought through, watching bodies around us hacking and choking in the poisonous cloud. My mum handed me a hanky and we covered our mouths and noses to try to deter some of the gas from choking us. She grabbed me and dragged my sluggish body back out of the alley.

Lying on the floor, a couple of metres from us, a woman was getting her face washed by a shop keeper. She was screaming that she couldn’t see, the shop keeper trying to calm her down. Screeching tyres, the sound of running feet and people gagging around us filled my ears. I watched as my mum staggered over to help the lady on the floor and they sat her up against the wall. She calmed down and we moved on, passing strangers helping each other, holding one another to try to escape the violence.

“Think we should go home now?” Mum asked, her eyes twinkling with tears and laughter mixed together. “I think your father’s going to be worried if we’re really late!”

I could only muster up an “uh-huh” and we laughed in the chaos around us.

I shared this story with my family this weekend and they laughed too. My mum is an incredible human being and I guess this is just another challenge for her to live through. Who knows, she might have a few more adventures up her sleeve for me!