Letter From the Grave
By Lawrence Kadzitche
I eased myself on the sofa, preparing to watch soccer on the TV when, Flora, my wife entered the lounge.
“Dear, why haven’t you still read that letter?” she said.
“Which letter?” I asked, picking up the TV’s remote control pad.
“The one you received three days ago, the one from the village,” she replied.
I looked up. Flora was standing by my sofa. In her hands was a dirty khaki envelope.
“Well, I’ll read it later. It must be from my uncle,” I said carelessly.
“It could be from your father.”
I laughed. “I know my father. He’s a very proud man. There’s no way he can write to me after what happened.”
‘What happened’ is that three months ago, my father came looking for money to repair his house. I told him I had no money. He became angry and said he couldn’t be living in poverty while his own son lived in luxury.
I also got angry and hit back. I said it was his problem that he squandered whatever money he got from farming on what, God knows.
“Every time you come here is to beg for money. If it’s not for fertilizer, it’s to pay workers. After harvesting, you come to ask for money to buy food or clothes. What do you do with your money?”
I immediately fell silent. My father never called me Amos unless he was very upset. It was always the playful name, ‘Boyi”, meaning boy.
“I’ve taken your point, Amos,” he said slowly. “I’ll never bother you again.”
I should have realized that I had gone too far. But my pride wouldn’t allow me to back down. “I’ll appreciate that very much. You know I also have my own financial problem to worry about.”
My father left without another word.
“Honey, I think you should reconcile with your father,” Flora broke into my reverie. “You know he loves you very much.”
“Love me?” I ejaculated. “He loves the money I give him. I tell him I’ll no longer give him money and see what happens.”
“To be honest, you were unfair to him,” Flora said. “He’s an old man and you know the money he gets from farming is barely enough to meet his basic needs.”
I shook my head. “I’m an accountant, Flo. I know money is never enough. My father should learn to live within his income like everybody else.”
“Amos dear, if your father had the same principle, would he have sent you to school?”
“Well, I didn’t ask him to,” I reasoned. “In any case, I don’t think he sent me to school as an investment.”
Flora bit her lower lip. “No, he didn’t. But you should know he wasted the best part of his life toiling to make sure you got good education. You can’t appreciate even that?”
“Why must I appreciate that?” I retorted. “He was only fulfilling his role as a father. Any way, the issue here is the letter. I’ll read it after the match.”
“You always say that. You read it now,” Flora said firmly.
I shrugged in a mock gesture of defeat. “Ok, you read it for me. I don’t have my reading glasses with me here.”
Flora sank into an armchair besides me. She tore the envelope and carefully unfolded the piece of paper inside.
Dear Amos, she began reading, I know we shouldn’t have bothered you with this letter, but we feel we need to tell you this.
We know you thought your father was heavy handed, that he tried to run every aspect of your life. But that was because he loved you, wanted the best for you.
He only had a small piece of land. But he worked hard on it and did all sorts of odd jobs to raise money to send you to school. He would have prospered when he started raising goats. But when you got dangerously sick, he had to sell all of them so that he could send you to a private hospital for treatment.
That year he could not work in the fields. To make things worse, your mother also got ill and died the same year. So he incurred huge debts in order to pay hospital bills and send you back to school.
Raising you as a single parent was not easy. When he said you should not have girlfriends, the idea was to protect you from this new deadly disease. Look at what happened to Kid Mwale or Mituka? They are all dead.
Your father believed that a person is judged by the company he keeps. That is why he was so selective about the company you kept. We know you didn’t like that. But why should a school going kid hang out with the boys who did not go to school and bragged that they picked pockets? Tholo was burned to death by an angry mob when they caught him after he had stolen some cattle. Tsotsi is now in prison serving a ten-year term for armed robbery.
When he objected to you marrying in a hurry, it wasn’t that he didn’t like your choice of a wife. What he wanted was that you should take time to know the woman you wanted to marry. There were some misunderstandings there, but when you finally followed his advice, you see you are now happily married.
Your father was getting old and therefore could not work as he used to. In addition to that, the rains have been erratic for the past few years. So he hardly harvested anything from the farm.
Then there was a rainstorm that almost destroyed his house. That’s why, three months ago, he came to see you to ask for money to repair the house. We understand you thought that was asking for too much.
But anyway the good news is: that is the last thing he will ever ask from you. You see, a month ago, the house collapsed at night and your father was killed. We knew you wouldn’t want to attend his funeral but we thought you should know that he is dead. We buried him next to your mother.
Your Uncle, Tsetekani.
My heart lurched. I started crying. It was only now that I realized how much my father had loved me. But now it was too late, too late to do anything about it.