I want to go back to my grandmother’s house. When I was there on holiday my grandmother used to wake me up at 6 am even when I was on summer break. I still loved going to see my grandmother because she loved me very much. Her actions showed me this.
I remember she would be up and I would wake up to an overall feeling of peace and warmth. I slept on a mattress on the floor although she had another room with two beds in it. I reckon I was scared and wanted to be close to her. Some days my grandmother would come in talking about how Ntate Moholo (grandfather who had passed on in 1983) sent her money from heaven. She would always find money randomly and it was not just chump change. When she walked in at 6am to wake me up, I remember just wondering why we had to wake up so early but once I was up, we had a wonderful time. My grandmother’s garden was big and very green. I mostly remember spinach and cabbage. We would wake up and tend to the garden. Then I would want to see Felipe milk the cows and sometimes I would help him if he would let me. Then I remember how Nkhono would boil the milk and then pour it into glass airtight containers to store. Sometimes we would eat hot cereal and at least once a week Nkhono would make me pancakes. I remember this being an event. It was not just like a spectators sport for me. I was fully engaged, ready and willing when requested to help. Nkhono’s pancakes tasted almost like Swedish pancakes or like thick crepes in the United States, but much better in my opinion. My moment of glory was when I got to add a pinch of sugar to the pancakes before she rolled them. In the meantime, I would be salivating like Pavlov’s dog. Then came the time I got to eat them and I was in heaven.
My grandmother also made icicles to sell for about 25c in the summer. They were just frozen Kool-Aid. I got to help her make these. We would pour the liquid into plastic bags that resembled Ziploc bags except that we would tie the knot at the top of the bag.
I mentioned that Nkhono had farm animals. We did not really call her place a farm because it was just the way that she lived, but it actually was a farm. She had chickens in a chicken coop that were for meat. They played outside in their coop. I did not know that they were meat chickens but I do remember that every once in a while, it was time to get one of the chickens to eat. I never ate those chickens, especially when I knew that it was one from the coop. My cousin and I used to chase the chickens back into the coop when they escaped. I remember those times being fun and frightening at the same time. The fright came when the chickens would flap their wings while trying to get away. It was more exhilarating than frightening!
There were also egg laying chickens. Every morning, we would collect the eggs and sell those as well. I remember the pigs. There were between one and two pigs at the most at any given time. The pigs ate anything! I remember that being amazing and shocking at the same time. The cows and sheep would go out and graze all day with Felipe. We did not have a sheep dog so it is incredible, as I look back, how he was able to maintain the order of the animals all by himself. Nkhono’s neighbor had horses and I remember riding those only a handful of times.
The grass was always green at Nkono’s house. There was peace and laughter there always. Even when she got upset at something that we did, we laughed about later. There was always respect and I miss that feeling of a grandmother whose presence just demanded respect because of the way she carried herself. Her presence was also filled with love. There was a feeling of security when I was with her. At night, Felipe, his sister, my cousins and I would sit outside and wait for the sun to set. I remember them making a fire and us just playing and talking.
If Nkono was reading this, she would probably be wondering when I would mention her cat. That cat! The cat in my eyes was alive as long as Nkhono was alive. However, I have to keep in mind that I was in Lesotho and South Africa till I was almost twelve years old. That cat was mean! And she seemed to always be pregnant. As soon as she had kittens and they were ready to be independent, she was pregnant again! Nkhono also made some money selling the kittens when they were ready to be sold. She absolutely loved the cat and the rest of the family pretended to like her too. To be honest, in looking back, the cat did her job well and also kept Nkohno happy. This meant that the rest of the family was happy as well.
One other thing that I will also remember was that Nkhono loved the Catholic Church. She found her spirituality there. I am grateful that she really instilled in me that there is a God. She used to perform for me in her 80s, how mass was held during her time growing up. I would always ask her to do this when I visited. She told me that during mass, the priests would face backwards. She would always start it by saying “Dominus vobiscum” in Latin, this means, “the Lord be with you.” I had no idea at the time how powerful these word were. I remember laughing because I thought it was ridiculous and funny that the priests had mass facing away from the congregation. I say it powerful because today I recognize how powerful words are and I realize now that my grandmother was so willing to do the performance because she was speaking these words into me. God has been with me throughout my life.
In thinking of my grandmother’s house, I think about how I had never heard of cancer, while I was there. I remember the harmony, peace and serenity I felt when I was there. And then I compare it to what my life became and how everything got so out of control. It has made me realize that the basics of everyday life are the keys to healthy living.
- My grandmother prayed every single day
- She lived simply, beautifully and without stress. Everything throughout the day just flowed as it should. She was never trying to manage things out of her control.
- She exercised through her taking care of her garden and the animals
- She had a community of likeminded people around her
- She ate whole foods that she grew that the earth provided with occasional treats like pancakes and very little meat.
- She thrived in taking care of her grandchildren. I believe that this gave her life so much meaning and purpose.
- She was always being of service to her family and to her community. She had to if either were going to thrive.
In recent literature and in the media, there has been lots of coverage of Blue Zones where people are living long happy and vibrant lives. When I compare these places to the way my grandmother lived, I realize that she knew the secret to living a happy, healthy and long life. This is in contrast to a miserable, unhealthy, long or short life.
This has really brought light to the fact that it is not just the food that people take in, it is the behavior and the attitude towards life that is even more impactful. Once I an attitude towards life that was positive and meaningful, once I felt like I had gained control over the things that I could control and had given what I could not control to a higher power which I call God, I had no choice but to continue the process by loving myself by changing what I ate and drank and continuing to increase my spiritual processes. This was because I felt like I had a lot to give and a lot to live for. Realizing that what I put into my body through my mouth, ears, eyes, nose or any other method may compromise my ability to be there for my family and for those people who need my help and that I care about, gave me more motivation to slowly change other habits.
I had to do these things every day because when I did not, the weeds grew back and I found myself doing the same behaviors again.