Not my child
Dr Ray Eberlein
“Oh, dear and he was so young!” exclaims the lady in the smart dark suit, while wiping her eyes with the tiniest of white tissues.
The teenager in school uniform turns his head a little to see her. He is curious and the funeral is boring, the minister keeps on talking about Hermaans, but he is sure that he did not know him outside of the confirmation class. The lady removes the tissue long enough to whisper, “How did he die?”
“Drugs, Auntie. He took an overdose of heroin”. He says it harshly because the inquisitive woman did not know Hermaans either. In her dark suit, hunched over and with her long nose in a tissue, she reminds him of a vulture.
She stares at him. He does not move; stares back. He has nothing to lose, Hermaans is gone. Nothing can bring him back, nor can he be scared by woman like her.
“Heroin! Didn’t his Mother know that he was addicted? Surely she noticed something. It is so easy to spot!”
“No, Auntie. She didn’t. He became very shrewd over the years. First marijuana, then the “coke” and the “crack” and now at the end the needle. He learned how to hide the stuff. His Mom and them never thought that he would do things like that. In any case they were too busy doing their own thing, what with work, and partying, and rugby and drinking. They never went into his room and never saw his eyes become red after a zol, or saw how he moved slower after the baggie and the needle. He was too clever for them. He learnt how to use Ecstasy and stole his Mother’s sleeping pills to hide the side-effects and look normal after the weekend Rave”.
“No-o-o-o, he was either too clever or not clever enough. They didn’t realise that he’d arranged to have his Dad’s car stolen, and also the TV and the video-player. The thief that stole her jewels was none other than he himself. Later he started dealing in the stuff, I mean the drugs. He had to do this when there was nothing more that could be stolen, and when the insurance guys were not prepared to pay out any more of their claims”.
Her mouth drops open, the tissue forgotten. He continues. “He handed thirty-thousand rand a day to his “dealer”, and he got drugs in return. After a while the drugs that he got for thirty-thousand were not enough for him for a day and he started injecting the stuff in places where it would work the quickest and where they wouldn’t spot the marks. Later he even injected in his eye-ball”.
She shudders and turns pale. For a moment it seems as if she is going to faint and collapse. He doesn’t move or offer help. She takes a deep breath. A little colour returns to her face. She still looks stricken.
“Thank God it is not my child. I would know immediately”.
He looks at the young girl standing next to her. In spite of the excruciating heat she is wearing a long-sleeved shirt with her school skirt, and has lace-up shoes on her feet. She looks at him briefly and then lowers her head. He knows. The sleeves are to hide the needle marks, and the shoes the black dots between her toes. She shakes her head a little.
Her eyes pleaded, “Please don’t say anything”. He turns away.
He decides not to say anything now, but to do so later. His uncle is involved with the CAD, the Christian Action for Dependents, and he will tell him, privately.
His uncle will know what to do. So will his Mom, now that it is nearly too late. The CAD helped Mom when it seemed as if she had a drinking problem.
They made her aware of her problem and convinced her to go for treatment. She was gone for five weeks and he, Dad and his eldest brother went to visit her at the rehabilitation centre during the last week of her treatment.
He remembers well how the whole family was invited to take part in the rehabilitation program.
Apparently there they would learn how to handle his Mom and their problem. They were also invited by the CAD to attend their weekly meetings. His Dad thought it was a lot of rubbish and refused to go. Naturally, he and his eldest brother had to do the same.
Dad asked why he should humiliate himself in front of a lot of drunks and “druggies”?
“My children don’t have problems. Your Mom’s problem will also sort itself out. Listen to me: there is no need for us to be involved!”
Fortunately, the teenager thinks, Mom did not listen. She is now once again the Mom that he knew when he was a kid. Cheerful and happy, and interested in everybody and everything. It is a pity, he thinks, that my eldest brother disappeared shortly before she went for treatment. He would also have been pleased.
The Minister has stopped talking.
The teenager takes his Mom’s hand and together they walk towards the open grave. He can feel the tears running, and holds her hand tightly while he burrows in the basket of rose petals. He opens his hand and scatters the petals over the new wooden casket.
“Goodbye, big brother.”