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They never met each other, but the spirit of the old man lives on in the younger.
By Poppy Louw
A common South African name, short for Lethabo, meaning happiness or joy.
Thabo Simon Louw. My father.
He was affectionately nicknamed “Happy” by those in his life — a direct translation of his first name, and the emotion he evoked in everyone who was blessed enough to meet him.
As the eldest of four children, growing up in abject poverty in the small town of Delportshoop, Northern Cape, he left school before Standard 6 (Grade 8) to find work and assist his parents financially.
At the height of his professional career, he worked as an analyst in the laboratory of a leading South African cement factory in Ulco, a neighbouring town 10 minutes away.
He had a short stint in politics, becoming the first black independent Mayor of Delportshoop, also known as Dikgatlhong, located near the confluence of the Vaal and Harts rivers. He held office for two terms.
In the 90s, after resigning as a laboratory analyst, he used his pension fund to buy land, build two properties and started his construction company, Ya Rona Construction.
Ya rona means “ours” – a legacy he wanted to leave behind for us and future generations.
He was the mastermind behind the development of hundreds of RDP homes, kitted with a full bathroom.
This was a significant transition for residents who had been subjected to the undignified outdoor bucket system.
Since the start of his mayorship, he made it his life’s mission to give the people living in the township of Tidimalo the dignity of having a flushing toilet and bathroom indoors. And he did it.
My mother describes him as an ambitious man who came from nothing, but was always willing to learn for his own personal growth.
A good father, determined to make a success of himself and give his children a better life than he had.
But business took a turn for the worst when he was cheated out of over R20-million by dodgy friends and business associates. Money that was intended to grow his business and change our lives forever.
The heartbreak he incurred from this experience was too much for him. We watched him slowly whither away into a state of chronic illness and delirium. He passed away in 2003, when I was only 16.
We were truly blessed to have had a father like ours.
He loved his daughters wholeheartedly, which, in turn, taught us how we deserve to be loved. He worked hard to give us a comfortable life and made decisions that were always in the best interest of our future.
My fiancé and partner of seven years, Kabelo Molepo, reminds me a lot of my father. Oddly enough, our 5-year-old, Leano, is the spitting image of both Kabelo and my father.
Throughout our relationship, I have witnessed how Kabelo tackles his challenges head on and how determined he is to work himself to the bone to make a success of himself and take care of his family.
Since the start of our cookies business over a year ago, Kabelo has pushed all-nighters, baking his delicious treats to meet orders. He, too, is building a legacy for his child(ren) and future generations.
And much like my father, Kabelo is loving, caring, patient, kind, attentive, ambitious, places emphasis on communication, and is as committed and determined to open himself up to new experiences that will contribute to his personal growth.
My father never shied away from the kitchen and would cook delicious, nutritious meals. Needless to say, Kabelo is a self-taught food enthusiast who thrives in the kitchen.
The two of them even share a quirky sense of humour that livens up every gathering.
In Kabelo, I have been blessed to find a partner who has held my hand through my recent depression, anxiety and sleeplessness diagnosis, something I know my father would have supported me through just as much.
I have had many low days for a better part of this year. And on those days, Kabelo is always ready to make our home a sanctuary and a safe space, allowing me to be vulnerable, unpack my feelings, and work through them with him.
With both of us being children from broken homes, Kabelo and I share our desire to have the kind of family we never had while growing up.
We have committed to work through whatever challenges we may face together, and to give each other the space to work on ourselves, as well as on our relationship and our family.
In September, it will be 18 years that I have been without my father. And for the first time since, I have felt that he never really left us.
For me, his spirit comes across through my partner and our son.
Robala ka khotso, Koena. May your happy soul continue to rest in eternal peace.
- This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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