When winter falls

Sehonghong Health Care Centre was not close, but it was also the best health facility they had near to her home. Winter was coming and she wanted to get there earlier this year to get vitamins and cough syrup for her children. As well as her own medication. She woke up at three and lighted her candle. It had been a good month, she had been able to save up more money than usual. The  woman she worked for in her town at the tourist centre had given her a raise. She had not expected it and had been surprised at the generosity. Now she had more maloti this month to get the medication she needed.

Her sister lived in Cape Town and she had been generous this month as well. She had sent her a thousand Rands to help cloth the kids for the winter. God was truly great!  As she went to wash her face and wake the children, she smiled. Sometimes things worked out for the best. Today she would shop. She had not shopped for anything other than food for months. The children slept soundly in the corner of their two-roomed house. She did not want to wake them up. They looked so peaceful.

She shook them gently and whispered good morning. Her youngest daughter, always with a smile woke and looked up at her. She was a gentle child and always did as she was told. Thabe shook her eldest, she grumbled and complained as she woke up. She was leaving them with her neighbour today as she wanted to have the day to herself. The girls would only grumble at how far they would have to walk. It was ten kilometers to the town, sometimes one got a lift if you left early but more likely not.

The girls ate their breakfast silently and sleepily. Thabe could have left them alone at home but they were too young. Her eldest was only eight and her youngest three. A full day alone would be too much for them to handle. The ques at the health centre could be atrocious and sometimes take half a day, even when you arrived early. Doctors were not always available and nurses where in bad moods. The amount of people they had to cater for did not help their mood.

Thabe walked the children to Ma Abagail’s. She welcomed the children with a smile and told Thabe to take her time. Thabe took the list of things Ma Abagail wanted from town. She would use her own money to buy them, as a thank you. She started down the road and started coughing. The coughing racked her lungs and she had to stop and gather her breath for a while. She had TB. The drugs they had given her did not seem to be working and she wondered why. Her anti-retrovirals were also not working. Three months ago, when she had gone to the health centre, they had told her that she needed a second line treatment.

She had tried to understand what the doctor had said to her, but she had never been past grade seven to understand some of the terminologies. The drugs were not working that was all she knew. She had to go to Paray to get the new drugs that she needed. She did not know how she would do this. It was far away and she was lucky enough to get a day off today. She depended on Ma Abagail too much with the children. She was an old woman and sick herself. As she walked down the dusty road, she pulled her jersey closer to her. There were so many things that she had to think about. She was scared for her children; no father and their relatives had shunned them. Living with this disease did not make it any easier. She had contracted it from her husband, but she had no ill feelings towards him. He was a man and he strayed, it happened to so many women. She was just a face among millions.

She heard a truck coming along the dirt road. She moved back out of the way and held up her hand. “Mama sorry. I have no space for you today.”

“I can sit with goat’s baba I don’t mind. It is better than walking.”

“Are you sure? It is smelly back there and it looks like you are going to town?”

“Eh yes, but I don’t mind.”

“Ok come in then. But we are turning off a few kilometres from town.”

“At least it is something. I don’t mind.”

She climbed into the back of the truck. There were five goats packed in at the back and there was already excrement on the floors. It did not smell well. She took of her jersey and sat right in the corner. She should have brought her winter jacket. It was cold.

The truck racked on and moved slowly ahead, and she coughed as they hit some bumps. She really hoped they could help her with some medication this month. Her children had been spared the disease and if nothing else, that was a kind blessing. She was grateful for it. She thought about her sister. Apart from the money she had been sending, she had told her that she had a new man in her life and had a home and security she had always wanted. Thabe had been relieved and had told her about her status. Her sister had not been to Lesotho in years, so she would not have known what had happened. Maybe through relatives but those people gossiped about rubbish.

“Thabe! So that is how your husband had died? Why did you not tell me?”

“Well you know people had been saying that he was bewitched. You heard how it was in the end. He went a bit insane. At some point he ran stark naked in the village. People were not impressed.”

“Yes, I know sis, but you should have told me.”

“But how could I begin. It is not something you tell everyone.”

“I am your only sister. And you know nana all our brothers died of it.”

“Yes and look how the community treated them. Anyway, I did not want to add to your troubles. I know you work very hard there.”

“Always the modest one eh. Are you on treatment?”

“Not yet sis. The healthcare is far away and my job.”

“Your job will understand. You have to get treatment. People live a long time with this disease now and you can see your girls grow up.”

That was a year ago, she had taken her sisters advice and began treatment. But sometimes Thabe thought that it was too late. She was always sick. She was happy that her sister was settled. If things got worse they could always go to her. The truck stopped and she climbed out.

“Thank you.”

“Ok mama. Have fun in town.”

She gave them a weak smile. But yes, today she would have fun. Be carefree and not think about her problems. She put her jersey on and started up the dirt path.

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