I am the eldest of seven kids, born off a retired naval commander and a traffic officer. My family is not a conventional one; in that, while I have 6 siblings, all of them are my half siblings. I feel the need to mention this to highlight the special bond between myself and every member in my family which evidently is not inhibited by lineage.
My family comes from the northern region of Namibia; a tribe that believes in inclusive development, this is evident in our adopted philosophy of “no man is left behind”. What this means is that, I have had to not only realise my relation to my half siblings as the paternal and maternal bond dictates, but also recognise the cousins and adopted family that were raised in our household.
My grandmother was the head of the household at the village, tending the field and taking care of the livestock, my mother on the other hand was the financial provider of the house. Between the 2 of them, they had 8 kids of themselves to take care of and another 8 adopted. I must use the term adopted loosely here, because while you adopt the parental responsibility of any child in my tradition, ultimately the fruit of these labour benefits the biological parents.
So you see there was always enough family to go around; that many people to share the little that basic education could provide; the many people whose health care must be provided for and just as many people that I in turn have to eventually take care off. On the upside though, there was always that many people to be happy with, and that much love to go around.
I grew up seeing the norm as my mother working very hard to send money back to the village and my grandmother in turn ensuring the field is tended to provide food to the larger household. The key to success was receiving an education and finding a good job, and they made sure the entire household was able to go to school. This they hoped in turn ensured financial stability allowed us to send money back home that will take care of the family.
The fruitage of going to school, saw me became the first university graduate within the extended circle of the large family; I was the first to attend postgraduate school outside my home country and the first to even dream of buying flight tickets to share my love for travel with my mom and grandmother, there have been too many firsts than I can count, and I guess right now it’s about recognising that privilege
At this point you are wondering what the man in my family did; you see I was born a military brat, saw my father for the first time when I was 8, the war took the man that I was to call papa away from me. The only grandfather that I knew, was a schizophrenic; “he did grand things” I was told, but none that I witnessed. The story about how this ugly disease and the war stole the man from my life will be told another time, but for now, I will continue to sing praise of the women that have raised me.
I sing this praise to recognise the strength that lives in the women I call family; my mother who even after suffering so much loss, still stands strong and continues to work hard knowing this is the only way you can achieve success, my older aunt who bless her soul, has endured cruelty in love, but still wins the award for the best mother around. She has raised fine children, myself included and the only person she knows to lean on is my mother; though I must mention she is more a sister than an aunt to me, clearly visibly by how great I am at bossing her around and how she in turn snitches to my mother on every move I make and lastly my younger aunts, who are notorious for living life on edge and have taught me to live a little, because what is life if you cannot enjoy it.
Owing to the strength of the women that raised me is a group of sisters that I can rely on, young ladies whom most call cousins that I will kill for and they in turn return the favour; a lesson that family is not maternal/paternal, but nurtured. I have met many grand women along the way whom I now consider best friends and sisters, but my first best friends were family members and the first man I ever loved was my uncle.
This is my story, a narrative I grew up with.