Things Taken

“Will the youth ever find their future?” Father asked no one in particular. It was a code. He was talking about me again. I was in the next room, getting ready to go out. There would be girls at the march, and I wanted to look and smell as nice as possible.

My Grandfather sat on his old folding chair, listening to American music on his tape player. “The youth will find their way,” he said sagely, his unlit pipe dangling from his lips. “They learn quickly that some things are given, and some must be taken.”

Father grunted at this. Unlike Grandfather, he was a man of few words.

Grandfather chuckled, scanning the room for his matchbook. “Remember“, he said happily, “that I lived to see you take your place, and I will see my Grandson do the same.”

Father eyed me with disapproval as I hurried past him. “Tsamaya sentle”, Grandfather called after me. “Go well.”

That was 1989. Grandfather did not live to see us take our freedom. He never saw Johannesburg become – for better or worse – the place it is today.