Merle's Love

April 16th marks what would have been the 80th year of the birth of Merle Adeline Khoza, my mother.  Merle was a fighter, non-conformist, and tireless advocate for those who didn’t have a voice.  She was a strict disciplinarian who conveyed her determination and resolve to her children.  She was my capable, committed, and willing guide as I navigated my preparation for the world.  After my first significant disappointment at not scoring high enough in the island wide high school entrance examination to attend my “first choice”, she looked at me and said “ok, Mphatso it’s up to you.”  I proceeded with my result.  On the doorstep to the beginning of my tertiary level education, she steered me away from a youthful “enchantment” with Agronomy into Engineering.  What prescience! She invested her love of knowledge and critical thinking within the deep recesses of my soul. Simultaneously, she mourned and embraced her social disadvantage as a Black woman and never allowed it to be an excuse.  She socialized her children similarly.  She was an intellectual who had no time for cognitive waste and inconsequential conversations.  She desired to know and be known.  She was a feminist who understood the leveraging power of education – hers and that of her children.  I am grateful for the part of me that is her – open, willing, growing and unconditionally accepting.  I am grateful that she fought courageously to not be swallowed whole by the chasms that littered her landscape – family of origin poverty, the marital despair of infidelity, single motherhood, sexism, racism, professional/educational frustration, Multiple Sclerosis related depression…to name a few.  She was integrity, fierce independence and Black pride all wrapped into an exemplary bundle.  I can recognize love today because, as imperfect as she was, she communicated some of its more salient aspects.  Love is support, sacrifice, encouragement, advocacy, provision, commitment, security, safety, discipline, guidance, intercession, sharing, presence, connection, intimacy, prioritized, exclusive, unconditional, non-temporal, defensive, protective, offensive, and selfless.  It is a wonderfully multi-faceted and multi-dimensional thing.  These things I learned from Merle.  It has been fourteen years since she left us, and I still miss her.


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