Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Well-Meaning Remarks...

Today I'm writing about something I find odd.  If I hadn't experienced it for myself I probably would never have given this matter a moment's thought, but I have and I have.

Since Simmi came to live with us, I've had countless people come up to me and tell me what a wonderful person I am to take her on.  I thought it would stop after we adopted her.  I thought that maybe it was our act of providing fostercare that made people think we were doing it for selfless reasons.  We weren't. 

The simple reality is that we wanted Simmi.  We love her in exactly the same way that we love our biological children.  Nobody came up to us and told us how wonderful we were to have them!  Nobody ever wondered aloud if our biological children knew how lucky and blessed they are to be a part of our family.  People actually say that to us - even some family members!  Why would anyone expect our daughter to be grateful for what we've done for her, when all we've done is exactly what we've done for our other 3 children?  Is it because she's black and living in a white home?  Does that give people the right to make comments like that?  Absolutely not!

So what do I do about it?  Most of the time I bite my tongue and "take it from whence it comes".  Every now and again David or I will reply with, "Why would you think that she's luckier than any of our other children?", and that usually shuts them up.  I have to wonder whether I would have been guilty of making those kinds of remarks if I hadn't adopted Simmi, but I really don't think that I would, and if anybody ever hears me doing that, you may feel free to give me a smack! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I haven't written for such a long time again. Time is an issue, but I also feel that I haven't had much to say. But today is different. Today I have alot on my mind that needs sorting out, and I've found in the past that sorting out is much easier when I write it down.

On Monday this week, I witnessed the death of my Grandfather. He was going to turn 95 this month, so he had a good, long life. He wasn't ill, or in pain (other than the usual things that affect us all as we get older), he was just really old.

His death has impacted me deeply, and I'm still not entirely sure why. We were never close, in fact I always had the feeling that he really didn't care much for me at all - but I wish we had been, and I wish he had. I last saw him many years ago, before he moved into the retirement village where he spent his final days. The retirement village is in Cape Town, a place I rarely go because of the distance (1400km / 874 miles), family (having 4 children is a little hectic), and finances (finding a place to stay in Cape Town is an expensive exercise and my sister's home is too small to accomodate us all). But most of all I guess, I haven't visited him because I really didn't think he'd care. If I had ever heard from him over the years, or if I had thought for one minute that he missed me and wanted me to visit, I would have. But I never did - not once.

Therefore, I was suprised at myself when I heard he was dying and suddenly had a huge urge to see him. I discussed it with David, and he agreed I should go - even though I really wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not. In fact, David encouraged me to leave immediately and not procrastinate. I'm so grateful that he did. I made arrangements for my children, and got on a plane for Cape Town the very next morning. My Dad was in Cape Town already (he and my Mom live in Durban which is 1640km /1019 miles away), and he arranged for me to stay in the hotel he was staying at, and collected me from the Airport.

I dropped off my luggage, and went immediately to see Grandad. It was quite a shock to see him. He was really thin, and was just lying on a small bed in his room and staring vacantly into space. His breathing was terrible, with almost panting breathing interspersed with not breathing at all, and his mouth just hung open. But I could still tell it was him. He still had his trademark mane of snow white hair that I always remember him having.

My dad tactfully left me with him, and I spent a very long time sitting talking to him. At first it seemed silly and awkward talking to someone who didn't seem to know I was there, but the longer I talked, the easier it became. I began to get the feeling that he could hear me, because at the sound of my voice he would move his hand slightly, and once I thought he actually tried to speak. I told him about Jesus, and how it's never too late to turn to Him. Grandad had loved to travel, and I told him of how I'd travelled to Switzerland (his favourite holiday destination) many times, and that I wished I'd been able to share my experiences with him and maybe compare notes. I told him that I hoped I would meet him in heaven one day, and that we could then catch up on all that we never had on this earth. I held his hand. I spent time with him.

The following day I went back to visit again. He was worse. I wasn't sure that he knew I was there at all. My Dad had things to sort out, so I just sat with him and held his hand. It was Sunday, so I sang to him, all the old Hymns I could remember. His breathing was worse, but it seemed to me that it became more regulated when I sang, so sing I did. At first I felt a bit of a fool, but then I decided that it didn't matter, I was doing it for him, to comfort him, and that's all that was important.

That afternoon I visited again, and again I sat and held his hand and sang to him. He looked worse, his mouth had a bluish tinge. When I think back on that Sunday, I will always remember the singing, and when I try to sing any of those hymns now, my throat blocks up and I just can't. I sang "How Great Thou Art", "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", "What a Friend we have in Jesus", "Jesus, Name Above All Names", and others that I couldn't remember all the words to, but hummed the bits in between. I told him about my family, and how I had also fostered a child (my Dad was a foster child to my Grandparents), and how I had adopted her, and how I had a step-son who I had also become a mother to as his mother had died when he was small. It was a special time, even though I wasn't sure he could hear me. I realised while I was sitting there, that it was the first time I can remember ever holding his hand, and that made me sad. I told him, and I sang some more. I prayed for angels to surround his bed so he wouldn't be afraid.

The next day when my Dad and I arrived the nurses were busy washing Grandad. I was there to say goodbye. My flight back home was leaving at 12hoo, and I wanted to see Grandad one last time before I headed to the airport and back home to my family. When the nurses finished and we walked into the room, I immediately sensed a change. He looked much worse. We said hello and sat down. In an instant I realised he wasn't breathing. The horror of that second of realisation cannot be described here. I went cold, and started to shake. I had to tell my Dad that his father was dead because he hadn't noticed. My Dad didn't believe me at first (denial perhaps), and I had to tell him another 2 times before he checked Grandad's pulse and called the nurse. The tears just came. I couldn't stop them. I stayed with Grandad, and started phoning people for my Dad so that he could go and fetch Grandad's elderly sister, and call my uncle (my Dad's brother) in America.

I stayed with Grandad. Even though he was dead, I didn't want to leave him alone. Nurses came and went, and I sat quietly and cried silently for my Dad, for my uncle, and for me. My sense of loss was devastating, not because of what we'd had, but because of what we didn't have.

This heartbreaking experience has caused me to re-evaluate my life in a way I never have before. It has caused me to think about life and death, and the meaning of everything in between. Has it caused me to question my faith? No, nothing can. But it has caused me to question my life and the way I live it. Seeing death first-hand, for me, was profound, earth-shattering and life-changing. I want to be better, do better and feel better, because I have realised that I am here for such a short time.

Will these feelings last? I hope so. Will time cause me to forget what I witnessed this week? I hope not. Grandad may not have been much of an influence on me while he was alive, and perhaps he didn't care too much for me, but I loved him, and in this strange way he has influenced my life dramatically. At a time that would be deemed to be "too late" by most, he has rocked my world. Thank you Grandad! I really hope to see you in heaven one day, and I really hope that my presence in your final hours made a positive difference to you, even if it was just a tiny one, because it certainly made a difference to me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Samantha Rachel Simphiwe

Finally, Simmi has a name. Finally, she is a South African citizen. Finally, she has an identity.

Simmi's adoption was finalized on 12 May 2010, and we were presented with the final documentation on 23 August 2010. She is now named Samantha Rachel Simphiwe - however I have yet to recieve her new birth certificate as the Department of Home Affairs has been on strike since 24 August 2010!

Her names all have meanings that are special to us, and tell the story of her coming to live with us.

1. Samantha - this name was chosen by Daddy. It means "God heard". I love it because I prayed fervently for a baby girl and God heard my prayers.

2. Rachel - this name was chosen by Mommy. It means "beautiful". It's significance is found in the story of of Jacob working, praying and waiting for 14 years for his Rachel. I waited a long time for Simmi.

3. Simphiwe - this name was chosen by her birth mother. It means "God gave her to us". We kept the name because of its significant meaning, and because it's part of her history.

Even though she has such a long list of names, we still call her Simmi. She is treasured, she is loved, and she is ours!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dear Mr President

Dear President Zuma,
This is my 2nd email regarding the following matter. I am begining to see why the Department of Home Affairs has a suicide on their conscience. I am foster mother to a 2 year old girl, Simphiwe. She's been in my care since she was 9 months old. She was born in South Africa, Tembisa Hospital to an undocumented, illegal Zimbabwean mother and South African father. The mother & father are not married. Simphiwe's birth was not registered, and once the foster care case was finalised on 3 April 2009 I attempted to register her. I was met with refusal from Home Affairs. The mother was in prison at the time, but they would not allow the South African father to register her because the mother had no documents, and was in prison. Even though we had proof of the birth (which the official at Home Affairs in Kempton Park took from me with the application form), all we were issued was a "foreigner" birth certificate (Unabridged Birth Certificate with no id number). When I was handed this certificate, the official at Home Affairs said the following, "This child is going to suffer because of this birth certificate."
We wish to adopt Simphiwe, but adoption cannot be finalised without a birth certificate, and home affairs will not issue a birth certificate without adoption papers! In the meantime, our family is stuck in the middle, and this child is being punished by the state due to circumstances beyond her control. She's being denied the right to a family. Also, as a child in the foster-care system, she is currently a financial burden on an already overburdened State, a burden that we will gladly relieve the State of.
According to Home Affiars Edenvale, Simphiwe is now considered to be an "illegal immigrant", even though she has never been in any other country aside from this one. Nobody seems able to assist me with this, nobody is willing to get involved or make a decision to help this child. I have been to Home Affairs in Kempton Park seven times, and to Edenvale twice regarding this issue. I do not know where else to turn.
Simphiwe was born here, she has never left South Africa. She is not Zimbabwean. She has been living with us, a South African family for most of her life, and will continue to do so. Please help us - we are desperate to give her an identity and stability in knowing she belongs.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

First Official Visitation - Assignment Fm Mama Kat

My baby's getting big! Actually, she's getting bigger than I thought because I've recently found her correct date of birth and she's two months older than her mother originally told me. Honestly, how can you not remember your baby's birthday? Anyway, she's now 20 months old (and not 18 months old as I originally thought). This brings her first steps into the normal range (10 1/2 months and not 8 1/2 months), and I feel quite sad that she's not actually the genius I thought she was - although I must point out that she is still incredibly clever and advanced for her age - mother's perogative!

Monday afternoon was to be our first official visitation with her mother. It's been a long time since I last blogged, and things with Simmi and her mother have been unbelievably complicated, so I'll try catch up quickly. Simmi's mom was released from prison in June. She was due to be deported, and possibly Simmi along with her, which of course sent me into a tailspin of despair. As it turns out, Correctional Services took the law into their own hands and released her without deportation. She is now living with relatives somewhere, with no identity papers whatsoever, and therefore with no hope of ever legally becoming employed in this country.

I saw her in court a few months ago because Simmi still has no birth certificate, and the Department of Social Development refuses to give me the social grant I'm entitled to without a birth certificate, I also can't put her on our Medical Aid (very important in this country where state hospitals are only for the desperate), and a host of other problems. Anyway, I digress... When I saw Simmi's mom I offered to spend some extra time at the Welfare offices so she could visit with Simmi. What a waste of time. Picture it if you can:

Me (extra happy face): Come Simmi, say hello to your other mama!

Simmi (sucking finger furiously): ................ (signifies silence)

Simmi's Mom (Sibongile): ................

Simmi: Mama (holding arms out to me)

Me (smile starting to look strained): No Simmi, your other Mama. Come Simmi give your other Mama a big hug.

Simmi (clining to my leg): Come Mama, car (indicating she wants to leave).

Sibongile: .........................

Me (hysteria setting in): Simmi, come on let's play with your other Mama (trying to drag her off my leg).


Sibongile: ................................

I'm sure you get the picture.

Anyway, as I said in the begining of this post, Monday was our first official visitation with Simmi's mom since the above incident. Sibongile had contacted the Social Worker on Sunday night and requested the visit. I rushed home from work, dropped off the other 3 kids, made a juice bottle, printed some more photos of Simmi to give to Sibongile, grabbed Barney and the blanky and off we raced to get there by 14h30.

She didn't arrive! Can you believe it? No explanation, no phone call, she just never arrived. We waited 20 minutes and then I left. Relieved and irritated at the same time.

Can you imagine someone disappointing this little face? Praise God that Simmi doesn't even realise what happened. I'm so thankful.

Not an encouraging first for sure!

Friday, April 10, 2009

It's Finally Official

Simmi is ours for 2 years officially now! I'm so happy and so blessed (even though she's been awake since 05h30 on a Saturday morning whilst my darling husband snores peacefully).

I've spent the last few days of the holidays rushing around getting various forms completed, seeing social workers, police officers and officers of the court - exhausting! Our government doesn't make anything easy for a foster parent. I wonder how many people know how much work is involved in getting all the correct paperwork before they sign up, or if they just go ahead and learn as they go along like I have. Dealing with the government has been extremely frustrating. If anything were going to put me off doing this again, this would be it. Hours of my time wasted standing around in court, only to be remanded because of various problems.

Mountains of forms to complete, all seeming to say the same thing, but each one has to be completed anyway. Waiting 5 months for my first payment of the pathetic foster care grant (about R450 per month - $45), and having to complete the same forms twice over, which included 2 trips to the bank for bank stamps and standing in endless lines because of an error at the government offices.

My 2nd claim brought yet another error, I was only paid out for 2 weeks instead of 6, which still hasn't been fixed and it looks like I'll be waiting at least another 2 weeks for that.

Anyway, enough complaining. Even though things have been tough, I wouldn't change having Simmi for anything. I'll continue to soldier through the forests of forms and red tape, knowing that at least she's safe and loved and happy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Well today was foster care court day. Simmi's case was finally going to be finalised. I've been so excited all week - BUT there was a problem. I was getting dressed for court this morning when I got the call. Apparently there has been a lack of communication between the court and the Welfare, and there were documents missing, namely confirmation from the prison that Simmi's mom is incarcerated and consent to the proceedings by Simmi's mom. The prison social worker promised to get these documents faxed by 12h00 so we could go to court this afternoon. By 12h00, nothing. A phone call to the prison revealed that their only fax machine (in a prison that houses about 10 000 prisoners) is broken and the documents need to be collected. The prison is about an hour's drive away. The frustration!!! So now our case has been postponed until said documents are fetched, and next week the court is on holiday. They may be able to fit us in tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath.

Perhaps God is teaching me patience - AGAIN.