TRUSTING THE PROCESS OF LIFE
For Urick Esau (25), the mother and son bond he once enjoyed as a boy is a thing of the past, and while he has learned to accept that his relationship with his mother has changed, he harbours no resentment or bitterness about the way things turned out.
Urick was born in Bokmakierie in Athlone. He recalls that the first two years of his life were spent with his Mom as his primary caregiver. During this time, they did not have a fixed address and moved from shelter to shelter. They survived with the earnings his mother made as a street vendor and the goodwill of her friends. Despite the fact that they moved around a lot, Urick has fond memories of his mother’s presence.
“I was very small but I can still remember, it was just the two of us. It wasn’t really disruptive. My mom was a kind and quiet person, very protective of me. She couldn’t hide her smile. She was always happy and would try and make me laugh all the time. We would watch TV together or she would sing lullabies and make up tunes to make me giggle.”
When Urick turned two years old, his mom found a job at a factory. Since she would be earning a salary, she prioritised finding a place for her and Urick to stay. Given that she would be employed on a full-time basis she also needed Urick to be taken care of during the work day.
Urick’s mother learned of a woman in the community who could take care of her son.
“My mom would drop me off there in the mornings and pick me up in the evenings. Vanessa, the woman who was taking care of me, would take me everywhere with her. Her father, whom I called my grandfather, would also take me everywhere with him. He spoiled me because I was the only baby in the house.”
It was during this time that Urick noticed his mom’s inclination to drink alcohol more often.
“It wasn’t an issue. It was occasional at that time, but it started occurring more often.”
When Urick turned three years old, he and his mom moved into the home where he was being taken care of during the day. Urick began viewing Vanessa, her parents and her brother as family.
With time, Urick and his Mom’s lives improved. His mother was promoted at work and she earned a higher salary. This meant she contributed more to the household. He recalls her taking him to the Spur every Saturday.
“I loved to go out on Saturdays and spent all day with my mom. Even though my mom had a very bad temper and used to beat me a lot, I loved to be with her. I understood she was tough with me for a good reason. She was hard on me about my school work and I was only allowed to play on our road. She bought me a bicycle but I couldn’t ride far from the house. I made sense of the hidings and strict rules by believing that my mom had my best interests at heart.”
But her higher earning power also began to feed her destructive habits.
“I noticed that more money meant more temptation for my mom. She began to party more. There was a big change in my mom and she didn’t pay attention to me anymore. She stopped spending Saturdays with me. I was used to her taking me to the beach or to the park and I so wished things went back to the way they were with her.”
His mother’s behaviour led to an argument with the family, who had taken them in, and she decided to move out and leave Urick behind with them. He was seven years old at the time.
“Even though she wasn’t around, I knew my mom loved me. Vanessa was very nurturing, so she filled the gap during the week when I didn’t see my mom. And on weekends I would visit her.”
It was during this time period that Urick felt not only the physical distance but also a growing emotional distance between himself and his mother.
“I noticed when she got back from a party one day, that her eyes were bloodshot and she became very secretive. I realised what her changing behaviour meant, I put two and two together and realised my mom was taking drugs.”
Urick stopped visiting his mom on the weekends.
It was not long after, that Urick’s mom lost her job and moved back to Bokmakierie with a friend. Urick remained with the family who had taken him in and saw his mom from time to time.
In his early teens, Urick confronted his mother about the identity of his father.
“My mom had always been secretive about her past, in particular, her youth, which was spent in an orphanage in Cape Town. Another missing piece of the puzzle in my mom’s past was the identity of my biological father. I told her that I wanted to meet my father and she agreed that it was time.”
She agreed to trace his father, but Urick’s expectations were soon shattered.
“My mom introduced me to this man and told me he was my father. He requested a paternity test and we did the test. The results proved that he was not my father. This stopped us tracing my biological father. I think my mom and I felt stupid about the whole situation. I still don’t know who my biological father is and I think I probably never will.”
Urick’s expectation of one day rekindling the bond he had with his mom was also fading away fast.
“To be honest, I felt lost. I dreamt about having her back in my life full-time. From having all that love and support from my mom to her not being around anymore was devastating for me. I would give her the chance to make amends but I noticed it had become a habit with her – to always make promises and then disappoint me.
“Two situations made me realise that things will never go back to how they were. On the first occasion, she told me that she had found a job and things would go back to normal. I found out later that the new job my mom had told me about was selling drugs. I was disappointed. I kept all negative emotions inside, I did not want people to see how I was really feeling.
“The second occasion was on my 16th birthday. I nagged her to be there for my birthday and the night before she called and gave me an excuse for why she couldn’t make it. That night I slumped to the floor and just cried. The next morning, on my birthday, I just told myself to be strong and cut off all ties with her.”
Urick instead turned his focus to school work, excelling at school, and becoming the school’s head boy.
After Urick matriculated, he was accepted to study an LLB at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on a bursary. However, university life was a culture shock.
“As far as I could tell, there was no one from Bokmakierie at UCT at that time. It was a lonely place. I wasn’t the type of person to mingle and make friends with people who were so different from me. I began to feel inadequate. Those feelings, mixed with the pressure of not wanting to disappoint my family and friends, became too much.”
It was during this time that Urick suffered a breakdown and was diagnosed with depression. He dropped out of University.
“My family was disappointed. I told them it wasn’t for me. When I look back now, I think I was right, because I didn’t enjoy law or university life.”
Urick turned to alcohol for a short while.
“I drank to take the pain away. It was a way to suppress my emotions even more. I tried to deal with the agony of failing at having a relationship with my mom and dropping out of university in that manner, but it wasn’t for me.”
After his stint at university, Urick worked in retail for a short while. He decided to find his own path and peruse a career in coding. Last year, he enrolled in a Coding Academy, from which he has since graduated. He is currently working in an eCommerce company.
Urick no longer drinks alcohol and believes that his relationship with his mother, who he has had no contact with in years, has taught him to value his life as it is. He is at peace with the way things have turned out for him in life.
When asked for his final remarks, Urick said, “I’ve learned to trust the process. I am happy with my family (blood connection is not always what family means) and they are more than enough for me. I am also happy with my new career path. Trust each step of the way, you are exactly where you need to be.”
Urick is a Life Choices Academy alumnus.