REHOBOTH - Twenty-seven year-old Minnette Rista has taken a path of compassion and selflessness, dedicating her youthful years to looking after her visually impaired grandparents.
Rista, a resident of Rehoboth’s informal settlement of Bugershoek, left her marital home to take care of Johannes (77) and Magdalena Abrahams (75) – literally becoming the de facto pair of eyes for her grandparents.
A typical day for Rista starts as early as 06h00 to empty a bucket her grandparents use as a toilet, followed by making coffee, cleaning the house and preparing them for the day.
Thereafter, she prepares her seven-year-old daughter for school. The mother of two said the obligation of taking care of her visually impaired grandparents was passed down to her after her mother, who was the couple’s only child, died.
She has been caring for the couple for five years and acknowledges the daunting task comes with its own challenges.
“Taking care of my grandparents is a full-time job. Their blindness and advanced age makes it an extraordinary responsibility. I face criticism daily for not seeking employment and for relying on their social grants. However, these unfounded criticisms only strengthen my resolve,” said Rista, who has clearly not been shaken by naysayers.
She goes on to paint a vivid picture of what life throws her way daily.
“Their lives are filled with a range of activities and moods. Some days, they exhibit moodiness and stress for no apparent reason. My grandmother, in particular, possesses a unique character. She wakes up with a name in mind from her past, sending you to locate someone she knew in the 90s. She might ask you to retrieve specific items, leaving you to unravel the mystery. For her, these gestures represent her simple desires,” said Rista.
As she recounts her grandmother’s habits, she also reflects on the complexity of her personality. She said balancing her grandmother’s stubbornness with her affectionate nature is a challenge she embraces.
The young mother explained that Magdalena is a paradox as she is both stubborn and loving. And even though they might not always agree, the bond they share remains unmatched. It is something out of this world.
Rista describes her grandfather as a wise man. He is wise and knows a lot about history. She fondly described him as “godly” due to his sage advice and profound insights into the past.
“My grandfather becomes my source of wisdom and historical knowledge. He will tell you stories about the past that lighten up the day. He will always advise me to make sure I follow God instead of the world’s illicit things. He makes me strong because he always encourages me,” Rista stated emphatically, with joy clearly visible through her eyes and chuckles.
Her eyes light up as she recounts the stories Johannes shared with her, bridging the gap between their two distinct eras.
“He always asks me to take him to church. I would take him there and when we come back home, he tells me stories about how God is important in people’s lives,” she said.
According to Rista, Magdalena is allegedly a queen of the house, whose strong preference for meals with meat is particularly remarkable.
“You need to make sure that you have meat all the time. She will not eat the food without meat, although she knows that the money is scarce,” Rista fondly says.
Rista continues: “She is cheerful, loving, dramatic and stubborn. You cannot talk about my grandmother without attributing her to some of these terms.”
The dynamics in the household are punctuated by Magdalena’s spiritedness, sometimes leading to comical clashes. She is very stubborn and her stubbornness made her break her leg, said Rista.
She humorously recounts an incident when Magdalena, while attempting to assert her independence, fell and broke her leg after a disagreement.
“She was allegedly put on a bucket by Johannes to answer the call of nature just for her to start an argument and pushed her husband away. She claimed she would do everything on her own but, she fell and broke her leg instead,” said Rista.
From an observer’s vantage point, a picture of unity, warmth, and love is visible in the elderly couple’s home. The couple who was seated in their bedroom for the interview showered praises on Rista for her commitment and love.
“We are deeply grateful for Rista’s presence in our lives. Not only does she manage our social grants, but she also initiated a life insurance policy for us. She takes care of all our needs, including medications and other essentials. Despite her dedication, she faces undue criticism that holds no merit. We are genuinely thankful for her,” said Johannes, his voice resonating with heartfelt gratitude.
Johannes, who has been blind for 20 years, shared his journey and the challenges that emerged when his wife, Magdalena also lost her sight five years ago.
“After my wife became blind, we faced new challenges. Our only daughter, who had been our caretaker, passed away. It was then that we were blessed with the arrival of our kind-hearted granddaughter, Rista who was staying with her husband and had to surrender her home to come to stay with us,” said Johannes.
According to Johannes, despite her wife’s stubborn nature, Rista manages her with patience and understanding, something he praises Rista for.
Despite challenges, Rista is unwavering in her commitment, love, and dedication to her grandparents.
At one point, she considered moving them to an old-age home due to financial constraints, but the high costs and the deepening bond she shares with them changed her mind.
With the challenges of illness, such as Johannes high blood pressure and lung issues, and Rista’s unemployment, life is not without obstacles. One particularly daunting challenge is the security of their home.
“The biggest challenge we face is the security of our home. When I leave to look for employment, there is a constant fear of theft. People who criticise me for not working often take advantage of my absence to steal from our house,” said Rista.
Despite the challenges, she is resolute in her dedication. She navigates these challenges with the determination to provide for her grandparents.
During times when she requires to collect medication to care for them, the need to ensure her grandparents’ safety and well-being forces her to make arrangements for her sister to stay home.
“Respecting and caring for our elders has given me insights into the deeper meaning of life. When we prioritise their needs and well-being, our perspective on life shifts. It is a responsibility that transforms us and our understanding of existence,” said Rista on the importance of compassion and intergenerational connection.