What I will always remember about my parents…

They fathomed out the burden of their differences, to keep that sheath of protection hovering over our lives.

For many children, it is not until our parents are older that we really obtain a sense of them. For some that moment comes late in life, when we can listen to our parents telling their life stories to their grandchildren.

For others it comes much earlier, that early travelogue between birth, holding on and letting go - that time when we build a bond between child and parent.

My time with my parents was interrupted by two years in boarding school and several studying abroad. But in those early years, I got to know and love the exemplary ways they related to each other.

I can't remember a single day when they argued in our presence. As an adult I now know that differences often arise between parents. I now know that being parents doesn't erase experiences that shape our perspectives on life. And those experiences sometimes engender sharp differences.

But I also know, from the experiences of my parents, that children do not need to see or endure the abrasive side of those differences. My parents never made their differences apparent to us as children. They knew it would break our little hearts. They sacrificed their hearts, to protect ours.

They fathomed out the burden of their differences, to keep that sheath of protection hovering over our lives.

My parents were most kind that way.

I could find no one with a bad word to say about my parents. Their abiding family love was extraordinary. They gave everything to embrace the family, extended and immediate. They opened their house and heart to all, bringing under their care brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts alike.

Most important they celebrated us together. Whether it was coming to my school events or travelling to our rural home, my parents were always at one with each other.

One Christmas holiday, they decided to take us to our rural home. I looked forward to these times. Because there I would get to see my friends and enjoy fresh food from the farm.

But it was the ride that I enjoyed most. As usual, we would start of just before dusk, when mom and dad were done with their city chores.

On that day, dad jumped into the back of his old Land Rover, allowing mom and brother to sit in front.

He loved his woman that way, but also didn't want his children alone in the back of the truck. There was something so relaxing about having an adult in the back with us. It made cruising the country back roads in a single cab truck, that much more exciting.

And soon we were throttling along the dusty roads. The sun settled in the comfort of its own journey, leaving pitch black night around us.

I could see the dust rising up in the glow of the tail lights, as the Land Rover took us further from the lights of the city into the darkness of rural Zimbabwe.

We must have been some ten miles from home when disaster struck. The left back wheel popped! My brother brought the car to a gentle stop. We were still deep in forested land, and nowhere near humanity.

A puncture is nothing to worry about. Normally. But as I was to learn, we had no spare wheel. My dad had forgotten to put one in the car.

So here we were, in the middle of nowhere. In the night. In thick bush amongst dangerous wildlife who would have us for dinner anytime.

Such negligence would have been enough to trigger a war between parents.

Now I look back at that incident, I'm amazed at how calmly my parents quickly packed us in the front of the car and bundled themselves in the back.

That was to be our home for the night until dawn when a Good Samaritan drove by and offered my dad a lift to the next garage where his tire was fixed. For me it added to the experiences of the holiday, one more legend to tell friends at school. For them it was yet another chance to protect us.

I wish my my parents had lived long enough for me to give them a part of me that they never got to see and experience: their grandchildren, their legacy.

Although they left this life early, my parents left a deeply engrained gift death will never ravage: the memory of their character and the love and care of family and friends.