Nelson Mandela, Family Man: Daughter, Grandchildren Describe Private Struggles

"I expected to hug my dad and everything else," Makaziwe said. "I couldn't. It was a glass window, we kissed on the glass on the window, we spoke through a telephone."

While Mandela was in prison, Stengel said he tried to show love the only way he could, by writing letters. Makaziwe remembered receiving letters from her father.

"He made a tremendous effort to communicate with his children through the letters," she said. "Every birthday you would get a letter from dad, or you would get a card, a beautiful card. ... Every card would say, 'I love you.'"

Years passed, and Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, but once again faced a battle to take on his role as a leader in South Africa and the world, becoming the country's first black president, while dealing with his private life. His marriage to Winnie didn't survive the aftermath.

"The world naturally wanted these two bigger-than-life people to come together when he came out of prison, and to live happily ever after," David Turnley said. "I think it was probably in real terms a very hard thing to ask."

Though they divorced, Mandela was able to forge a family life. But connecting with his three children, as well as his 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, remained a challenge. Tukwini Mandela and Kweku Mandela Amuah, two of Mandela's grandchildren, recalled what it was like to interact with their grandfather.

"When he first came out of prison we thought that we would have a piece of our grandfather, but it didn't happen that way," Tukwini said. "I remember coming home once after my visit with my grandfather, and saying, 'Mom, you know, sometimes talking to granddaddy is really difficult,' and my mom said, 'Tukwini, you have to understand that your grandfather has been in prison for 27 years. He's learning to reconnect.'"

Kweku recalled meeting his grandfather for the first time when he was just 4 years old.

"Being a grandfather was foreign to him, being a nice person was not," he said. "Meeting each one of his grandchildren was like building a new friendship with a stranger essentially."

His grandchildren recalled Mandela as an engaging storyteller. Tukwini said her grandfather "liked to gossip."

"My cousins and I found that the secret to engaging with my grandfather was to get him to tell you stories about when he was younger, to get him to tell you stories about his father, because he's a very good mimicker," Tukwini said.

The Mandela family said though Mandela spent much of his life in the spotlight, he often deflected attention to others. A simple pleasure Mandela enjoyed during those precious days at home, they said, was reading alone in peace.

"Sometimes you go and see him ... and he's reading his newspapers," Tukwini said. "He lets his newspapers down, 'How are you, darling? How's school? How's work? How's everything? Great, great.' Newspapers up. You know you've been dismissed."

Those closest to Mandela said he had a great sense of humor, and that is a big part of the life lesson Kweku said he took from his grandfather.

"He's taught me that you have to be tolerant and ... I think the main thing is to smile," he said.

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