Older friends and times gone by
We recently got news of the death of a (relatively) close friend, I put ‘relatively’ in brackets because due to no fault of anyone, communication has been few and far between during the last few years as life has a way of getting in the way. Not really an excuse but God’s truth although I am happy to say we had some contact in the months before her passing on which gives me slight comfort.
Nevertheless, when we found out our beloved ‘Aunty’ L has passed our household had an involuntary period of stunned silence and sadness as we took in the news. It wasn’t Covid related thank heavens, it seems she was just tired and passed in her sleep due to heart failure, which sad as it is perhaps the best way to go?
This being the first person we’ve ‘lost’ in recent years that the kids knew and loved like the honorary granny she was in our house when we lived in Kwazulu-Natal all those years back. I met this feisty Irish woman at the local SPCA where she was a firebrand for the plight of all animals, fighting the system and helping where she can with every inch of energy she could muster. She tackled everything in life with such zest that I was in awe and often happy I had her as a friend and not as foe.
We quickly became fast friends and the kids took to her like a duck to water. She was their Auntie L, although she was not blood-related, she filled a gap which was left due to the fact that we have moved all over SA during their childhood and their real grannies most often lived hours away. We visited when we could but school-terms, short holidays and long distances made it hard. We were blessed because Auntie L filled the gap. Not only did she often treat us with flapjack Sundays at her house, I could listen for hours to her tales of her youth and how she married a ‘sailor’ named Jack whom we also met in due course. Him telling us about their wedding in Ireland with a wink and a nod, “there were only nurses and sailors in attendance” so you can only imagine the shenanigans. They were long divorced but she still cared for him and he for her. I also spent many an afternoon recovering passwords and stuffs on her computer after she’s gone and bugged it up. She always called me her own private techie.
Reminiscing about L and the special friendship we shared I was telling a friend about her on the weekend, mentioning that L was not the only ‘older generation’ stranger we’ve collected and befriended over the years. It seems it has become our defining trademark after years of moving from place to place and to be honest something that I have picked up during my own childhood because I have a special place in my heart for older people and would more often than not prefer their company to others even when I was a child. This quirk has definitely cultivated love and respect in our children for the elderly. An empathy and patience which they might otherwise not have learned.
Thinking back I think oom W and tannie F in Langebaan was perhaps our first’ older generation’ friendship we made with the kids in tow. I recall many a afternoon spent on their veranda with a beautifully prepared tray of drinks and eats by this gorgeous Dutch lady. Tea was always served in a teapot and with cups and saucers. Never a visit went by that there weren’t a sweet Dutch treat to enjoy with tea. Oom W would show the X-man where he could play in the garden and point out different birds and plants. He also often shared his stamp collection with us which had the children in awe. Books were freely shared and talk abounded, about anything and everything. Tannie F still cleaned her own house and Oom W did his own upkeep and beautiful garden although at that time I am recall they were well in their 70’s already. I even recall a movie night at our house with a supper I cooked and a rhubarb pie, which was a first for me. The movie in question was the animation ‘CARS’ which my son insisted on them watching it with us. What a wonderful memories and what laughs we shared. Sadly I haven’t seen or spoken to them in years having lost contact due to our numerous moves across SA.
Whilst in Richards Bay we also met J and wife D. For a short while I ran a small coffee shop at the local SPCA and they sort of became weekly regulars for some quiche and some of my somewhat famous mayonnaise chocolate cake. It didn’t take long for me to wriggle out an invitation for coffee and ‘biccies’ at their house as the kids used to love meeting up with them right from the word go. Di was already ill when we met them but never ever shied away from having a visit with us whenever we could fit it in. I was often moved to tears to see how beautifully J took care of her, ALWAYS ensuring her comfort and needs were met first. I enjoyed visiting with them as conversations were always challenging and interesting despite J calling me a ditsy blonde, something I never could deny. They were both awesome company and I loved the wit and jokes we shared. How I miss those days. The wisdom and advice, the carefully worded thoughts and sentiments and more often than not some sarky humor which had us spluttering at times we were laughing so hard. Something I’ll always cherish. Sadly D has passed away in the interim but I still share sporadic emails with J from time to time.
Not to be left of the list, Mrs M at school and J outside of school. My ex-principal that was also incidentally our neighbor in Mtunzini. I remember asking if I could shadow at the school and her slight reticent attitude as the previous intern for the GR R class came dressed in short dresses and high heels and didn’t want to get her hands dirty. I begged her for a chance and she gave in. I eventually stayed two and a half years after J had so much confidence in me she had me teaching Afrikaans to the mostly Indian and Zulu pupils we had back then. I would forever be known as ‘Mevrou de Kock’ to these students and parents. I was tickled pink but sort of crapping myself because I’ve never done this before. However, J always had my back, supporting, guiding and being an amazing mentor. She was one of the strictest yet one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I recall many a morning when I was driving the school bus to school and her in the passenger seat praying silently for guidance for the day ahead, for her school, teachers and pupils. She’s truly one of my favorite ‘bosses’ ever. When I left head back to the Western Cape at the end of 2012 I cried my eyes out at having to leave her and the other staff behind. Between her and T whom I worked with closely at school I couldn’t have asked for better teachers in life. I’ve learned some valuable things from them.
When we moved back to Cape Town we eventually ended up in Melkbos area in 2014 being fortunate in finding a rental through a friend that was moving we met T. Our landlady for the next four years, my almost other mother, good friend and confidante all rolled into one. As she lived in the flatlet on the property it was sort of hard not to become close,wink-wink, and I have to say the poor woman tried her hardest to not overstep her landlady boundaries and give us our privacy but she didn’t see me coming. 🙂 It didn’t take long before daily coffees and catch-ups were more common than not. We took over the house and property as if we’ve lived there forever and gardened, painted and more with her blessings and sometimes even her help even if it was only moral support whilst I was wielding a spade and carting around heavy objects. She would look after the kids so I could have time with hubby, take care of our pets when we went on holiday. I would send food over most nights and cakes and sweets whenever we baked. We laughed, we cried, we carried each other through plenty of good times and bad during those four years and even though we are now 1000’s of miles apart we still check in regularly and make time to chat and listen. She still helps when I run into a crisis and if it is something she can assist with. No words can ever say thank you enough.
However she was not my only older friend and yet another almost mother, yes, I seemed to gather them wherever I go. 😉 Tannie A took a chance on the recommendation of yet another good friend and offered me a job in her preschool as a teacher (I did send my CV!). She appointed me in 2013 and I stayed until end of 2017, having handed in my resignation knowing that life was pushing us in the direction of relocating to Mauritius in the near future which did come to play end of 2018. Once again I cried my eyes out when I resigned as not only did I make a good friend but someone who was always there for me during school hours and after throughout many ups and downs and intings and outings…..an inside joke sorry. 😉 We still communicate daily and share many fits and giggles and so many precious memories. Being a public figure I won’t embarrass her by sharing them. 😉 Just know that she’s been a significant elder in my life.
Having landed in Mauritius I must admit I am at it again. Older women just makes such good mentors and support figures as they are not full of shit and they call a spade a spade. Thank you V for seeking me out for that first solo coffee and the hours of chatting that has followed not to mention lovely lunches and spoils of jars of home-made chutney to enjoy!
By singling out these ‘older’ friends I am hoping to pay tribute in the roles they’ve played in our lives, mine and the kids alike. It’s not implying that my own parents and in-law’s roles are diminished or unimportant. It just means that we are blessed to have some extra angels in our lives that offer (sometimes) much-needed support, advice, an ear to listen, some good and proper old fashion morals and ethos and some great inside jokes.
By calling them ‘elderly’ or ‘older generation’ I am also not wanting to offend but as being brought up in an Afrikaans household I was raised to call any one 10 years and older tannie or oom which is auntie or uncle which in later years became quite unacceptable to some whom felt offended by the term. As I got older I fully understood why although for an Afrikaans raised girl it was very hard to be on first name terms with older people and it took me a very long time to get used to so understand I use these terms with the utmost of respect and love. Generation gaps exists and is sometimes seen as hard to cross but trust me once you do you will find so much it will be worth the effort!
There is so much more I would love to write about each and every one of these people but I am afraid I might bore you, perhaps I’ve already done so. 🙂 I truly hope not. I hope you have enjoyed my stint down memory lane as much as I have and if you have any special people in your life let them know.