Dear friends and other interesting creatures,
My genes, my love, are rubber bands and rope –
make yourself a structure you can live inside.
– Aimee Bender
Growing up, my entire existence revolved around the blessing, forgiveness, joy or occasional disappointment my grandparents may have felt about me. Oupa Mike and Ouma Chrissie were the genes, love, rubber and rope that held the family together.
I only realised after Oupa Mike’s death in December 2007, that we had lost not only lost a grandfather, a father, a friend and talented, funny and gifted storyteller, a giant – but our moral compass – our rock as a family.
In the moments growing up when I briefly allowed myself to think about the death of these people I treasure, I imagined it would be Ouma Chrissie that was the “true North”. In my heart, I knew she would be devasted should Oupa die before her, but I had never grasped the true meaning of a broken heart… and that it would be fatal.
She died in all sense but breathing, the day he did. 56 years of happy marriage to her best friend was enough to bring her to her knees, literally. While she was present physically for another eighteen months or so, she really wasn’t there at all. She carried him in her heart and I believe he carried her.
I miss my grandparents more than words could describe. No wordsmith could do better than I, for silence is also a word.
I have been missing my Ouma Chrissie especially the past few days, but then, I realise that I’ve never truly seen her as an entity alone. In my mind, they are joined and therefore my missing is of the sense of wonder I felt when I was with them. To them I was never loud, I was never too much, or too little – I was just right. Always.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realise that life is fragile. Here today, and a tombstone tomorrow. I’ve been visiting my parents more often, not because I fear their death, but because I fear not living with them while they are here.
I want to hear my Dad speak to my Mom. I smile at their conversations when they think they are alone, and the way their words seem to console, tenderly embracing each other, desperately aware of time moving forward. I want to fill my heart with more memories.
Life is not kind. Life is not patient. Life does not forgive all wrongs.
I wish you enough,
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