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Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Motherly matters

Now that my father is gone, not in thought but in touching, smelling and in the hearing of his voice, I suddenly have a mother again.

The last ten years of his life was progressively one of greater and greater consideration and care-taking on her part as he slowly, and quite unconsciously began to claim her in a way that was new and often a great frustration. For the greater part she is someone that has come and gone freely in her life. My children could never understand that their grandmother had a more active social-life than them combined. You were always welcome to pop by, day and night but the chances of getting her were scarce, an appointment, days, even weeks ahead was the way to do it.

As he began to lose strength and his life spirit waned, piece by piece, she found herself in foreign roles and situations, the most difficult being metaphorical miles away from the just turned twenty-one year old wife with a worldly wise husband to recently becoming my father’s, mother and matron, protector and patron. A reversal of roles of some sorts that she preformed with grace but there was denial on her part, always hoping and speaking of him in the old paradigm – she could never accept that this larger-than-life man could and would never be able to be the man she married.

The last two to three years of his life, saw her having to withdraw too, as he required more and more of her time, as his dependency on her increased and it was touching to see and yet heartbreaking too. Most of her energy was directed around and for his well-being and in this process I believe she neglected herself as his health received precedence over hers, simply because his was always life-threatening and hers were simply niggles.

Now, almost ten months after his death it is as though a Pandora’s box has been opened on all those niggles, all of a sudden my mother has a series of serious conditions that need to be seen to and I her daughter can actually focus on her, see her as an individual and not as an extension of my father’s life and dramas.

Suddenly my mother is mobile and available and game for things and I find us spending time together as we have not done in probably ten years or more and that is marvelous and lovely as she at seventy-five is as playful and energetic as she was when I was a smallie. I realize that caretaking is the most under-rated task there is, hardly appreciated by others, it can sap your strength to such a degree that there isn’t much of you left either at the end of the day and not much sympathy either as I used to spend my time trying to convince her that my father was now as a child and not her life-long companion.

My hope for her is that despite her great sense of loss, she tells me the death of my father is like an amputation of a limb (after 54 years of marriage) that she will have me-time again, that she will find herself again, not so much in relation to the needs of others but what gives her life meaning and fulfillment, what makes her tick really and that she can live this out without guilt or having to rush home but that she can indulge herself in a myriad of interests that she does have – she deserves this.

I must confess however, there is but no one like your mother to faff and fuss around you, even as I hit the half-century mark and have a children of my own. I am enjoying being on the receiving side of that caring that comes as second nature to her.(motherly habits die hard.)

This past weekend in Prince Albert, I would walk into the kitchen, all bleary eyed and lazy to find that she had been up from five am, walked an hour and a half out of town and back and that she had squeezed orange juice for me on an old-fashioned hand nommertjie and made a bowl of fresh fruit salad, all beautifully presented on a tray, with an embroidered lappie, so that I could eat, her knowing my lack of appetite. She encouraged me to siesta all afternoon long, to drink wine with her and to laugh, a lot, all the time in fact, a gift that both my parents gave to us, their children in abundance, always to see the up-side of things, always to see the humour in any situation.

We can also speak about my dad (I find it hard to do with others) and we both can shed tears and it’s okay.

Mother and daughter, yes, but firstly friends.
Thanks, Mama.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    November 30th, 2009 @11:37 #

    Thanks, Ingrid... also finding time with parents both more precious and complex as the years pass.


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