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The Weekend

The weekend is grating, like fingernails on a blackboard. We somehow nd conversations hard, so we went for drives. There are only so many routes in Witsand, the small seaside village where my parents lived, and where now my Mother lives alone. This was one of their favourite pastimes, going for drives. With Sally the dog. My Mom loves the drive to go through the “Ooskamp”, the so-called “coloured” caravan park that now has been turned into a little neighbourhood of small houses, built one on top of the other. Every time we drive past the last house on the left, she says “Apparently this is the most beautiful house in the camp”. My Dad once went inside the house and told her that. And she points out Johnny Gans’ house. It is called Gansnes (goose nest). He died suddenly from a heart attack a few years ago. We go for tea at Jana’s shop, and supper at Anchorage on the beach. And another drive, this time to Oysterbeds. She comments on all the fishing boats out on the river, the trailers waiting on their return. Saturday is wind still, very rare for Witsand. We sit and watch people walking their dogs on the dunes. Some visitors come bringing more muffins. I make tea. They talk about their arthritis.

The house feels shrouded in sadness. We laugh at the dogs playing and seeking attention. But underneath there is a layer of sadness. Over the conversation is another layer. She still talks about him in the present tense. How he loves saying at 17h30 “The bar is open!”

She wants us to take some of his clothes. I unpack all his clothes on the dining room table. I know every shirt, every jersey, every pair of shorts. His sleeping t-shirts and pants. There is nothing I want to take – more than half of it is mine that I passed on to him. I know she wants us to take something. I pack it all back in the cupboard and tell her to give it to needy people.

I fill out the Sanlam funeral claim form. His ID photo is so real, lying next to his death certi cate which is so unreal. We make more tea and eat muffins.

Sunday morning I get into bed with her with all the dogs. I tease Sally – she loves it and pretends to be vicious. “Jou Pa terg haar net so!” We go quiet again, drink our tea and look out the window at the dunes. I see how she struggles to nd conversation after that statement.

We have breakfast. I sit on his chair and say grace like he always did. More tea. We wash the dogs. Brush them. I know we need to start packing. “Is julle dan al op pad?” I help her up out of the chair, holding her hands. She looks deep into my eyes and says “Gaan julle my saamvat?” I cannot speak. We walk to the car holding hands. For 58 years my Dad always held her hand when they walked anywhere. Always opened the car door for her. She stands at the front door. I hug her – she is so fragile. I feel her shoulder bones sticking out when I hold her as tight as I can, knowing that she hurts so easily. I cannot say goodbye. So many times we drove away from home with Mom and Dad standing outside, waving. Now she stands alone. She cannot wave her hand above her head. I cannot look in the rearview mirror, I just wave as we turn the corner.

We travel back to Cape Town in silence. Stop for coffee in Riviersonderend. I phone her when we get home. “Ek mis julle al klaar” she says. My heart is shattered.

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