I naively thought that he would live forever so it came as a huge shock when my sister phoned me to tell me my Dad had died.
One of my earliest memories of him was when I was about 5 years old, running up the road screaming and crying when my Dad was driving up the road to work. This was a common occurrence apparently and one of my brothers or sisters took turns to fetch me and bring me home again.
Another memory was driving the long (mostly dirt) road to either my Grandmother’s farm or to my Uncle and Aunt where we stayed during school holidays. He used to switch the engine of the car off on every downhill and freewheel down to save petrol. Every trip also involved a stop at the Babanango Hotel for a quick beer with the landlord Stan Winston, we didn’t mind too much as we were kept quiet with a packet of crisps and a bottle of coke.
He was a wonderful story teller with a great sense of humour and loved to tell us tales of his adventures with his brother Ossie most of them involving cars, and tales of people he met in various pubs, Mtunzini Pub being a favourite. He was a humble man with a big heart who would give away his last penny to those who were worse off then him, he also trusted people far too easily and was often taken advantage of.
My Dad was a very social person who loved drinking beer with his friends and I remember him having a shot of jagermeister with his breakfast occasionally on a Sunday, (that was more than 30 years ago, before it became the trendy drink that it is now.) He loved Opera’s, Pavarotti and Neil Diamond and every Sunday he used to play their records loudly. My Dad had a great tenor voice and I remember him playing the role of Jesus one year, and the role of one of the wise men another year, at the ‘Forest Noel’ annual naivety play in Eshowe.
He loved cars and watching Formula 1.He also enjoyed watching cricket and rugby and supported the Sharks rugby team, even though they weren’t playing so well this year, he proudly wore his sharks fleece and cap. My Dad loved wearing hats and was never seen without one in the later years of his life.
He had a hard life with losing my mother to cancer with 6 young children to raise. With the help of my sister Von (who was 12 at the time), and my aunt Ingelore and uncle Ossie who we spent every day with after school, he did a great job in raising us. Although he never attended any of our school concerts or sporting events, wasn’t there to see my oldest brother and two oldest sister become Dux of the school and Head Boy and Head Girl respectively, he was the first person to phone up everyone he knew to let them know of their achievements, he was so proud of all his children. Another tragedy which my Dad had to live through was losing my brother, his oldest child, in a car accident when my brother was 21 years old.
He sadly was left a quadriplegic from a car accident 20 odd years ago, but he never ever complained, wasn’t bitter with the tragic loss and changes in his life and never felt sorry for himself, he remained positive and carried on with his life. He never wanted to feel like a burden to anyone and never complained when he wasn’t feeling well.
I never realised that his family in the end were his life, he was so proud of all of us. Although none of us lived close by he lived from one phone call to another, (The weekly phone call on Friday at 1pm sharp, from his brother Ossie was a highlight of his week) we tried to visit him as much as we could, every visit from one of us meant the world to him and an excuse to have a beer.
My Dad was a legend, a great father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, father-in-law, uncle and friend to so many. He is going to leave a big hole in my life.