Thursday, 2 May 2019

Oupa Willem's Memorial

Oupa Willem's Memorial
2 May 2019

On the 1st of July 2018, my beloved and very quirky Oupa Willem went to a special farm (up in the sky).  I was privileged and fortunate enough to do a eulogy for him at the beautiful old little stone church in Tulbagh.  A national monument.  Just 6 months later, Oupa Helene went to join Oupa Willem at the farm.  And once again, I got to honour a much beloved grandparent.  I thought I'd like to share the eulogy I wrote for both of them.

This one is for you Oupa!

Oupa Willem

Growing up, most of my friends had conventional grandfathers.  ‘n Oupa wat ‘n koerant lees.  ‘n Oupa wat op die stoep sit.  ‘n Oupa wat oud en passief is.  Maar my Oupa?  Well, he worked in a dynamite factory.  And that pretty much sums things up.  He was many things, conventional was NOT one of them.  And I am exceptionally grateful for that distinction.

Willem Adriaan Lombard was unique.  A unique person.  A unique husband.  A unique father.  A unique friend.  And most definitely a unique grandfather.  And for that, all of his grandchildren thank their lucky stars.

As the eldest grandchild, I have the longest stretch of memory of him, and as such I remember him from his middle 40’s.  Pretty much the same age I am now.  Not many people can say that about their grandfather.  Over the years he got a bit slower, a bit shorter, but not much else changed.

The wacky remained.  The quirky remained.  And the creative out-of-the-box thinker remained.

I have been flooded with memories of Oupa, throughout the years.  From being little and visiting them in Pinetown.  From horsey rides on his back, to helping me with school projects.  From surreptitiously slipping some money into my hand at Kleinbaai to buy Ouma some chocolates, to seeing him continually sitting behind his computer.  From his ridiculous and abnormal love for printing (there are entire blank stretches of Brazilian forest thanks to him), to standing in the kitchen at Kleinbaai, in his night shirt, making the "Miesies" some morning tea.  From always fixing something, somewhere.  From the radios and microwaves, to the ovens and washing machines.  And irrespective of what he fixed, there were always spare parts left behind.  Parts that had formerly been part of said item, now deemed surplus to requirements.  From always being busy and having a project or hobby, to continually renovating, painting or building.  From quietly sitting and watching TV with Ouma and simply holding her hand, to tenderly kissing her.  From his ridiculous love for check shirts, to his old school insistence on always dressing up for special occasions in his UCT blazer, wearing his standard badge.  A real gentlemen.  From the sound of him cleaning his pipe, to tobacco everywhere.  The way he nearly always burnt his fingers with matches every single time he lit his pipe, to the homely synonymous-with-Oupa smell of his pipe.  From his daily obsession with reading the newspapers, to his deep and abiding love of classical music.  From his ability to play any instrument at the drop of a hat, even the fool.  To seeing him playing the piano and serenading Ouma with songs from their youth, or simply singing along to Ouma, whilst she’s playing.

Oupa Willem, with Ouma Helene at his side, played a seminal and defining role in my life.  Helping to shape the person I am today.  And I think this can confidently be said for all of Oupa’s grandchildren.  Oupa and Ouma formed a solid home base for us, albeit at their beloved Cloetenberg or Kleinbaai.  Ever consistent.  Never changing.  Always dependable.  Simply rock solid and there.  Deeply loving.  Always welcoming, embracing, and happy to see each and every one of us.  Involved in our lives, knowing our people, interested in our interests and hobbies, caring in every single way.

I have learnt some exceptionally valuable lessons from Oupa Willem.  Lessons that will continue to shape and define me.  The value of passion for life.  The importance of hard work.  That dedication pays off.  That one can have long term visions and short term goals.  Oupa never stopped planting trees, even though he would not see them grow tall.  That it was important to keep up to date with current affairs.  That little people should not be daunted by big projects and mammoth, seemingly impossible tasks.  That if you believed you could do something, and you put in the hard work and effort, you would succeed and learn in the process.  Possibly adapting your plans along the way.  That problem solving involved lateral thinking and often lead to unusual and unexpected, yet rewarding outcomes.  That you were never too old to learn.  That reading kept your mind active.  That it was of the utmost importance to do things with every fibre of your being.  To be joyful.  That research was a very good thing.  That what kept you young, was keeping abreast with changing technology and of not being fearful of the future and change.  That it was okay to be different.  That eccentricity was a wonderful quality.  That you could have your own opinion.  That you could go against the grain.  That you could rock the boat.  That it was essential in life to have hobbies – most especially interesting, unusual and challenging hobbies.  The deep satisfaction gained from swearing in Afrikaans.  The deep appreciation for swearing in Afrikaans.  And the inventive use of swear words in Afrikaans.  But most importantly of all, he taught me about love.  About marriage.  About acceptance.  And about family.  And that family, is everything.

There are some things I’ll miss more than others.  His love for sport and how excited he got when he watched it.  His sense of humour and propensity for naughtiness, laughing, teasing and joking.  The fact that he almost never wore shoes.  His ¾ pants in summer, his check shirts in winter, and his standard black bowtie and UCT Blazer for special occasions.  His adoration of his dogs.  

Popping in at Cloetenberg in the mornings after doing the school run, ringing the front door bell, and a small, scrawny barefooted Oupa, wearing his night shirt, with his skinny little legs sticking out, surrounded by dogs at his heels, scratching his red wild bedhead hair, smiling at me and saying, “Jis Bok!” 

Always a big hug, kiss and a smile, using his silly dog voice and pretending his dogs are greeting me.  Following him back to the bedroom, and sitting on the edge of the bed with him and Ouma.  The morning newspaper strewn across the bed, interesting and extremely intellectual books on the bedside tables, mugs of tea, bits of tobacco, a pipe and box of matches lying to one side, a dog chewed hearing aid amidst it all, and always a jar of peanut butter, with a spoon sticking out, for midnight snacks. 

Ons mis al klaar vir Oupa.  Ons gaan baie verlang.  Maar ons gun vir Oupa die rus.  Ek hoop Oupa kan elke dag rustig die koerant lees.  Dat Oupa, Buddy en Bonnie lekker tyd saam kan spandeer.  Dat daar baie tabak is en dat die Springbokke beter speel.  Ek belowe, ons sal gereeld vir Ouma tjoklits koop.  En ek hoop van harte, dat iemand tog net f*kken Afrikaans kan praat.

Ons is baie lief vir Oupa.

Oupa and Ouma looking ever so dashing for Daya's (Rob's) hippie themed 60th birthday party

Oupa and Ouma at Willem and Charmaine's. Oupa sporting his signature sartorial elegance, wearing his UCT Blazer, a check shirt, and of course, his badge. Praat Afrikaans of F*k Of!

Dressed up for a Xmas celebration at the old age home. Ouma wearing an old Father Xmas around her neck. Oupa wearing his signature blazer, bowtie and standard badge. Praat Afrikaans of F*k Of! He certainly meant it!

Oupa and Ouma visiting me. Absolutely LOVE Oupa's shirt! "Never underestimate an old man who is also a chemical engineer". #truestory

Inside the beautiful old stone church. Absolutely magnificent and a very fitting setting for a grand send-off. Willem at the helm.

Vark blomme, an old yellow wood table, a stone floor, a special pic, a grandfather clock, and the Oupa Willem bust. Perfection!

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