A couple of weeks ago Margaret recited a rhyme to me. It was something that her aunt had written in her autograph book when she was a 10 year old little girl.
ALWAYS PADDLE YOUR OWN CANOE
Most of you here have a far longer history and have far more stories to relate about Margaret than I do. Margaret first came into my life about 7 or 8 years ago. She used to collect Michael’s mother Helen’s post for her while she was overseas. She took her job very seriously and Michael used to collect the post every couple of weeks, depending on the urgency. My first encounter was a telephone call – very to the point and businesslike telling me that she had told Michael about this letter from the bank 10 days ago and that he had still not collected from her. Please could he collect it on Saturday morning between 10 and 11 – she would be waiting!!!
At the Rathfelder we would visit her from time to time but it was only after her move to Trianon that she became a part of our lives. She was extremely stressed and worried about certain items of furniture that were left at the Rathfelder and I took her there a couple of times to help her sort through some of her belongings that were left behind. There were strict instructions about who was collecting what and there must have been 100’s of phone calls between Margaret, Judy at reception and myself. Eventually it was all sorted out and by this time Margaret had wormed her way into my heart. She was really lost and alone.
It was very difficult for her to move on and accept her circumstances. Thank goodness she had so many wonderful memories about her life in Bergvliet and although I have not met many of you I know so much about her “faithful Bergvliet friends”. To make things clearer in my mind early last year I took Margaret on a trip back to her old
neighbourhood. We rang Colleen’s bell next door to say hello, she showed me where Audrey and Mike lived and the Hitchens and Hadwins – although she enjoyed it while we did the tour when we got back she did complain – about the high wall around Vic’s beautiful garden and about the new development at the bottom of the road and how things were not the same. She loved showing me the cut out from the newspaper of their wonderful home and garden
Recently Michael and I took her around Rondebosch. I also lived in Jamieson Road and she wanted to point out where she had lived to me.
Her brother Gavin was her hero and we have all heard stories of his explorations. His son Guy and her nephew had died too young and his wife Margie and 3 children Sam, Tom and Rob were her only family. I heard so much of Margie in Port Elizabeth and when we eventually met about 18 months ago we connected immediately as we already knew so much about each other. This gladdened and saddened Margaret. She was so proud that she had brought the two of us together but would get jealous and cross if we had conversations that did not include her or go through her. She would often say “Well you and Margie have really hit it off, I suppose you will stay friends even when I am gone?” I was never sure of how she wanted me to reply to that question but yes Margaret we will always be friends and thank you for bringing us together.
Margie you were amazing to her. The telephone was her lifeline and I heard so many stories and details of all you did to support her. I have only just met Tom but I knew that he was handsome and hunky and that all the nurses at Trianon still talk about him and he only met them once. I know about how well Rob is doing in his job, that he had a recent business trip to Johannesburg and I even have a picture in my mind about what the offices in Sandton look like – escalators, trees – she took everything in. I know about Sam in Johannesburg and her new baby and I also know that Tom pronounces Lamont incorrectly!!
After many lessons and corrections I am still not sure whether it is LAMOND or LEMONT. Just as I got rapped over the knuckles whenever I asked her how she was. It was very difficult to get out of the habit of when she called to not say “Hello Margaret, How are you?” She would either give me a tongue lashing or just ignore the question. I eventually learned and used to start every conversation with her as “Hello Margaret and what are you up to today?” That also eventually irritated her immensely but not nearly as much as whenever I said “It’s a pleasure” or “No problem”
I am so pleased that she agreed to come to church with us on Christmas morning. She enjoyed the singing and the carols but on leaving the church told Michael that she now knew why Helen did not enjoy that particular minister “His diction is terrible and he drops his voice – No wonder she cannot hear him”.
The daily phone calls, weekly shopping and visits became a part of my life. I enjoyed spending time with her but was often in trouble for arriving at the wrong time – either when supper was being served or her favourite programme was on FMR.
Fine Music Radio was her best friend. She was paranoid about the two ancient transistor radios that were next to her chair. We bought her a new one for her birthday last year but she did not like the buttons and it was still in the box in her cupboard. Michael was forever having to check on the batteries and we had to make sure that there was a constant supply. Last year when she went into hospital for a blood transfusion after a bad nosebleed I wrote to Nic Ciro (her favourite announcer) to tell him that she was not well and to put in a request for her. Mendlesohns Fingals Cave was her favourite piece of music. She received quite a few emails back from the station manager and announcers sending get well wishes. She was pleased about the fuss but at the same time cross questioned me about exactly what I had said in the email to Nic Ciro because she did not want him to think that she was “chasing after him”. Once she was home he did dedicate Fingals Cave to her and told her to Get Well Soon. She told me how she sat listening to it with tears rolling down her eyes. She did not cry often.
She had told me stories of how she had visited Fingals Cave. She loved to talk about Scotland and told me about the handsome soldier she fell in love with, got engaged to and who died during the war. She kept in touch with his family and later went to visit them.
She loved the theatre and always reminded Caroline of how much she enjoyed the time that she had taken Margaret and Helen to see the Nutcracker. This last Christmas she treated Michael, Caroline and I to an outing to see Phantom of the Opera. The show was “a bit too loud for her” and it was not as wonderful as she remembered. However having a look through the window into the FMR studio made up for the long walk to her seat and the loudness of the production. She smiled broadly and waved to Elizabeth Triegaardt who was broadcasting at the time.
She had another friend in the UK Norman Cathie – he is now 94 and wrote to Margaret from time to time. I noted that he had an email address and started corresponding with him. He sent her some lovely mails but she could be quite dismissive of his news and did not really want me to write to him in case I told him too much? I sent him an email telling him about her death and this was his reply to me:-
Hello Jenny -- I was so sorry to receive your news of Margaret although I could tell that it would not be long before old age took over. (RICH COMING FROM A 94 YEAR OLD) As you know I had known her since 1942 when she was entertaining us lads off the ships before going into the desert. She was quite a girl and I remember having to watch my step as I had just been married.She came and stayed with my wife and myself in 1950.
I am having troubles with my computer at the moment so must be brief but I wll write again when problems are sorted out.
Thank you for keeping in touch.
KIND REGARDS NORMAN.
Margaret loved the fact that we both grew up in Rondebosch, that my boys went to Rondebosch where her brother and nephew had gone and my niece to her old school Rustenburg. She loved the fact that my youngest son Matthew was playing rugby in Kimberley, where she was born – she needed to ask him what road he lived in and did he know Synagogue Street where she lived. She was one of Matthew’s greatest fans and often knew if he was in the team before I did. She made it her job to listen for the scores and would phone me saying “Nice win for Griquas yesterday – 28-13”. She loved the fact that my mother knew Audrey and Colleen and she was trying very hard to find a date to take Audrey and I out to lunch.
It is wonderful to see so many people here. Margaret will be shocked. While packing up her room I had a laugh with the one sister as we were looking for her list of who she wanted at her funeral and who she did not want. She used to tell the nurses who was on the list and who was not. There is no tea today because she was adamant – NO TEA and no talking about me and what a wonderful person I was. We did not find the list but Margie and I had a good laugh on the phone because we were wondering that if I found the list whether our names would maybe on the NOT WANTED list – on certain days, it could have been quite possible.
So whether we were her “FAITHFUL FRIENDS” or who she called her “FAIRWEATHER FRIENDS” to Margaret we are all here because we cared for her. She was sharp and spunky and was great company. Often on a Sunday while I got lunch ready I would hear Michael Helen and Margaret singing together. Helen and Margaret would sit on the couch holding hands and for the most part, if she was not telling Helen that she had “selective hearing” she was caring and kind to Helen.
Michael favourite memory of her was if you arrived unexpectedly to visit her. She would stand up from her chair and her whole face would light up and she would give you the sweetest smile you could ever imagine.
On going back to the message from her aunt:-
ALWAYS PADDLE YOUR OWN CANOE
I wonder if that was good advice to a 10 year old Margaret. She sure took that advice to heart. Had she trusted people more and accepted help, and not been so fiercely independent and private her life would have been less stressful and happier, especially the latter years.
REST IN PEACE MARGARET. You were special and unique and will not be easy to forget.