18 years ago today my lovely Mom closed her earthly eyes for the last time. It’s incredibly hard for me to express the effect her passing had on me, but suffice to say it was devastating. We were very close. Call every day kind of close.
She was a beautiful woman, my Mom. In fact I had to put up with a lot of nonsense from my mates teasing me about how hot she was! Newspaper photographers were always putting her picture in the paper when she was younger. Before she met my Dad she used to model in those photo story books. I can’t recall the name of the main character, but she was in a few of them. Her half sister, Cynthia Oberholzer was a famous model who went on to work internationally, mingling with some of the world’s celebrities.
My Mom gave me an appreciation for good music. She loved music! There was always something playing on the stereo at home. Until I blew it up by trying to connect too many speakers to it and our family records sat idle for many years. I was very unpopular for that, but forgiven. Her tastes varied from jazz to light rock (she absolutely loved the song Urgent by Foreigner and would go googly-eyed at Bruce Springsteen doing his thing in the video for Dancing In The Dark). She didn’t like some of the stuff I listened to, but she gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to like and dislike. There were a lot of overlaps in our tastes. She thought Prince was outrageous but she took to Purple Rain because I caught her playing it more than once. She would grin sheepishly at that.
One of her most endearing personality traits was being able to judge a person’s character almost immediately. You couldn’t pull the wool over her eyes, no sir. And woe betide the individual who got on her wrong side. All the Irish DNA in her would come to the fore and that person would get a tongue lashing that they might never recover from! One time when my son Tyler was in hospital she gave the attending pediatrician such a dressing down about the conditions for breastfeeding mothers in the ward that Nikki got bumped up to a private ward at no charge to us.
If I was to identify two things that typified her personality they would be grace and dignity. She could not stand to see people suffering and she taught me to treat others with respect and dignity always. She never professed to be a Christian, but she most definitely believed in God and the power of prayer. She encouraged me to always entrust things that we couldn’t handle ourselves to God.
Being of Northern Irish descent she had a lot of interest in all things British. She was fascinated with royalty, in particular the Queen. I think she felt that they had the same sense of humour. Speaking of humour, laughter was her tonic for all life’s problems and British humour in particular was her flavour. When Mr. Bean first aired on SA television she would absolutely go into hysterics at some of the things he would do, but not the slapstick stuff. She understood the intelligence of human observation behind Rowan Atkinson’s character. Like making sure everyone saw his gold credit card. That cracked her up immensely, as did the sudden terror that gripped him when he climbed to the top diving board at his local pool and realised just how far down he had to fall.
She also loved the British crime series Cracker starring Robbie Coltrane, as well as Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. She would only read non-fiction, either true crime or auto-biographies. I’m not going to lie there was a time when her love for criminology books worried us in the family. My Dad always used to say that with the amount of criminal knowledge she had, if he died first they may need to launch an investigation!
Apart from her sharp wit and knowledge of human nature, she was a whiz at cryptic crossword puzzles. The morning and evening paper’s puzzle section were the only things in the newspaper that interested her. She taught me how to solve them, but honestly, while I can usually find the answers to some clues, the breadth of general knowledge one has to possess in order to come up with all the answers in a given puzzle (like the stinkers they put in the Daily news, for example) remains something I can only hold in request.
A few months ago I came across some of the letters I had written to her when I was doing my national service and re-reading them now fills me with regret because I laid all my problems on her, not realising just how much it must have hurt her to know that I was not having a good time in the army. She and my poor Dad once drove through the night all the way from Durban to Pretoria to come and pick me up for a pass, then after filling up with a 6am breakfast burger from Steers they drove me and one of my mates all the way back home on the same day. That’s just how she was when it came to me. I suppose you might say I was molly-coddled, but that’s something only a mother with pure love in her heart can do, and it can’t be all bad. I think I turned out alright. Right?
The one thing that my Mom taught me that I can only hope to teach others is to love wastefully. Cherish your family. Always give them your very best and never, ever become too busy for them. Your life is their life and their life is your life. Friends will come and go but your family is yours forever and you must love them with everything you have to give.
I miss my Mom terribly, but I know that she is only a step ahead of me in the journey of life and that one day in the future we will embrace again. God will see to that.
Lesley Ann Dahms 2 Oct 1947 – 8 Aug 2000