OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.
‘Look at us, the first and last Mrs Brink, discussing brooms,’ Estelle, André’s first wife, once said to me when I was staying with her for a few days in her Grahamstown home while doing research at (back then) NELM and she was showing me her fancy new broom in the evening after one of our dinners together. We laughed a lot about that moment in years to come. She loved her home, still the house she and André had shared during their marriage, and her amazing garden. She was a botanist, worked at Rhodes University, and continued assisting with identifying and classifying plants well into her retirement. She and André had remained friends until his death and she was always kind to me. When he passed away, she came to Cape Town to be with me, to mourn the man we both loved together and in our own separate ways. But we hadn’t managed to stay in touch and the last time I heard from her was about two years ago when we spoke on the phone.
Today, my friend Erika sent me an article that must have appeared in yesterday’s Die Burger, reporting that Estelle had passed away suddenly on Tuesday, three weeks after moving away from her home into a care facility. She was 84. I do not know what her circumstances were like in the last two years, but I can imagine that, like an old tree with deep, strong roots, she did not take well to transplanting. I can still see her in her favourite chair in her lounge, telling me about the olden days in the early evening light. Or walking in her garden and teaching me about different types of grass. I know she will be missed by all who knew her. May she rest in peace.
It is one of those strange coincidences that the news of Estelle’s death reached me on a day when I spent most of the morning in my own garden, mowing grass, weeding and sweeping old leaves out of the main path. There was a strong scent of lavender in the air and many birds came to investigate the freshly disturbed lawn. It was so relaxing to watch them from the stoep.
The rest of the day was work, all literary stuff, small steps forward on several projects I am involved in.
A quiet day, flooded by sadness, and memories, at sunset.
Be kind. Stay at home. Wear a mask everywhere else.
“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”