Just dusted the cobwebs off this one too … a poem I wrote for the occasion of my late Granny Vee’s 90th birthday. (She died aged 102).
The greater family had converged on my cousin’s farm in Winterton, Natal, to attend my gran’s birthday party on August 15, 1992. I had written this poem – I suppose it is a bit la-la like – and rendered it in calligraphy, then framed it. (I believe it looked a whole lot better than it sounds.)
At the appointed time during the proceedings that afternoon, I reached behind a curtain and removed the large gift-wrapped picture frame to hand to her as a surprise. (Also secreted behind the curtain was a packet containing the funniest smurf-like rubber face mask you ever saw – for later jollification).
Well everyone was very inquisitive to see what the parcel contained, jostling and pushing forward as my gran tore open the wrapping. Then she removed the frame and held it up, resting it on her lap for all to see. “My eyes aren’t so good any more, you read it for me, my boy”, she said.
I hardly had to read as I already knew the words by heart, but I went through the motions as I recited my poem. This allowed me to glance at my grandmother’s face from time to time. Then I noticed her eyes well with tears, and huge teardrops rolled shamelessly down those powdered, wrinkled cheeks. Looking up, I saw that this was having a chain reaction effect on the audience. Tears were splashing down all around, and there was a furtive scrambling for tissues and hankies. Frankly, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
Thinking fast, I blurted out: “Gee I didn’t realize my poetry was that bad!”. My hand shot behind the curtain and I grabbed the packet with the funny mask, which I put on immediately. The mood swung instantly. Now I was confronted by a howling throng, slapping their sides, and whose tears had changed to tears of laughter, rolling uncontrollably down their cheeks. (My own tears were hidden by the mask). The situation was hysterical, if I may say so.
(For my beloved Grandmother on the occasion of her 90th Birthday
at Noodhulp Farm, Winterton – 15 August 1992)
Ever since I can recall
Through seasons as they rise and fall
Through times of sadness, times of joy
Yes, since I was a little boy
You’ve been right there for me
No firmer friend nor Beacon bright
Could ever match your guiding light
No golden coin, no earthly, price
Could pay you back for your advice –
You’ve been right there for me
Memories flood life’s diary book
With picnics and the snaps you took
And times we thought were sent from Heaven
Like Christmas at Two- Seven- Seven
You were right there for me
With Pa you travelled far and wide
Until he parted from your side
Then family could be counted on
To rally round and keep you strong
You stayed right there for me
Thank you for the cards you sent
The letters and the time you’ve spent
The book you wrote, the thoughts you shared
For showing me you really cared
You’re still right there for me
The talks we’ve had, the love you gave
Are treasured moments that I’ll save
No matter how the die is cast
I know as long as time doth last
You’ll be right there for me
A similar funny mask, though not nearly as funny-looking as the one I used that memorable day.