The first weekend in March, Grandma Tienie (as we call my Mom) came for a weekend’s visit! The last time she visited us, was 5years ago just after Andrew’s birth. Grandma lives in Bloemfontein - my old home town.
I thought I’ll share a little about my family, before writing about the visit.
I’m the oldest child of my parents.
My dad, Tienie van Heerden was the oldest of 4 children, two boys and two girls.
My dad married my mother, Marie van Rensburg, on the 1st of January 1966.
There was nothing my dad couldn’t do with his hands. He worked for Railroad Transport Services, (now called Transnet) in the mechanical department, supervisor of building steam engines.
On the sideline he grew vegetables on the small farm my mother inherited, just outside Bloemfontein. Dad could repair anything and many a weekend you would find him in the garage tuning our cars. When he wasn’t tuning or repairing cars on weekends, he would be fishing. He absolutely loved fishing and I would often join him, trying to catch my own fish.
They tell the story that when I was still a toddler my dad and a friend planned to mold their own sinkers out from lead on a Saturday morning. My mom had to run some errands and asked them to watch me for the morning. Me, being an inquisitive toddler was bothering them a lot and they were afraid I would get burned while they melted the lead, so they put me in the fishing basket and hung me against the wall! My mother was furious when she returned home and found me in the fishing basket, smelling like fish! I enjoyed it tremendously. Must be why I loved to go fishing with dad!
My dad and I on my 21st Birthday.
In my dad’s younger days, he did gymkhana with my mother’s younger brother. Must be where CJ and the rest of my boys, inherited their love for and skill with horses!
My mom was the fourth child and second girl of six children growing up on a milk-, corn- and wheat-producing farm. She’s a pre-primary/kindergarden teacher and, in later years, specialized in special-need-children. Five years ago she retired and now do after care at a local school.
My mom and I on my wedding day.
Since I could remember I wanted to be teacher, just like my mom! But during the late seventies, early eighties, married women in South Africa had a hard time to keep their jobs and my mom ‘forbid‘ me to be a teacher. Well, it was all part of the Lord’s plan for me... I didn’t graduate as a teacher, but the Lord created me to be a “natural teacher”. They say it is much more difficult to home school if you are a qualified teacher. It’s a challenge to get around the ‘school at home mindset’ and adapt the ‘learning life style’.
My only sister (Marsha) was prematurely born at 32 weeks.
My dad did a 18 months course out of town, during that time. I remember how my mom went in labour the night of the 17th of May 1974. I was a little girl only five years old and tried to comfort my mom, while waiting for help to arrive. My grandparents from Dad’s side came, took my Mom to the hospital and me to stay with them. I absolutely loved my grandparents, I was the only grandchild for four years and went for a sleepover at their place many weekends. I still remember the loneliness of the following weeks, while my Mom and hospital personal fought for my sister’s live!
Since there was a five year age gap between my sister and myself, we were always in different stages of our lives.
When I went to primary school, she was a toddler; when I went to secondary school, she was in primary school; when I got married, she had just finished secondary school. We just couldn’t connect. Now that we are eventually in the same seasons of our lives, we live a 1000 km apart.
My whole life I was longing for a brother, especially an older brother and as I grew older I especially missed more siblings! During the challenges our family faced over the past 10 years, I could definitely have done with the support of more siblings! The more reason I’m asking God to give my children all the siblings He plans for them, so they can influence and mold each others lives and be a support system for each other!
My dad was absolutely over the moon when CJ, his first grandchild, was born in 1994.
He never had a son and now he had a grandson, to do things with he couldn’t do with his girls!
But then, when CJ was only one year old, Christo and I moved to Cape Town. That was the saddest day in my dad’s life. It was almost like we took away his reason to live.
My Dad, Christo and CJ at Blouberg strand in Cape Town.
Two years later, when Heidi-Mari was born, my dad become ill with chronic lung infections.
A few months later, in November 1997, I went down to Bloemfontein to give my sister her kitchen tea. While in Bloemfontein and very concerned about my Dad’s deteriorating health, I took him for a second opinion. Twenty-four hours later I got a phone call to inform me my Dad had lung cancer! We were devastated! The reason I went to Bloemfontein was to celebrate my sister’s upcoming wedding, but at the same time I had to tell my Mom, my Dad had only 3 months to live and to my Sister, her dad would probably not be able to walk her down the aisle!
Dad went for chemotherapy, against Christo and my advice, we being natural freaks, but he did agree to take loads of natural remedies to boost his immune system. The chemotherapy they gave him, was part of a clinical trial, on dad’s kind of lung cancer. God was so Good! Miraculously my Dad was the only patient who survived the treatment and, although he was still very ill, in the middle of chemotherapy treatment, he was able to walk my sister down the aisle on the 17th of January 1998.
The next four years dad could celebrate the birth of two more grandson’s.
Dad and Josua
Dad and Jurich (my sister’s oldest son)
My sister-in-law once flew to Bloemfontein, while my dad was very ill. Knowing how much he loved CJ, we decided, at the last moment, to send CJ (4years old) with her for a weekend visit with my parents. There were no available seats when we booked and he went on stand-by. We (CJ and I) went on our knees and pleaded with God to allow him to visit his Grandpa. He got a seat and had a very special weekend with my parents!
On this picture my dad made a special platform on the bar of the bicycle, so he and CJ could go cycling over the weekend!
In October 2002, far to early, my Dad went to glory!
Our last family picture. Here Marsha is pregnant.
In the mean time in 2002, Marsha was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis, at the age of 25, two years after she got married. Still the Lord blessed her with children.
Marsha nursing her 2nd son.
Two boys and a girl and she has a wonderful, supportive husband!
None of our grandparents (Dad’s parents where married over 50 years) nor my parents (they were married for 36 years) got divorced and I praise the Lord for such a blessed heritage. I believe it has a significant effect on my sister and my own marriage! In our extended family many of our uncles and aunts divorced in the 1980’s/1990’s. Except for one or two, almost every cousin of us got divorced within the first five years of their marriage, leaving behind a blood trail of pain and disaster and negatively affecting their lives forever!
We read in Mal 2:
‘“For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“Therefore take heed to you spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”
In 2005 my Mother moved into a granny flat, on the same property as my Sister and her husband.
While my dad was still alive, they often came to visit us in Cape Town, although my Dad hated the rainy winters of Cape Town!
Having only four children we also went up for visits to Bloemfontein quite often.
All the cousins together, the last time we were in Bloemfontein in 2004
As our family grew it became more difficult to drive the 1000 km trip to Bloemfontein and flying was just to expensive! My mother visited us the last time in 2005 when Andrew was 6 weeks old.
In July 2008, while I was pregnant with Daniel, my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor. On the 8th of October, they removed the brain tumor (we would recommended natural ways to shrink the brain tumor). Again they were fighting for her life! She had amnesia (we only discovered that weeks after the surgery), experience speech impediment and couldn’t read.
Over the distance I couldn’t communicate with Marsha at all and was very uncertain about the extend of her brain damage, due to the surgery. One night Christo agreed to let me go visit my sister over a weekend. David was 2 1/2 months old, when we flew to Bloemfontein, middle November 2009. It was a blessed weekend! I could see for myself how my sister was doing and as a bonus Grandma could meet David.
I could meet my sister’s little baby girl who was 21 months old, at that stage.
Since the brain surgery Marsha’s improvement was nothing short from a miracle from God! She totally regained her memory and live a normal life, taking care of her family all by herself! In January this year she had a 2nd brain scan and she is totally clean! Praise the Lord!
When Michael was born at the end of January this year, my mother booked a flight to Cape Town to come meet her youngest (eighth) grandson and to meet Daniel, whom she haven’t met yet.
The children where looking forward to Grandma’s visit in much anticipation, and on Andrew’s request we took helium filled balloons when we fetched her at the airport!
There was so much we wanted to share with my Mother in the few hours she was here, giving her a glimpse of our life. CJ and Josua couldn’t go with us to the airport, since Josua has horse riding lessons Friday afternoons, so we stopped at the riding school on our way home. Grandma and the boys enjoyed it so much while she watched them on their horses!
As we got home, the children just wanted to get to know their grandma and we had a blessed, relaxed time just talking and sharing.
On Saturday morning we took grandma on a tour through the garden, while watering the vegetables and roses. I was so proud to show her my vegetable garden, although nothing in comparison with the vegetable gardens my dad used to grow.
My mom was the one who told me about Ludwig Roses last year, when I replaced all my roses in my rose garden. I bought all my roses at Ludwig Roses and got the Vigorosa on her recommendation. My mother has about 40 roses in her beautiful garden in Bloemfontein. Bloemfontein isn’t called the rose city of South Africa, without reason!
All the time the children were playing around her.
Back in the house, the children took out their lapbooks to show Grandma. They enjoyed every moment showing her their work. She was very impressed with their work, which obviously meant a lot to me, coming from a Pre-primary/Kindergarden teacher. A Home Schooling Mother can do with some praise from an Expert!.
My mom has a computer at home now, but only limited internet skills, so Heidi-Mari and I introduced her to a view of the great features of the internet, like Google!
In the afternoon CJ showed her his coin collection and the prizes he won with the Science Question of the Week.
In between, my Mom and I had our own conversations. I wanted to know how my sister is doing, got filled in on all my extended family, like who are still living in Bloemfontein and sharing moments of my daily life with her!
Grandma slept with Heidi-Mari and Danika in their room and this was what I found late Saturday night, when I thought they were already fast asleep!
Heidi-Mari, Danika and Grandma on the floor in front of her Scrapbook suitcase. Heidi-Mari was showing her all her goodies for making cards and scrapbook pages!
On Sunday morning CJ had a horse event in Stellenbosch and they had to leave at six O’clock. Grandma’s flight home was booked for 10h30 and we tried to fit in some last minute chatting, while giving the little ones breakfast and dressing them.
Too soon the weekend was at an end! By 10h00 we had to say good-bye. I watched her as she walked through the security point and wished we could have the weekend all over again! Missing her already!
Christo, CJ and Josua would not be home before the early afternoon, so we went for a cool drink on the top floor of the airport, watching the airplanes land and take off.
We also watched Grandma’s airplane take off.
I hate the feeling when a loved-one leaves by airplane. It is such an empty feeling, walking out of the airport building, almost like in a dream, getting in the car and silently driving back home. Walking into the house, remembering where she sat only hours ago, recognizing her smell from the soap she left in the bathroom...
I miss my family! I miss my Dad! There are so many things he would have been able to teach my boys. I miss the get togethers, like I was used to when I was a child. We were at least 10 cousins on Sundays, when we all visited one of my grandparents! By God’s grace I pray that we will be able to all come together again, soon!
Dear Mother, thank you for visiting us! Love you lots!!