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LEA ANDREWS
LEA ANDREWS
GOUSBLOMSTR. 9
WESBANK
MALMESBURY
7300


Toe ons – my suster, my neefs en ek – klein was
het ons dikwels by Lea in die kombuis gaan eet.
Sy het ons stories van kabouters vertel
wat sy self uitgedink het.
Daardie ure van my kinderdae is dit wat ek onder
die Engelse woord ‘spellbound’ verstaan.

Lea is die bruin vrou wat by my ouma Max
in die huis gewerk het vir meer as veertig jaar.

Sy het soos my ouma van ons,
die kleinkinders en ons ouers, as “die kinders” gepraat.
Met elke verjaardag en kersfees was daar altyd
’n kaartjie en ’n geldjie met ‘Liefde’
Van Lea.

Lea het nooit ’n man of kinders gehad nie.
My ma sê daar was êrens ’n oom wat kleintyd
met haar gelol het. Ek het Lea
nooit self daaroor hoor praat nie, maar sy
het dikwels op haar beslissende manier gesê
dat sy nooit juis baie tyd vir mansmense of enige ander
lui, slegte ‘skepsels’ gehad het nie.

My Oupa Dirk was ’n dominee in die Sendingkerk in die Kaap.
Toe hy Alzheimer’s kry en bedlêend word,
het Lea geglo ‘Meneer’ se versorging
is ’n opdrag van die Here, ’n kans
om Hom te dien.
Sy en ‘Juffrou’ het oupa Dirk gebad en gevoer
en gehelp met dieselfde onwrikbare geloof
waarmee hulle skaapboud en bruin aartappels voorberei
of druiwekonfyt gekook het.

Oupa Dirk is na jare se terminale, slopende aanwesigheid
uiteindelik oorlede.
Lea en Ouma Max het vasberade aangebly in Leipoldtstr. 23
om saam aan die kombuistafel te sit,
om te bid en tee te drink,
TV te kyk en te treur,
Huisgenoot en Bybel te lees en te wonder
oor “die kinders”.
Ouma en Lea kon nooit saam aan die eetkamertafel sit nie,
maar hulle het in Parow-Noord verbete saamgebly
om vir die rose, die skilpaaie en die rotstuin,
die buurt se honde en mekaar te sorg
tot hulle nie meer kon nie,
tot Ouma Max moes ouetehuis toe.

Die Panaroma-oord was ongelukkig te veel van ’n wegwedstryd gewees.
Dit sou vir Ouma nooit meer as ’n wagkamer kon word nie.
Nie dat sy net gaan lê het nie.
Sy het dikwels vertel hoe mooi die maan van die dak af is
waar die ‘oumense’ vanweë die steil trappe
nie meer kon uitkom nie.
Maar die maan en die dak was nie goed wat Ouma
kon water gee of voer nie,
nie goed waarvoor sy kon omgee of sorg nie.
Sy sou daar nooit anders as nutteloos voel nie.

Lea het op 80 nuut begin.
Met spaargeld het sy ’n eenkamerwoonstel laat aanbou
by familie in Malmesbury.
Tussen platgetrapte heinings, daggarokers,
hoenders, armoede, eende en Vaaljapie –
die gesukkel van Wesbank –
het Lea begin tuin maak
asof die res onbenullig was.

Toe ons die eerste keer in Gousblomstraat afdraai
was dit maklik om te raai waar Lea nou woon.

Lea het in haar tuin aan my gesê:
“Basie Daan, ’n bietjie mooi rondom jou is mooi
vir almal om jou.”
En toe het sy ’n bietjie nagedink en bygevoeg:
“Dis as jy ‘n mens is wat omgee.”

Lea het vandag 90 geword.
Ek was nie daar nie,
Ouma ook nie.

Nadat Ouma dood is,
het Lea vir my neef Jean gesê dat sy vir die eerste keer
nie meer die moeite wou doen
om soggens op te staan nie.
Dit het nie gelyk of daar meer rede voor was nie.
Maar nou gaan sy glo weer aan, speel toneel
saam met ’n kerkgroep
en woel nog steeds in die tuin.

Ek onthou vandag hoe ek
Ouma en Lea die laaste keer saam gesien het.
Ek het vir Ouma by die ouetehuis gaan haal.
Met ’n melktert en ’n ou selfoon vir Lea
is ons Malmesbury toe.
Ouma vra twee keer of ek al genoeg geëet het,
maar sy praat nie so baie soos vroeër nie.
Dit is net die nuwe tronk langs die pad
wat hulle vir “die kwaaddoener” gebou het,
waaroor Ouma kan opgewonde raak.

Toe ons by Lea aankom,
loop Ouma deur Lea se tuin
asof dit haar ou tuin is.
Lea was bekommerd oor my neef Jean se motor en wou weet
of dit ’n kar is wat “skree as die volk aan hom vat”.
Ek het gelag en gesê:
“Nee, Jean se ou kar is nie so deftig nie,
moenie bekommer nie.”
Ouma was nog steeds ‘Juffrou’ en Lea net Lea,
maar Ouma se effe neerbuigende raad
kon kwalik haar jaloesie verbloem.
Sy sou baie liewer nog wou tuin maak saam met Lea
as om saam met die oumense in die son te sit,
maar Ouma was aan die glip.

Na haar kritiese inspeksie van die tuin
gaan sit Ouma en ek aan Lea se enigste tafel –
Lea, soos altyd, ’n tree weg op ’n kombuisstoeltjie,
half om ’n hoek;
Oortjie, die steekhaarbrakkie, aan haar voete.
Lea het “haar plek” leer ken in ’n ander tyd,
kon net so min aan tafel saam sit
as wat daar plek vir haar in Ouma se ouetehuis was.
Dit was vir albei ondenkbaar.
Maar ons het saam melktert geëet en tee gedrink.
Ek het vir Lea gewys hoe om met die selfoon te werk.
Sy het aandagtig geluister, maar effe
wantrouig na die apparaat gekyk.

Ouma het vertel dat haar kop “nie meer vat nie.”
Sy was oortuig dat dit die pille se skuld was – die pille
wat die dokter haar teen duiseligheid gegee het.
Lea het saamgestem:
“Juffrou is mos nie so nie”, het sy gereken,
maar bygevoeg:
“Ai, Juffrou, ’n oumens is soos ’n ballon –
een gaatjie en jy’s weg.”

Ouma en Lea het nie meer veel gehad om te sê nie,
maar die stilte tussen hulle
was nie leeg nie.
Veertig jaar van vertroue en welwillenheid
het tussen hulle gelê
soos ’n gedeelde herinnering.

Na ’n tweede koppie tee moes ons groet.
Dit was die eerste keer wat ek
Ouma vir Lea sien omhels het.
Lea kon nie terugdruk nie.
Sy was verstar.
Lea het nie gehuil nie,
maar haar oë was kniediep
in helder water.

Ouma het met groot moeite in haar sitplek omgedraai
om ’n laaste keer vir Lea te sien en te waai.
Ek het weggetrek
en die ou metaalblou BMW
het begin beweeg,
het weggedryf met ons binne in
en Lea in die agterruit,
na ’n plek sonder woorde,
’n plek sonder sein.
LEA ANDREWS
LEA ANDREWS
9 GOUSBLOM STREET
WESBANK
MALMESBURY
7300


When we – my sister, my cousins and I – were small
we often used to eat in Lea’s kitchen.
She’d tell us stories about goblins
that she made up on the spot.
I understand those hours of childhood
by the English word ‘spellbound’.

Lea is the brown woman who worked for my granny Max
for more than forty years.

She called us “the kids” in the same way that my granny
talked about her grandchildren and our parents.
Every birthday and Christmas there’d be
a card and some money and “Love
From Lea”.

Lea never had a husband or children herself.
My mother says there was once a man who
showed her a good time
for a while. I never heard Lea
talking about it herself, but she
did say sometimes in her decisive way
that she’d never had much time for men
or any other “lazy, wicked creatures”.

My grandad Dirk was a pastor with the Mission Church in the Cape.
When he got Alzheimers and was bedridden,
Lea saw it as a God-given task
to take care of ‘Mister’, a chance
to serve Him.
She and ‘Missy’ bathed grandad Dirk and fed
and helped him with unswerving faith,
just as when they cooked a leg of lamb and roast potatoes
or made some grape jelly.

After years of his grinding, terminal presence, Grandad Dirk
passed away at last.
Lea and Granny Max stayed on at 23 Leipoldt Street
to sit together at the kitchen table,
to pray and drink tea,
watch TV and mourn,
to read Family and the Bible and to wonder
about “the kids”.
Granny and Lea could never sit together at the dining room table,
but they stuck together in Parow North
to care for the roses, the tortoises and the rock garden,
the neighbourhood and each other
until they couldn’t anymore,
until Granny Max had to go to the old age home.

But the home, called Panorama, was too much like an away match.
It would never be more than a waiting room for Granny.
Not that she just gave up.
She’d often tell us how beautiful the moon was, seen from the roof
where the “old people” couldn’t go anymore
because of the steep stairs.
But the moon and the roof couldn’t bring
water to granny or feed her,
she couldn’t care or worry about things like that.
She would never feel anything other than useless there.

Lea started again, at 80.
She had some money saved and had a one-room dwelling built
on the property of family in Malmesbury,
among fences kicked flat, dope smokers,
chickens, poverty, ducks and ‘Muddy Jack’ –
that raw wine from Westbank –
Lea began making a garden
as if all the rest was nonsense.

When we turned into Gousblom Street for the first time
it was easy to guess where Lea now lived.

In her garden Lea said to me:
“Master Daan, a little bit of beauty around you is beauty
for everyone around you.”
And then she thought a moment and added:
“That is, if you’re a person who cares.”

Lea turned 90 today.
I wasn’t there,
and neither was Granny.

After Granny died,
Lea told my cousin Jean that for the first time in her life
she did feel like bothering
to get up in the morning.
There did not seem to be a reason anymore.
But she’s going about again, acting in plays
with a church group
and turning the soil over in her garden.

Today I remember the last time
I saw Granny and Lea together.
I had fetched Granny from the old age home.
We drove to Malmesbury
with a milk tart and an old cellphone for Lea.
Granny asked twice if I had eaten enough,
but she didn’t talk as much as she used to.
The only thing that got her excited
was the new jail they’d built
for ‘the bad people’. Too close to the road.

When we arrived at Lea’s,
Granny walked around in Lea’s garden
as if it were her garden.
Lea was worried about my cousin Jean’s car and wanted to know
if it was a car that “screamed when you touched it”.
I laughed and said:
“No, Jean’s old car isn’t so fancy,
don’t worry about it.”
Granny was still ‘Missy’ and Lea still Lea,
but Granny’s mildly condescending advice
barely disguised her jealousy.
She would much rather have worked in the garden with Lea
than sit in the sun with the old people,
but Granny was on the way out.

After her critical inspection of the garden
Ouma and I sat at Lea’s only table –
Lea, as always, a step away on her kitchen chair,
half turned to the corner;
Little Ear, her stiff-haired pooch, at her feet.
Lea had learned “her place” in another time,
and just could not sit with us at table -
any more than there was a place for her at Granny’s old age home.
For both, this would have been unthinkable.
But we ate milk tart together and drank tea.
I showed Lea how to use her cellphone.
She listened closely, but she looked
with some mistrust at the device.

Granny said that her head “couldn’t take things in anymore.”
She was convinced it was the pills – the pills
the doctor had given her for dizziness.
Lea agreed:
“Missy isn’t like that,” she said,
but added:
“Oh, Missy, an old person is like a balloon –
one little puncture and it’s gone.”

Granny and Lea didn’t have much to say,
but the quietness between them
wasn’t empty.
Forty years of trust and benevolence
lay between them
like a shared memory.

After a second cup of tea we had to go.
It was the first time I’d ever seen
Granny embrace Lea.
Lea couldn’t pull back.
She was confused.
Lea didn’t cry,
but her eyes were knee-deep
in clear water.

Granny turned with great difficulty in her seat
to look at Lea one last time and wave.
I pulled off
and the metallic blue BMW
moved on,
floated away with us in it
and Lea in the rear window,
to a place without words,
a place without signal