ZULULAND LETTER: Death of a meat-and-potatoes man

I’VE already written about my grandmother a number of times, therefore I guess it’s about time I mention my grandfather, so I will tell you about his funeral.

His name was Gert Hanekom and he was a policeman, but to me he was just ‘Oupa’.

There were 76 people at his service.

I know that because I counted them while we waited for the hearse to arrive.

At one stage dad phoned the driver to ask what’s keeping Gert up, because standing in the scorching January sun with a tie around your neck was murder, and we didn’t want to bury more people than absolutely necessary.

The driver said he lost the box going over a speed hump and therefore had to make a quick stop at Genesis Performance Exhausts in John Vorster Street.

If he was there and alive, Oupa would have told us to wear shorts because he was never a suit-and-tie man.

In fact he wasn’t even a church man because on Sundays when his wife ‘churched’, Gert Hanekom cooked – meat, rice and potatoes.

Martell VO

Fortunately the service wasn’t too long; we sang a little and Dominee talked a bit.

He called Oupa ‘brother Gerhardus’ – brother Gerhardus this and brother Gerhardus that…

At one point I wondered if Dominee even knew who he was burying because he was talking nonsense.
Oupa was never brother Gerhardus.

He was Gert Hanekom, who drove a Ford Grenada and kept a half jack Martell VO under the seat.

‘Can I pour you some tea Gert?’ Ouma would sometimes ask.

‘No thanks my dear, just a glass of milk,’ he would reply.

Gert Hanekom didn’t drink tea.

He only drank milk and Martell VO, but not together.

I once went with them to Hoopstad, in the Grenada, and on the way there were two donkeys standing next to a windmill.

Oupa said, ‘Look at the lovely donkeys dear’, upon which she shouted, ‘Gert leave the bloody donkeys and look where you’re going!’

The Grenada’s nose was already deep into the grass, but I don’t think the Martell VO was to blame.

Those donkeys just made a pretty picture.

A promise kept

At the cemetery the heat was just as deadly.

I wasn’t a pallbearer because I didn’t have Oupa’s names.

That was what Ouma decided, but I didn’t mind.

She almost fell into the grave as the coffin was lowered, but mom caught her by the elbow just in time, so only her left shoe had to be exhumed.

Back at the church, at the post-funeral reception, we had the customary diluted tea and soggy tomato sandwiches.

The women could give their handkerchiefs a break and the men could breathe properly again.

They talked about how beautiful the sermon was, but mostly spoke about the weather.

Oupa wouldn’t have liked the sermon and he surely wouldn’t have touched those soggy sandwiches.

No, Gert Hanekom was a meat-and-potatoes man, and one who didn’t have time for old age and bedpans.

That’s why he shot himself, just as he promised.

Val van der Walt

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