Thinking of Abrie de Swardt
Why do I think of Abrie this morning? Abrie was my nephew, a few years younger than myself. The closest I came to have a brother. He died way too young in a motorcycle accident at age 19.
This morning he fills my thoughts.
The “good ol’ days” of the 70’s when we could safely ride a bicycle, because there were so few cars on the streets. A time when we still did not have a word like “shopping mall.” When we went to school barefooted and played rugby, soccer, cricket, marbles or fought during breaks. When the boxing match between Pierre Fourie and Foster in Albuquerque was refought during break. Early morning broadcast by the late Gerhard Viviers and he saw a different match than the referees, because, according to his commentary, Pierre was beating the hell out of Foster!
A time when we all wanted to be Frik du Preez and when Dawie de Villiers was a hero. And the Bats sang a song “Vat hom Dawie.” Fanus Rautenbach loved to play that song early mornings. And, since we had no TV, that was sort of the theme song for Saturday rugby matches over the radio. It was a time when rugby was played in winter and it was a war between Noord Transvaal and WP (and I was never a keen rugby fan!)
It was the time of the Proctor, Pollock and Barlow – which one was it that perfected the cover drive? Was it Barlow who play the lovely pull shot? I can’t remember.
It was a time of bug-house movies with SA Mirror giving news and sports highlights and serials (very much like today’s series on Netflix) luring you back next Saturday. You had to go back to see how the hero escaped.
Days of cowboys and crooks. Sometimes at our house and sometimes at Abrie. His father was my mother’s brother, my father’s best friend and like a second dad to me. It was a rare Friday afternoon that my dad did not go there for coffee after work. And I along to play with Abrie.
There was a lukwart tree at Abrie’s house. A very big tree. We used to climb up that tree as part of our various fantasy games. And never do I see a lukwart tree today, or I miss those days and Abrie. Thinking back with fond memories to the time we were children, young and carefree.
Somewhere in high school we decided to climb George Peak, subject to weather. Preparations made. The sun surely wasn’t very high when I was rudely shaken awake with: “Come on, hurry, it is a lovely day.” My sister, always the willing taxi driver, dropped us at Witfontein. It was the only time I was on George peak and one of the reasons I want to go back. We were at the top. When we got down again, we did not have cell phones! We walked back home and then the same sister took us to Victoria Bay.
When I got into my teenage stage, the friendship dwindled a bit. Abrie’s brother, Frekie also now passed, predicted that David and Jonathan will reconnect when the younger one discovers girls. Prophetic words.
One thing about Abrie was that his head NEVER went under the water. Since I was older, I had an advantage when we wrestled, and we wrestled a lot. But never, ever, could I get his head under the water! Then he wanted to dive with me. Victoria Bay again. We are in the pool because we will enter from the pool. I am watching the waves, because you enter and exit with the waves. I notice Abrie’s attention is far away and ask: “Do you see that?” referring to the waves and he replies, swinging his head 360 degrees, “Where is she?” We did reconnect.
Varsity starts and we only see each other during holidays. Then one holiday I bring my wife-to-be along. Abrie visits. She puts him to work drying the dishes (she is good with that) and he goes home, laughing, telling his mom that “Jeanne managed to do what nobody could yet do – I dried the dishes.”
A year later my mom had died and my dad, sister and I was visiting my youngest sister in Orkney during June holidays. Early on the Sunday morning the phone rang and my sister came in to say Abrie died in a motorcycle accident at Leentjiesklip.
My dad got back in the car and we drove straight to Abrie’s house and dad. The only thing I remember of that meeting is my uncle saying: “You should not have come back.” And my father replying: “How could I NOT come?”
There are so many anecdotes about Abrie.
His grandmother lived with them and she was very old. And Abrie was scared (at that time) of motorcycles. One day he goes to his gran and tells her he is going to sell her to Hill & Levitt, “because they buy old stuff.” (He said Wiel & Vevit”). Gran wants to know how he will get her to Hill & Levitt and he replies he will borrow another cousin’s motorbike and she reminds him that he is scared of motorbikes. A bit later he comes back and announces that he decided he will rather use the wheelbarrow.
Why am I thinking of Abrie this morning? I really do not know. But the memories are more fond than sad.
You do not have to grow old to leave a legacy.