Lovely Linah worked for us for over 25 years. My children loved her, my friends loved her and I loved her. She was very much a second mother to my children. Linah taught them African ways and manners and I taught them Afrikaans ways and manners (there was not a big difference – manners are manners – but certainly enough to add some spice to their personalities). If I came home late from a date, Linah would be waiting for me, hand on the hip, “WAAR WAS JY?”—in a voice that sounded as if it came straight out of Hades. And then I had to explain why I did not phone to tell her I would be late… and telling her that I thought she would be asleep was not good enough: “JY WEET EK GAAT EERS SLAAP AS JY BY DIE HUIS IS.” So I learnt my lesson; if I was going to be late, tell Linah—she will still wait but she may not shout. Even my children knew better; they’d phone me at work and whisper: “Mamma moenie vir Linah se ons het gebel nie.”
Linah and her husband Phineas lived with us all those years. My black mama and pop. Sick children who had to be taken to hospital in the middle of the night… there I was, in my pyjamas; Phineas driving my car whilst I looked after the child who was ill, and Lina staying with the other one at home. That was our normal. When we replaced our 10-year-old Opel Kadett with another car, we gifted it to Phineas and Linah. Every weekend Phineas would transport stuff for people up and down the country; couches, chickens a goat or two. We called it “die blou karbakkie” and it ran for ten years before some animals walked in front of it and it could not be repaired.
When my daughter got married to a Kiwi from New Zealand, her only wish was a small wedding with people who were important to her in her life… and Linah and Phineas have to be there, otherwise no wedding. The picture that goes along with this story shows the joy of that day.
I still phone Linah once a month—she’s now retired and living in Lebowakgomo, which is as dry as it is cold. I miss her, we miss her and she misses us.
Hamba Kahle Gogo.
Stay well mama.
Lief vir jou.
Author & Storyteller: Suzette Engelbrecht
Editor: Andrea Zanin