I have been thinking about this for a very long time now and had actually already scrapped the idea of this post as it is extremely personal… but today is Father’s Day and I have been thinking about my dad so much these last couple of days and so I decided to post this after all. So here it goes then.
This one is for you, mom and dad.
My dad passed away at the beginning of January this year.
I guess we had grown apart somewhat ever since I had left Germany. Little bit by little bit. One move and country at a time. I went off on a completely different adventure, often out of reach of a telephone for weeks at a time – him getting over the loss of my mother. I guess I failed at incorporating my new life into my old one. I was so grateful for the disctraction of just having lost my mother a few years earlier. So I jumped right into this new life of mine that was so new, so different and so exciting – Africa.
It was what it was, some good some bad. I tried my best at all times. But I am only human. And I guess that is okay. It has to be.
Thanks to the most special person in my life, and only thanks to him, I got to spend my Dad’s last birthday with him. The magnitude of my gratefulness is completely beyond words.
I will never forget the day I said good-bye to you Dad… we both knew it would probably be the last time… You lifted your hand and waved, mimicking “The Royal Wave” (however sick you were, your sense of humour was still with you), “So long Nanouche” you said. I cried all the way home…
I know, deep inside my heart, that you are happy now. Free from suffering. Thank you, God. Thank you for making me the daughter of two amazing people, of being able to grow up in their care and unmeasurable love and devotion.
When I went back home for the funeral I found a photo album I had not seen before showing a lot of images I had not seen ever or not seen in a very long time. I spent hours looking at them and I think I relived my whole childhood while flipping through them. It was a wonderful and at the same time a very painful experience knowing that all the people and moments I had been looking at are now history. However, I realised the most important thing is, that they were amazing moments and people. So it is in honour of these memories that I am writing this post.
This is a selection of the photographs I found in January – I had to photograph them and only had a little point-and-shoot with me so the quality of the images, which are already very old, is not great. But I love them, regardless, and I am so grateful that I took the time to photograph them since it is pretty much all I have here with me in South Africa.
This has been extremely therapeutic, and a bit sad, and fun at the same time. But most of all it reminded me of the awesome people my parents were. And this I can and will cherish for the rest of my life.
My dad was born in Paris in 1939 to his parents who I always knew as Meme e Pepe (which means Grandma and Grandpa in French):
In most his baby pictures he looks like a girl, with wavey hair… I was told it was fashionable at the time to dress your boy like a girl…
My grandparents were hoteliers in Paris – “Hotel du Levant” was one of the hotels they managed. I don’t know if it still exists – would be something to find out though.
Apart from that my “Pepe” was obviously an avid fisherman.
I so love these – my dad looks so sweet and innocent (I am sure he wasn’t, at least not all the time 😉
Photography in those days was quite something!
It feels a bit strange… but I have no idea who these people in those photographs are… apart from my dad… I assume to the right are his grandparents?
It’s obvious that he liked animals already as a child.
Not only dogs and horses but horsepowers as well! He loved the Formula One of the old days and was Ayrton Senna‘s biggest fan. We used to watch the Formula One races every weekend. It was a family tradition. Together with the rest of the world my dad went into complete shock when Senna died after his crash. My dad boycotted the rest of the season I think but couldn’t stay away from it for too long.
He became an avid horse rider, our entire family enjoyed horses, riding, stables, horse riding holidays and even volting for a very long time. And my dad still went on horse riding holidays way into his 60s…
This class photo was taken in 1954 so my dad was 15 at the time – all these boys look soo grown up already.
Paris in the 60s… he loved Gilbert Becaud and Jacques Brel. I remember him listening to their chansons a lot while I was growing up. Gilbert Becaud’s landed a big hit “Nathalie”… guess I where I got my name from…
This is the house my dad grew up in which I also still know. We used to travel there to visit Meme & Pepe a few times a year. I loved this house. It was so different, so French. I remember how it smelled. Especially in the basement, where Pepe’s workroom was. And the doors in the house all had oval-shaped doorknobs. My dad’s old room had all his old books in it on a bookshelf right next to his bed…they were all in French… I used to try and read all the book titles instead of going to sleep… I don’t think I ever really figured out what any of these books were about.
I still remember this door and all the light switches. The windows were long panels and had big metal shutters on the outside. And the telephone had letters together with the numbers on all the dials… I know it’s totally standard these days… This is a long time ago and German phones did not have that. It clearly impressed me at the time since I can still remember even today.
My Pepe bred pigeons in an aviary in the back of the garden. I always tried to convince myself that they were carrier pigeons… not so sure they were though.
When Pepe and Meme had passed away I helped my dad emptying out the house as he could not keep it at the time. I remember how hard this was for him. We spent a week cleaning out stuff and selling off personal things at a garage sale… at the same time he took me into the city and we spent hours walking around the back roads of Paris he knew while growing up there – way off the tourist tracks. I have very fond memories…
This photo shows my dad’s Mini Cooper in which he travelled all the way to the North Cape in Norway, which is the northernmost point of mainland Europe, together with his best friend from school.
Before they could do that though, my dad had to go fight in the French-Algerian Indepence War. I am not sure exactly which year he was drawn nor how long he was in Algeria. But I do know that his arms, legs and his face always tanned really quickly but never his belly – he always said that it was because he had been exposed to so much sun during his time in the desert.
And then, after all that travelling and fighting he went and spent a year in England, working and learning the lingo (he never lost his British accent when he spoke English). He had a serious knack for languages. Apart from obviously French, he spoke Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, English and then also German.
He moved to Mannheim after his year in England. Apart from his day job he taught French evening classes and was my mom’s private tutor… the rest is history as they say.
I love this photo of my mom – I love it so much I have it printed and framed! It depicts everything I remember about her, her happy and smiling nature… how she loved music and moved to music (she had NO rhythm, it was really funny to watch!), how she snapped her fingers when she really liked a song (Cat Stevens was right up there; to this day, when I hear any of his songs I get instantly reminded of her); her laugh… o I miss her…
This series of images was taken at their first appartment. This is where my dad wrote applications to companies in South Africa. I only found out this January that my parents had planned to emigrate to South Africa before my sister was born. I found a stack of papers, leaflets and magazines about South Africa in the 1960s – information for Germans imigrating to South Africa.
I had no idea.
It blew my mind.
I guess I WAS destined to end up here…
The only picture I found of my mother pregnant with my sister!
Check this woman’s smile… isn’t she beautiful? Sorry I am biased… but I really think so!
These are my mom’s parents, my parents and my dad parents
My grandfather (my mom’s dad) owned a trucking company which he built from scratch. I was told he was a very hard-working business man. Apparently he had huge hands. I never knew him – he passed away when I was one.
He had a very close relationship with my mom and all the pictures I find of the two of them together really show that. I totally love how he laughs in the top picture on the right!
My dad was really the one who passed on his passion for photography to me. He was also the one who gave me my first camera when I was about seven. But seeing this image, I guess my mom was also into photography… I love it!
I adore these wedding photos. I am seriously biased. I know. There was a time for this style of photography which makes them very stylish in my eye. At the same time I am very glad how far wedding photography has developed and that we do different stuff today.
And then there was us… my sis and I… check the pattern on my sisters shirt… o how very retro…
Our first car! I don’t really remember this… it’s a VW… must have been the only one my dad ever owned. He was a Frenchman through and through and only drove Renault (I know, how unfortunate…). Everything had to be French. Even us girls had to get French bicycles – but at least that was cool.
He also loved red wine, every day of his life, he hated water, loved to smoke, yes, Gauloises, in his strong years they were the filterless kind… Oh and of course he loved his coffee strong and black .. yep he was tough!
But otherwise he was more of a softy…
This was how our living room looked when I grew up and how I remember it the most, curtains, lamp, o-so-70s-wall-hanging-carpet and the works. And all the social gatherings that happened here… over many, many years this house was a happy home!
Mom, Dad, I know that the two of you are finally re-united. In heaven. May your souls rejoice. May you rest in peace.
I miss you terribly.