My mother and the old boyfriend

Love is a funny thing. We all remember our first love and they hold a place in our hearts throughout our lives. Somethimes we all feel we are too old for love. Too old even to remember what it felt like. And we are wrong. Love pops up in the strangest of places in the oddest of ways.

Lying in the bath tonight I was roused from my somnambulant state by a telephone call. Over a very crackly line I spoke to a man who fell in love with my mother when he was 20 years old and on holiday in Isipingo in Durban. He goes by the name of Louis, apparently because Elois is too hard to pronounce. He told me he has often thought about my mother through the years and has been trying to find her. He found my number online and thought he’d take a chance and call.

Unfortunately, he was calling from Holland and I am not sure I wrote down his email address correctly. It’s the drawback of a bad line, one person spelling in English and the other in Dutch. I wished my father-in-law was there to translate. He sounded very nice and rather shy about calling up my mum after all these years.

Of course, the very first thing I did was call my mother.
Me: “I’ve just been talking to your boyfriend!”
Mother: “What?”
Me: “Your boyfriend, Louis.”
Mother: “Louis, good God that was 45 years ago.”
Me: “I know. He fell in love with aged 20 on the beach in Isipingo Bay.”

It was funny to hear my mother at a loss for words. It doesn’t often happen to either of us. She remembers that he worked on the oil refinery and he came from a town in Germany that had wonderful waterfalls.

Now, I grew up with the story of my father called, “That greasy Iti”. My mother would protest vainly that he wasn’t Italian at all but Swiss or German and my father would huff and say, “Same bloody thing”. On a trip through Europe in the swinging sixties they wound they way to the picturesque little village that was home to the waterfalls my mother had heard about. As they were about to drive in to the town, my father realised where they were, turned around and sped off. Apparently he was damned if he was going in there.

I always thought it might have been a tad of an overreaction, but it seems that despite the passing of the years, Louis still holds a torch for my mum. Perhaps my dad was right in going as fast as he could in the opposite direction?

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