Thursday, 11 April 2013

James (11 April)



I'm taking a break from The Daighacaer for today for one very important reason.

Today is the 35th anniversary of the untimely passing of my wonderful father, James White Maritz and, that the letter 'J' is due today, is synchronous in the extreme.  I love and miss you, Daddy.  The intense pain has lessened through the years but the missing part - that I won't ever get over.

James was brought up as an Afrikaner, speaking the Afrikaans language, despite his very English Christian names.  

Afrikaans is not only a language spoken in South Africa, it is also a complete culture on its own.  Christianity plays an important part in the lives of most Afrikaners, as it did in ours. Traditionally patriarchal, there is strong emphasis on respect for elders which is pervasive among Afrikaners even today although this culture is sadly being eroded. Much like the French, if one addresses someone older; of importance; or not a familiar, the term of address used is "U" - "vous" in French as opposed to "jy" and "tu" which are the more familiar and friendly terms.  We were taught from birth to respect our parents but one gem my father passed on to us is, in his words "respect is commanded, not demanded - make sure you always command it."

In Afrikaans families, children never say "jy" to their parents or grandparents, but always use their title as in "Pappa" (Daddy) and "Mamma" (Mommy).  For example "would Daddy please pass me the salt"; or "would Mommy like me to make Mommy a cup of coffee?"  Children also refer to any person, other than parents and grandparents, who are older than themselves as "oom" (uncle) and "tannie" (auntie).  One of my father's earliest jokes in this respect was an English-speaking woman's response to being called "tannie" - "I'm not your 'tannie', a tunny is a fish and I'm not scaly".  I still use this…

James attended school in the small "dorp" (town) of Kroonstad ("Crown City"), in the Orange Free State.  He often told us the story of being hauled into the Principal's office when he was in Standard Seven (Grade Nine) and told that he was useless and would never amount to anything in life.  A fire was lit in him.  In Standard Eight, James was top of his standard for academic excellence; he was also top of his standard for his Standard Nine year and achieved the  Dux award for the highest academic honours in his school for his Matric (equivalent of 'A' Level) year.  This in itself was quite remarkable but there was a further achievement which was even more remarkable.   In both Standard Nine and Matric, James was captain of the school's rugby team.  Why is this remarkable?  Rugby players are traditionally well built and are tall to match (the shortest being well over 6').  My father was a small, slightly built man who was only 5'6" tall.

It used to be severely frowned upon for an Afrikaner to marry outside of the culture and was the cause of many rifts in families in South Africa. This has changed over the years but is still prevalent among rural Afrikaners.  In the late 1940s, my father and his partner were ballroom dancers.  In 1950 they were South African Ballroom Dancing Champions and as things turned out, he married his English-speaking partner, my mother. 

James and Marjorie Maritz - South African Ballroom Dancing Champions 1950

We are so blessed to have had these two wonderful people as parents and to be raised the way  we were.  My father was a true gentleman and my mother was a true lady.  They were married for 25 years and I  never heard them fight.  Of course there were arguments but these tended to be minor and were always settled amicably.  My parents never went to bed still angry with each other.  My mother was my father's Princess and he cherished her dearly until the end.  My mother never remarried (there aren't too many men like my father in the world today) and passed away 13 years after my father.

For my beautiful parents, James and Marjorie Maritz, who together are thrilling the Angels with their dancing in Heaven, "'Mommy and Daddy, I love and miss you - until we meet again in Heaven one day".

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