I always used to write about the little outings I had with my dad to Dischem, trawling the aisles and slowly making our way to the self medication section. I would stop and spray a bit of perfume or test a lipstick colour on the way.
But my dad was single minded.
He was heading to The Dispensary.
I would like to ‘see the Allergex please’ he would say, and then before anyone knew it, would be behind the counter, telling other customers about the delights of the drug.
The young pharmacists wondered who this old man was and what they had missed. Did he work with them? Was he their boss?
How did he know so much about Allergex???
My dad remembered the ingredients of every single drug although often he forgot what he ate for breakfast.
He always remembered my name, my sister’s name and the names of his four beautiful grandchildren.
We would get to Dischem and he would take a trolley while I would hold his stick. I'd walk behind him, sometimes giving him a little prod along the way.
Dad, I would say. We cannot spend any more time over the flu capsules, please.
Give me time, Sandra, he would reply. Give me time.
And so I would give him time.
Once he told me I was very impatient. But hey, an hour in Aisle 22 is a very long hour.
I would write Facebook posts while he pondered over which hair product would be best for his combover. My dad died at the age of 92. He combed his hair over his bald spot for 70 years. Although towards the end, he did not care so much about his hair.
After Dischem we would have lunch. Bellas was always a favourite, until one day:-
Waiter: Are you ready to order?
My Dad: Do you have any Allergex?
Waiter: I am not sure what this is, sir.
My Dad: We're leaving.
We switched to Mugg and Bean. Their toast and cheese on white bread was superior, anyway.
Of course I write about Dischem like it was yesterday but the truth is my father had not been out of his home for more than a year because of the pandemic. For many months, we could not visit him at all. We could wave, distantly, from the street. And towards the end, visit on an appointment basis, but only, see him behind a shield thing. We could not hug. Or touch. Or kiss.
The pandemic has been rough on old people.
My father, Harry Caganoff, was meant to be Hirsch Caganoff. He was born in 1928 in Arlington, a rural farming area, in South Africa. His father had come from Russia, and his mom, my grandmother, came a few years after him, via a matchmaker.
It took his dad three days to get to home affairs to register the birth. He registered him under the name, Harry, much to my grandmother Sylvia’s horror.
I can almost imagine her, in her Yiddish accent, shaking her fist, Oy vey, Israel, how could you make such a mistake.
OY VEY HARRY.
Age is a tough one.
When we buried my dad on Wednesday, right next to my late mom which was a beautiful thing to see, my son noticed that the two graves directly behind my dad were Harrys too.
He was always meant to be a Harry.
For the last few years, my father loved talking about the old days. He remembered them most. His mom’s cheese cake, how he never wore shoes, how they called him Jewboy at school, and how when he moved to Zimbabwe to do his pharmacy apprenticeship, all the girls were after him.
But my mom got him. And they loved each other. Even though each Saturday night she would phone the Wingate golf bar at 8 pm and say:-
Hello, It’s Elaine Caganoff. Is Harry there?
There would be a slight pause, a bit of whispering, shuffling, a minute or two, and then:-
Harry has left. He is on his way home.
He's with you now mom. And always with us too.