Cafda resident Yolanda Maude van Nelson, who is described by her family as caring, compassionate and spontaneous – who before lockdown, thought nothing of hopping in the car with her granddaughter Tamryn McLean for ice-cream – turned 95 on Sunday July 5.
Despite Ms Van Nelson not wanting anything for her birthday except seeing everyone as lockdown “is terrible”, the family wanted to show her that she deserves the highest honour for all she did for their parents and for making it thus far, said Ms McLean.
The family decided to meet at their “Ma’s” house to drop off some treats and show her some love by doing a drive-by tribute.
Ms McLean, who was pregnant with her granny’s 43rd great-grandchild at the birthday celebration, gave birth on Thursday July 9. “Pregnancy didn’t keep me away. We pulled up on her birthday, sang songs and did a few speeches. Ma then also reminded us to love one another, to honour our parents. She never fought with anyone. The respect she showed others kept her life long.”
Ms Van Nelson has seven children – five sons of whom one passed away last year – two daughters, 24 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren and five great great-grandchildren.
Ms Van Nelson hails from Simon’s Town and her dad was in the British Royal Marines as a petty officer. Her mother died when she was young, so she and her siblings were separated and adopted by different people, said Ms McLean.
“However, she managed, with the help of my dad and aunt, to find her brother and two sisters before they passed away,” said Ms McLean.
Ms Van Nelson is well taken care of by her family. She lived in Lotus River for most of her married life, moved to Mitchell’s Plain when her ailments started and then went to live with her eldest daughter Pamela Pinto. After a while she moved in with Randall van Nelson, her youngest son, then she moved in with her youngest daughter in George for two months, then made her way back to Cape Town to stay with Ms McLean’s cousin Cynthia Kroukamp in Cafda.
Ms Van Nelson’s husband Peter Cyril Frederick van Nelson died at age 80.
Ms McLean said her granny “still walks, loves to help in the kitchen, and she doesn’t allow anyone to do the dishes when she’s around. She also loves to read”.
After she turned 90, Ms Van Nelson needed spectacles and blood pressure medication.
Describing her granny’s legacy Ms McLean summed it up: “To respect our parents and to love our neighbours and not to live life with closed hands but to be givers and doers.
“I remember her always serving, always cooking. When we came from school my dad would stop off and on entry Ma would get up, set the table in her kitchen and make us sweet tea and a sandwich.”
Ms McLean said her granny is very spontaneous. “I would pick her up and we’d go for a drive or get ice-cream or get her nails done in the mall. She loved being on the go. And all the cousins enjoyed sitting and listening to her speak. She’s still the same prayer warrior, caring and compassionate in all she does.
“She loves her grandchildren but we tease that she loves her great-grandchildren even more. She’s an amazing being and we wanted her to know that,” said Ms McLean.