I Want My Dada…

NOTE: This is Part II of a two-part series. Please check out Part I.

Dearest Reader!

As I stated in Part I, a dear friend asked, “If you could spend 24 hours with anyone doing exactly what you want, who would it be and what would you do?”

Answering this question has uncovered longings in me that I did not even know I had. It seems that I am famished for connection, family history, and continuity.

Jeanne Anne Elisabeth Flanders Helligar

Jeanne Anne Elisabeth was born on December 19, 1904 to Eugenie Elisabeth MANUEL and Abraham FLANDERS. She was affectionately known as Dada.

Tragically, in the latter years of her life, Dada was bed-ridden and lived with constant pain.

Dada was taken from this life in 1966 when I was still too young for memories to take root. Her sons, who were scattered to the winds, chartered a plane and came home.

Dada must have been amazing woman and mother!

There are only a precious few images of her that exist. And although I have no memories of my own of her, she is more than a picture in a frame to me.

I know that she was kind and loving to my mum. I know that when I was a baby, she would ask my mum to place me in her arms so that she could play with me. I know that my grandmama loved me.

Recently, I asked my dad what was his favorite memory of his mami. He said, “Every memory of my mami is a favorite memory. Every. memory.” 

My dad will only eat his eggs one way, scrambled soft so that each luscious mouthful melts instantly in your mouth. I, too, will only eat my eggs one way, scrambled soft…

So any time I stand at the stove “turning” lightly beaten eggs over a very low flame for what seems like an eternity, I cannot help but smile and think of my dad with every turn. Yesterday, I learned that this is precisely how his mami made them for him, especially one ordinary day 73 years ago. For me, this tiny fragment of connection and continuity is priceless.

If only I could have just 12 hours with my dad’s mami. How wonderful it would be to be wrapped up in her warm, loving embrace and hear her sweet voice whisper her nickname for me once again.

And when we finally and reluctantly separate, I would look deep into her eyes and say, “Dada, I am deliriously happy to finally meet you. Because whenever dad, his brothers, his sisters, and my mum speak of you, their voices–without fail–goes quiet and soft-like and their eyes fill up and over flow with love. And I always, always think how amazing you must have been!”

Then, we would just be together, chatting, giggling, getting to know each other and sharing our deepest secrets–yes, trying to relive two lifetimes in just 12 hours.

And, of course, I would have to ask, “So Dada, tell me. What was my daddy like as a boy?”

As with my maternal grandma Mary Mathilda Lavinia, I want it written that between the date-dash-date on my Dada’s headstone: She lived. She loved well. She suffered. She lost more than her share. She had faith. She was gracious. She made the most heavenly, soft scrambled eggs and fry cake. And she was loved.

I want it known that Dada is still loved.

Call to action: Is there a Dada in your life?

And do yourself a huge favor. If your grandparents and/or parents are still here, then get to know–really know–them while there is still time. You won’t regret it.

4 thoughts on “I Want My Dada…

  1. Thanks, Janine, for stirring up memories of my grandparents. I was lucky to have recollections of three of four, and they are some of my fondest. I love my eggs the same way.

  2. I had the privilege of knowing this kind, wonderful woman. Even with her suffering, she was always thanking and praising God whenever I visited her. She had a loving heart. I was married to one of her sons, and when some of the family rejected me because I was from another island, she accepted me with open arms and welcomed me into her family. Yes, I heartily agree with everything you said about your Dada. Your dad’s mother was a very special lady who was taken away from us much too soon.

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