Written by Chris DeFlamingh
I was born Christo De Flamingh on 29 April 1971 in the early hours of that Thursday morning. Our first home, after I was born was on a military base as my dad was an artillery instructor in the SADF.
I was about 4 years old and I remember, one night we had visitors over and my mom sent me to run a bath for myself. I placed the plug into the bath trap and opened the hot water tap. After a couple of minutes as a lot of kids do, I got bored waiting for the bath to fill up with water. I decided to lie on top of the edge of the bath and after a couple of seconds I lost my balance and fell into the bath half-filled with hot water and almost immediately I let out a blood curling scream.
My mom appeared in an instant as she ran to the bathroom after my screams for help. She picked me up out of the bath and covered me with a blanket and my dad rushed me to the military hospital in Wynberg military base. I had suffered severe burns over the upper part of my body and my legs and my one foot. After a long period of time my wounds had healed and with time I was able to have the bandages removed. This was my very first encounter when I experienced trauma and this was a very frightening ordeal for me at such a young age.
Since I can remember, I used to have a very cheeky temper tantrum in me and if I couldn’t have my way or wanted to make a point, I would throw a tantrum.
We used to look after the neighbour’s dog when they went on holiday. It was a fox-terrier female named Suzi and was like having my first experience with owning and playing with my best friend (first dog). We used to play outside and I remember running as fast as I could and going through the front door after running around the house then closing the door quickly after entering the house. That used to be such a rush of adrenaline and an exciting thrill all at the same time. I remember my brother starting school in 1975 as a first grader (Sub A).
In 1977, exciting news, not only did we move into a new home in Wynberg, dad purchased our first TV, the first in South Africa a black and white.
Our new home in Wynberg military base was a whole new and exciting experience for me. I met and made new friends although some of our neighbours also moved to Wynberg as the old military houses from our former home was to be converted to single quarters/rooms for single military staff members. We lived a total of approximately 8 years in Wynberg military base. During my stay in Wynberg, I had some fun times with my friends and family as a child growing up in a military environment things are considerably different to kids whose parents would be employed in the private sector.
Life felt a lot safer back in those days than in the 21st century. But nevertheless, those were good years in the seventies (1970’s) right through to the early nineties (1990’s).
In 1978 we had a next-door neighbour that lived in the flat right next door to us and they had two sons named Francois and Deon. Deon and I became very good friends even though he was at least ten years my senior. He was like a big brother to me and we did a lot of things together over the years.
After finishing high school, Deon joined the military. He had the love of his life, Alida, a beautiful gentle lady. Deon was madly in love with her.
One night late It was raining very heavily and Deon and some of his mates left the military base where he was doing his military service and came home to see his parents. He walked past my window when he left I saw his face for the last time as he made his way back to the car downstairs. He smiled and waved as he walked past our kitchen window that night. I think it was August 1978. He was killed in a car crash when they drove back to Youngsfield military base. The accident occurred on Ottery road not far from Youngsfield Military Base.
We attended his funeral as a family and I felt so shocked as I didn’t quite understand what was really happening as I was only seven years old at the time.
Years later I would find his grave and then I really cried my eyes out and understood and comprehend what had taken place in terms of my emotions. I had lost my best friend that was like a brother to me. Memories flash as I remember the rides on the back of his motorcycle his dad bought Deon. Remembering the excitement I felt every time he came home from school, as I anticipated the adventures and exploring we shared.
I miss him still up until today as I have never forgotten him. We were quite close and his mother knew and could see he had quite an impact on my life. His death was a huge loss to his family and friends. His parents remained in their flat for many years after we had moved out.
In 1982 I had changed schools as I was diagnosed with being dyslexic. I was now in a completely new and different type of school as it was an enormous change and I faced numerous challenges, struggling to adapt and fit in with the rest of the school and curriculum.
The first three years were the most difficult as the class teacher was a very emotional destructive person and turned out to be very damaging to me as a person as it made me feel very insecure and frightened. I didn’t know what it was like to have fun anymore as I was scared and felt anxious for most of that time but nevertheless, I did make very good friends over the years at my new school.
Feeling so emotional and vulnerable at times had me landing up in detention after school as I became despondent and I didn’t know how to deal with the issues at the time. I had my friends that would keep me grounded over the years as well as my mom and dad. I would look to my friends for fun times in terms of my situation at school.
I did suffer a lot of mental anguish under my first teacher at the new school but over time things got better as I advanced to higher grades. In the tenth grade (std 8) 1988, I decided to drop out of school and join the military to complete my military service. My dad was adamant that I complete my military training, even if decided to go back to school the following year but my mind was made up not to return to school.
Joining the military I felt it was a huge change in my life and adapting to military life was not easy at first as I wasn’t the type to fit in very easily with big new changes and strangers etc. By the second month, things seemed easier and I felt more relaxed. I managed to get a transfer to my dad’s unit back home as I initially did my basic training in Kimberly over 1000 km away from home. I was very happy to be back in my hometown.
Later that year I applied to Technical College Cape Town and was granted a sleep-out pass which allowed me to move back home as I was compelled to live in the military base due to my military training. I started studying at the college by attending classes at night after work two to three times a week. I was determined to get my national senior certificate but as luck would have it, I lost interest and didn’t complete the following year at college. So I ceased all studies especially after I left the military service in July 1990. I found myself unemployed and looking for work for the first time at the age of 19. I found a job at a motor company where I worked as a driver for the first 8 years then as a parts manager after which I was retrenched in August 1999.
In 1993 my dad fell ill with having complications with his heart and as a result, he passed away three years later on April 7th, 1995. I was devastated after losing my dad. For years I wore black; mourning my dad’s passing and important dates like the date of his passing and burial as well as his birthday were very sad days for me. I struggled with great difficulty processing my dad’s passing. My dad didn’t have any life insurance and we were forced to sell the house where I grew up. Mom and I purchased a flat jointly just down the road from where we used to live.
After being laid off in 1999, I spent three years looking for work. My mom covered all the bills for those three years and I thought I would never find employment. In late 2003 I found employment with a service station and I was put in charge of their car wash. It didn’t pay much at the time but I was very grateful for the opportunity as it covered my bills and my mom could breathe a bit. Money was always tight but we somehow managed and made it work. 23 years, a lifetime full of lessons. Lots of good memories with some sad days as well.
In 2000 I met a neighbour who lived across the road from me in a house. Her name was Cathy and she was 18 years my senior. I fell in love with her and she was my rock for a short few years. She used to listen to all my trials and tribulations. We spent a lot of time together and went out quite a number of times. I felt wanted again and she meant the world to me. In 2001 she fell ill after being hospitalised for a hip replacement and passed away shortly after. I was once again left in a state of shock but I was able to process Cathy’s death much easier than my dad’s passing.
My brother left for Dubai in November 2003 and shortly after I found employment at the Engen service station where I was in charge of the carwash. He used to send us money which was a great help financially. As life got more expensive with time I found employment with a paper vendor and left in 2012 to venture out on my own as an entrepreneur to start my own business and make a living for myself to try and have a better quality of life.
Due to my mom’s health which was also on the decline, it was the best decision to work from home as mom assisted me in taking calls for the first 3 to 4 years. I later approached friends of mine who were unemployed as the business had now grown considerably and needed help keeping up with the demand and service I was offering to clients.
In 2018 the business failed due to the economy and I had closed the business and lost my staff also as a result. I continued to get the odd call for business but eventually died off completely. I found myself once again unemployed and at the mercy of debt collectors and by now my mom’s health had deteriorated considerably and I could see the stress of losing our home started taking its toll on her as well as on me as I found myself very depressed many days and didn’t know how to deal with this situation.
My brother had also lost his job in Dubai and came home and was living with us due to him also being unemployed. Things would get rather tense and stressful as money was little to speak of. We were forced to put our flat up for sale to get out of the financial predicament we found ourselves in. My business which once provided for me and my mom’s needs was also up in smoke and I felt like I had also nothing left to live for any longer.
In March 2019 we signed the transfer documents for the sale of the flat but before the transfer would take place, my mom passed away on April 28th, 2019, one day before my 48th birthday.
I was once again dumped into absolute devastation and depression. By now I had been on anti-anxiety and anti-depressants for some time prescribed by my doctor to help me cope with all that was taking place in my life.
It’s been a few years since my mom passed away, the flat has been sold, I moved out and life happened. My health has declined, but live to fight another day every day. Each day is a challenge for me; I thank God each day that I am still alive. I don’t always have the physical strength to get out of bed but I do my best as each day is a new challenge.
I miss my parents dearly and wish I could turn the clock back to have some more time with them. But I would never stop loving them because they brought me up in this world and I would always be thankful to God for the time I had with them on earth.
God is the only real rock I can lean on as I don’t have my mom or my dad to fulfil that task for me anymore. I feel lonely many days but take each day as it comes. Right now I just fight to survive and to stay alive mentally, emotionally and financially.