There they lie. The earliest inhabitants of Krugersdorp and the latest, row after row of black granite stones with names and dates carved into part of the stones which have been polished glittering pitch black. People who performed wonderful deeds and thought profound thoughts, are now only skeletons in the earth.
Death is God’s delete button. Some people take comfort from the idea that their dear departed will rise to life again, as if a cemetery is a recycle bin or a wastebasket, where I can retrieve documents, smooth them out and re-read them.
I knew them all; Louis Friedman, the mayor of Krugersdorp, whose belly, adorned with the heavy golden chain, dragged him to a bow before King George VI, Elizabeth, the queen-mother, Elizabeth, the future queen, and Margarite. There they lie; Danilowitz’s, the Essakows, the Gotsmans, the Sobels, the Resniks, the Tanenbaums, the Kahns, the Fittinghoffs, etc. They were all 2nd or even 3rd generations Krugersdorpers. They had been born there, they’d spent their childhood years there. They had become oldtimers. They had stories to tell me about Krugersdorp that today I would give my right arm to hear.
I had been living under the misconception that they, like my family the Gorks, had arrived there as adults from Lithuania and other East European countries and so knew nothing about Krugersdorp in the early years of its existence. I paid dearly for this misconception.
Why had I missed the opportunity? Why am I left alone to walk among the gravestones, wishing the dead could tell tales? I could have accumulated libraries full of books with their stories. Is it my fault that as a child I didn’t stop wasting my time reading comics and playing cricket to ask the oldtimers the questions that fill my mind today when there’s no living soul to answer me.
First-hand information on the history of Krugersdorp lay in the palm of my hand and I had missed acquiring it by not asking questions. I don’t blame myself for missing this Godsent opportunity. I blame those old-timers themselves for not thinking of putting me in the picture.