My mom’s speed-dating adventures Robyn D’alessandro on how she encouraged her mom to find love again
Robyn D’alessandro tells us how she encouraged her vibrant mother Elaine, who’s now 76, not to give up on finding love...
“The fiery, feisty matriarch I’d grown up with lost her zest for life after my stepfather’s unexpected death. They’d been married 23 comfortable years. Three months into having her live with my family, I realised that my mom was far too vibrant and unconventional to be happy living out the rest of her days as a widowed grandma.
You see, my mother has never been ‘traditional’ in any sense of the word. In my primaryschool years, she’d cycle round the neighbourhood in a miniskirt, leaving the neighbours’ tongues wagging and the other moms frowning. In my teen years, she scared a couple of Varsity Rag freshmen who approached her car in traffic to fundraise, only to find her 5ft python unfurling gently on the passenger seat. She’d coax butterflies to drink home-made nectar from saucers, allow water snakes to refresh themselves in our bath, and would often assist the vet in delivering kittens by caesarean section. Generally, she took on the role of Ms Doolittle in the neighbourhood while her own brood of four ran wild. Conventional she is not. A green-fingered, butterfly-loving, snake-wrangling, cat-breeding buglover is a more apt, if wordy, description.
Even now in her ‘golden years’, she’d be the granny rolling down the grassy hill at parties with her nine grandkids, who were equally enthralled when she’d pluck a roosting grey lourie out of a tree to show them its wing structure. Her delight in discovering the ‘beautiful’ Parktown prawns in the garden when she turned her talents to reviving my roses wasn’t out of the ordinary and yet, somehow, all was not as it should be.
On the surface, Mom seemed to be settling into the little cottage we’d built for her, sheltered amongst the branches of a tall stinkwood tree; but that spark in her eyes had all but disappeared. Eventually, it dawned on me. What she needed was to be loved. Not by her family – that went without saying – but by a contemporary with a similar lack of inhibition, who’d accompany her in her shenanigans and cherish her deliciously different soul. At 66, three years after her husband’s passing, she was ready to find that special someone. We set out to snag Mom a mate forthwith.
A rather rocky start
First stop was the local recreation centre, which hosted dance evenings for single seniors. On the first night, she arrived home early, recounting how a cluster of aged would-be suitors had jostled for a slot on her dance card, the tallest one’s eyes barely reaching her bosom. After an hour of looking down at the top of one balding head after another, her enthusiasm waned; but it was only when the regular blue-rinsed ladies closed ranks against the colourful newcomer that her evening came to a rapid close. Mustering her dignity, Mom stalked out of the room, sweeping some sausage rolls into her handbag as she passed the snacks table. Later, warmly pyjamaed, we divvied up the still-warm rolls, shrieking at the sad state of what was on offer for a mature woman on the dating scene. Time for ‘Plan B’.
Less haste, more speed
A couple of speed-dating services told us they didn’t accept members of my mother’s age. Apparently – along with
‘At 66, my mother was far too vibrant and unconventional to be happy as a widowed grandma’