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...

Woman & Home (South Africa) - - Editor’s Letter -

“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’

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