When they were young they were so identical even their father couldn’t tell them apart. They went everywhere together and were mirror images of one another. Seventy years later the sisters are still mirror images of each other. “Except that now there’s 40 kg more of me,” Anna Beetge jokes.
Anna and her twin sister, Tia Rogers, recently celebrated their 70th birthday. After all these years they’re still best friends, see each other nearly every day (they live about a kilometre from one another in Centurion) and can still talk incessantly, especially about cloth and wool. Tia says they even feel each other’s pain. When Anna suffers from backache Tia has it too.
“And as happens with twins, yesterday Tia hurt her right arm on her fridge and today my cat bit me on the same spot on my right arm,” says Anna.
The sisters got their love of needlework from their mother, who was a woman “who taught us to work”.
After completing school in Musina, Limpopo, they worked as nurses for a while in Polokwane, which was then known as Pietersburg. Their father couldn’t bear to have his girls living so far from home and got them both jobs at Barclays Bank in Musina.
The sisters lived together. Each met a special man and married on the same day in 1963. For the first time in their lives their paths parted. Anna and her husband, who was a bank clerk, were transferred from town to town. Tia and her husband, who was a miner, lived in Musina for a while before moving to Phalaborwa.
At one stage Anna and her husband also lived in Phalaborwa, which is where they separated. One afternoon Anna’s husband came to fetch their two sons, aged four and 11. He crashed into a bus and both boys were killed.
“I moved in with Tia for two months,” says Anna. “If it weren’t for her I would never have made it.”
Tia says during this time they learnt to pray together.
After the tragedy Anna met her second husband, Danie. They’ve been married for 36 years and have two daughters, who both live in Pretoria.
Tia and her husband also divorced and she moved to Centurion about 10 years ago to be near her sister. Tia’s three children live in Australia, Durban and Johannesburg respectively.
Ask Tia and Anna if they’ve ever had an argument and they say they vaguely recall their mom slapping them with a dishcloth for fighting. They were five at the time. “Then there was the time after school when we had a tiff because one of us didn’t like the other’s boyfriend. But actually we fought very seldom,” says Anna.
The sisters help out at Centurion Hospice once a week. They got involved in the work after their brother Hennie Strydom (60) developed stomach cancer a few years ago and the hospice did so much for him. “It was a way of giving back,” says Anna.
Tia spends her free time doing needlework or visiting Anna, who still does her own housework. The sisters enjoy spending time in the garden. Tia usually can’t keep her hands out of the soil, while Anna does the watering with a hosepipe. They also enjoy wandering around in little shops.
“It’s because we work and keep busy that we’re still so healthy,” says Anna. “If you sit and do nothing, you die. It’s only mercy that’s got us this far.”
Pictures: Dino Codevilla