You’re never too old to fall in love – just look at Capetonian 80somethings Joan Baatjies and David Clarke who will be tying the knot in December.
Joan (87) from Southfield and David (84) from Lotus River became friends last year when Joan needed a ride to visit her friend Margaret, David’s older sister. Joan and David had met previously, but David was married at the time.
“I offered to take her to see my sister because I had not seen her for a bit either. The lifts became quite frequent."
It was on that 30-minute drive from Plumstead to Margaret’s Fish Hoek home that the two started getting to know each other.
“I did not want the rides to stop! I think it started there. On the way home he asked to see me again and that is how it started,” Joan says, laughing. “I always said I wanted a tall, dark and handsome guy.”
“I thought she was really sweet. She’s encouraging, and when necessary, she can challenge my thinking,” David says.
The couple, who both lost their spouses in recent years, had no intention of finding new life partners, they said. Joan was married for 51 years, and David was married for 56 years.
“I was not looking but when it happened, I accepted it because here is my tall, dark and handsome guy!”
David was reading his Bible when he saw the verse, “It is not good for man to be alone,” in Genesis. “It made me think but I left it right there. I did not know then that God was preparing me to be with Joan.”
The two started seeing each other more frequently, going for drives, out to breakfast in scenic Kalk Bay and shopping together.
Joan made her way to David’s heart with her cooking, especially his favourite food, tomato stew.
When it was time for David to meet Joan’s children it was like something out of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen.
Joan has eight children, 21 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Her oldest child is 61 and the youngest is 44.
David has three children, aged between 42 and 58. Two live in the UK and one in the US. He has no grandchildren.
“It has been quite an experience for me [meeting Joan’s family] because I don’t have any grandchildren,” David says. “It was quite interesting to see how they gel.”
“I’m sorry for dragging David into this. I hope he won’t run away!” Joan jokes.
After they officially started dating, they soon decided they were going to take the next step and tie the knot, and David told Joan’s children about their plans.
“We asked him questions. We wanted to know what his intentions were with our mother,” Melanie Erasmus, Joan’s third child says.
David broke the news to his children on a Zoom call and they were just as happy. His youngest remarked that his dad was a "dark horse", which amused David.
The lovebirds joked that they wanted to elope because of Joan’s big family but the kids wanted to be part of their special day. Joan’s oldest is going to be her maid of honour and David’s oldest will be his best man. The couple want to marry in December, so David’s children can attend too. If Covid restrictions allow it, they hope to have 130 to 150 guests.
The two are thrilled that they have found love again. Both say they longed for companionship and are grateful they found it in each other.
“Sometimes I feel like a 16-year-old. I’m not a quiet person. It was new to me. I have children but it can be lonely. Now here is David. We can go out,” Joan says.
“The thing with growing old is that your circle of friends naturally dwindles. Joan coming into my life at this stage was an answer to prayer. It can become lonely and very challenging when all you have is the silence around you. When the ticking of the clock is so loud it makes you go crazy and you long for someone to be with,” David says.
Joan plans to move in with David, who lives on his own.
“In one’s winter years we must remember that spring is yet to follow. People should not be despair. There is still a lot of love to be shared, even at our age,” David says.