Schnitzel, salad and ‘raw’ love
“You did not listen to me Mr August! You did not listen! I told you I did not want you to come home in a box.”
Some stern and broken-hearted words from Steffi August for the man she loved and lost. “Men just don’t listen. Otherwise Fred wouldn’t be in the box. “ It’s probably the angriest she has ever been with her ‘Mr August.’
Because there’s Fred. He didn’t listen, and he’s in a box, on the living room table, in their Bayfair home. The inscription reads “Registered cremation - This container is the repository for the ashes of the late Fred (Peeke) August – 4.8.60 – 11.4.2019.”
The box is centrepiece in a shrine to the man – it’s amongst the field of flowers in her living room, just beside the boots Fred was wearing on the day, just beside his “office” – the backpack containing his work diary and orders, just beside his drink bottle with the words “love you heaps” scrawled across it. That’s what Steffi did for her man before he went to work. And also beside the Tiger Woods golf shirts – Easter presents Fred never got to open, never got to wear.
“I always said to him, ‘Fred, you know if anything happens to you, you will break my heart’.” And on a Thursday afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, Fred broke her heart. His 12-metre, eight-wheel Hino FW – a furniture removal truck fully laden with 60 cubic metres of freight - was in a collision with a truck and trailer unit near Tokoroa. Fred Peeke August died instantly. The truck that was their livelihood became a tomb of tangled metal.
Steffi is fidgeting with Fred’s wedding ring now hanging around her neck. And she’s staring at his image. Her grief, like her love for the man, is raw. “Look at him, he’s so handsome. Oh my God, I still think he’s coming back.” She weeps, and she weeps, but no tears.”I have run out of tears.”
When Steffi arrived home that Thursday afternoon, there was a note attached to the back door. “It said please ring urgently, our boy has been in an accident. I was screaming like hell.”
They soon learned two ambulances were on their way from Tokoroa to Waikato Hospital. Then later on the way to the hospital, she got the call from Fred’s daughter. ”Steff, she said, Dad has passed away.”
“No, no, no! – those were my words. And I started crying, crying , crying. No, this can’t be real.”
Just 12 hours earlier in bed, Steffi had gazed in this man’s eyes. “I thought to myself, oh my goodness boy, I so love you. And he said ‘I love you too’. I didn’t say anything, he could read me. He sensed it.”
Fred August would always put in his order in the night before. “On Monday night he said ‘Hey Sexy, wake me at 5.45 and I would like two eggs, two toast, some mushrooms and some bacon. And his smoothie and supplements.” That’s the way they rolled and it worked for them.
All Fred’s family, friends and customers knew Steffi as his “Sexy” - “Are you coming home Sexy? Hi Sexy, I’m home. But no – it’s not going to happen anymore.”
“And if he was driving overnight I would give him his energy drink. I would write on the bottle I love you heaps. And a hearts. Also a heart on his sandwich bag and a message on his banana. ‘Have a safe trip – love you heaps.”
It was a special love. “Some people don’t understand the simple things like writing a message on a banana or a little note on the sandwiches can make a huge difference.” It was certainly enough to sustain this man on a long haul.
And it worked both ways. On one end of the settee is a mountain of soft toys – one with each of the bouquets of flowers Fred bought his wife. And never the same soft toy. “And this blouse, right style, right colour, right size.” Love from Fred.
Steffi August is a pocket size German dynamo – motivational speaker, published author, furniture removalist, masseuse, lover, wife. A slip of a woman with big attitude, extraordinary energy and positivity. Energy because she runs up Mauao three times on a Sunday morning, and positivity because she has already molded this personal tragedy into making a difference. “Fred would have loved that.”
“I love numbers and we married on 16.2.16. So on the 16th of every month, we had a date night. If not the day before, the day after, it was our highest priority.”
Like on January 16 , the big laden Hino was parked up at the ferry terminal in Wellington.
“We were sitting in the truck, I had made chicken schnitzel and potato salad. I brought candle light and so on the 16th we had our date night in the truck. It was ro-man-tic, Cos I loved the man.”
And therein lies the lesson that will no doubt be peddled around the speaking circuit. “Everyone and everything is so busy, busy,busy. And we don’t take the time to show the love we have for each other. Date night should be the highlight of the month – show your love, no phone, no distractions, nothing.
“People will say let’s do it next week. Well no! Do it now. Life is too short and look at me. My love is not coming home anymore.”
She talked about date nights in her eulogy at Fred’s funeral. “People then started emailing and texting and saying hey Steffi, we are having our date night. Even my two kids are starting to have a date night.” Fred and Steffi were making a difference.”
The day after Fred's cremation, Steffi’s kids took her out on a date night to Chinatown in Fraser Cove. There was an empty chair. “But he is still with me, he is with me all the time.”
Fred August enjoyed a bit of banter, a bit of black humour. “He sometimes talked nonsense,” says Steffi.
And that’s what she took from their last conversation. “He said, Hey Sexy, I have just loaded the truck and I will talk to you after the crash.” After the crash? Did he have some foreboding? And that’s when Steffi told him he would break her heart.
“Then he said, ‘Sexy it’s not me’, it’s the other drivers. I will ring you tonight. Those were his last words to me.” Fred never rang. And Steffi August finds just a few more tears.