Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Chit-chat Wednesday - Je regrette
I was on a crowded Sydney train when my mobile went. Fifteen minutes before I'd set out for my one day a week 'real job'. It was the Scribe. I could tell by his voice something had happened. "I think you had better come home," he said. And then, "I don't know how to say this."
A few seconds passed before I heard with shock that my Grandfather had died. My reaction was a very loud bursting into tears whilst the entire carriage of commuters sent silent sympathy as they did the usual Sydney thing of pretending nothing was happening.
There are times you feel guilty for mourning one who lived to such an advanced age as my Grandfather. But he is the source of so many childhood memories. A man of his time and generation, who spoke an Australian slang that you don't hear much anymore. He was snow, childhood rabbits, pine-trees, mice and guinea pigs, toast cooked in front of the fire on toasting forks. Not a perfect man; he had a snappy, crusty veneer at times which housed a very soft heart. I would watch with disbelief when he would cry over the deaths of his favourite birds. This was the same man who would behead his own poultry in the backyard without flinching. I'm sure I inherited my weeping genes from him. Forever generous and always trying to press money upon me. He was always concerned if there was enough food in my pantry. If you had a pantry full of food you were abundant. He had lied about his age to fight in World War II, and raised eight children in a very modest sized house.
His last couple of years were painful to witness. He lost his wife and then his leg, amputated due to smoking - a ghastly operation with just a local anesthetic due to his age. One can imagine the fear my Grandfather went through. He managed to stop smoking for awhile but soon resumed it. "What the bloody hell have I got left?" he would say.
He was quite a character and known throughout the Midlands. When I phoned to order a wreathfrom a neighbouring village and said his name, the funeral director said, 'Aah, it's for Rattler."
I can see him now going around the lake in his electric wheelchair, beret on his head, doggy companion Tess by his side (a dog he was always threatening to shoot if he wanted to waste a bullet).
I regret very much that for a couple of months I had thought I should send him a proper letter and photos and artwork of Daisy's. Somehow there was never enough time in my busy life - but there was always time for Facebook or the Blog.
On the day he took his last breath, I took this photograph of Daisy in our yard. "I'm going to send it to Granddad," I told the Scribe. I asked him to print me a copy of it on Monday.