One of the hardest things about being away from home is when someone dies. You feel so helpless being so far away and you have to weigh up time, costs, distance, etc. On the 27th June, my fabulous, witty, accomplished grandfather died suddenly at age 93 (almost 94 – in December). I knew it would be tough when he died, but it hit me even harder than I thought it would. Being away from everyone connected to him has meant it has been more difficult to process the grief – not that I haven’t had an outpouring of love from all over the world.
He was a remarkable man and I am so grateful to have had a relationship with him as a kid and as an adult, and with fourteen grandchildren and ten great grandchildren, that’s pretty impressive. He was such a teaser. He’d get that twinkle in his eye and you knew he was going to say something wicked just to get my grandmother’s “goat” as she used to say. She’d always respond with “Ag Arthur man!”One of his favourites was when something was delicious was to say “Yum yum piggy’s ….. trotters” (but if he really wanted to tease my gran, he’d say “Yum yum piggy’s…. BUM!” and then laugh. This was especially when we were having I-C-E (he used to pretend he had to spell it out so granny wouldn’t know that we meant ice-cream).
I always admired his work ethic, his love for his family, his always magical garden, his wit, and his ability to love. As he got older, he expressed his love for all of us more vocally, which really touched me, and he always remembered to send love to my Other Half, too and he always remembered what we’d been up to – whether in work or play. When we had a second wedding in Cape Town, he and my gran flew down to join us, making it that much more special an occasion.
I have so many wonderful memories of him – letting us “play office” – using all his stationery, photocopying the new money he’d get in advance before it went into circulation (being a CA and at the top of his field), playing with granny’s typewriter though it was supposed to be a secret between us, and making our own “newspapers.” He taught us about “Rabbit’s Milk” (Nesquik) and the “Jumping Gear” in the car (I STILL haven’t figured out how he did that); we’d sing rounds of “You’d better mind the bee, the bee’s an awful thing, and if you mind the bee, the bee is sure to sting you on your…” or sit quietly and watch cricket while he had his whiskey and Gran her thimbleful of Amarula.
There was his annoying habit of waking us up at 5.30 or 6am because he was shaving with his electric razor while walking around the garden and standing right outside the window, and in his later years, blasting the news first thing in the morning. He was always so neat – impeccably dressed whether in his long “grandpa” socks and shorts or his long sleeved and slacks. I loved his driving gloves and his neatly combed hair, his Wallace ears and his grin. And his ability to make you feel like, even when you were a kid, you were important and had something valid to say.
My mom has told me how he remarked to her many times when he saw me as an adult that he still had an image of me as a little girl taking his hand and leading him around the garden. In my heart, that’s how I picture him today.