Grandparents. The word alone should conjure up memories in anyone’s minds eye of silver haired smiles, of being spoilt or comforted, of wrinkles and spots and grey hair, of quiet afternoons and the tic toc steadiness of time spent with them.
I have a number of clear memories of my maternal grandfather. He was an avid lawn bowler. Quite a good one at that. I remember some afternoons spent leaping through hedges at the Sturrock Park Bowling Club where both he and my grandmother (Grannypie) played. His picture was on the wall at the club, above the big doors if memory serves. I remember the parking lot for the club being on the opposite side of a railway and I, for whatever reason, decided one day I wasn’t going to cross the bridge over the tracks. I’d been to the bowling club before and since but on that day I remember him having to try convince me that the trains really weren’t going to run over me. I remember he was a quiet man, a gentleman and he loved to wear hats. He passed away when I was quite young after a long illness.
My paternal grandfather was a real family man that loved a big party. He worked well into his retirement years and I remember his love of animals (dogs in particular) and his parrot (Popeye). He had four boys with my father being the second youngest and then thirteen grandchildren. Yes, thirteen and I was the youngest. He drove a red beetle and when that little car made its way into our neighborhood, every dog for four blocks around would make a beeline for our house so that they could claim their little treat which he always seemed to have handy. As I cast my mind back, many of the memories I have of Grandpa were at family gatherings which he’d orchestrated. Actually, my memories of him seem to jump from one family party to the next at one of my uncle’s homes or ours. I remember a few holidays he took with my grandmother (Nanna) where my father was tasked with caring for Popeye the parrot. Popeye, by the way, grew up in a home of four boys that loved Elvis and as such was a big fan of 50’s music and of ‘the king’ in particular. He absolutely adored my Grandpa. He’d pine when he was away and literally do loops on his perch when he came home. Grandpa also passed away when I was quite young after a brief illness.
My Nanna was a free spirit, not in the new age sense but rather in the fact that she seemed to rediscover her youthful exuberance long after most grandparents would be zimmer-framing from the kitchen to the lounge. She actually stayed in her own apartment in Braamfontein and would zip around the country on a whim to visit a casino without even having to ask anyone to so much as give her a lift. Her disappearances always caused great concern among my father and uncles. She was loving and fun and I get the sense that had she been alive when Facebook started, she’d definitely have had a page with great stories on it. She’d probably have had a Twitter handle too and I expect she’d have had a huge following of people admiring a granny with such a young heart. I was on holiday when she passed away.
My Grannypie, so named by my sister, was a Dame. She really was. She was one of those people who would pat the seat next to her to indicate you should sit down to speak to her. Very proper. Very steady. She loved to listen to the radio. She had a great sense of humor and she almost closed her eyes when she smiled. She lived with us for the last years of her life and she had one drink a day which was a tot of Gilby’s gin, a tot of lime, two blocks of ice and water in a short tumbler glass. I made one for her almost every day before I left home and eventually spread my wings. At my 21st birthday party, her and her two sisters all managed to make several trips to the gents restrooms, completely in error of course. None of them questioned the row of urinals or the stick man on the door. Much mirth followed when it was finally explained to them what they’d been doing that day. My Grannypie lived a full life and passed away quietly at my family home. I arrived a day late.
My paternal Grandparents were often backups when I was not well enough to go to school as a pup. I have memories of doing ’rounds’ with my Grandfather in his building in Johannesburg where he was the caretaker. They lived on the top floor and going there was always a treat. I’m pretty sure I slowed him down on those days but he never once made me feel like I was a burden. I do remember him having to take a nap on the odd occasion that I was visiting in order to recharge though.
For a few years after I learnt how to drive I would fetch my grandmothers on a Sunday morning and bring them home for lunch. They were never back seat drivers but my mother always cautioned me to drive sedately with them, though I’m not sure I always did. All of my Grandparents played a role in my life and all of them have special nooks in my mind where I can easily reach them.
I wasn’t there when any of them passed away so I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Each of them just disappeared one day and life sort of moved on without them. Everything pretty much the same, just a little emptier. So I encourage those among you who have grandparents to take time out to sit next to them, to listen to their stories. Today. Now.
I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very roundabout sort of way, is that I’m almost 43 years old and I still miss my grandparents.