Saturday, December 03, 2005

my grandfather

I dreamt about my my maternal grandfather last night. He’s been gone a long time now so I wonder what prompted the dream. I remember when he died; I was 16 and remember only feeling numbness – and then terrible guilt when my brother and I giggled at his funeral. I didn’t know then that I’d miss him and that as male influences go, he’d be the one. Regarding funeral arrangements, my grandmother decided on a compromise and had a memorial service at the local Anglican church. She was Catholic but he was an atheist.

My grandfather was born in south London in the Edwardian era: a time of such moral rigidity that his shaky start was something of a cloud over his head for who knows how long. His father, of good family, got a working-class girl “in the family way”, and subsequently married her. Not too unusual as these things go. However, when my grandfather was a baby they became estranged and one day Grandpa’s dad scooped him up and carted him off to his sister’s family in Brighton. I know very few of the details, but considering the social climate of the time, I guess his mother had little recourse but to accept the situation. I don’t know if he ever saw her again. He was raised with his cousin and was a dutiful nephew, I’m sure. He was very attached to his aunt, but was not a happy young man. She died when he was a newly-qualified chartered accountant with Price-Waterhouse. With her gone he took the next overseas posting that came up: Mexico City.


He lived in Mexico for most of the rest of his working life, married my grandmother who was born a Mexican of ex-pat parents, had two kids. In the ‘60s they moved to Guatemala for a couple of years to finish off his career, then retired to Canada, where their son and daughter lived (they’d been sent here to school and remained). Life was very different here and I don’t think they ever felt truly at home. Grandpa was 71 when he died.

I always remember him wearing a cravat. We shared a love of dogs and photography, and he paid me some attention. That was more important to me than I knew at the time. But there was always a palpable thread of sadness and disappointment in his life, in spite of his general good humour (except when dealing with my unruly brothers). Near the end of his life, when he was ill and had just dressed to go somewhere with me, I remember him saying, “If clothes make the man, then I guess that makes me a man.” I responded exactly as he would’ve responded to me: “Rubbish”. I wish he’d lived long enough for me to know who he was without the filter of childhood.

11 Comments:

Blogger vfm4 said...

thank you for this story and lovely photos....

3/12/05 8:17 AM  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

I was wondering about dreams today as well. You wonder if we are to respond in some way, or is the wondering the desired outcome. Things that make you say "hmmm".
Thanks for posting this Andrea.

3/12/05 6:25 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

I've had two such dreams lately and in both cases I chose to respond. I love that I can be with people that I want to be with when I dream, even though geography, mortality or circumstance make it impossible.

3/12/05 7:19 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

this is a really interesting story, i love to read about people that lived in different times and how they dealt with taboo topics and circumstances. It is such a different world now. very good andrea you are a bright light!

p.s. well she (Joni) is a pioneer and the quintessential songstress of our times as well as being a proud canadian.

3/12/05 7:46 PM  
Blogger Urban Convert said...

That's a very touching story. Sad, and yet, so beautiful.

3/12/05 8:19 PM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your story VERY much :)

3/12/05 8:36 PM  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

I love your story! It's such a good thing to know where we come from and who were the people that came before us. Your grandfather really had such a strange life! But every life is a little bit strange. Thanks for the pics too!

3/12/05 9:30 PM  
Blogger LDahl said...

Ah Andrea, so lovingly told, a christmas gift to us. Thank you.

3/12/05 10:14 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

Andrea
You have touched my heart.
This has brought back memories of my maternal Grandfather. How I miss him and so does my son.
He was there for my son at a time when he needed him and my Grandfather really needed my son. It was a wonderful relationship.

ps: thanks for the heads up on the url

4/12/05 3:56 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

I read this yesterday but couldn't repspond... my father must have been much the same age as your grandfather - he had children very late - and he died when I was 17 (and the others all younger still).

Recently I'd told a friend about his always wearing a beret to cover his bald head (he had the monk's tonsure look naturally, though maybe more so)

On Friday I had been telling someone that I'd felt the moment of his death... and then yesterday you posted this...

Looks like I'll have to do a posting!!!

4/12/05 4:05 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

I've done it!

thanks for the inspiration

4/12/05 6:33 AM  

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