Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rest in Peace my Gumdrop

Yesterday morning at 09h55, probably about 2 hours after mom first called me to tell me the nurses didn't think he had much longer, she called to tell me that my grandfather (her father) had died, aged 83. Thankfully she'd called before then and let me speak to him a little on the phone. Apparently hearing is the last sense to go, so although he couldn't respond, I hope he heard my voice one last time.

As I said before, it was far from an unexpected call, but somehow when I finally heard ... it was as hurtful as ever. So I wanted to spend this post remembering my Gum, my Gummy (when I was younger), my Gumdrop (and Roddy or Twenty to everyone else).

I grew up far closer to my mom's folks than my dad's. A process of geography rather than anything else. The Peeb & I grew up spending a large part of our childhood at their home. Especially in school holidays when we went there while Mom worked (only a half-day mind you, she was a dedicated Ma).

The story goes that in my first week home from the hospital (after having been born), Gum held me as he walked around the garden and told me the names of all the plants. He retired only a few months before I was born, at a younger-than-usual age for most. He'd been a rather successful Architect in his day and had an obsession with cars.

I was the eldest grandchild (on both sides) and am still convined I was his favourite Grandchild ;) I guess it's also cause I was around for more time than any of the others. I remember our special made-up game called Squiggles, which usually took place while I was curled on his lap. We took turns each drawing a "squiggle" (a nonsensical collection of lines) and then we'd each get a turn to try turning the squiggle into an actual picture - needless to say he was far better at it than me! When we slept over (a treat during the holidays), we'd sit in their lounge (naturally he designed their L-shaped house) and he'd draw the things he saw in the shadows on the cobbled fire-place and I'd have to try guessing which stone it was.

I remember Joe King (the brother of Nosmo King) and the way he used to get me giggling every time we went out for a family dinner ... Dad always threatened to separate us :) He used to tell us so many stories from his youth, it's hard to remember them all. I know he won a prize after varsity and traveled up the coast of Africa (to Mombasa, I think) on a ship with the prize-money. I also know he went back to Tanzania and Kenya with Marga (my gran) and was held over for questioning in a murder case on this trip - he didn't do it, obviously. He was sharing a room with some guy (Marga was sharing with her mother, don't ask me?) who went out, got drunk and happened to trip and fall and knock himself unconscious ... on the edge of a lake which led to his drowning.

I still look out for the wall-steps at the Princess Alice Hospital that he designed every time I drive along Tokai Main Road. I remember the money puzzles he used to make for us as gifts. For someone who's official line was "I don't give Birthday or Christmas presents", he sure spent a lot of time making up complicated puzzles with coins for me & The Peeb (sadly our much younger cousins missed out on that) to try to work out the amount of our actual monetary gift.
His collection of vinyl records introduced me to Tom Lehrer (the Weird Al Yankovich of the 1950s) and we'd listen for hours and laugh at the lyrics.

Most of all, I remember his garage. Gum's garage was huge and supplemented by even more rusted car-shell's at the bottom of the garden. He had an idea that he'd spend his retirement fixing them up. It never happened. Gum eventually bought the house next door and turned it into an even bigger garage. But nothing was ever finished, he was a perfectionist thru and thru and enjoyed the journey without ever reaching the destination (which I think drove Marga nuts!). Above all things Gum had a passion for cars. Plastered over his garage doors were stickers of all the old-style rally's he drove in (with Marg as navigator - I maintain that's where I inherited my good sense of direction from!) with his amazing old Lagonda, those rally's where you have to mask you gauges and calculate it all on-the-drive. When I was younger he could even lie in bed at night and tell Marga which car had just driven around their corner.

I'm also reminded of the long letter I got on my 21st birthday explain in detail why he didn't think his Austin Healey would be a very good car for me and why he'd ended up deciding not to give it to me in spite of my pleading (at this point I should explain that the car was in pieces in his garage for as long as I can remember, but I wanted it anyway ... just because it was his).

I'll also never forget the history he left us (along with Marga) of Miller's Point, where our beach cottage is. Gummy inherited his one, Marga bought her siblings out for hers (the one we still own). Most of the rest of the houses are owned by some extended member of one of the families. That's how they met all those years ago :) It will always remind me of them both.

And I remember his crazy liqui fruit box drawers - now I know that really won't make any sense unless you saw them. But he kept any number of things in these drawers from erasers in one to short pencils in another (medium-sized and long pencils would each have their own drawer too) and if we needed something he could tell us off the top of his head exactly which drawer to find it in. His garage was much the same with one entire wall lined with jars containing all sorts of things. Every time I found a rusty nail on the side of the road while out walking with Marga, we'd have to pick it up and take it home for Gummy. And depending on it's length and other nail-properties (don't ask me what they might be), they got deposited in a specific jar (and no, I don't think they were ever used, but he kept them regardless, just in case). Although he mostly seemed disorganised, there was a very particular order to everything he kept, admittedly he was the only one who understood this tho :)

It's been hard watching him lose his memory over the past few years to Alzheimers, sometimes even scary (when he hid a hammer under his pillow to protect himself), watching him wither away, captive to old age and deterioration. He was a fabulous grandfather and I will miss him. But I'll always, always remember him and rest secure in the knowledge that I am privileged to have known him and be loved by him :)

19 comments:

Louisa said...

Sorry to hear about your loss...
*huggs*

The Jackson Files said...

Ah Phillygirl, this post made me cry and cry. He sounded like such a special man, you are very lucky to have had him in your life. Hope you are ok.

sleepyjane said...

I'm really sorry about your Gum passing away Phillygirl. He lived a wonderfully long and full life I'm sure. My very best thoughts to you and your family.

Thanks for sharing the memories.

sweets said...

that was an amazing post philly... he sounds like an amazing man, so sorry about your loss.

((hugs))

phillygirl said...

@louisa & @jane - thanks.

@tjf - I'm alright. I think it helps remembering all the good things tho :) makes me smile instead of cry.

supermom said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Sounds like he was one awesome man.

Expensive Mistakes and Cheap Thrills said...

aw phillygirl, sorry for your loss....

our thoughts are with you. and if you were here, The Kid would give you a soggy kiss and a [two] teeth grin...

akika said...

I think I can safely say that you were his favourite :)
I always wanted the 1936 orange Willies. I still can't believe he sold it to someone else.
And those money-puzzles were the bane of my existence - how you always managed yours without help is beyond me.
I wish you could've been there.

phillygirl said...

@sweets & @supermom & @exmi - thanks

@akika (The Peeb) - you only wanted that Willys Jeep cause it was so big and your were so tiny! And I seem to remember dad giving both of us an awful lot of help with the puzzles ... but then again I am 2 & half years older ;)

I do too. I'll see you soon :)

akika said...

I wanted it because it was essentially a giant, bright orange beetle. It was my favourite car ever!
And I meant to tell you earlier that the steps in the wall are completely useless now [though you can still see them], as the idiots in charge of the hospital have built a wall on top of the wall.

Mr Jones said...

Gulp. And sniffle. Sounds like he had a great life and a family that loved him. Could anyone want more?

Sad about the illness at the end.. its what scares me always... Anyway sounds like you are focusing on the happy memories. What an AWESOME car.. :-)

boldly benny said...

I'm so terribly sorry! This is a beautiful post and a great way to remember a beautiful person *big hug*

phillygirl said...

@akika - yeah, I remember ;) Oh yes, I've seen the steps since they added that uber-stupid wall!

@mrjones - it was a truly awesome car (all of them!)

@benny - thanks.

Jenty said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss (((HUGS)))

Don't believe a word I write said...

What a heartfelt tribute to your grandfather. You should let your whole family read this, it's special.

Globus said...

globus is sorry for your loss. with time comes acceptance, good luck.

phillygirl said...

@jenty & @globus - thanks.

@dbawiw - yep, i have. thanks.

Lopz said...

Big hugs hun. My oupa also died riddled with Alzheimers a few years ago, and it's a very difficult way to go, both for the deceased and their family. Thinking of you. xxx

phillygirl said...

@lopz - it most definitely is! thanks for your thoughts :)

Blog Widget by LinkWithin