Friday, 14 December 2012

Scant Memories

Sorting through my possessions, I recently stumbled upon a gift from my Grandpa. Its rather simple, a pen drawing of a giant panda leaning towards me delicately painted in watercolours. And its a memory of my Grandpa.

The sad thing though is that its one of very few memories, and a referred memory at that. I've no idea how I got it or when he did it though its been sitting on my bedroom wall for most of my childhood. I've been told it was by him and now recognise his style.
He was obviously an artistic man, there's proof enough of that shared out between the extended family.  Illustrations pop up (and are now shared digitally), and more than one of his naturalistic wood carvings grace the lounge room bookshelves. My father and aunts still occasionally talk about the books he wrote and illustrated for them, but the Grandpa I knew personally was never artistic. In fact the only hobby I remember him indulging in was that of pipe-smoking. For most of my childhood he lived in Tasmania on a beautiful wooded property in the north overlooking the beach, but I do remember him staying here with my aunt for lengthy periods on more than one occasion. We were only little at the time, and there was always the encouragement to get to know our extended family. It was just that with Grandpa, it was as though he was never really interested in us at all.

I have two memories of Grandpa. Both are hazy at best and unfortunately neither portray him in a very positive light. The first is of him shuffling around my aunt's kitchen area. Its so insignificant that I can't tell if it really is a memory or whether I've projected his habits onto a place I know he was associated with. The second is clearer. Its of Grandpa standing in our meals area in front of the bookcase. I distinctly picture the bookcase, more than I do the people, as though the height of the case defined the parameters of my view. And then I remember him going outside through the side door to have a smoke as he wasn't allowed to smoke inside. To this day pipe smoke reminds me of him, the only scent I can associate with him.

My grandpa died in 1997 and I remember being told by my father on the way to school. It was the first death in my life and my reaction to the news was being astonished that I felt absolutely nothing. I processed the information as you would any other unalterable fact and just got on with the rest of the day. Its sad that a grandparent could create so little memory in his own grandchild.

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