This one’s by my brother, guys. It’s his half of the eulogy we did at Grandad’s funeral (my half was taken from the blog I wrote about him earlier in the month). I promised several people I’d type it up and post it, so here it is.
It’s funny the things you do when someone you’ve known and loved passes away. I went straight to the photos that I had of Grandad, and the very first one I found was when I was a baby and Nana and Grandad were at our house in Wellington, both on the couch, my sister and I on one knee each, mid play-time, and Grandad was still wearing a shirt and tie. I thought that summed him up pretty well: no matter what the situation, he was always well groomed and presented. A man who, despite being in his “number ones” while playing with babies, was thoroughly enjoying it and handling us with such care — and that familiar smile he had that always looked like he knew what was what.
Every time I think of Grandad smiling, I remember his wrinkly face and how it couldn’t hide his sparkling eyes. Whether it was sitting at Nana and Grandad’s dinner table with him saying to Nana (who forever seemed to be in the kitchen preparing our food), “Yuck! What’s this?” after she’d served him a beautiful quiche or a roast… and giving you that sparkly-eyed smile and a wink for good measure. Nana would reply, “Well, Doug, if you don’t like it, don’t eat it!” and as a fat child I would always hope he wouldn’t so that I could have some more… but he always did. Every last bite, usually. And he would eat the whole thing without having a drink, every single time. He’d have one sitting in front of him, but he’d never touch it until his food was gone. And then he’d almost skull it — sort of like he wasn’t sure if what he’d eaten was still alive, so just to make sure he’d drown it.
But that was Grandad: a creature of habit.
As a kid, I remember he was up every morning and straight down to the gate to get The Press. He’d sit in his chair next to the kitchen and ceremonially remove the glad-wrap from the paper a bit at a time so it would come off perfectly. It was like his little Christmas every morning, unwrapping that paper. Even when I got to be a lunchtime-rising teenager, the paper would be in the same place and look untouched, even though he’d probably read it cover to cover. It’s funny how the little things wear off on you — when I read a paper now I try and always put it back together perfectly. There was a short while there when I would actively try and get up before Grandad and get down to get the paper, but I would seldom succeed, and when I did I could never get the glad-wrap off perfectly like he could, so as a teenager I gave up and let sleep (and Grandad) win.
Another photo I looked at was when Grandad was in his army uniform with Nana. They had big smiles on their faces (like they had just shared a joke). It reminded me that Grandad wasn’t always a grandad. He served in World War 2 and went deaf from the plane engines he worked on (and probably went white from the child-size land crabs he came up against in the Pacific). I asked him once as a kid if he ever shot anyone in the war and he smiled and said he almost shot a land crab once as it rustled in the bushes. I’ll never be able to comprehend what he went through at war but I know I’m glad he came back in one piece and got straight to work on producing some children.
The deafness that the war left him with was, I’m sure, a little selective at times. I used to spend heaps of time with him in the glasshouse down the end of the property. We’d be tending to the tomatoes and he’d be talking to me about how to graft avocados — and I’d be wondering why he was trying to teach a 12-year-old how to graft fruit trees, but happy just to be hanging out with him (and every now and then looking at the odd pane of glass that was cracked from the tennis balls that careered into them from the cricket me and the cuzzies would play) – and then we’d hear Nana calling him for lunch: “Doug! DOOOO-UUG!”. He wouldn’t respond, so I’d tell him “Nana’s calling, lunch is ready”, and he’d keep doing what he was doing without pause and say “yeah, I know”. I think he just liked to make her call him a few times.
The final photo I looked at was actually one of me wearing one of the multitude of old full brim hats Grandad had, sitting on his ride-on lawnmower with Grandad in the background by the pool. That pool they had was the centre of our world over summer. We used to literally hang on the edge of it while Grandad cleaned it with the bug scoop and talked about the complexities of getting the right balance of chemicals so as to not burn the skin but kill the bugs. As I looked at that final photo I noticed that even though he was an old man and was resting lightly on a walking stick, he still had such an air of respect about him. It sounds a little bit weird but when I looked at him I always felt that he had seen a lot in his life and that I’d love to go back in time and actually have been there during the stories he told about losing gears driving from the Coast, or teaching the driving instructor a thing or two about a thing or two, or watching him as cats piled onto his lap at night. I’m glad I was allowed into his life to hear those stories, and I’ll always be a little sad, as you are, about the many more I probably never heard.
The final thing I’ll never ever forget about Grandad is his hair. As Katie said, it was always done immaculately, and it was a rare treat as kids if we’d spring him after he’d gotten up and his hair was still everywhere — though even when it was undone it was still half swished back. I also remember the day I heard that what happens to a man’s hair is directly related to his mother’s father. At 94 he still had a full head of hair… so I’ll hold onto that hope!
He was a man I was always excited to see and always really sad to leave. He fills my childhood memories. He was a breed of man that is lost in the world today – he had morals he kept to and standards he considered normal that others sadly would consider too high to meet today.
Rest in peace, Grandad. You really deserve to.