In October we lost the single most important male in our lives – our grandfather. He was there from the start, quietly guiding us, teaching us basics like how to fix a bike or car, how to maintain things, and what was really important in this confusing world. He truly lived the most amazing life. From a 14 year old cabin boy in the merchant navy, to a Bosun (aka boatswain) who helmed the Queen Mary II across the Atlantic, who was a crewman for Aristotle Onassis, and a Paratrooper at the rank of Sergeant in the British Army, serving in Malaya (as it was then called) and Korea. A quiet man who worked as a mercenary for Fidel Castro, and who worked for Russian and Norwegian companies, who drove trains in South Africa.
He was a foreman for motorway building on the M1 in the UK and some of the biggest builds in Australia in the late 1960s/early 1970s. He could ride a horse, fix a car, had the superhuman strength that legends are made of. He once lifted a tree from a car wreck, broke the door off and tore out the seat of a two door sedan just to get the frail lady out of the back and carry her to safety before the car caught alight.
And yet he could be gentle – he could knit and sew and care for an injured animal with the lightest touch. He loved trees and nature. He read encyclopaediae like most people read comics. He had a stack of medical text books as high as his table – where they sat every time we visited him. He even managed to once start an engine using just water – he was known as the one who could make it work if it was possible.
He taught us to not conform, to fight for justice and civil rights. He disliked cruelty and injustice. He was obsessed with healthy living and truth. He was even still working out in his home gym aged 90. He still drove his car. He even was pulled over by the police when he was 86, for riding without a bike helmet. The joke was on them though – he had simply put his old hat over the lining of the bike helmet as he didn’t like the look of the real thing.
He built horse drawn vehicles and vintage motorbikes as a hobby. And until the day he died, people he had mentored still called on him to thank him. He was the Dad who everyone wanted and eventually the grandfather everyone wanted. But no matter how much we loved him or miss him, he had prepared us all along. I wrote this poem from the aspect of him talking to our mum.
“For my daughter.
Before I go, remember.
Remember how many memories we share
Remember the way we would talk about my adventures
Remember the things I taught your children
Remember I have lived my life and I am happy
Remember I am in the water, and air. Next to you.
Remember that just because you can’t see me, doesn’t mean I am gone
Because frankly, that isn’t the case
Please remember the things I remember
Like how much I loved you and how proud I am of you
Remember that I saw the wonderful girls you have brought up
Yes, both generations
Remember how you saved me
Remember that you are not lost without me
But lastly, remember me.”
© Anais Kenzig 2017