Wednesday, 6 July 2011

My Grandad

I had a lot more to do with my dad's parents than my mum's. My maternal grandmother died before I was born anyway and although we did see my grandfather, my mum had had a distant relationship for most of her life, given that her parents divorced when she was a small child. Consequently, we saw little of them.

My dad's parents, on the other hand, lived less than ten miles away from our home, so we visited regularly. I remember going for tea and being made to eat ham sandwiches with mustard in them (which I hated) and being offered tomatoes, (which I also hated as a child). We'd get given arctic roll for pudding and my nan would cover it in evaporated milk. 

I always remember my Grandad as a quiet sort. He worked in the labs at Monsanto Chemicals - a company now that sends shivers down my spine when I read about some of the things they did at the time I know he was working for them, but who looked after us: I remember going to the children's Christmas party there a few times as a child. He had not, for reasons that are lost in the mists of time to me, served in the war but had moved his family from Kent, where my Dad was born, to Buckinghamshire at the start of World War II to start a new life. 

The thing I remember about him the most was that he loved gardening. Not flowers, generally - he kept an allotment so we frequently had veg passed our way when there were gluts of produce.

His birthname was Cecil Thomas but everyone called him Tom. As I said, he was the quiet sort - always happy to let my nan chatter away. 

These three photos are stashed away in a photo album. Top left is obviously of him on his wedding day, when he married my grandmother. There's scrawl on the back which seems to inform the photographer the colours present ie that the suit was navy. However, there is no date. The photo on the right does have the date it was taken on the back - July 23, 1933 which is before my Dad was born. It could well be on his wedding day as he appears to be wearing the same suit and tie, but then again, people only did have one suit which they kept for years back then, didn't they? The bottom picture is of him in Monsanto days, wearing his lab coat but the shirt and tie is still there.That was my Grandad - always just so. When he died, we found a notebook in which he'd written down the details of every drop of petrol he'd ever bought for his car, along with the mileages so he could calculate the fuel economy of the car.

I'll never forget the day he died. It was a Sunday. We knew he had terminal cancer and wasn't expected to live long. Mum asked us that morning if we wanted to go to his funeral when he died and if so, what would we wear. I then went to visit an old lady who lived two doors up from us, something I did most Sundays for years  - we would just chat about all sorts of things. However, after about half an hour, my sister came round and told me to come home and he'd died that morning rather suddenly.

That day was the first and only time I think I saw my dad really cry. I was used to anger or impatience but not this. I remember it being quite unsettling. I don't think at that stage I'd really thought through losing a parent. Now that Dad has gone too, I get how it must have felt, even if you know it is coming.

So, that was my Grandad. What were your grandparents like?
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