Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Katherine Johanna and Thomas Edward
These are my grandparents. Like every little kid, I adored my grandparents. Granny always smelled of raspberry jam, and gave me big, smothering, hugs. Granddad always smelled of pipe smoke, and was very stern, but I learned a lot of things from him. They ended up in Canada eventually, by an interesting circuitous route. My grandmother was born and raised in South Africa and her family owned a vineyard in the Paarl Valley. She was a descendent of the original Huguenots who fled from Provence, France, and took cuttings of their vineyards with them. Her family was successful in South Africa, and she grew up very much a young woman of privilege. But she had a wonderful sense of humour and a great laugh. She would laugh at her own jokes, and slap her knee when she did it. She was wonderful.
My grandfather was in the British Army, and he went to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. He also had grown up in a family of privilege in Yorkshire, England, and was well-educated and a great rugby player. He had a silver whistle which I recently gave to Phinnaeus, when Phinnaeus became a soccer referee. He says when he blows that whistle, you can hear it for two miles. My grandfather taught my brothers to play chess, and he had a silver flute which he used to play in the evenings at sunset. Whenever I visited my grandparents, I used to drift off to sleep to the sound of my grandfather's silver flute playing softly in the background. To me, my grandparents were larger than life, and they were like no one else I had ever known. They talked about far-away places and magical things that I could never even imagine in my wildest dreams.
When they passed away, they were buried side-by-side under a beautiful tree, in a cemetery here in the Lower Mainland. Today I received a phone call from Phinnaeus, asking me exactly where they were. Well, I must confess I have never been there, and I thought it was a strange request, but I told him which cemetery it was and how to find it. A couple of hours later, he called me to say that he had found their final resting places, under the beautiful old tree, at the top of a hill. They they were ~~ Katherine Johanna and Thomas Edward. He said they had lovely headstones.
It gave me the most amazing feeling that I cannot describe, to know that Phinnaeus had visited his great-great-grandparents. It was as if there were a silver thread of continuity from my grandparents to my grandson, and in a strange way it made me feel complete. Phinnaeus has been going through some of the usual struggles of a 15 year-old lately, searching for his own identity, and there occasionally are some rocky patches on his journey, but I was touched that he took the time to pay respect to two people who are very much a part of the identity that he is seeking.
Phinnaeus has promised to show me my grandparents' final resting place. Maybe we'll take the silver whistle and give it a good, loud toot for the Captain and Katherine.