Thursday, November 1, 2012
forever ago. growing up, I remember my grandfather being a total hero. he would shout us new archie digests and had a cupboard filled with comics from the 60s and 70s that we were welcome to read but could never take home. sometimes he'd treat us to a book from dymocks and a sweet snack from the bakery and he always had a story to tell. about dropping the house keys into the river in china, about his battle with a pig or a fist fight he won with a badly behaved customer during his restaurant days.
he wrote every day. during the school holidays we'd go over for some entertainment and cooking classes and we'd dance around him (quietly) as he wrote by hand in his A4 book. he said he was writing what had happened the day before.
in the years that he was bothered terribly by arthritis, he tried typing before taking up a dictation style of storytelling, from memory at my prompting. I would transcribe his stories and then try and explain how I'd saved and archived them on his new computer.
he probably still writes everyday.
this year I received a document via email. I'd requested it. it was my grandfather's story or part of it, one he'd been steadily writing for years, possibly decades. I printed it and had it bound, there must be 300 pages in all. the pages I have cover his early memories of life in china and his journey to australia as a young boy. they also contain the details of how he came to marry my grandmother and run a restaurant while raising a young family and trying to support those from the mother country who were keen to make australia their home.
I picked up the book yesterday, it's been sitting on my shelf for months. it daunts and excites me. last night, I found out some incredible things about my immediate family, including the dramatic birth of my mother and how my grandparents met. there were things I thought I knew, some details had clearly gotten muddled as they were handed down. there were things that saddened me greatly to learn and many things I'm just thankful to now know.
I was totally struck by the frankness, detail and beauty of the writing. I realise that some people search fruitlessly for years, often paying money and travelling the globe to find small nuggets of information about their loved ones. I feel like I have everything neatly typed out in front of me. and grandparents who are still alive and able to answer questions.
so I'm excited and still a little daunted and look forward to reading on. I found this photo on my last trip back to sydney. I'd spent the day with my grandparents and they let me look through their old albums. this came from a sunday family day, a weekly ritual for my mum's family. when I saw it I just thought - my grandfather! without a shirt!