As a child, my granddad (Thomas Gandy) was my idol. I remember him as a little old man, apparently frail and ‘bow legged’, but if you looked further the man had the strength of an ox. If he rolled his sleeves up he had muscles like Popeye on a spinach high! I idolised him he used to sit me on his knee and tell me great stories about his travels in Canada – so spectacular to a child that you wondered whether he was making them up at times…. Cows and cowsheds being lifted by winds, travelling under the rails of trains – stories you might expect to read in something written by Jack Kerouak rather than to hear from your own grandfather.
To put you in the picture of the type of man he was, he was very gentle with us. I remember him most of the time sitting quietly in his chair as my grandmother would talk constantly. Boy could she talk – well, when she got the chance between bringing us constant supplies of cakes and ginger beer made and bought in specially for our regular visits. He was quiet – but you always knew who wore the trousers in that house!
I recall one time – as a child does – asking “Why do you have such big ears”? At which point (socially acceptable in those days) my mothers hand came from nowhere around the back of my head. He said calmly, but authoritatively, and with a suppressed anger I’m sure – “What was that for? The boy asked a perfectly reasonable question. I DO have big ears”. He took his gaze away from my mother, looked into my tearful eyes and answered the question as though nothing had happened. That was the kind of man he was.
I’ve told this story many times as I was told it by my dad – to the best of my recollection – over the years… But after writing recently about my uncle Fred passing away thought it was time to write it down.
One of my greatest heroes in life was my grandfather. He was quite a man! As a child I always remember him being old… We used to go and visit most weekends as kids and my favourite parts of these visits was that often he would sit me down and tell me tales of his times in Canada, like stories of entire cowsheds being tossed around in a whirlwind with cows popping out of the sides of the funnel, his times riding the rails of trains in true Kerouac fashion, of being a lumberjack, of the wide open spaces.
Not until I was older did I get to find out the whole story. Continue reading