Grandad used to give me worn signs and old badges from broken machines for my collection. I wasn’t aware that I had a collection of old badges and worn signs from broken machinery until I looked around and realised I had quite the collection. They were placed on a board in a clubhouse out back. Years later relocated to the shed; a workshop. They looked the part. And slowly, and surely the collection made sense to me. It had always made sense for Grandad to give me these signs. These badges.
Grandad once had lunch with me in the park. And he was grumpy. We were in Cornell Park – and he might have been grumpy because of the pigeons that were everywhere – and he might have been grumpy because it was windy. I had no real idea why he was grumpy. Not at my age (I was about 7 or 8) In fact, it is most likely that he was probably grumpy because he had come from work. And now I understand that just fine. But the thing is – we kept quiet this whole time he was grumpy – until finally Grandad said “you two aren’t saying much” – and that’s when we laughed. And held up the machine. We had been taping the whole conversation. And suddenly Grandad wasn’t grumpy – he laughed. A slow, quiet chuckle that turned into a really big laugh. Completely lost as to why we were recording him. (And I don’t really know why we were either?) He laughed his happy, whole-hearted laugh. Caught on tape. Grumpy and flustered and the wind and the pigeons. Egg sandwiches and the tape recorder. And Grandad and me.
Grandad knew how to dance to jazz music. And he knew how to steal the show – when he was in the mood. One Christmas – we were all there – the family, and we were playing Glen Miller. And we were all dancing – well mum and me were; well mum was – and I was, kinda. And then Grandad arrived – and he actually entered the room dancing. He was that in tune with the music. Clearly, In The Mood. He upstaged us all. (I was about 12, and had just got my first drum kit) And I am sure that it was then that I wanted to learn how to play the drums and make people dance; learn how to play jazz music. That, and my mum playing me Buddy Rich. And she had learned about jazz from her father. Grandad was the only person that I never bored in a conversation about drums. He always wanted to know. He always asked.
Grandad knew how to deal to birds. My mum hates birds. She said “Dad, get that bird away from me.” And he did. He sure did.
Grandad knew how to shake hands. In fact he held the secret. When he shook my hand – from as early as I can remember – he never let go first. I would try to squeeze as hard as I could – I was little, if you can believe it – and I would squeeze as hard as I could. Mind you, when I got bigger I figured I could squeeze a lot harder, and yet I never won. It was a game that we played across 20 years. It would start with a simple handshake – “good to see you/take care” and all the usual – and then I would squeeze. And the more I would squeeze the more Grandad would smile. He knew what was coming. And he knew how to deliver it, the more I squeezed the more I was sure I was getting somewhere – and then
it would come. It would hit me. Very slight pressure from his thumb. Controlled and perfect – and another victory for my Grandfather. Always.