Grandad and Grannie Frisby in their garden
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From the time I was young, my Grandad Frisby was an important presence in my life. Even when I was little, he looked very old, but I never thought about his age. He never seemed old to me, just wise and very, very gentle. I remember the smell of the honeysuckle that rambled over the watershed, and the cool, sweet smell of the water that he ladled from the well with the dipper. I remember the patient way he led old Bob out into the paddock and lifted me wa-a-a-y up on his broad back and guided Bob around the field as I played equestrian.
In my Grandad's kitchen, there was a chair beside the stove, the base of which held wood for the fire. I've never seen another like it, and I mourn the loss of it now that I am old enough to see the importance of cherishing memories. It wasn't a pretty chair; it must have been home-made. It looked a bit like a throne, if a rough sort of throne, and I thought it very grand. Every time I think about it, I see my Grandad sitting there. In fact, when I picture him inside the house, that's the place I see him sitting, his lovely, kind face showing no sign of the sorrows and disappointments that were scattered a bit too generously through his life.
My Grandad's birthday was on Christmas Day, and every year we bought him a bottle of Harvey's Shooting Sherry.... or was it Harvey's Bristol Cream?... it doesn't matter..... for his birthday. He always acted pleased, and even managed a bit of surprise where a lesser man might have registered boredom at the very least. In all the years we had together, I never once knew him to display a base emotion. A little annoyance, a little irritation - he was, after all, human; but spitefulness, jealousy, malice......such weaknesses were unknown to his nature.
And what about the present? Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Grandad and Grannie lived a good four or five miles from our house, and Grandad had a bicycle, not a car. On the morning of my birthday - I can't remember which one now - I would have been five or six - I was playing out in the yard, the day being sunny and warm. As I looked up, I saw my Grandad cycling into our yard. I was delighted, of course, and a little astonished. Grandad had never before come to visit me on his bicycle. He had a birthday present for me. I have no recollection of what he'd brought me, and even then it was not the gift that gave me so much pleasure - it was the fact that my Grandad had ridden his bicycle all that way especially to visit me on my birthday. We talked a little, as we liked to do, and then he waved good-bye and was off home. He didn't stop to greet my mother, who was in the house, although they got on well together. No, this visit had been to me, and was mine alone. How proud I was, and how much I loved him.
When I started writing this little story, it was to tell you that tale. And yet I'm sure it's clear to you that the gift my Grandad left me was far greater and far more precious than just that one present on that one birthday. But that day and that memory symbolizes for me all that was wonderful about him, and the joy of our secret life together, a life that was just his and mine, and remains so to this day.
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