The other three were interesting as far as grandparents go. They never had the status of the dead but I loved them and they were important in my life. Ida, Mum’s mother, was known as grandmother and Ethel, known as Pet or Mammy, was Dad’s mother. Both were very different. Ida was tall and upstanding while Mammy was round and soft. Then there was Walter, Mum’s father, who was known as Grandpa. He was still building houses in the new suburbs of Melbourne when I was a youngster. He lasted the longest of my grandparents and yet he probably had the hardest life of my grandparents, having migrated from South Africa.
Walter’s story is an interesting one and I touch on it briefly here. He was born in South Africa to a couple who had a timber mill. Unfortunately, his father died and as women were unable to run enterprises such as a timber mill in those days, his mother married the manager, who turned out to be a violent man who bashed his mother. Walter left home at thirteen, vowing to return when he was older and stronger, to deal with his stepfather. This he did, horsewhipping the stepfather. The magistrate on learning the story let him off with a warning.
Walter saw action in the Boer War as a scout and after the war went on to be a champion bike rider and soccer player before leaving for Australia where he captained the South Melbourne Soccer Club. It was in Melbourne tthat he met and married Ida who was born in New Zealand. They had one daughter, Grace, who was my mother.
Godfrey and I have been grandparents for 25 years and have watched our four grandchildren grow from babies to young adults now going to University or graduating, with only one, the youngest, still at secondary school. While one boy spent a good deal of time with us as his parents’ divorced, I have resisted the call to babysitting so parents can work. I know nowadays it is hard to get into childcare, but I also believe grandparents have a different role to play in a child’s life other than a substitute parent or childcare disciplinarian come teacher. This it would appear is not a popular view of what grandparents are there for, as many of my friends take on child care and feel it is expected of them. I’m sticking to my view that grandparents are there to be another dimension of love in their lives as it was for me with my Grandparents.