It was a very stormy day, as is frequently the case in the Outer Hebrides in winter. The ferry was tossing alarmingly, the passengers were very scared. Some were lying being sick in the toilets. Others, white faced, were on the cafeteria floor, clinging to the table legs for comfort and support.
Grandpa Donald’s nerves were steady. Despite being over seventy, he was dapper, and had never lost the sea legs he developed sailing between South America and his native island before the First World War. He made his way with a calculated stagger into the cafeteria full of screaming children and whimpering adults, serenely advancing to the serving area.
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a cup of tea?”
He was on his way to South Uist to do a spot of lay preaching, and saw no reason why a force nine gale should come between him and his afternoon cuppa.
Donald died when I was eleven and he was eighty three. Typical of the man, chasing hens up the street was the last thing he did before taking his leave of this world, serene in his faith that he would be re-united with his departed loved ones in the Life to Come.
He used to babysit for me. I have no memory of those occasions, but according to my mother he used to say, every time my parents returned home,
“My goodness, that child. What questions she asks, what questions!”.
About the stars, and God, and where we all came from, and what life was for, apparently.
I do remember his serenity and good humour, and his kindness. I adored him and was devastated when he died. Donald had always made me feel safe, secure and valued. No one else in my childhood years had done this for me in quite the same way, as I struggled to grow up and get away from my parents. They loved me, but were too damaged in themselves and their unhappy relationship to support me in the ways that I needed.
After Donald died, until I left home, I asked questions only of myself and my books.
Most of us have someone inspiring/challenging we’ll never forget. Who comes to mind for you? It would be interesting to hear.
400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page
2 thoughts on “People you never forget….”
When I was a child, I would have to say it was my Aunt Thelma, or Aunt T as I called her. We saw each other only 2-3 times a year, but she was the one willing to indulge me, and she was much given to the extravagant gesture. She also had a secret I didn’t learn until recently, which I’ll have to write about. The beauty of it is that everyone else in the family knew – all of the adults – but they kept it from me. Let’s just say she had a bit of a crime career, though she recovered from it nicely.
The other was a professor I had some thirty years later. He was determined we were going to be creative people, whatever that entailed for each of us individually. He’s the one you may have read about, who kept the sign saying “Creato, Ergo Sum” above his desk. He was quite a fellow. When we were studying “The Scarlet Letter”, our assignment was to choose which letter we should wear, and write an essay explaining why. Good heavens! And I can’t even remember which letter I chose. I’ll have to think about that again, and figure out what my letter would be today!
My, I wish I’d had a professor who set such lateral essay topics.
But I did have the memorable Irish/American Owen Dudley Edwards as my second year university history tutor. He was a wonderful teacher with an ascerbic sense of humour – the one who wrote on one of my essays ( late, dropped in puddle on the way) that it bore all the hallmarks of the triumph of native intelligence over little or no actual content…..my never-improved upon example of ‘damned with faint praise….’ !