Today is a pretty amazing day in my family.
My grandfather, Alfred Taylor, turns 100 today. I can't even begin to think about the changes that he has seen during his life time. Just living through WWI and WWII and huge social and cultural changes is hard to contemplate, before we talk about things like television. During WWII my grandparents lived very close to the local air base and so was prepared to do what had to done if the Japanese had landed anywhere nearby. He is the father of four children, the eldest of which is my dad, grandfather to 12 grandchildren of which I am the eldest granddaughter, and great grandfather to 16 children (as far as I can remember).
He was the third child out of 10 children, and now there are only a couple of the Taylor kids left.
He was the kind of grandfather who would encourage you to drink your milk out of the bottom of the cereal bowl, because he knew it would wind my grandmother up, the kind of grandfather who never left the house without his hat, unless it happened to be on the head of one of his grandchildren. When he was inside there was always a cup of tea nearby with a tin containing lots of licorice and other lollies, and there was always a supply of Kool Mints in his car and in his shed. The fact that part of the reason for the mints was to hide his secret smoking from my grandmother is something we won't talk about!
He spent a lot of his working life as a shearer, a tough job. Recently when I visited Perth, we were talking about those days and he talked a bit about being a bit of a gun shearer. From what I can gather he was a fairly tough father when he wasn't away. When he was home he was a small time farmer. When he retired, my grandparents moved to the place where they still live now, and he spent his time wheeling and dealing in second hand goods, fixing mechanical items like lawn mowers, and renovating sulkies (open carriages). For a long time he drove around in his ute, with his dog always along for the ride.
These days he is pretty good mentally, but the body is struggling. Not really all that surprising given that he had his first stroke nearly 25 years ago, and has had two hip replacements in that time. He is nearly blind, and nearly deaf, but other than that he is very, very healthy, and he is determined that he is not going to leave his house.
My mum moved states with my sister and I when I was 10, so we have lived away from them for nearly 29 years. When I was visiting them earlier this year, he asked if I remembered the day we moved. The short answer is I really don't, probably for a couple of reasons. The first is that I really don't remember a lot of my childhood. It's like I have supressed most of my memories due to some things that happened later. The second reason is that I don't believe that at 10 and 7 my sister and I understood the significance of moving to a different state. We were going to Adelaide on a plane. I don't know that we got that we weren't ever moving back. He said that he remembered it like it was yesterday. I don't think he ever really forgave my mother, or got over it. Funny thing is, the next day he asked me the same question again!
For the last twenty years at least, the hardest thing about going to visit both my grandfather and my grandmother (who at 89 is no spring chicken herself) has been saying goodbye, because each time there was a fair chance that it was the last time, and yet, everyone is travelling back to Perth to celebrate this milestone!
This photo of our grandfather was taken by my brother in law a few years ago now. It is a picture which shows so much of how we remember him. Always dressed in his flannelette shirts, no matter how hot it was, hat in hand, sitting in his favourite chair just resting his eyes, phone in hand with lots of lawnmowers in the background. I am sure that the dog isn't too far away either!
Happy birthday Granddad! We love you.