My cousin Lynda Sykes wrote this story about our grandfather Austin Anger. She and her mother had dug out some old family pictures. Among them was the one here of Grandpa giving her a “whisker rub” that she describes in her story. The photo was taken July 13, 1963 on Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary.
All of us grandkids remember Grandpa as Lynda describes him here. His unique use of language, his sense of humour and his affection for us. Fortunately, we also have Lynda and her ability to capture our memories in words. So thanks, Lynda, for allowing me to reprint this here. Tap on her story to enlarge it, or see the text of it below.
“Hearty man eat a toad! “I saw ya’ mugging’ that thar feller!” “Gamma, birdie go up!” Phrases that whirl in my memory, like warm, hearty alphabet soup that sticks to your ribs.
I sneak up behind the old, over-stuffed armchair and smack his shiny, bald cranium so hard it sounds like a beaver tail hitting the water, then retreat like a chipmunk at a safe distance. He pretends not to notice and busily rustles his paper. I creep up again, every muscle, tingling and tense, prepared to run. My little hand, quick as a garter snake’s tongue, darts out toward the cranium. A bolt of lightning streaks over his shoulder and latches onto my arm, pulling me over the back of the chair with the ease of a ripple. “Comere, ya’ long-eared Indian!” Laughing and screeching, I struggle, all arms and legs like writhing worms, against a grip like a vice; strong, tensile, tender pressure. He presses my cheek against his and rubs sandpaper against soft flesh until I am nearly raw. I try to bury my face in his neck, away from the sandy cheek, and my breathless laughter finds he even tastes like a Grandpa, all grit and salt. This; our little ritual.
He sits at the kitchen table playing solitaire. I slip my arms around his neck and nestle my head next to his. He always seems to be in need of a shave. What little bit of a ring of fuzz he has left for hair tickles my ears. He smells of tobacco and good, honest sweat. A big, rough, gruff, handsome man. There are no hugs or side-glance kisses; just me, draped loosely around his neck, like a favourite tie after church on Sunday. Not a word is spoken between us. He simply continues to play solitaire, and cheats like a bandit.
When the rest of the world looked at me, it saw a piece of gravel. When my grandfather looked at me, he saw a DIAMOND. And I never looked in that man’s eyes, but what I saw it there.
Lynda Sykes © 1990
Lynda Sykes is the editor of a WWII battlefield memoir entitled Because We Are Canadians by the late Charles Kipp of Delmer, Ontario. It’s a really good read, and so is the forward which is written by Pierre Berton. (Click the image or highlighted title for a link to it on Amazon.)