The most important person in my life who refused to wait for the right time was my grandfather. I was selfish when it came to him, and I thought he would always be there. Hadn't he fought in a World War in two different theatres and emerged unscathed? Hadn't he survived a botched operation with his health intact? Hadn't survived his sons without sending one of them squealing in terror? He was more than my grandfather; he was the stuff all heroes are made of.
He was witty. There isn't an anecdote he made that has faded from memory. The glint in his eye when he was being mischievous hinted at his incredible sense of humour. He elucidated his words with sanguine nonchalance, the sentences flowing mellifluously in impeccable grammatical syntax. He could predict everything with uncanny ability. It was spooky how he knew when I'd start indulging in cigarettes, or when my teenage hormones would lead me terribly astray. He even predicted who would turn out to be the asshole in the family.
He was tall, when I was a boy. Though now I stand a head taller than he did at his highest height. He always looked tall because he held himself upright, ramrod straight. He wouldn't bend. Even as he grew frailer, he was upright. I think it had something to do with the tweed suits and jackets that he favoured, the waistcoat and, every now and then, his trilby.He was quite the dashing gent, and you could tell how popular he was by the way people stopped by his shop in the afternoon to have a chat with him. Sitting on top of the maize container, hours would be spent taking in a master class in social niceties. (The confectionery he plied me with didn't hurt either.)
I miss him terribly. His advise was never unsolicited and it was never filled with ulterior motivation. He knew when to let me wok through a problem and he knew when to step in and take over. He made me ask the right questions and listen for the correct answers. He gave me a love of learning that I hope to pass on to mine and their own. He never pinched pennies yet he was not a robber baron like some of his colleagues in the colonial army. His estate was substantial, but it was not Valhalla.
I can't imagine he couldn't wait for me to show him my degrees. He loved those things; everyone's graduation picture hangs in his living room wall. Except mine. I wasn't there. I didn't know that he was gone. And afterwards, I couldn't bear the thought that he and I would never ever sit together again and conspire like we used to. Our conspiracies were the stuff of boyhood legend; somehow all of them ended up with he and I sharing a mango or a banana or some kind of fruit.
I started thinking of him because two columnists on two separate days celebrated the lives of women who had affected them deeply. I wanted you to know that my grandfather did so too. He was a lawyer, even though he didn't have a degree. He was a mechanic though he never drove as long as I knew him. He was a doctor because he seemed to know which herbs did what and in what quantities. He was a teacher. He was a friend. He was the man who taught me that sometimes it is OK to be mad and to hit back. I miss him terribly.