Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Grandpa Was a Chocolate Bar

He was tall, wore glasses, and the photos of him for me are where the memories come from, rather than a sense that he was once flesh. I do remember snatches, perhaps even his voice, but he’s been dead for more than thirty years.

He was a successful businessman, running a family concern well and had great dignity. I’d say, based on the way his daughters reminisce, that he was a strict but doting father.

I think he’d only just retired to his hilltop home overlooking the River Tay in Dundee, Scotland, when he had a stroke that subtracted his reality from ours, and left him a series of fading memories. A favourite was the letters he’d write to his grandchildren at Easter- this three-piece suited gentleman- he’d write letters which had little drawings of rabbits to replace the word, and tiny sketches of zig-zagged eggs.

I remember my mum’s tears after the telephone call, and not knowing how to comfort her.

Oddly, now, the most powerful memory I have of him is the chocolate bar we found in the golf bag he left to my mum after he died. It was in one of the side pockets. Obviously there to satisfy a whim on the golf course- golf was an institution for him, being Scots. It represented, for me, the whimsical in his character- a man with a taste for the sweet, even when at his most focused.

It was a small chocolate bar. The brand name was Penguin- and it was a chocolate covered wafer supposed to fill the gaps during a tea break.

My mum kept it in a drawer next to her bed. Sometimes we’d rummage through the drawer, and look at it, smell it, trying to figure out what magic was contained in this- a snack created to be eaten but now containing mystical powers; a talisman.

That’s how life works. We work to create lives and lifestyles and memories, but in the end those memories belong to someone else, and we can’t control what they are. I’d like to stash things in a box which are important to me for my children to discover one day, but I think each of them will find their own talisman of mine to cherish.

Maybe you’re holding onto something special that reminds you most of someone not around anymore. I wonder what those things are…

(That's him, at the top, in the middle, in his Christening gown, around 1912)


  1. A cheap little light grey bear, that sleeps in my bed every night.

  2. @Riven: Hang on to it, and hang on harder to the memories :-)

  3. Beautifully written, as always. I like thinking that my kids and grandkids will take something that was important to me and mix it with their own images of me to create something important to them.


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