Not a Day Goes By…

January 20, 2012 at 12:29 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my dear Granddad’s death. It’s a fair whack of time, a decade; it feels to have gone by very fast, but when I stretch my memory to include all that he’s missed, his absence slows down and takes shape.

He didn’t see his only child sue his estate, an ugly and protracted ordeal that destroyed, utterly and irrevocably, whatever tenuous version of ‘family’ we’d hitherto been able to enact. Down near Circular Quay there is an obelisk from which all road distances to and from Sydney are measured, and that’s what Granddad’s modest (but unbeatably positioned) Bondi Beach home was for the rest of us. Or at least, I always imagined it was the house that was the stable structure holding us all together, our true north, until Granddad died and I realised that of course it was him all along.

He didn’t see the death of his 14-year-old great granddaughter, the hideous details of which would have completely destroyed him. I don’t think he would have coped very well; but none of us did, really, how could you? But when I think back to Llew’s very complex and at the same time altogether fundamental reaction to what happened, I see a response that might have been Granddad’s, and I am glad he was spared a loss that time does nothing to dim.

He didn’t see me turn 30 – a pity, because he would have very much enjoyed the party. I held it on the site of his old garage in Darlinghurst – Granddad was an incurable mechanic – which he’d sold upon retirement and which by 2002 had become a rather cool restaurant/bar. I don’t think it’s still there, Chicane (in the way of Sydney establishments I think it went under not long afterwards), but I must remember to stroll by next time I am in the neighbourhood. I like to keep up with the property’s changing fortunes and apparently endless incarnations.

He didn’t see the awarding of my PhD – though I have him to thank for the name of this blog. He used to address cards and notes and so on to ‘D.D.’ – Dirty Di – and didn’t skip a beat once I was back from London and embarked upon my doctoral research. I was still D. D., but now my nickname was Doctor Di.

“Vastly premature, Granddad,” I used to caution, a little embarrassed by a title I hadn’t earned and mortally feared I would never see. But I see now the nickname was a simple form of encouragement, a statement of faith, and I think he’d be proud that I got there in the end.

He didn’t see our engagement, nor was he around to share our wedding (though he certainly helped pay for the latter as well as for our honeymoon in India). He would have loved the dolphins turning up during the speeches, he would have scoffed his fill of oysters and he most assuredly would have swept up more than his share of ‘the darlings’ for a spin around the impromptu dance floor (we got married and had our reception at a beach house in Culburra on the south coast). I missed him more than usual that happy, happy day.

He didn’t see us find our first home: the apartment we adore and in which we still live. He would approve mightily of its proximity to the sand and surf, and it’s my most obvious tribute to Granddad, because I know it’s what he intended when he left us all a portion of his estate. Certainly its purchase would never have been possible but for him. Like everyone in Sydney we have since been burdened with a mortgage that is nothing short of oppressive, but at least we are slowly paying off our own home, and it’s thanks to Granddad that the opportunity ever came our way. My gratitude for this happy home of ours is boundless. I wish with all my heart that I’d been able to offer him a beer here.

He didn’t see my name in print, and I know he would have gotten a big buzz from my sporadic by-lines. He had a romantic sort of idea of the newspaper world – a bit more Katharine Graham and a little less News of the World – that meant he would have been jazzed to think of my ‘filing stories’ to ‘deadline.’ I inherited his fascination for all things press related – I always feel like I am playacting as a journo, and I think it’s because the job brings with it an infectious sweep of energy and history that never fails to put a spring in my step. Surely it’s make-believe, me, doing this? I know it’ll be the same thing if I ever get a book across the line, because it’s the feeling of a dream come true.

He didn’t see my list of travel destinations lengthen – and he unfortunately missed the occasions when I’ve been sent as a travel writer (I fear with Master J’s arrival those gigs are over) – he would have l-o-v-e-d that, the idea of someone else picking up my travel tab, or of going on holiday only to be paid to write about it (and it is the jammiest job in the world). Sigh. No wonder I miss travel writing. But Granddad loved the adventurer in me – and he made a great man of the road himself.

Last but not least, he didn’t see the arrival of Master J. It’s a curious thing, but we have a small photo wall in our lounge-room, and Master J studies it with interest whenever we are sitting on the couch together. I have a great self-portrait of Granddad up there, an old black and white in which he looks so handsome and in which his eyes are unmistakably much like mine and now much like Master J’s. This one photo fascinates Master J; of all the images on the wall, this is the one he obsesses over.

“That’s my granddad,” I say. “Your great granddad.”

And Master J points again and says, “That.”

We miss you, Granddad.



  1. David said,

    Oh, so gorgeous, Di.

  2. jenniferscoullar said,

    What a fabulous, exquisitely written tribute! xx

  3. Annah said,

    I absolutely loved reading this piece. Beautifully written. He has missed so much, but truly seems to have been, somehow, present…and even Master J has picked up on this.

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    What a beautiful tribute–I can know him a little bit through this. And I bet he’d have loved to read it.

  5. Grad said,

    This is beautiful, Di, truly beautiful. But, being someone who believes there’s more to mystery to life than we could possibly grasp, I’m not convinced he’s missed any of it.

  6. Pete said,

    Wow, Di, what a beautiful tribute. The love for your granddad comes through so strongly. And I loved the fact that he lives on in so many ways (through Master J’s eyes, your apartment, the ongoing dialogue that you have with him about your work etc.)

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