Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could personally contact our ancestors, to confirm the facts before sending our stories off to print. I imagine this is a dilemma for most family historians. Research can be tedious at times along with the expense. It would be so much easier to just give Grandma or Great Uncle Bill a call to provide the answers to our questions.
Today, I must apologize to my Grandfather for thinking he was a year younger than he really was. Although, that may appeal to his sense of humour to know that I assumed him to be 108 instead of 109. That is of course if he was still living which I am sad to say he is not.
It seems like yesterday when I celebrated my Grandparents’ joint 100th birthdays. I was aboard a plane heading to Norfolk Island on my Grandfather’s birthday, 15th September 2007 and so celebrated it in December to coincide with my Grandmother’s big day.
When I shared my centenary celebration plans with a friend, she said, “Isn’t that wonderful, that you still have your Grandparents at that great age.”
“Oh no,” I replied. “They both died 30 years ago.”
She looked shocked as I excitedly conveyed my plans to take a carload of balloons and flowers to the graveside where I intended to enjoy a cup of tea with Nanna and my husband was to drink a beer with Pop. Although, things didn’t quite pan out as planned.
Filling the car with a dozen balloons and a huge bunch of flowers, we head off for the cemetery, minus the refreshments. Darryl thought I was mad and enquired “You don’t really expect me to drink a beer at the cemetery with your Grandfather, do you?” So, I relented on that detail.
For those who are familiar with the Belgian Gardens Cemetery in Townsville, they know that it is not the lush green garden of Eden that its name denotes. For the most part, it is a dry and barren wasteland of sand marked by a mismatched chequerboard of concrete, interspersed with brown tufts of grass and weeds. Like the landscape, many of the graves are weathered by time and long forgotten like the inhabitants themselves.
Finding the heavenly home of my Grandparents was fraught with difficulties as there are no signposted roads crossing the concrete conglomerate of eternal beds of rest. However, there was a grave nearby which stood apart from the rest. Living relatives built a tin roof over their loved ones and enclosed the structure with chicken mesh. Perhaps the inhabitants were prone to sleep walking? Who can work out why people do the things they do. Although shade at the Belgian Garden cemetery would be a much welcomed luxury.
Once we found the chicken coup grave, a short wander took us to the doorstep of “Johnno” and “Phoeb’s” abode, where they were resting peacefully beneath the afternoon sun. I am sure that their neighbours looked on in amusement as I tried to tie my armful of balloons to the grave. The wind picked up, brushing the thin skins of rubber against rough concrete and gravel, popping each and every one of them before we left. Perhaps helium balloons would have been better. I only hope that my Grandparents appreciated the flowers and the thought behind my efforts.
Whilst Darryl thought I was mad in wanting to celebrate with beer and tea at the graveside, I felt reassured when I glanced across the neighbourhood and noticed a man leaning against a towering gravestone, seemingly having a conversation with his loved one. I brought him to Darryl’s attention and said, “See, I wasn’t mad after all! He’s talking to the dead!” Upon a closer inspection, however, we realized he was talking on a mobile phone. Perhaps he was really speaking on a hotline to heaven.
Now a hotline to heaven would be my ideal device. There are so many people I could contact, who could answer my never-ending stream of questions and it wouldn’t cost me $20 each time I enquire about someone’s date of birth. If that was possible, I could have confirmed my Grandfather’s birth date with him personally and not made the assumption that he came into the world in 1908 instead of 1907. On second thoughts, if I could simply phone the dead, I would never be off the phone.
Post Note: In order to do some research and plotting for the next segment of William Lyons’ story, I will be taking a month’s break. However, my Monday Musings will continue in the interim. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my followers to date. It is you who keeps my fingers tapping…..