Friday, July 18, 2008

this ones for the grandfathers

Yeah. Its the 90th birthday of one great ole man, Tata Madiba, aka Rolihlahla Mandela aka Nelson Mandela and this one goes out to the old men who lived by all they knew. The ones who followed their moral compass, even tho all that might have meant at the time was not being able to take kak from the ones who wanted to give them kak. (foreign readers, kak = shit = that which you do not want to take from those who want to give it to you). The ones who had a vision. And lived it.

I had a grand daddy, a Cancerian who found a place he wanted to live and decided to make it the centre of the world, his world. And that became the centre of my world.

Bonkar, we called him. Dad of my mother. Growing up under the auspices of a fearless man is not necessarily a recipe for not taking kak. Just cause he didn't take kak didn mean he didn deal it, and we learned that the world is a crazy place but there's one man who can handle it, one man who is the interface between elephants lions and Danger - our own Norman Carr. Grandfather. Bwana Carr. Bonkar.

Ten things my grandfather taught me:
1. always keep a couple bags of cement handy. You are only one drawing in the sand away from your next building project.
2. Travel light. You really dont need All That Stuff. You think you do. But you don't. Really. Think again. Do you really, really need it? This old man's idea of luxury was strawberry jam on his toast. (ok and he couldn't resist a bit of chocolate cake).
3. Two whiskies a night, and no more than that. (ok, maybe that's a lesson I haven't quite learned yet)
4. Learn a new word a day. every morning at breakfast it was - what is your word for the day? If we didn't have one, we had to have found it by lunchtime. Perspicacious. Retina. Ungulate. Ruminant.
5. How to read elephant footprints. Like rivers spreading on parchment maps. See the direction its walking. See the scuff of sand.
6. How to read lion footprints. Why is it not a hyena? No claws. Duh. See the sink in the sand. See how fresh.
7. How to read poo. All the many poos you can read, from porcupine to hyena to waterbuck. The fur, the bone, the grass. What's been eaten, what's going to eat the poo.
8. How to pretend you know what bird it is. An lbj (little brown job) hahaha
9. how to write a cheque. Haha, I still laugh at this one. Dear man always wanted us girls to be financially sussed. I remember so clearly the how to write a cheque lesson. How he ceremoniously tore it up afterwards, coz it was only a demonstration cheque. Now if only he'd taught me how to make some money...
10. The joke about the cats eyes. On the way to lusaka airport - those 'cats eyes' on the road at night that catch your headlights and divide the raod in half. EVery time we went to the airport, and I mean EVry time -
"Why do they put cat's eyes in the road?" ....
"I dunno Bonkar, why do they put cat's eyes in the road?"
"Because if they had to use cat's arses, they'd use twice as many cats!!"
Damn. It STILL makes me laugh!!!

This one goes out to the grandfathers. I am SO grateful I grew up in a 3 generation household. If you can call our motley collection of grass houses, bamboo houses and prefab asbestos a household.

At his memorial Kenneth Kaunda made acronyms from his surname (Caring About Rural Residents) and Joan Erwin said to me, leaning in, real serious, He was one of the few people I know who really did what he wanted, and didn't compromise.

Yeah, by example, he showed me that too. Just bloody follow what it is your inner compass tells you to do. Ironic that his most emphatic lesson to me was "always have something to fall back on." Bloody hell. Is that why I have so many simultaneous careers on the go.

This one goes out to Cancerian men. Madiba 18 july. Norman Joseph Carr 19 july. He'd have been 96.

The man who spent so many nights under a mosquito net tied to a tree branch. This is the romantic version of the man who truly knew his bushlore. Me, I like to remember him for the thing we both had in common - a love for cake. On the news the other day there was a short clip - Mandela breaking off a piece of icing off the cake and throwing it into his mouth. Something about the gesture, made me realise how much I miss my grandad, 11 years after he became an ancestor.
Cheers, Bonkar. Thanks for all the nudges I've had from you, these ten years. I have noticed. There'll be a whisky by the aloes in the evening.


Miranda said...

Ah, Tam, this made me cry... My favourite memory of Bonkar is him sitting at night reading his book, next to that horrible florescent light in the rainy season, COVERED in insects with plastic bags tied to his feet. Ay I tell you. Cheers, Bonkar. Cheers.

Janelle said...

and me old dad 17 July...nearly didn;t make it this year. whew. and ME although i am not a man or old. well.
ah. thanks for this tam. i am so lucky i was in the family fold and was able to absorb some of his wisdom and laughter. lots lots love and HOW IS THE CAT?? xxx j

tam said...

Haha! I've forgotten about the plastic bags that 'stood in' for wellies. yeah, he really didn't seem bovvered by the insects that drove everyone else mad. And the crazy ting is - the book he was reading was probably a whodunnit he'd read several times and graded... gave them all a mark out of ten so when he went back he could re-read the ones he'd given high marks to!

tam said...

J - Yes, Cancerians rule, I am discovering. The cat is doing much better now. Without his bandage the wound is truly unbelievably long. Will send photos. They're a bit gruesome for here!
lots and Lots of love.

Robyn said...

your sister directed us readers here-and so glad she did. your grandad (Bonkar) sounds like he was a great man, full of spirit, life and adventure.