Last Thursday my grandfather died. Ronald Maitland Roy was 94 years of age. He was born the same week that the Ford Motor Company introduced the production line. He was born in the same year as the zipper was invented, the Panama Canal was completed, construction began on Canberra, and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring premiered in Paris. He lived with his parents, his two brothers and his two sisters in a dirt-floor house, sleeping on sacks filled with straw.
Ron dedicated his entire working life to the Sanitarium Health Food Company, working at the Weet-Bix factory in Cooranbong, then going on the road as traveling salesman (I think they call them sales reps now), and finally working in health food shops in Tasmania and Victoria.
He was pretty much deaf for most of his life, so he wasn't considered a good fit for soldiering. His deafness kept him in a bit of a cocoon much of the time, and he would often be heard sitting quietly in a chair, whistling to himself in his warbly fashion, or sometimes playing the harmonica.
The things Grandpa loved most in life were (in no particular order) his wife Rene, his son Don and daughter Dianne, his vege garden, fruit-n-nut chocolate, his grandkids, and his four great-grandkids. Even when he was very frail and nearing the end of his life, his face would light up when the kids walked into his room. I feel very grateful that my girls, who are 15 and 12, got to know their great-grandfather, and that he got to know them.
His greatest regret? He always wanted to go to the Holy Land, but back in the 80's, when the conflict reached the Sinai Peninsula and took Mt Sinai off all the travel itineraries, he decided that he'd never go. He was a very devout man, and the way he saw it, if he couldn't go to the place where Moses was handed the Ten Commandments, he didn't want to go at all.
He had some views that were reflective of his generation. He had some views that were reflective of his upbringing, and one or two of his views made me cringe. But one thing was certain - he never shied away from his opinion.
We're burying Grandpa tomorrow. It's going to be a tough day, but we'll get through it. I'll be expressing a few thoughts on behalf of the grandkids, and I suspect that I might have to stop a few times. But it's a weird thing, that losing someone who is so very old and who has lived such a full life should be so very sad. 'He's had a good innings,' people say. Yes, that's true, but with that comes the sobering knowledge that so much history and so many memories have been lost forever.