This is me with my Grandad, being taught how to thread a fishing line at Castlepoint in the early 1980s. My Grandad, Francis Gordon, passed away this Wednesday morning aged 100. He lived an incredibly full life – as my father pointed out, a life fuller than a lot of us will ever experience. He was born at the start of World War I, would become enlisted in World War II, married my wonderful Grandmother Esme Edith, and they would have a family of 6 children, who would then have 13 grandchildren. He was a teacher, teaching woodworking to high school students, including at my former school Hutt Valley High. He was a master Cabinet Maker, an amazing & extremely skilled photographer, an avid gardener, a committed dog lover, a problem solver, a builder, fisherman, bird watcher, and National Radio listener. I have been thinking a lot of my Grandad over the past few days, and this has left my thinking a lot about my childhood as a large amount of my first 8 or 9 years were spent living in my Grandparents home. These are some of my memories.
- The family home in Lower Hutt had a garden that took up maybe a 1/4 of the total property area, and this is where Grandad often spent weekends, sowing and digging. He provided us with many a crop of fresh veges, and we all still tell stories of the beans he used to grow till they were as large as he could get them. He also used to find little things in the garden as he dug, odd little things like old coins and marbles, which seemed strange as this would likely have been the first home built on the land. I have a clear vision of him opening his hand and giving me something he had just dug up – and to this day I still have a beautiful sterling silver mushroom charm that makes me think of him.
- Lower Hutt is a valley, with hills running along the East & West. Living in a valley meant some pretty chilly nights with beautiful fresh, crisp, dew filled mornings – this also meant that the windows would have a fair amount of condensation on them in the morning. Grandad was very serious about house maintenance, so would move around each room in the mornings cleaning off all the moisture with a cloth. The thing that was different about his approach to this task was that he didn’t wait for you to be up and about, he would obviously decide you had been asleep for far too long (as he had been up since 6) and it was time for you to get up and for him to get on with his day. On those days you were woken up with Grandad yanking the curtains open and wiping the windows vigorously, the cloth squeaking against the pane. To this day I still find this humorous, though possibly when his daughters were teenagers they didn’t quite see it that way.
- In the mornings he would go through his routines of getting ready for the day – from the far end of the house I can still hear the sound of his electric razor buzzing as he circled it over and over his face until his shave was perfect, meanwhile his little leather-covered transistor radio would squeak and crackle with National Radio, the morning news, and the daily bird call. He would have porridge, with wheat-germ scattered over the top, a decent spoonful of honey, and some fresh milk including the cream off the top when you first took off the little foil lid. No one else got that blob of cream, and I don’t think I even got to try it till I was in my teens.
- The house in Otaki that we recently visited was built by my Grandad – I have memories too many of this beautiful home to list. This is one of the biggest things I think he probably gave to my life – this place I call home, the weekends spent there, the hours and hours spent on the beach gathering firewood, the nights spent around the crackling fire that always added that slightly sea-salty smell to the air, the laughter, the game playing, the adventures.
To my Grandad – Francis Gordon – thank you for everything. I love you very much, you will be missed.
Rest in Peace 1914-2014