Saturday, October 21, 2006

Preston Dodds Reid

My paternal grandfather, the wonderful and charismatic Preston Dodds Reid, died today (Australian time), aged 96 years. He will be sorely missed by family and all those that he touched throughout his lifetime. I am very sad at his passing as he was an instrumental part of my life. The family is feeling a certain relief as his last two weeks were not all that comfortable for him. I am once again, feeling rather isolated so far from home. 

Is it OK to have a favourite grandparent? I’m not sure. I was surely blessed with four wonderful grandparents.  I loved Grandma (Reid) for her patience, humour and quiet wisdom. I loved Nanma (Edwards) for her giggling, calming and soothing manner and Scottish lilt that had the effect of calming every person and beast. I loved Kung Kung (Edwards) for his big booming laugh and his twinkly smile under a very stern and proper exterior. I would have loved to meet my maternal grandmother (who died of typhus in rural China when my mother was just seven years old... another story) who, by all accounts, was also a wondrous person. All my grandparents provided the most brilliant role models. All adored their partners and were always calm, kind, open and loving to all family members. Grandpa outlived the rest of my grandparents by at least ten years, so of course, he was there for a greater part of my life. There was something exceptional about Grandpa though. 

My husband Paul asked me some time ago who the heroes in my life were. Grandpa topped the list. It is said that we marry our fathers… in my case, perhaps it was more my grandfather! Generations ensure difference, but each had an interest in similar pursuits. Both gentle souls with a can’t-hurt-a-fly exterior, and with a keen interest and participation in combat sports (Grandpa – boxing, Paul – wrestling). Both with a strong interest in cryptography (Grandpa – with a pen and manual count of letter occurrences, Paul with computer programming). Each with a love to read – voraciously. Each with a phenomenal memory – particularly for detail of long ago occurrences, things read, events, etc. Grandpa loved the horse races. Paul attended these for years (and is still a member of the Queensland Turf Club). Both big fans of drinking coffee (Grandpa developing a taste for the stuff during overseas travel).  Each stubbornly principled, yet willing to hear and contemplate a different perspective. Both honest and open with an ability to express those things that, perhaps, they had not been so proud of during their lives - a rare ability to admit (and learn from) mistakes. Both kind and generous to a fault. Both adoring their soul mate and partner in life. Both with an undying thirst for knowledge. Both an influential part of my life. 

Grandpa had a special place for all his grandchildren and took much more than a passing curiosity in everyone’s likes and interests. He took the time to find out who ABBA was when I was so wrapped in them aged nine. He listened to the music (sitting himself in front of Countdown on a Sunday night) to work out the lyrics. He did the same when my brother Ian had an interest in Billy Bragg

Grandpa introduced me to dance and took me to my first ballet performance. Later, when I became a subscriber of the Australian Ballet, Grandpa would brief me on all the performances and give me notable key dance sequences to look out for in the classic ballets. Deciding we needed to witness Gilbert and Sullivan on the stage (even if we didn’t like it), he sent the grandchildren along to see The Gondoliers. Grandpa ensured my interest in art was nurtured, accompanying me to National Gallery of Victoria, passing on some of his notated art catalogues and discussing favourite works and artists. 

I am so glad at Paul’s insistence at using family names for our children. We will remember a little of Grandpa in Luc as he was named Luc Preston after Grandpa - an honour that really pleased Grandpa. Preston was a family name (I believed it was his mother’s maiden name), as was Dodds. Preston has been an uncommon name in Australia, with the only reference I know being the north-eastern Melbourne suburb. However, Preston is a reasonably popular name in the States, with a couple of TV characters having that name (Grey’s Anatomy & Desperate Housewives). Even Britney Spears used the name for her son (much to my chagrin). We have even met a Preston or two in the playgrounds here. Of course there is the character Preston, a robot dog, in Wallace & Gromit’s A Close Shave.

I miss my Grandpa.

Photo: Preston Dodds Reid and Luc Preston Gearon meet for the first time in Melbourne (August 2004)

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