A little piece of my heart will always belong to Bronte. My cousins lived next door to the cemetery and when we were kids we would sneak in and scare each other. When I was a little girl my Mum would take me to the safe shallows of the rock pool at Bronte Beach where I would bounce around in a green bikini and a pink sunhat.
My Grandpa grew up in the Eastern Suburbs and would tell us stories from when he was a teenager. How he and his friends took command of the sand dunes from some older boys with only their determination and an air rifle. When he passed away a few years ago we placed a headstone for him in Waverley Cemetery. The first time I went to visit I stopped by the beach and packed some sand into a little glass jar. I buried it at the front of the headstone so that he could be closer to the beach he loved. It was the smallest of gestures but it meant a lot to me. I was at the hospital when he died. I saw him after he had taken his final breath and his body looked empty. It was like his spirit had been set free, back into the universe to be reincarnated or just add to the positive life force of the world. Whenever I visit Bronte I feel closer to him, which is both a blessing and a little bittersweet. I don’t know what it is exactly but the road down MacPherson Street, the cemetery and the beach feel like a hug. Like big, open arms welcoming me home.
I spent a really nice day there recently. Hubs and I made our way along Anzac Parade and past the massive expanse of Centennial Park. We parked and had lunch at Three Blue Ducks. We window shopped and watched some cheeky birds steal grapes from a grocer’s fruit stand. We bought Iggy’s bread and even though we were already full we managed to chomp down two sourdough rolls (best bread ever). We walked through the cemetery taking photos, visited the grave of Henry Lawson, and my Grandpa’s headstone. I don’t know if you have been to Waverley Cemetery but it is a beautiful cemetery that sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Hubs and I sat down to chat for a moment and just happened to turn our heads at just the right moment to see a whale breach the water. It was surreal to be sitting amongst the graves and headstones, watching whales play in the sea.
I still think about my Grandpa quite often. We had an unspoken fondness for each other. We shared a love of photography and music. He loved to sing and I’ll never listen to an ABBA song (or Rolf Harris for that matter) and not think of him. I remember the stories he would tell about when he worked for the picture theatre. And how he would offer us kids rather dubious looking old Minties from the car glove box as a treat. He used to sometimes wear a yellow skivvy and my Grandmother would yell at him when he came to the dining table in a singlet. He was an electronics man with a workshop and every kind of tool imaginable (though often broken or second hand). He let us kids use his pool table and his ping pong table. He loved birds and going for long walks. He had two heart bypasses and after the second he got very into Tai Chi.
He was at my 21st but died before my wedding and I’ll always wish he could have seen me get married. I think he liked my now husband very much and even gave him one of his old (broken) ukuleles. He would have adored our little dog and been fascinated with DSLR cameras. I think he would have probably joined Facebook.
The second last time I saw him I knew it was getting near the end and I said something to him I had never said but had always felt. It wasn’t until for a brief lucid moment when he looked me in the eye and replied, “I love you too” that I realised that we had never needed to say it. We had both always just known. I think that even if I never achieve anything significant in my life that he would of been proud of me anyway. I think he would have been proud of all his family.
|Grandpa and me, 1980|