It was wartime when Edwina’s grandfather met her grandmother. He had a toothache and found his wife-to-be at the front door. Her father was the local dentist. Edwina tells her grandfather’s extraordinary life story.
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My Grandfather, the Spy
Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
This is how I like to remember my grandfather. I didn’t know him then but this is him in my memory. He didn’t talk about his past. My grandmother was the witness to his life and her stories about their times together intoxicated my childhood. My grandmother was the only child in her family to survive into adulthood. Her mother was very protective and didn’t like to let her out of the house. “Mr Right will come knocking on the door”, she used to say, and that is exactly what happened. It was wartime, my grandfather had toothache, her father was a dentist, they met at the front door and married soon after. Only the postcards would return. My grandfather’s life after the war was making record players. He met Frank Sinatra and stood in for the Duke of Edinburgh. They travelled around the world on ocean liners and aeroplanes that had fold down beds, Buenos Ares, New York Acapulco and the South of France. He was even in charge of a top secret spy satellite base in the deserts of South Australia. These are the stories I love to hear, over and over again. But in 1993 my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My grandmother cared for him as long as possible but his midnight awakenings to pack for the airport took a toll on her health. He was moved into a nursing home and a great sadness slipped over our family. I didn’t visit him very often but my grandmother visited regularly, decorated his room nicely and fed him with chocolates as they sat together. During the war he had witnessed a generation of unfulfilled potential, he didn’t go to church, the closest he got was to open a bottle of champagne every Sunday morning. This is how I like to remember my grandfather, he really enjoyed living.