I’m writing this post so it’s here for the future should the Small Man ever choose to read my writings and in case my memories ever start diminishing. It will probably be uninteresting reading to most of you but shur what about it?! I’m going to write it as if talking to my boy……
So who is this person that warrants such a title as “The Legend”, I hear you ask. Who is this person that is so important they need writing about and cannot be forgotten? Well he is…..was my Grandad, your Great Grandad, Tommy O’Connell, one of the coolest dudes I ever knew and a man I constantly miss. Today would have been his 93rd birthday.
Firstly, let me tell you this fun lil fact about my family name, as it all starts with him….So Grandad was actually Thomas Oliver Connell, some of his official letters used to come addressed to Thomas O. Connell, which over time a clerk somewhere decided that that little dot should have been an apostrophe, and with that we became O’ Connells. This will come in very useful should you ever be involved in an O’ Connell family history quiz….make note. 😀
Anywho, let’s get on with remembering the man….
Grandad had great time for me and I loved him to bits. When I was little, we lived in a mobile in his garden ’til I was two. I don’t know how true this story is but Grandad used to tell me, he’d open his back door some mornings and find a ghostly looking child in a long nightdress just standing there waiting…it was me, sleep walking to, well, I guess my best bud.
There used to be a picture of Granny and Grandad on their wedding day, hanging on the kitchen wall. Grandad was wearing a proper uniform with one of them peaked dress cap thingys. He used to tell me he flew an airplane during the war and he’s take Granny for a spin in it. I used to think, wow, how cool is that. Turns out he used to tell Da, your Grandad, he drove tanks during the war. 😀 He didn’t do either but he was part of the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCÁ), the local defence forces during WW2, hence the dapper uniform. I guess it was a bit like the T.A now. (Another bit of family trivia, Grandad’s brother Porrie did fly for the RAF during the war, as a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber). It makes no odds to me, his coolness has not decreased, but you can imagine from that how good his stories were…..
He had a big garden and behind it they had some fields which at the very bottom included a small wood, a.k.a The Woods. At the time it seemed huuuuge. Grandad used to bring me for walks to the woods, helping me jump the ditches or carrying me across. One wintery day we went down there and Grandad was telling me about The Badgers, who would bite your leg off. He showed me how to keep them away by breaking thick twigs in half as we walked, so they thought is was your bone snapping. I dunno how true that twig snapping story is but at the time I was constantly breaking twigs for fear of losing me leg to a badger. There were wood chopping expeditions to the woods too. Da (your Grandad) and Uncle Mike would go down to chop sticks and Grandad would sit there, give orders and supervise. As I got older, we discovered some fallen trees that made a really cool fort, that Grandad supplied all the old pots and pans for (probably nicked from Granny’s kitchen). He couldn’t fit in but he’d sit outside. 😀
When they had the big new shed built in the garden, Grandad let us kids use the old shed as a babby house. He hung a swing up for us in there, your Auntie Sarah and Uncle Phil split the back of there heads open falling off it a few times. Grandad would sit there with us, in his deck chair pretending to drink endless cups of coffee made from turf mould and water. Sometimes he’d nod off and me and Sarah would pee ourselves laughing, whilst stealing the biggest logs we could from the stick pile, walking right across in front of him whilst he snoozed. He always approved of the little gardens we’d create next to the babby house.
Grandad loved flowers, he had a great garden. He’d trim the hedges into castle or horse shapes. He showed me what flowers were what…daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, roses, sweet peas and sweet williams….sweet williams and daffodils always remind me of him. There was a field across the road, Grandad would take me into and it was full of cowslips. You never see them anymore. 😦 There used to be a little Robin that hung out in the garden, we’d put out a bowl of bread for him. Grandad used to say he was watching out for us.
When the road was empty, Grandad used to take me onto it and we’d pretend to be driving imaginary cars, him using his walking stick as a steering wheel. Sometimes we’d walk as far as the Thatched Cottage to nose if the Yanks were in or pick the bluebells out of the hedge opposite. Sometimes we’d bring Sheba for a walk up to the canal and watch her swim. During the summer Grandad used to hold my hands whilst I stood on a big stone in the water, dipping me toes in the deeper bit.
Ugh Small Man, I wish you could have met him and him you, ye would have loved each other. I wish I had more photos to show you….you know he was a bit of a photographer too. He’d take pictures of us and send them into The Topic for our birthday’s. I remember him developing photos in the bathroom and hanging them on the line over the bath.
One of my fav memories of Grandad was the night we watched a very satanic Christopher Lee movie (no, there is no way I should’ve been watching these movies at my age, at that time of the morning but Grandad was a rebel babysitter) so I was pretty freaked out going to bed. It was summertime so the windows were open in the kitchen. Anyway I’ve gone in to get a drink before bed and there was probably about 10 “Clocks” (beetles) around the kitchen floor, of course 10 looked like 100 at the time and I started bawling for Grandad. He rushed into the kitchen to see what happened, I was crying over all these clocks so he began standing on them. Oh if you could have seen him in his trousers and vest with his braces on, Grandad looked like he was doing a jig around the kitchen tryna kill all these little beasties. 😀 😀 Uh, I loved staying there, even though the house was a bit isolated and the long hallway creeped me out. In the mornings, I’d get into bed bedside Grandad and we’d do our arm exercises, arms up, arms out. We’d get up and listen to Radio 3 or Grandad would play records. He used to love a bit of Jim Reeves and would play “But you love me Daddy” for me.
So there you go, I could go on with little titbits of memories forever but this is just a taste of Grandad…The Man, The Beetle Killer, THE LEGEND! (Your Grandad has big shoes to fill 🙂 )
There’s a sad end to my memories of Grandad though, I never got to say goodbye…….Auntie Ina had moved home with our cousin Monica and was living in Granny and Grandad’s. I was jealous. I thought Grandad didn’t love me any more, as he had Monica there all the time now. I remember my 11 year old self telling him this and telling him I wasn’t talking to him. I was going out to Nanny Mooney’s a few days later, and although we stopped at Grandad’s on the way by, I couldn’t get out like I wanted to to say goodbye and tell him I was sorry. We carried on to Nanny Mooney’s. I knew when I woke up the next morning, by the look on my Ma’s face that he had died that night.
So my little Mandingo, there’s an important lesson to be learned here; never be cross with somebody you love and if you have to leave them, even for a short amount of time, tell them you love them and say goodbye.
Love you always my Baby, Love you always Grandad,
Mammy xx Donna xx