My Wisconsin grandparents’ house was nothing like my Johannesburg Aunt’s house, but my South African grandparents’ house was: Small, and with a kitchen table where meals were both made and eaten.
The reason we went to South Africa, I was told, was to meet my Grandfather: He had cancer and wanted to meet the child of his lost son. We seemed to spend much more time doing things with my cousins and Aunt, but then again, they were much more able to do things. This Grandfather was frail, and had large hearing aids, because he was nearly deaf.
He could still sing though, and although he only sang me one song, he knew every word of it and sang it to the end, every time: Oh, Susannah.
My Twin Cousin and I would stand on the other side of the kitchen and whisper so he couldn’t hear, but he knew what we were saying and chimed in anyway. He told me secretly that he knew what we were saying because he could read lips. I thought it was a wonderful trick.
This grandparents’ house had a tree in the yard, with low but sturdy branches. It was the first tree that ever let me climb it.