My grandfather, larger than life.
|John Samual Reynolds, was my grandfather. Perhaps I should start his story on the day he died, this will say more about the man than any other words. At aged 99 and six months, his 100th birthday fast approaching, he decided that he’d had enough of this life and left. That epitomises the man. Decisive, pig-headed, opinionated, he lived life as he wanted to live it and died when he decided to.
His long-suffering wife Ada, mother to their seven children had a hard life. Not short of material wealth, but she died a worn out shell looking after their children especially their youngest son, Arthur. He was disabled from birth, cared for by his diminutive mother who did everything for him unaided. John Samuel refused to even contemplate moving him into care or getting help for Ada. When Ada departed this world, worn out and often lonely, his father shipped Arthur off to a lovely care home in the country.
John Sam, Mayor of the town, always out at council meetings or entertaining one of his many female admirers in the local area. The first in the town to own a car, his bad driving was legendary. As he sped around the Derbyshire countryside, people would get out of his way for fear of being bowled over. A Mr Toad of Toad Hall, from ‘Wind of the Willows’ comes to mind. As his granddaughter I lived in trepidation of being selected as the grandchild to be taken for a Sunday spin in the countryside. To his disgust, and my shame, I would invariably be sick in the car as he flew around hairpin bends along the narrow country roads.
Anyway, back to the night of his death. By this time he was infirm, although still driving. He lived on the beautiful South Coast, but this was Winter 1968. The weather was cold, wet and windy when he left a note to say he was tired and had decided it was time. He drove down to the beach, parked his car and walked into the North Sea. He kept walking until the waves submerged him. People saw him but were unable to save him. Maybe the freezing cold water would have stopped his old heart before he drowned, that was what I wished for anyway.
He was his own man, a compatriot of George Bernard Shaw, the famous Irish poet and author. They exchanged letters throughout their lives. George Bernard Shaw and John Sam thought along the same lines, being amongst the first to expound the evils of smoking. Standing well over six feet, J.S. was as imposing in stature as in personality. He raised money for the first hospital in the town and before my mother died she showed me seven foundation bricks built into the hospital walls; each were imprinted with his children’s initials. A sweet gesture, incongruous with John Sam’s stern persona. He died as he lived, larger than life.
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