An unusual mail popped into my inbox today. It seemed like spam at first glance, and I almost hit the 'delete' button, before I took a second look. 'Anybody home' it asked in the subject line. I opened it to see a one-line mail in blue in the the typical Helvetica font that spammer's seem to adore.
This message is to determine if the email address is correct and will contact my grandson Josh?????
I could just picture it: grandpappy William sitting in front of his newly installed desktop, peering at the crumpled note of paper where Josh had hastily scribbled his email address. Perhaps he had just set up his first email account and was trying to contact all members in his family. Maybe he'd even sent out a couple of mails to Josh only to have them bounce back. And so the 'message to determine...'
It seemed sweet that a grandfather would attempt to contact his grandson by mail. I wondered what it would be like to receive an email from my grandfather. Not that I would, of course, considering he'd passed on when I was 13, but even if he were alive, I doubt he'd have gotten interested in email.
There are few things I remember about my grandfather, and they are mostly the quirks. Like the snuff box he always carried around, from which he pulled out tiny amounts of brown snuff which he tucked into his nostrils. It would result in thunderous sneezes which shook the room, and made his thick bushy hair stand on end. A bit like Einstein.
My granddad wasn't big on conversation. I remember him standing at the living room window, looking out at traffic on the busy Eastern Express Highway for hours on end. Or he'd sit on the black sofa lost in thought, his eyes hidden behind blurry spectacles, while his feet shuffled involuntarily. The only time he got really animated was while watching cricket on TV. If the cricketers ever heard the insults and abuse heaped on them, they would turn red with shame, and would probably rush to seek out alternative careers.
But one thing I'll always remember my grandfather for is the greeting cards. They always arrived early; the harbinger of birthdays and festive occasions. The writing on the envelope was unmistakable, a beautiful, unusual handwriting. And the cards always felt like they were specially created only for you. Where the printed wishes ended, my grandfather would continue with his personal missive. The entire blank space in the card would be filled with his wishes, counsel and blessings. And right at the bottom, he'd sign off with the date. Sealing off a moment in time. Even now, when I browse through the cards, I can recall the moment of receiving them. And relive the feelings of being an 8-year-old (with a birthday party to look forward to).
So yes, I doubt my grandfather would have embraced email communication. And I doubt I would have enjoyed receiving a mail from him without his trademark handwriting. And without the faint scent of snuff.