I never knew my paternal grandfather. I have a photo, somewhere, of him holding me when I was a few months hold, but sadly, I remember the onesie I was wearing at the time better than I do him.
The one thing I do know about him is that he was a writer. Poetry, mostly. A collection of his poems were compiled by someone in my dad's family and bound, a handful of copies that were given to members of the Jamneck family. Some years ago, I think when my dad finally started believing that I actually wanted to be a writer and it wasn't just a phase, he gave me his bound copy of my grandfather's poems. I've been carrying it around with me ever since, but it always remains hidden away, in a box somewhere because I am paranoid about something happening to it in between the frequent moving that comes with not owning your own house. The promise is that, once I sign a deed, the copy will come out and onto the bookshelf.
In the last couple of years, however, my uncle has been working on getting my grandfather's poetry out to a wider audience. He has finally collected most of the poetry together on a site, called Leopold Jamneck - Verses
The poems were written in Afrikaans and English. My grandfather had tried to get his poetry published, but he had been turned down by at least two publishers in the Apartheid era because of the anti-Apartheid stance of his work.
My grandfather's work has allowed me, in a way that is very personal to me, to be able to connect to him, even if we never knew one another. I am somehow always a little surprised by the spiritual nature of some of his poems. I have no idea why. Maybe because I see something of myself, of my own thoughts in his work. Maybe the surprise is actually a buffer for the disappointment I feel at never having known this other writer in my family. I'm sorry I never got to know him better, because I think we would have had some interesting conversations. I think I might have been able to talk to him about things I struggled with when I was young, things that I felt I couldn't talk to other people about simply because they were part of the status quo.
Here's to meeting you in another life, oupa.
"Many people want white supremacy;
I ask for the supremacy of Love.
Many preachers say we have three foes to renounce –
the Devil, the World and the Flesh.
But let me remind them that the Devil is within Man
and I have been told to love my fellow-man."
-- Leopold Jamneck