BOXES IN THE ATTIC Number 10
By Sallie Lloyd-Jones
I never heard Robin's father, William Rice Lloyd-Jones, addressed by any of his proper names. Most people, including his wife, called him 'George' referring to the better-known name, Lloyd-George. As a child he had been called Dindi, which he explained by saying that when he was hungry he would bang with his spoon on the table and shout 'Dindindin'. However, we have recently started communicating with a distant cousin of Robin's, who told us that Dindi is simply Welsh for 'little man', and that seems the more likely explanation.
At first I would address him as 'Colonel Lloyd-Jones', which, coupled with my nervousness (he was quite an imposing presence) left me slightly breathless. Once I became a family member I, too, called him George. His first grandchild, my son Glyn was encouraged to call him Dindi, as being easy to say, and after a while that is how I thought of him, too.
He was a kind man, but quite scary. He seldom spoke below a bellow, couldn't bear to have his hourly news bulletin (either radio or telly) interrupted. At 6 o'clock every evening he sat down for the News with a glass of whisky and a cigarette, and woe betide you if you spoke or otherwise interferred with this sacred time. The house frequently rang with shouts of 'Godfathers, woman, can't you-----'etc.
His and Robin's relationship was tenuous. Robin, as a child, had only known him as someone who appeared at infrequent intervals to give Robin and his elder brother, David, a row for something their mother had complained about. He later made frequent attempts to establish a relationship with Robin, but the damage had been done, and Robin never felt very close to him. On the other hand, he was an affectionate, if disapproving, father-in-law, and I loved him dearly.
There had been three children. After Robin came a little girl called Rose-Anne, who had, sadly, died at five months old, of pneumonia. I believe that neither her arrival or departure had impinged on Dindi in any way. The mysteries of birth were not something that he ever thought about, and so he was probably barely conscious of her existence, since, being a military man, he may hardly have been there in that short time, and she never became old enough to require a good talking to. I may be wrong, because this subject was never referred to, both parents believing that the less something was spoken of, the less real it was, and therefore the less painful. Unfortunately, for a long time, Robin shared this belief, which made him reluctant to discuss anything distressing, so he bottled up all his negative feelings, and became defensive if they were disturbed.
Our second child, daughter Kally, was born in Robin's parents' house in Clynder. We all watched Perry Mason together until Dindi decided he would go to bed. I hadn't mentioned that I was in the early stages of labour, as I thought he might find the idea revolting or scary, and certainly not to be talked about in mixed company.
Less than an hour after he had retired for the night his wife woke him to say that his new granddaughter had been born, and suggested he put on his dressing-gown and come to greet the new arrival. He appeared at my bedside and looked at me in a vaguely puzzled way. Then he went and peered into the cot. Looking absolutely stunned, he came back and looked at my somewhat diminished bump. Then he went back and looked at the baby again. He kept this up, it seems to me, for some time. Obviously he was fully acquainted with the facts of life, but I believe he had never really thought about it or taken in the miraculous nature of pregnancy and childbirth. Suddenly his eyes were opened, as he could see that, where an hour before I had had a huge belly, which must have contained a living human being, as the human being was now visible and existing independantly, and Dindi could hardly take it in.
From that day on he was a changed man. He learned to lower his voice, because Kally was very easily startled, and once the mouth turned down at the corners, there was no preventing the inevitable heart-rending howls that followed.
On one occasion he was gardening and Kally was fast asleep in her pram. I wanted to drive into Helensburgh for some shopping, so I asked Dindi if he would mind just keeping an eye on her. If she woke up both her father and grandmother were in the house to deal with her. When I left, Dindi was bending over the pram, gazing at the sleeping baby. When I returned about an hour later, he was again (or still) bending over the pram gazing at the sleeping baby. I'm not saying he had stayed there all the time. There's no way of knowing, but he certainly hadn't done a huge amount of gardening.
He learned to put his cigarette out of reach if, later, Kally wanted to climb on his lap. If she chose to speak to him just as the News was beginning, he listened to her in preference. And when, at age 20 months, Kally was rushed to hospital (she made a full recovery) he flung himself down on his wife's bed and sobbed.
He was the same with the third baby, Leonie, who arrived 4 years later, this time in our house but with both grandparents staying to help with the other children, and I would have been a little sad on behalf of my firstborn, Glyn, but that, by the time Leonie was a toddler, Dindi had discovered in his grandson the qualities that had, to his great disappointment, passed his own sons by - an interest in discovering how things worked, and making them. Glyn and Dindi would retire into the garden shed for hours, emerging with some gadget fashioned out of sardine tins and wired up to perform a useful function. Glyn was later to become an electronics engineer as well as an amateur musician.
I believe that, through his grandchildren, Dindi at last discovered unconditional love, and the joy and occasional pain that accompanies it. And he received their unconditional love in return.