Portrait of a man with pipe. Photograph from my Mum’s family archive.

Portrait of a man with pipe. Photograph from my Mum’s family archive.

Writing Prompt No. 78

I’m wondering about this man, who he is.

My Mum says this is the brother of my grandmother. I never knew him. When the marriage split, the father took the brother, the mother took the girl. They lived in Australia for a time, the mother and the girl, my grandmother.

My grandmother hardly went to school. Her spelling was forever terrible, her handwriting often unreadable as if a spider had crawled across the page. Her mother was an artist.

Yet this man in this picture was someone she hardly knew. I don’t know if my grandmother and her brother ever met again. But somehow my Mum has this picture. I guess my grandmother kept it in a box of memories somewhere lost.

Is that a sea-faring uniform? And the pipe! Was he smoking the pipe? Who decided it was necessary? The photographer or the man? He looks very dapper. That’s an old word. Who says that now? Does he look like my grandmother? I’m not sure. Maybe. Similar colouring perhaps. Dark hair. Are his eyes blue?

My grandmother had olive skin. A funny word to describe someone’s skin. She would tan a deep brown in the summer. She often wore her long dark hair tied up in a neat tight bun, red lipstick on her lips for special occasions. She was eccentric. She gave my sister a book of second class stamps for her 18th birthday. I remember her opening up the card as we drove into the city. Not even first! It was a hint, of course, to write more, to keep in touch.

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