Sunday, 3 July 2011

Is that you? This is me...

This was my Granddad two years ago on his birthday. Despite the hot weather, he insisted on a jumper, jacket and a blanket. He wore my old sunglasses and a hat my mum made from newspaper as a joke. He even wore it on the ride home.

I post this because last Saturday would have been his 96th birthday. I can scarcely believe that he's been gone nine months; not because time slips through our fingers like sand but because I still feel like he's here. Every day we repeat his old-man sayings and laugh at the things he used to do. Even answering the telephone I still expect to hear a little pause before he says, 'Is that you? This is me.'

The thoughts seem so unnecessary - silly even - but it's surprising how some things never leave you. 

For years I never really had a solid relationship with my Granddad. When I was a child it was his brother, my Great Uncle Tom, whom I had real affection for. He was the one who came to stay for three weeks every summer; who told me bedtime stories and gave me custard cream biscuits before dinner when my mum wasn't looking. And when I was nine years old and Uncle Tom died, I was bereft. Suddenly, I had to carve a relationship with my real Grandfather who hadn't really been around at all.

It would be unfair to say he was completely absent. He tried to visit once a week, on a Tuesday, and always bought a huge paper bag of penny sweets. We ate them as we watched TV. Granddad never really said much - he preferred to fuss over his three Yorkshire terriers - and would always leave at the end of Quantum Leap. 

This was the extent of our relationship for many years. I guess I never thought much about it. Sometimes I would yearn for the bond I shared with Uncle Tom but such thoughts from a child were always fleeting - and forgotten just as quickly.

Much later, like most relationships, things changed. As I left my childhood years, it was as if Granddad saw me for the first time, as if he thought: 'At last, she's an adult; we can finally talk on a similar level!'

With hindsight, he probably wasn't a 'kid' type person. Not every Grandparent is the typical cliché. Perhaps he found it difficult to communicate, struggled to relate. His sense of humour and way with words were certainly better suited to an adult mind.

Soon enough, he wasn't just my Granddad. I came to appreciate the person he was beneath that label. I learned how he didn't let his physical disability (caused by a motorbike accident aged nineteen) destroy his zest for life. How everything he did was for the future benefit of his family and how important it was to know we would be cared for. I appreciated his wittiness and the cheeky glint in his eye.

We had our disagreements - he didn't think women needed higher education - and he sometimes got on my nerves (yes, Granddad, I'll make you a cup of tea; you can stop with the dying-of-thirst charades) but he always made me smile. 

Even on the passing of his birthday, with glasses raised to his empty chair, just the idea of him, his memory, made me smile. Like most people I wondered what I would say to him, given the chance. 

'Is that you? This is me. I miss you.'

More than I thought I would...

5 comments:

  1. He obviously was not a "kid" type of person, but he eventually found a way to connect to you -- to find small, special areas of common ground. That must have been very important to him.

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  2. Anything comes from love is worth keeping in our memories. He clearly cared about his family deeply. I think love is the only way we get to live longer than our natural lives.

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  3. My Grandad died two years aho and i sill miss him. i think it never goes away.
    -Kate

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  4. aw...
    I think the relationship between grandparents and grandkids is so special. I miss mine terribly. I felt a sense of safety because they were so much older, as if they had gone on the road ahead and made sure it was all safe.

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  5. Thank you for all the comments everyone. I wasn't expecting any from this so that's really sweet. :)

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