Gramps

Definitely not my grandfather
Definitely not my grandfather

Write About A Grandparent (via Writing Exercises)

You know that old adage, “He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard”? (To paraphrase the original quote by Frankin D. Roosevelt, made in reference to his Secretary of State).

That’s Gramps.

Bastard is a little strong but I’m being kind when I say he is a difficult man. It’s not like he’s pure evil or anything like that, it’s just he’s so… Gramps.

Growing up there was no closeness. In fact, I found out quite recently that when we moved to England from Canada, my mother was given strict instructions to only bring us grandkids over once a week on a Sunday, for no longer that 20 minutes at a time. Charming, eh? Considering we were so bloody adorable!

This sort of sums up the rest of our relationship with the old timer, though I have some funny memories. When you get to a certain point in life, even the tragic things start to become amusing.

I’m going to say here that these are my thoughts on my grandfather. I could wax lyrical about the ways in which he has hurt his children and how I will always hate him a little bit for that, but that’s not what this post is about, not now.

Gramps is 98. A year or so ago he was finally confused enough to be moved into a care home. He now resides in the care home where I held my first job, aged 13. My old boss, who sacked me for letting another carer pierce my ear at the end of a shift, is still there. Thankfully, she doesn’t recognise me.

She refers to Mum as “Child”.

Gramps loves it. As a young man living and working in India back in the day, he had a household staff and, as he delights in telling anyone he can pin down for long enough, he didn’t even need to dress himself then. He would have two servants to dress him and another to press a glass of whiskey on the rocks into his hand.

*Rolls eyes*

As my brother and I reached work age and became more independent, it became apparent that our grandfather (Cyril) had no interest in what a girl could do. While Nana secretly cheered me on from the sidelines (more that I realised at the time), Gramps assumed I’d marry and it wouldn’t matter much what I did anyway. Tim was the Golden Boy with the Bright Future Ahead.

As a former bank manager, Cyril is delighted Tim ended up in Futures. My brother, and our cousin, Ricky are the favourites. They earn money y’all and are men. Sadly, my Grandfather measures success in monetary terms while my family; Mum, Tim and I measure it in experience, love; richness.

Surprisingly, I once had a job working for a purveyor of filth in my hometown. We sold adult material basically and my mother was horrified. Wishing to shock him, I told Gramps what I did (it was an admin role, relax!) and he was actually supportive. He even went away and researched the company, coming back to say that he was impressed with their profit margins (or something).

My happiest memory is of my grandfather taking us for long walks after Christmas lunch every year. Each of us four grandchildren were allowed to choose a walking stick and take it with us. All these beautiful walking sticks, with carved heads like ducks and stags. I loved that the best about Christmas, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone.

When I brought my husband around for the first time to meet Gramps, he walked straight past him and barely mumbled hello. He never explained his behaviour to me but later he told Mum it was because he didn’t like us and we lived in sin.

Who says that about their granddaughter? (We’re not a religious family at all).

Still, Gramps liked my demon ex and I think this an important thing to note. He liked him because he has ‘a strong handshake’. Fabulous judge of character, Grampy, well done.

Over the years I have lost touch with my grandfather, through living away from the UK or just not bothering to see him. I’ve seen him a few times in the home and he barely knows who I am. I can safely say that I have never felt any love emanating from him, for myself or anybody else.

But he’s my grandfather and I love him. I don’t care if he can’t love me back. I’m a better person than he is, so are we all.

This post is actually quite emotional to write now that I’ve started, it was supposed to be more tongue in cheek. I’ve talked myself into feeling bad for him; that he’ll never know the utter joy we could have brought to his life. That when he’s gone we will say things like “He was our bastard though” and we’ll get on with our lives. I will watch my mother be very sad but she will be the only one, I think.

That’s not a successful life, Gramps. Sorry old boy.

Brother

250065_10150617858235018_5939880_nToday’s Random Subject via Writing Exercises – What does having siblings mean to you?

Growing up it seemed to me that as soon as we were old enough to go our separate ways, I would never see my brother again. If you’d asked me at 12, 14, 17, 19 what having a sibling meant to me, I would have probably said “Not much, I hate him”. I would have stared off into the middle distant like a good baby Goth and I would have fantasised about being an only child.

We were not what you would call ‘close’ as we grew, although I look back and he was always there. We rowed like cat and dog but he was never not there. All my memories swirl around him, all of them, even the earliest ones. Sitting in the garden with this new fat baby in my lap (my memory or one I have borrowed from a photo album?), the evening Mum told us Dad was gone.

Our old house in Canada, playing with the neighbourhood kids. The day we moved to England to stay with our reluctant grandparents, playing with our cousins, the Christmases, the childhood injuries, the arguments; climbing trees. We weren’t friends but perhaps we were uneasy allies out there in the world because who else did we have?

I was not a cool teen. Most times all I wanted was to be alone. Now I realise I was suffering typical adolescent depression but then I just wanted to be in my room, feeling things. This did not translate well to my sociable, always popular brother though maybe only in my own head. He would pick on my insecurities to cut me down and I am quite sure I did the same right back.

Still, he woke me up one night to tell me he had lost his virginity. I think it was then I thought that one day we might be okay, that I still had a use to him, even if it was just my inexperienced ear.

It was several years later but I remember the evening vividly, he was at my house for my birthday. I was 26 when I realised we’d be fine. Mum was there and my best friend, too. I was in a relationship with my demon ex then, recently moved into a big Suburban home I had never wanted, unhappy but not yet without hope.

We were laughing and talking and Tim said I was funny. Publicly, in front of other people. From that day on, to me at least, he was no longer the lazy toad who wanted to make me cry, he was my brother and my friend – and he saw me as a person, finally.

I knew he must love me because he was nice to that horrible boyfriend, tried to see the best in him when the best wasn’t much. Later, I couldn’t believe he had kept it up, after everybody else’s façade had long since slipped. That’s love, I think.

He could have told me to leave, wondered what the hell I was playing at but he didn’t, he let me find out for myself.

We’ve been close ever since, although hardly ever geographically. I’ve been in Asia and then Canada, while he lived in both Hungary and Greece for extended periods. For six months he lived in Brighton and that was one of my favourite times, though we still didn’t hang out every week. We’re just not that kind of family.10374460_10154083560640018_306736340812671119_n

Even now, my brother is in some of my very happiest memories. He gave me away at my wedding because my Dad couldn’t; made everyone cry with his speech. He made a mix CD for the sit down dinner segment and it had my favourite song on it (You’re So Cool by Hans Zimmer).

Now we meet up every couple of months or so, since Tim and his fiancé, Maddy live in Kent. When we hang out it’s like no time has passed at all. I’m so proud of the man he has finally become and now I’m getting excited to see what kind of husband and father he’s going to be.

So, if you ask me now, what does having a sibling mean to me, I will tell you: it means everything.