Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Grandfather.


My Mother: Shall we walk the dog down to the allotment together?

I blink briefly and agree. Something I’ve inherited from my mother – and she from her father – is an emotional distance. We've never really had a traditional mother-son relationship, being very close in age.

I hold the lead of her dog as we walk. We chat about nothing much and gaze across the valley, not acknowledging that this is odd. We get to her allotment.

As a child I would visit my Grandfather’s house every Sunday with my father and younger brother – post-divorce we’d stay with my Father in his rank bedsit, top-to-toe in a double-bed with sheets that had not been washed in living memory  - and have to get used to a couple of days of bad food, poor hygiene and the loneliness of pub lounges whilst our father drank in the bar with his friends.

We would then return home to our mother and her new husband who also drank and despised me. I dreaded that also.

Sunday was another matter. My Grandfather sang opera, painted, read, gardened, acted in his local amateur dramatic society, listened to Radio 4, played the piano and was the opposite of any man I’d ever known. And each week my father – who did this much – would take me to see him.

They were precious hours. In later life I would take the still very young Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter to see him of a Sunday and Favourite Son would inform his mother “Guess what Mummy? We went to the big house today!” And it was a big house, filled with art, books and peace. It was an escape, a refuge and was presided-over by an absurdly strong-willed man who constantly smelt of cigarettes, gin and learning.

“They call me ‘Great’ of course.” He would inform the family. They didn’t, but they couldn’t quite manage “Great Grandad” and he liked his version.

He was the only person who wrote to me when I left home for university – typewritten, signed by hand, naturally – the only man who took me to one side and offered me his wisdom before I did. But a cold, distant man who was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

He was a frightening and impressive man who commanded every room he was ever in. There was always an easel in his front-room with a work-in-progress, a new piece he was trying to learn for the piano (he wasn’t very good to be honest) or something new he was trying to cook, his garden was an oasis and he was a joy to be around.

At this point he had died two days previously. Practicalities aside, we'd not spoken of it.

My Mother and I both gaze at each other for awhile. We smile at each other.


My Mother: Anyway. Shall we go back?

William Kemp 1915 - 2014

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Wow.

I think I would call him 'Great.'

Thank you for the introduction.

-Jenertia

5:22 am  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Hi Jenertia. And thanks.

2:37 pm  
Anonymous Frogdancer said...

My condolences.

9:16 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Frogdancer: Many thanks.

1:07 am  
OpenID whatkatedidnext said...

Quite an innings! I love how he lived until the last with his easel set up. May we all be that lucky! I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing x

7:24 am  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Kate: Hello again. And thank you.

6:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss. And my delay in expressing it.

An American Ghost

9:17 pm  

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