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For My Grandpop

November 5, 2009
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‘Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…Gunpowder, Treason and Plot!’ It’s Guy Fawkes’ Day here in the U.K.  The day when we Brits celebrate the antics of a slightly insane guy with a moustache and a death-wish trying to blow up our beloved Houses of Parliament in 1605.  Had he done so today, he would probably have been patted on the back by an ecstatic electorate disillusioned with the disgusting behaviour of our immoral MPs.  Instead, he was sentenced to be hung-drawn and quartered after being tortured in the Tower of London for his efforts.  It is a little after 5p.m. here and children everywhere are dressing in warm clothes and getting ready for Bonfire Night.  Sparklers are being counted, firework displays prepared and pennies donated for the bonfire guy.  And all I can think about is him.

When I was a child, November 5th was always celebrated with vigour in our family.  Especially so, because it also happened to be the birthday of my beloved Grandpop.  We used to gather at my Aunt’s home (she was the only one with a big enough garden!) and she would put on a wonderful display with fireworks, sparklers, food – and, of course, birthday cake!  My younger cousin and I would have the time of our lives – as would our Grandpop.  All that stopped in 1993, when I was 12.  When he died.

I can remember other kids being jealous of me when I was at school, because I still had ‘all four’ of my grandparents.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I was lucky to have met them all, let alone been able to grow up knowing them.  In fact, the rest of my grandparents all survived until I was an adult, passing away within a year of each other when I was 22.  But it was different with him.  I know as a family you shouldn’t play favourites.  I loved all of my grandparents dearly and I miss them all very much.  But something about losing him hits me the hardest.

Maybe it is because I was so young when I lost him.  Maybe it is because I spent more time with him and my Grandma (my Dad’s parents) than with my Nanny and Grandad (Mum’s parents).  Whatever it is, this year I am feeling it more keenly than ever.  Bonfire night is always a bittersweet time of the year.  I am almost relieved that the Chipmunk does not like loud noises or the crowds that generally accompany organised displays, giving me the perfect excuse to avoid them.  My Aunt moved down to the West Country soon after my Grandpop died – to a house with a smaller garden – so she no longer holds displays either.  Even so, and even though it has been so long, this year it is overwhelming me.  This year, I am hurting.  I can hear the fireworks starting already – as can the kitty, who is running for cover – and I am glad I am not part of it.

Grandpop was a teacher, in fact he taught Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.  He had wanted to become a doctor, and was offered a place to study Medicine at Nottingham University, but then came World War 2. He was forced to abandon his dreams and join the army, qualifying as a teacher once the war was over, as by then he had married Grandma and had a young family to support.  He was so proud when my Dad qualified as a nurse.

I still vividly remember going to my grandparents’ house on a Sunday evening while my parents went to church.  We would watch ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ together and play card games like ‘Uno’ and ‘Sevens’ (all of which Grandpop would cheat horribly at, the whole time maintaining an air of innocence and would be terribly hurt if he was challenged!).  He taught me to play chess and I miss my games with him, some of which would go on for hours.  He was a good cook who could produce the most wonderful roast dinners – although he was rather fond of his salt!  He would take my cousin and I ‘exploring’ around all the little alleyways and twittens on the estate – they look like nothing now, but as a child I remember being amazed that he ever managed to find our way back home!  He taught me to do magic tricks with a deck of cards – always long and convoluted, but I can still do them to this day!  Grandpop used to call me ‘Kylie’ because I loved to sing, and Kylie Minogue was my idol – it was the 80s!  When my old, battered tape recorder chewed up my precious Kylie album, he went out and bought me a replacement.  When I visited him in the hospital after his heart attack, a couple of days before he died, he removed his oxygen mask, held his hand out and smiled:  “My Kylie”.

I wonder if it is because of NaNo that I miss him so much more this year.  As well as everything else he did, my Grandpop was an artist – and a writer.  He created characters for stories that he would tell my cousin and I…two foxes, twins, called Ferdy and Freddy.  He had hundreds of these stories and wrote them all down once, but the manuscript was lost in a house move and he never wrote them down again.  Now that I am finally taking my own writing seriously, I feel a connection with him that I didn’t have before – or have with any of my other grandparents.  He is my inspiration, and this year I am doing it for him.  Happy Birthday, my darling Grandpop.  I miss you.  I love you.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2009 20:49

    What a fitting tribute to a clearly wonderful man.

  2. Leonard permalink
    November 6, 2009 03:39

    Wow, what an incredible tale! I had a relationship like that with my great-grandmother. Still miss her terribly, especially at Thanksgiving. She was an awesome cook! Mmmm, chocolate pie!

  3. November 6, 2009 12:37

    A lovely remembrance, thanks for sharing :))

  4. Grace (bluefield) permalink
    November 8, 2009 10:56

    Thanks for sharing the nice memory. Please keep up the good work. 🙂

    “It is terribly important that the ‘small things forgotten’ be remembered. For, in the seemingly little and insignificant things that accumulate to create a lifetime, the essence of our existence is captured.” — James Deetz

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