Friday, 26 April 2013

When you're smiling..

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs       

- Norman McLean.

The most difficult part of the day was seeing my Gran's shoulders shake with emotion, sheltered between my two uncles shoulders. I sat one bench behind her, I've never seen her cry, but that was enough to feel further sorrow. My grandad has been a strong, quiet and noble figure in my life. He may have spoken few words, but in those words, you knew what he meant and you knew where you stood. To nail it down, Grandad resembles, hard work ethics, love of travel, humbleness, creativity and his marriage to gran. he was married to gran for 60 years and 6 days. it was my last conversation with him that drew more emotion than the funeral. the funeral, i see a box, and i see gates close. its symbolic for some, but i cant connect with that. what i could connect with though was every sentiment in our last conversation, he drew so much emotion and sincerity in one sentence of love and appreciation about my gran.  For me, that encapsulated it all. sixty years of love and togetherness, now divided, that's what makes me sad.
The blessing in such a sad occasion is reuniting with family who you shared Lego bricks with on a regular basis, burped the alphabet with, collected conkers with, got into trouble with.. are now wearing business suits and keeping an eye on their own precious bundles. As we moved towards the hotel, i described to my auntie how proud i was of grandad. that all these people should come and honour him.  So many accomplishments hidden with modesty. she replied, and its all of your genes.

the soup and seating at the hotel, is the most blatant psychology. I stood beside my brother, and listened as he joined conversation with my Gran's best friend. people began to take their seats, and i noticed that there was a mass migration to a table with my mums friends. great for banter, not so great as a teenager. a video, and any reaction to "Houston we have a problem" can be obliterated by the laughter from my parents dinner party next door. So that table was turning into a mafioso hangout. My brother was now sitting down by grans friend. Oh hell no, thought i. a funeral is bad enough without being stuck at a boring table. but its not the time to fluster and make quick decision. glance around, and make the move. My cousins sat together, strategically, I'd see them later.. and then i found the next fun table. it was the table where family friends all talked across the table instead of courteously next to one another. it was fun, there was laughing. only, the sandwiches were demolished in two minutes. we made a ply for the next tables supplies, but they moved in on the plates.

after lunch, there were the same questions, how are you doing? what are you up to now? i was in the midst of it when my brother joined. its amazing to feel the instant lift of pressure, simply by his humour. conversation rolled on. but suddenly whoever i was talking to, and also myself looked towards my brother, a little bemused, amused, quizzically.

Grans friend returned to the group to say her goodbyes.. ".. I don't know if i heard it properly in cross conversation, but i thought it wonderful to here about how men remove their chest hair". and to think I'd escaped this boring table..

As i left Scotland, it came over me, that whilst i am living quite quietly, working quietly, but in part time job i love being in. if i look at my four grandparents, then I am actually from a very good lineage. This came from a conversation i had with my sister. My Grandpa who passed away a few years ago, is recognised as an exceptional man, when Baz Luhrman mentions in song to never forget the power and beauty of your youth. Well grandpa kept that going into his nineties. His motto, live life with Gusto. "..Joan, i am 87 years of age. I can eat butter(lurpak) on my kitkat if i want.." many looked to him as an inspiration and their favourite, but i was grandpas girl. i know this because mum told me endlessly. which made up for the fact that i am neither daddy's girl, or mummy's girl. it is a lonely time when that elder in your family who understand you is no longer there. so for me to say the next part takes some. its not just one grandparent in my genetic make-up, there are four. and four of them have done amazing things.

Grandad, who, built his own house, made his own motorbike-sidecar, would humbly mention details of electrical work in many of Scotland's important "new-builds". the implication, was that he was there working hard in helping things to be made (Perth leisure pool, AK Bell Library, Stirling university, Robert Gordon University..) . he was more authoritarian in his guardianship. i was always frustrated that children should be quiet and sit on the ground,in my teenage years i was frustrated that he thought Whitney Houston was shouting (!?). yet in my twenties, he was the one who told me how proud he was that I'd grown into a lady. He loved to travel, and that is reflected in the majority of his grandchildren.

Grandma, wife to Grandpa, was the longest surviving patient of a special kind of heart operation. life expectancy, five years. Actual longevity, 23 more years. As dad said, you think she'd be happy about it. Grandma got fed up of living, Grandpa thrived on life. it was a funny combination. I'd pay visit, and a simple how are you today would result in a dual answer "oh super"/"Struggling.." Mum would tell us that it may be difficult to conceive, but Grandma was a firecracker in her day. She was the lady dancing on the bar tables.. and in achievement. she developed the first sexual health clinic in our town, when this subject was still extremely taboo.

When Grandma retired, Gran also a nurse, took over her roll. I look and see a lot of families having difficulty in connecting with each other, but my four grandparents connected in a special way. They would have had us believe it was all sun and roses, remembering their sailing trip around the Greek islands, with smiles and laughter (weeks before my parents wedding, a brave move.). it was only a couple of years ago that Dad told me, they'd come off the boat saying "Never AGAIN". Yet in later years, my grandad and grampas friendship was extremely strong. Playing golf weekly with each other, and in the last years, Grandad would visit grampa to watch afternoon concerts in the old folks home. In the last months, Grandpa was trying to organise the set up of wifi so that he could skype his grandchildren.. pioneer til the end.

So in looking with pride at my grandparents, and remembering my aunties comments. i carry memory of them in my head, heart, but also in my genes. And my question to myself is am i honouring them as fully as i can? and which areas do i need to work on? definitely focus.. definitely discipline..

At the end of the the sad day, after further eating,  chili con carne, and some, was finished, and some. big sporty students amaze me at the amount they can eat, and still look skinny. amazing.. but as we waved some of  my younger, olive cousins from the house. my youngest uncle kissed his wife. and a girlfriend from my blond cousins (grans mantelpiece holds a spectrum of school photos, from dark hair and big brown eyes.. to the milkybar kid.) Anyway girlfriend of blond, sighed.. ohhhh that's your uncle with the nice story.
My uncle met his wife, when they were kids. she was a niece of my grans friend and neighbour. and they met over the garden fence. One summer, she made him a get well card when he was in hospital. permission to be girlygirly ... awwww. but added to the story was that their paths parted, only to meet again twenty years later, on a harbour street on the Island of Mull. He was walking up one side, and she was walking up the other.
".. but isn't that nice!" simultaneously.. "its like fate!"
cousinblondes eyes sank back with overdose in oestrogen. "Girls."

photograph courtesy of The Carnaburg Guesthouse
Tobermory, Mull.

choosing which path is always my challenge. particularly with career. and particularly with a career which is not yet mainstream. i used to envy those who would say that they want to be a teacher,  want to be a footballer, i am a lawyer, i am a dj.. because the destination has a fairly distinguished route. you want to be this? this is what you do.. generally speaking. but in work that people cannot fully appreciate yet, because its younger than science, or outwith MTV thinking.. that requires a pioneer with business mind and confidence. Grampa was a pioneer.. but am i?  Grandad was a pioneer in his own right. but he only ate Gala apples. I only eat Gala apples. time will tell for the rest. 

In memory of Grandad.

"For the beauty of each hour.
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light,
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent. child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild."

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