You passed away today. The funny thing is, that you weren’t actually my grandmother, not biologically. But you decided to accept me as your grandchild, something a young child never fully understands until many years later.
I sit here, wondering if I have any regrets: things I should have done differently; said differently. Times I should have spent with you but for whatever reason at the time, chose not to.
I could live in this space and get swallowed by the quicksand of ‘should haves’ but if I do, I may never break free. I cannot spend my time tracking the wallowing mud into my heart’s house, and I do not believe that you would want me to live out even a day in regret.
Mind you, it’s so easy to sit down and begin the journey into the past, neglecting the good moments and focussing on the ones that could have been. I wasn’t always kind to you; wasn’t always understanding, and certainly did not give you the respect a grandmother probably always deserves.
As a teen, I am certain I caused you heartache, never fully comprehending the magnitude that is taking on someone else’s child as your own family. I am not sure, that even at 40, I really understand it now.
But this is what you did. You, my grandfather, and the rest of the family, accepted that I came along as part of the deal. Many times I recall the story of Pa taking me down the street and introducing me as his granddaughter.
I remember the old house in Young, too. Dark heavy bricks, a fortress in the front where you could hide. Cool and inviting on a hot day, a spot to see the lay of the land. Dad and his brothers and sister must have played in this garden, sat on this wall, hid amongst these bricks.
This was a place of safety away from the things little girls cannot come to terms with.
A father who leaves, knowingly shying away from the responsibility of fatherhood. A man who becomes a father, willingly embracing a child that will never resemble his family line. A family who take in their stride a frightened little girl who wants to protect her mother and wants to fall in love with this man who holds her mother so tight.
These are the small things that my mind has held its grip on. A sadness hangs in the spaces where memories should be, but until eternity, may never be filled. The reasons are unclear but the stillness rattles around in these empty spaces. I am sure that there were many conversations that have been muted and I wonder what we talked about in those early days.
But I do remember trees, glistening orange and gold, touched by the autumn suns fingertips. I remember the question. I remember your answer, as these bronzed soldiers stood tall in ever occurring lines as we whizzed by. Poplars. It’s autumn and they are deciduous trees. I remember thinking that deciduous might be the most fantastic word I had ever heard. Their leaves will float away soon when the water begins to shiver and their trunks will still stand tall like grecian columns. Then, their insides will begin to burst forth, budding green fingers laced with soft tendrils and once again, new life will settle in their arms.
This memory may now be coloured by my own language, but it is one of just a few that shall remain locked away for safe keeping, and is one of the most potent memories I have: one that is often polished and maintained as I drive past another stand of poplars.
I do wish more of my memories were as well kept and not like the photo-like image I have of the two of us standing in your little apartment, where you introduced me to cauliflower cheese, a dish I still enjoy, and your diaries, where you recorded anecdotal information about your life. I have no memory of conversation, just these two images and the taste of creamy cauliflower melting in my mouth.
I expect this singular moment has impacted my desire to write. I thought you were so cool. A writer! I’ve no idea if I’ve ever read a word, but to me, you must have been a writer, to have penned so many words! I was in awe. Maybe one day I will take those words and bring them back into the light while I sit quietly and ponder a life I knew only too little.
For now though, I must settle with my trees. Goodnight sweet lady. May your days be full of autumn leaves.