Yesterday I held a cup cradled in both my hands. It’s huge and used to be my Granddad’s favourite for his early morning cuppa. I recovered it from the dusty old barn; one of the myriad of forgotten things that have lain waiting for me this past decade.
Its liberation could not have been more apt for on July 6 1910, one hundred years ago my Granddad was born. I’d like to say we celebrated yesterday and that he got a telegram from the Queen but he’s been dead for 18 years now.
I wonder if anyone in the family bar me even noted the significance of the date, for I don’t think my Granddad endeared himself to his sons, although I adored him and he me. With him I could be who I was, just me, and his love and that of my Grandmother, was unconditional.
Over the years since he passed my eyes have been opened to the sort of man he was; I don’t think the portrait is particularly flattering but however much I learn, the love I hold for him remains untarnished.
I accept he was hard on his sons, too hard. I accept he was difficult and sometimes seemed snobbish. He was tricky and sarcastic his wit was razor sharp. He loved beautiful women and adored flirting. He was a man of his time impossibly glamorous and very aware of himself.
He liked things just so and had high standards. He was very ambitious socially and yet always utterly polite to everyone. Affable to strangers, welcoming, warm.
He didn’t suffer fools and could be very cutting and like many of us he hated to be told he was wrong. He was proud. And he wanted the best.
As a young man he was an excellent sportsman, hunting shooting and fishing. But by the age of 40 or there abouts he contracted polio and became wheelchair bound. I never really noticed it to be honest but there again why should I? He was, as far as I was concerned, always in a wheel chair.
Now imagine what it must have been like especially then in the 1950s. People talking above his head, asking my Grandmother if he took sugar in his tea. I kid you not! This for a man who’d gone to University, fought in the war, played Rugger at an almost professional level and held down an important job for Courthaulds?!
Is it any wonder he was frustrated? Is it any wonder he pushed his sons? You could almost say though that whatever they did unless they were feted as the best by the world, they would never have been good enough. That I think is the greatest tragedy of my Grandfather’s illness. Not that he could no longer do the things he was used to, but that by not doing them he could never understand the processes of ageing, of not being as good as he once was at things. For him his legs ceased to be at the height of their powers, he was aged and wizened before his time, over night.
It didn’t stop his hopes and dreams, it didn’t stop his ambition, it didn’t stop his zeal. He had to try harder and work harder. It did not make him popular and frequently made people angry. However, I feel that if he had two legs people would have admired him more for all these traits and if he had had two legs he would have been kinder because then he would have been able to afford to be.
This is an A to Z meme of short essays looking at the people/places/things in life that make it varied and wonderful. Feel free to join in. A is for Admiration. Next Sunday it will be B for Belief.