Between facebook reminding you of something you posted years ago every day and the fact that internet never forgets anything (wayback machine anyone?) every so often I get a reminder of my gramps. Not that he was big on facebook or anything – that would be impressive, but because I posted some old photos of him once and now every year facebook taunts me with it.
I miss him terribly but I don’t have a lot of pictures of him.
So my dad went right through all the old photos he had and found out some very old pictures of my nan and gramps, my great uncle Dick, my dad and my uncle John when they were kids and even some of me and my sister when we were kids. I’ve started scanning the loose ones, and a started to scan a few from my grandmother’s photo album she started in the early fifties.
I have a desperate need to record anything and everything about my grandfather. More so now I have a kid I think, not sure why. Something deep in my DNA that is concerned with my mortality and legacy. Also, I think it makes me feel better about the gaps in my memory. My long term memory isn’t great and I have some big black spots.
My sister remembers a lot, my mum can’t remember that I have Thursdays off and I don’t like talking to my dad about the past. To be honest I don’t like talking about it. I like writing about it, trying to remember, piecing together bits and bobs. Talking about it sometimes the reality is better or worse and I don’t like either version. My version isn’t good but it’s my version of the past, that’s what I carry with me and have done for a long time.
There are some photos that only exist in me. That I carry with me that I wish I could visualise for you – were I am artist, or even a half decent drawer perhaps I could. I would create a picture of my grandad and I sitting up in the middle of the night drinking tea while I wrote, television on in the background, my grandad telling me snippets of his life. Little bits of his time in the Royal Marine Engineers during the war. About his parents.
Sometimes we just sat and did our thing until one or the other went to bed.
I cherish these moments because they were often the moments of normality in my life that I just didn’t get when I was my dad’s.
The Whole Picture
These photos don’t tell a whole story – bits and pieces – they don’t show anything bad. Only good. They show my grandparents wedding but not the way their marriage fell apart over the years. There are pictures of my dad and uncle and my grandfather all together, smiling, but you don’t see that they didn’t speak for the last decade of my gramps life. That my dad and uncle still don’t speak. Sometimes this frustrates me, these little snapshots of smiles in the middle of so much sadness.
And all I want is to remember my grandad as the man who would slip me a fiver when he won the Irish lottery and needed my help tying his laces sometimes. The man who would come and scratch my head really hard and say “I’ve got an itch right here.”
Not the man who couldn’t remember who I was when I visited him in his residential home. That man was a shell, he’d lost weight as if it were a physical manifestation of everything he had lost inside himself. He didn’t even know how to smile. I only ever went that one time. I do not regret never going back. That was not the man with insomnia and an unhealthy love of brass band music (unhealthy for our hearing). That was his shell. His soul was long gone before we laid him to rest.
I have a few pictures at least.
It’s something more than nothing. Even if it’s not the whole picture.