I’ve had a wonderful weekend with my family. An important moment was going to a shop with my husband, Gregg, to pick out a belated Christmas present for me.
A lampshade for my grandad’s lamp.
This lamp is really important to me and was the one of the few things I requested to keep of his when he died.
It reminds me of him, sitting in his armchair doing a crossword puzzle with his dogeared dictionary and thesaurus close at hand.
It conjures images of him, cutting through a net of oranges with a blunt pair of scissors always kept close at hand on the table that housed the lamp.
I imagine him composing letters to me, lit by its light, when I was living in France and Japan.
I think of how great a man he was – ambitious in life and passionate about so many things.
How he loved wildlife.
How he supported so many worthy causes in his life with such a sense of duty.
How he took care of his sister during her lifetime and saved throughout his life in order to leave a nest egg for his family.
But I also think of what an enigma he was to me. How, despite the 100+ letters we sent to each other in his life, I never felt I truly knew him and I never felt truly seen by him.
I feel saddened by this fact, because, while I’m sure we would have had differences – his worldview perhaps a bit too black-and-white for me, myself a bit too liberal for him – we loved each other.
I wish I had known what it was like for him to be married to my grandma, a formidable woman. How it felt to become a father to my mum, especially because it risked my grandma’s life as she developed pre-eclampsia. What his biggest regrets were in life. Whether working so hard all his life was worth it in the end. What it was like to carry such a sense of duty. His personal experience of being a prisoner of war. What life was like being a man during his era. Whether his upbringing, rising up the social ladder had an impact on his sense of self – was he always trying to prove himself, did he always feel like he belonged?
So many questions that I never dared ask.
Because it felt like that door was never opened for me to ask them.
It’s a tricky balance, to be a parent or a grandparent (I can only imagine, for the latter). Being someone who has a role to guide, protect, direct. To not overburden or overshare. To leave space for the younger person to grow into themselves and not force them into a mould that they don’t fit into.
But in doing that to be present and open every day so you can also be known for who you are.
It’s all too easy to fit into the hierarchy of mother and child, grandmother and grandchild and for that door of open, honest communication to stay shut.
I hope I’ll leave a door open for Jenson to be able to ask questions. And that I do the same for his children if he has them in my lifetime.
I hope that they’ll be able to ask questions and know that I will answer them honestly and with consideration.
But despite feeling like there were so many questions unanswered about my grandad’s life, I loved him and know he loved me.
And I will remember him each time I use his lamp.