A year ago today, my grandma passed away.
It’s also father person’s birthday today, which means I didn’t like to mention this. I’m sure the parentals haven’t forgotten, and reminding them seemed unnecessary, and would have put a damper on the mood. Yet at the same time, it seemed odd to go the whole day without mentioning it to anyone. Not even to my friends.
What’s in a year? A year is ever so slightly over a seventeenth of my life. A year has seen many changes in what I’m studying, in what I’m doing with my life, in how far I’ve got with plans I’d made. A year has seen me grow up a lot.
It doesn’t seem like a whole year — and yet at the same time, it seems like far longer than that. It seems like years since I last went and stayed at my grandparents’ house in the countryside, and went for walks and came back to Ribena and chocolate biscuits. It seems like years since I went for a walk in the woods near their house with my grandfather and talked about stars and numbers and the concept of infinity. It seems like years since I was small enough to play in the playground.
It seems like years since my grandad held my feet so I could get across the monkey bars because my arms weren’t strong enough to hold me; since I bought a box of tic-tacs and made it last three days by counting out how many I could eat each day; since I picked up a box-worth of drawing pins from the playground floor and buried them so kids wouldn’t tread on them; since I watched my brother cook in my grandma’s kitchen even though she never normally let people cook there and Ben wasn’t even known for being good at it; since my grandma made me pancakes for breakfast and they came out bright yellow because of the eggs; since she used to give us a couple of pounds when we arrived to go across the road and buy drinks we wanted as she could never remember what we liked.
It seems like years since my grandad let me use his desk up in the attic; since I first brought my laptop there and amazed them with my knowledge of computers; since I watched VHS tapes on their upstairs TV; since I watched the Robin Hood series two finale at their house and tried to hide the fact I was sobbing when Marian died; since I met my second cousin Esme and not-so-subtly tried to persuade them to let her stay over.
It seems like years since Esme and I put on little shows for them, plays we’d written. It seems like years since my grandma wrote me a long letter giving me feedback about a book I’d written, encouraging me and helping me improve without pandering to the sensitive ego of a twelve-year-old. It seems like years since I played the violin and the flute to my grandad when he was too ill really to get up and walk around. It seems like years since my grandma bought me a book because she’d read a review and thought I’d like it.
It seems like years since my sister and I drove down to see my grandma and Bella played Frank Turner in the car and I fell in love with his music and we went for a walk and found a whole new area of the village that had just been created. It seems like years since I took my camera down to my favourite place by the stream to talk about why exactly it wasn’t the same any more and yet it was still beautiful. It seems like years since I practised with my little child’s camera, taking pictures of my grandparents on grainy film. It seems like years since they came to watch me in a school concert; since they watched me get baptised when I was thirteen; since I tried to explain to them why I wanted to do Irish dance; since my grandma wrote me letters and letters about her childhood, things she’d never told anyone.
It seems like years.
I guess it is.
After all this time, most of it blurs into one. It’s a year since my grandma died. This May, it’ll be three years since my grandad died. Even before that, it’s a long time since I stayed there, living with them for three days or so, because they just weren’t well enough. It’s a long time since we went for walks. It’s a long time since I was too small to get across the monkey bars, and these days I don’t have the self control not to eat a box of tic-tacs all at once.
I saw Esme at both of their funerals and hardly recognised her. She’s grown up. More than I have, I think — in fashion, at least. She doesn’t look like the kid who used to do silly little plays with me and with whom I once had an argument over pens of mine that I claimed she’d broken (and she really hadn’t).
My grandparents never read any of the books I’m so proud of these days. They won’t see me published. They didn’t see me take my GCSEs and they won’t see me take A-Levels or go to university. They won’t see me graduate. They won’t know what happens.
The last time they saw me was a while ago. From there, my life could have gone anywhere.
I hope they like the direction it has taken and will take. And I hope that while we may not speak of them on days like this, unwilling to remember losses when there is so much else to think about, that will never mean we have forgotten them.
They are not forgotten.