Blink of an Eye

Memory is truly a strange thing. Our recollection of events is rarely accurate and often sweeter than the actual article. We edit the past more favourably, albeit perhaps unconsciously.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. The stories that arise from our interpretations, they shape us. They ground us. Bind us to history. Enable us to be better people, if we have the good sense to try.

My favourite and most enduring memory is of my grandad. We are on holiday and he wakes me early one morning. He is excited, beaming down at me, whispering so as not to wake the others. He has bought a toy plane at the camp shop. A glider made of balsa wood. We go into the field and fly it as the sun is rising. He teaches me how to throw it properly. The trick of getting it to loop and then curve in a long arc over our heads. We jump around and laugh for what seems like hours before walking back to the caravan for breakfast.

A simple, beautiful thing.

He died not long after. I’m not articulate enough to describe the pain caused by the space that’s left behind.

I don’t remember crying at the time or even being that upset. Unless my selective memory is saving me from all of that of course. Although it wasn’t a good time in our lives, it was OK because I believed in the lie. You know, the one that parents tell their children… about the dead merely sleeping.

That makes me sound a little bitter. But I’m not. It’s only natural that parents want to protect their children. You can’t tell a six year old child about the awful finality of death can you? Or maybe you can. I’m not a parent but I’d want to cushion the news somehow. I’m all for jumping in at the deep end with regard to most things but perhaps there’s no need to hammer that particular reality home. Not so soon. It’ll come in time.

As it did with my grandad. My memory of him has remained intact. In my head he’s still the gentle man with a wonderful sense of humour and a gleam in his eye. He loved to play ‘submarine commander’ or ‘ace fighter pilot’ with me and would often dash behind the sofa before I did during a particularly scary episode of Doctor Who. So he’s never really died in that sense. I know his physical body withered away a long, long time ago… so I can’t physically reach him any more. But as long as I’m alive and have the capacity for memory, he’ll always be there laughing his crazy laugh, eating Old Jamaica chocolate and pulling a magic cigarette out of his ear.

My grandad died forty years ago today.

Blink of an eye.

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