This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.
He didn’t like being old.
He certainly didn’t feel old.
But, he was a granddad, so he must be old, at least in some people’s eyes.
Sure there were wrinkles and strange bumps every now and then but he still looked several years younger than his age. His skin was still as soft as silk, then again it always had been. He remembered that in his younger days girls loved to touch his soft skin, but he also remembered that it was a serious hinderance to working with his hands. His days as a furniture restorer were often painful until the inevitable callouses developed.
In his mid twenties he remembers being incensed when asked for ‘proof of age’ at a bottle shop but since then it had been a blessing rather than the curse.
His parents had taught him that you take people as they present themselves, not by any external appearance or any second-hand assessment.
“Treat people with respect and they will return the favour.”
His guiding lights had long since died and he had been the head of his family for a number of years and life had moved forward, as life is want to do.
Now there were grandchildren.
The experience of being a grandfather was nothing like he expected it to be.
There were a lot of kilometres between him and the little ones and mostly contact came through the wonders of the internet, which was good and he was grateful for these fleeting moments but it was not the same as visiting, holding, and smelling these amazing creatures.
To ease the situation he had begun writing to the eldest. She was coming up to four years of age and was sharp as a tack.
No emails would be sent, this was going to be ‘old school’; paper and an envelope and a stamp. The one concession to the modern world was a new printer for the computer which would print out these episodes, but even then he chose a ‘handwriting font’ so as to keep it authentic.
When he sent off the first letter he held his breath and waited for a reaction. The letter was a simple account of ‘life at granddads’.
The reaction was several days in the coming and in the end it came tangentially via grandma, which confirmed his suspicion that relations between him and the adults were ‘strained’
Families are strange beasts at the best of times and sometimes you have to put your foot down when things are going in the wrong direction. He had put his foot down but he was aware that it was going to cause a bit of tension.
Granddad was not one to be ignored, particularly by his own family. If he had let things drift along as they had, nothing would have changed. So, after a long campaign to encourage communication he had pulled the plug; ‘went dark’ as the modern ones would say.
It wasn’t working, but he had to try.
Self respect is an important part of being a strong person. It’s a compass for living.
Some people confuse it with ego. He didn’t. He knew the difference and was constantly on the lookout for the possibility of ego getting in the way.
If the communication channels with the adults were closed for the moment then he would keep the channel open with the grandchildren. To be honest, he was looking forward to them being old enough to be able to have a long conversation.
As often happens, the granddaughter had latched onto a part of his letter and it had made her laugh. Apparently the laughing went on for several days.
Part of the letter that tickled her was the description of the peaceful removal of the last of many possums from the roof of granddad’s house. The battle to keep them out had gone on for several decades and finally, after a new roof went on, the last one was out.
The letter mentioned that the last of the possums had moved into a possum box on the side of the house.
When he reached the end of this first experimental letter he signed off using all of the names of the humans and canines living in the house, and just for fun he included the possum. This is what tickled the little girl.
“Possums can’t write letters!”
Children don’t see the world the way we do and it seems that they don’t hear the world the same way either.
There was a promise to ‘write to granddad’ but this would obviously involve the participation of one of the grownups. A bit of time went by and no letter arrived so he thought that a second letter was a good idea.