Grandfather: regret for a loss I didn’t expect to care about
Losing someone we love can be very hard to cope with. Losing a relative we should have loved, but didn’t, can be strangely affecting, too.
I didn’t love my grandparents. They were too remote, too strict, too rigid. By the time I’d arrived after 140 miles of travel sickness, I was in no mood to relax and get to know them, anyway.
When I stayed with them on holiday, I didn’t have a wonderful time because they didn’t take us out or give us treats. They had no toys for us to play with, so it was boring. They served us the dull meals they would have had, instead of giving us children’s food – the worst thing was the dreaded ‘custolina’: a mixture of yesterday’s custard and semolina from the day before.
It’s embarrassing to think my love could have been bought with a doll on my bed, a bowl of strawberry icecream and the odd trip to the zoo, but the truth is, it could.
But before I could become an adult and learn to love them for what they were, time ran out – they died and I lost the chance. And now they’re dead, I feel I missed out on a relationship that could have been rewarding for them and me.
I’m determined to ensure that I deserve my grandchildren’s love, before it’s too late. But all I have to remember my grandparents by is a couple of bookcases and the memory of ‘custolina’.
My grandfather passed his time
Making electrified grandfather clocks
Hours of patient work to create each one
The tools were sharp, so we were never allowed in his workshop
But I imagine him
Fitting together minute parts
Cutting and drilling with the precision of a surgeon
To make the outer skin
Assembling them, piece by piece, like Frankenstein
Wiring them up to the mains
Flicking the switch to send the power through their veins
Watching them come alive
Tiny, delicate hands trapped behind the glass
Moving soundlessly as the pendulum swung
Each beating heart encased in polished wood
His name engraved upon the brass
One with phases of the moon on a wooden ball, turning
Then, with perfect timing
He stopped as he finished number twelve
They took him away
In a wooden case of his own
But the clocks could not be moved
And (not knowing their duty
Presumably never having heard the song)
Their umbilical cords still connected to the electrical circuit
They ticked on, heartlessly
Through the shafts of sunlight and the silence
Of the dusty rooms
In memory of H.G. Jollyman, clockmaker, my grandfather
© Emily Lock