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Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 |

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

Almost imperceptibly…


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



  1. Quora - Do you regret anything in life? I regret not loving my grandparents.

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