We’re all familiar with the winds of change. But I wasn’t prepared for the stifling stillness of the change that comes in your twenties. Life sits still for you while, all around you, things are changing. Friends getting engaged, married, having children. Relatives growing old and passing. New ideals and philosophies occurring to you. The twenties seem to me to be a whirlwind that no one ever mentions. Puberty, higher education and mid-life crisis are transcensions that are frequently talked about, taught to us in time for us to understand them as they happen, but this? This kind of pre-life/quarter-life crisis? I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what my twenties would entail. In a stifling change of weather that has seemed to slow life down, I am once again taking stock. From small things like making the change from chemicals and aerosols to all-natural cosmetics, to thinking about what I might need to know and be able to do before becoming a mother, a lot of things about how I spend my time on this earth are coming under scrutiny for me. I feel a very gradual shift taking place.
About a month or two ago, we lost a family friend. In the past week, I lost my grandfather, and my father lost an uncle. It all seems a bit unreal, especially with it all happening in such close proximity, certainly too unreal to really take in.
All these men we lost were great people. Not the kind we made no effort with when they were alive, and felt guilty and regretful about when they were gone. These men were giving, adventurous, funny, loving, fondly known. No matter what age or condition they were at, it doesn’t seem right or ready that they should have gone from the world. In myself, I feel grateful that I have always felt the comfort of some kind of higher power, or at least the presence of people’s spirits (not in a ghostly or religious sense, but more the feeling one has when they think of a friend they know and love very well) constantly. There is no question that my grandfather will be with me forever. As much as I cried at the news, I don’t think I will ever feel that he has gone. Admittedly, my family is rather spread out, and we only see each other occasionally, but despite my communication with my grandfather being somewhat sporadic and sparse, (though not quite as much as the words make out) he was always a strong presence in my heart. He was a wonderful man. Whenever I spoke to him, he giggled and rambled in an enigmatic way – perhaps a hangover from being an actual member of the team that worked on Enigma – and was infectious. He was known as ‘nonsense’ and ‘loony’, though only fondly, and intentionally. He was aware. He had a wonderful sense for people and the goodness of their souls. He was the head of the ‘good’ side of the family – the side where everyone is naturally beautiful and has good morals and a good sense of humour, a beautiful, cosy, welcoming home and a gorgeous family of their own. He was always a bit of a dark horse – apparently even before my generation were born – keeping secrets about his job out of necessity, leaving the house for long walks to smoke. And that just increased my interest in him. He was always full of praise for everyone, did no one any harm, and enhanced the atmosphere of any gathering. He had his arms wide open and his eyes were always full of pride and enthusiasm for all of us and our endeavours. He was so much more than this; words cannot describe a good person that you love.
A few months ago, I sent him and my grandmother on the other side of the family – my two remaining grandparents – a photo album each, full of pictures of the things I’ve been doing over the past few years when I haven’t been able to see so much of them. Plays, university, boyfriends, daytrips. The bits of my life they had missed. It felt almost like a cheap catch-up, but I am so grateful to myself that I actually got myself together to do this in time for him to see it. To see what he had always encouraged and supported, actually happening. My life taking shape, with room for my passions and efforts from my early years.
Much is changing in my life and in those of my close friends, and of course for my family. Without being awkward in putting my personal business out into the internet, I wish to pay tribute to a few great men that the world has lost. My two grandfathers, Norman Dewhurst and Dennis Clark, my second-uncle Jack and our family-friend. With a rising desire in my heart to do what is right for me and the world, I am filled with a new need – to honour the passions of my family in some way. This feels right because the passions I remember are the points on which we made a connection. One way I can think to pay homage is a new idea that came to me this morning. I would like to travel to China, (Grandad Norman’s favourite destination on his frequent travels) and to study photography (Grandad Dennis’s once-profession and hobby). On my journey I could write (Grandma Maud’s talent) and send letters to all my loved ones to stay connected (the best thing I can think of that my Grandma Joan, still alive, would really appreciate to get out of it.) I don’t want to do anything impulsive or self-indulgent, or overly pilgrimatic. This is not a religious mission. I simply want to reconnect to the brilliant souls in my family, and to honour them by discovering and developing on my own path.
After all, with the arrival of my new baby brother Tiernan, someone needs to know all they possibly can to relay to him about these wonderful souls who came before, and to assimilate into the inspirational collective of emotional, motivational and intellectual brilliance.
Here’s to family, and to all good men.