I realise I was quite down on Spring earlier this week, when I wrote that I understood why there were so many suicides in these months of hope and burgeoning. And perhaps a bit over-serious too. I’m wont to be over-serious when I’m searching for the sunshine.
I had started a post a few weeks ago, about how Spring reminds me of my Grandfather, my Grandpa, K. We mowed our lawn for the first time recently, and I remember him doing this annual first of the year chore for my parents. I saw some Post-It notes on my best friend’s landing (she uses them for work) and they reminded me too.
Spring was when he died and when he was born. His favourite colour, like mine and my mother’s, was yellow. Bright and simple, yellow. I like my children in it (I so wished Grandpa had been able to hold Newborn in his thrilling canary babygro) and I like daffodils. I like their silly trumpets, which seem like cheeky heralds to the Spring.
I never felt I’d got the post right though, and in the interim a glorious pre-Summer has singed all of London’s host of daffodils. They are now withered sticks, useful only for running through as swishy swashy grass when I’m on impromptu bear hunts with Spider-boy. But I’d hate to miss the moment completely.
Though being reminded of him brings sadness, and a sense of embarassment that I cope with his death by pretending it isn’t true, I smile too when the spring sun hits my face, thinking of his gentle scribbler’s take on the world and how lucky I’ve been to know him.
He was a leaver of notes, our Grandpa. If he’d been to stay, my sisters and I would find little notes in our bedrooms. Pretend comments on school books, additional pages in the books we were reading, rewrites of schoolgirl poetry, loving cartoons stickytaped to the mirror. They were always meticulously written (he was a sign-writer too), spaced out, and as charming and pleasantly irreverant as an unexpected but welcome tickle.
His proper medium was watercolours, which he sold and which have given pleasure to many. But somehow for me the best of his art was his love of well sharpened pencils and scribbles and rhymes, of limericks and sayings that struck him as odd, of puzzles and poking fun at the crazy glory of the world and the seriousness with which we all take it sometimes. With only a Post-It and a pencil he could make the world a Spring-ier place.
At his funeral service there was a troop of colleagues, decades after he had retired, many years after he had moved across the Midlands. One had brought with him a yellowed envelope, which had the soft velvety feel of aged stationary. In it was a card, a handmade Get Well Soon card my Grandpa had made for him when they worked together, a cartoon of the man with a joke about keeping his ‘chins up’. This colleague had kept it, all these years, because it was beautiful and delicate but also raucous and funny and personal, a joke for him from someone aware that laughing at yourself and each other is as important to living your life as feeling the sun on your face and breathing in deep at the seaside to feel the salt air in your chest.
I read an epitaph that day. Borrowed words, which talked about death and the state of being dead as being in the next room, waiting for those we loved before. Though such ideas didn’t always appeal to me I look for him in the air, or in yellow flowers, on my walls in the watercolours he painted for me and sometimes in my old books just in case there’s a faded Post-It note. As Spider-boy would say, ‘you never know’. In the two years since he died, I have occasionally been lucky and found one.
So I dedicated today, a day of sun lizard Park Life and stamping on the now crispy daffs, of giggling with both my boys, to putting one foot in front of the other and taking deep breaths and carrying on (sometimes without my sunglasses). Not least because Newborn really is outwearing his current alias: he’s grown a tooth to remind me time marches on through all seasons and life is a forward momentum for the taking. The footprints and the weekend we have planned, to roam with our lads and enjoy the warmth, might not be a masterpiece, but they show we are going in the right direction.