In Memory of Grandpa H
My family seems to have developed a Christmas curse: death. This year, the curse fell upon my dear grandpa—we’ll call him Grandpa H. Two weeks on from his death, I’d like to take this opportunity to write a little in memoriam for Grandpa H; a man I have been lucky to know and even luckier to call grandpa.
Perhaps I should start with the coolest thing about Grandpa H, or at least, the coolest thing in my opinion. None of you will know my grandpa, but you may have seen him before; he has a waxwork in Madame Tussauds (riding a motorbike with long, grey plaits flying back). No, he’s not famous but he worked there for some years. Before Madame T’s he ran the pier in Worthing; before that, he was an actor on the stage; before that he studied Modern Languages at Cambridge; and before that he was born to my great grandparents, a magician (my great grandfather) and a trapeze artist (my great grandmother). Though this was, of course, all before I knew him.
I found out about Grandpa H’s life in dribs and drabs over the years. He was always a very modest man and preferred to hear our opinions on art, current affairs, and cricket rather than regale us with stories of his life. Most of what I know about Grandpa H’s life came from others. Now that he’s gone, I wish I’d asked more questions. In the last years of his life, Grandpa H developed Alzheimer’s. Ironically, this was the period in which he talked most about his life. He never spoke of it in a pompous, verbose way—he was modest til the end—and what he said usually pertained to his interactions and relationships with the people he’d met along the way. Grandpa H’s life was undoubtedly full of character, but more importantly, it was full of characters.
People are, perhaps, the biggest influences on our lives—the ones we meet, the ones we keep, the ones we leave, the ones that leave us. Grandpa H was and continues to be a very important influence in my life. His desire for conversation, opinion and intellectual stimulation in turn pushed my curiosity, thinking, and attentiveness to the world around me; and his generosity, his kindness, his eagerness to listen, his genuine interest, his respect and his sincere admiration, have all provided me with an exemplar code for life.
If we all live by Grandpa H’s code—and I firmly believe we should—we will see first-hand how hard work and humility better our careers, and how kindness, interest and respect improve our relationships with others and ourselves.
And with that, I would like to raise a metaphorical glass—neither half-full, nor half-empty but full to the brim just as his life was—to my wonderful grandpa, dearly missed, deeply loved, and always with us. Go well, Grandpa H.