Last year my grandfather died.
In my family, he was the last line of the grandparent generation.
An era of men and women born into a world where their fathers, took part in the great war.
Many a time on visits, I would get presented murky browny-grey photos with frayed edges, of uncles never known, immortalised in dapper uniforms, with a prideful yet stern look down the camera lens.
It’s always a shame I never paid more attention to their names, so I could carry their legacy a little bit further, brave heroes, serving in the war to end all wars, paying the ultimate sacrifice, never to return, to never realise a deep, long, and, meaningful life.
My great-grandparents survived, you might call them lucky, living long enough to experience the joy of becoming a parent.
My grandparents were born to a generation enduring unspeakable hardship, whose daily reality of career choice for a person living in the North of England was working in the mine or the mill.
But the struggle was not to end and a Second World War came, they were too young to fight, but their reality was living in real fear, huddling in shelters as the bombs came down, night after night, in a strategy hoping to blast a populace into submission.
In the end, goodness prevailed and my grandparents were part of an era rebuilding, working to create a new normal, in a boom which spawned my parents.
The horrors of the past were behind them, my grandparents role, now to give hope onto their children, and their legacy was peace and prosperity in the Western world, that lasts to this day.
In their deaths, my grandparents almost feel like legends, I know they existed, I visited their homes often enough, and yet now they have gone it sometimes feels like they were never here at all.
Seven years ago, my Nana passed away, starting the beginning of the end of the greatest generation.
I begun to pay attention how precious life really is, following up with a burning motivation to get my life in order.
Over the next six years, they slowly disappeared, with each death being bitter sweet, knowing I was keeping to my mission, getting better between each departure.
And now they are gone and I realise how much more I still want to ask them – in many respects despite knowing them for years I felt like I didn’t know them at all. There is nothing more I want than to talk to them again and ask them to tell me everything about their life.
This was the driver to write my own life story, aimed at loved ones, who hopefully, will be interested in knowing more about me when I’ve departed this Earth.
When I look up my grandparents in this Internet age, the only evidence they were here is old obituaries from local papers – simple glorified lists, detailing where they were from and who their children / grandchildren were.
There is something almost insulting seeing a life lasting over 80 years being summed up in a paragraph.
I said something similar to my wife and she responded
“Yes, but when you’re gone, your children will have all the things you have written to look at , so they can learn more about you.”
And that is the secret of my endurance.
To transcribe my life, share my thoughts and experiences, talk about the love I have as a father, husband, friend, to show I existed.
And if you have grandparents left, embrace them, love them, learn everything you can about them.
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Thanks for reading, if you want to read more about one of my granddads who served in the Second World War, check out the following post:
Flying spitfires in Moncton, Canada, 1941
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