The warm, gentle evening breeze carved wave-like patterns in the long grass as we trod a path through the meadow. High above birds glided on the last thermals of the day before coming to rest on the branches of the willows that flanked the river. As the light drained away like floodwater an inquisitive face peered up at me. “Daddy, where are they?”
“Just through that gate and down the hill” I replied. Our youngest daughter raised her tiny arms and gestured to me to carry her tired frame. As she nestled into my shoulder she drew a yawn and then whispered to me to hurry up before sleep took her. She was eager to see someone.
We paused some ten metres or so away from two figures sitting motionless on the bank of the river. I turned and stared at the now perked-up four year old I was carrying. The light caught her eyes and just for a moment I saw my father’s playful spirit in them. “We should pounce on them like tiger’s” she said with a grin before asking to be put down on the ground. She placed her little hand in mine and led me slowly and quietly towards her sister and their grandad. Clasping her mouth with both hands she held back giggles to listen closely to the words being spoken which were being carried by the breeze now blowing towards us.
“I taught your father to fish here, you know.” The old man wrapped his arm around our eldest daughter. “He had no patience at all. You are doing far better” he chuckled.
“What else did you teach him grandad? Tell me about when he was a boy please.”
As the shadows grew longer the two moved closer together, cuddling as the temperature dropped and the stars began to adorn the darkening sky. All we could make out was laughter and gesturing as stories were recounted. Soon my father stood up and placed our eldest daughter on his back. They trudged away from the river just as I felt our youngest’s hand lose grip with mine. She raced through the grass and leapt, true to her word, like a tiger. Two became three, hand joining hand.
I turned and walked back through the meadow, content that moments like this were utterly unforgettable and would in time become cherished memories.
My daughters, please understand …
Sadly daddy’s father never became your grandparent. He passed when Daddy was seventeen. Despite the futility of imagining memories such as these and picturing him in your lives had he lived longer, I still feel the collision of gratitude at being your dad on one hand and a sense of grief that he is not here to share in your lives. You occasionally ask me about him. While I am happy to share stories of his life with you, I wish I didn’t have to refer to him in the past tense.
I want you to know that your grandfather was an accomplished engineer, a man who fully understood and appreciated the essence of precision in his work. He also loved his family dearly and knew much about the unpredictable course of life. As a teacher, daddy is forever wrestling with the imprecise and uncertain, but he is grateful for having learnt from grandad to accept and work through opportunity and adversity and understands that attempts to fully control life eventually controls us, our relationships and processes. I look at you and remind myself not to be impatient to see you grow up, but to be attentive right now and prepared to vacillate with change as it presents itself. Daddy knows that he has been hostage to grandad’s memory, but rather than erode it in order to heal, he is committed to depositing lessons and stories about him with you in order to help you understand part of where we come from.