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Sunday, 26 September 2010

My Daddies Daddy

Between moving out of the house and moving into our new place there was a bit of a gap. Which meant a little stopover with some Grandparents.

Little bit abrupt that ending wasn't it? Would it have read better if it ended ... I think it probably would have. I'll remember that.

So anyway, my Grandparents. Like most people I started off with four and the number got lower over time. I've now got two. I don't know what the statistics are on Grandparent retention; am I doing well or badly to have two left at the age of 31?

If I seem unduly flippant on here about the death of 'loved ones' it's because, by and large, they weren't. Loved ones, I mean. They were people in my life. People I spent time with and people who gave me presents and people whose mockery I had to endure in good humour, yes. Not people I loved though.

My paternal Grandfather (it's both of my paternal Grandparents that are dead, my maternals are still alive and kicking, if a little the worse for wear), was a keen collector of comics. Name a British weekly adventure comic of the 70's and 80's and he read it, religiously. Warlord, Victor, Battle, he had them all, and he was always willing to let you dig into them whenever you visited. We learned never to remove them from the premises though, that was absolutely forbidden.He also liked taking his Grand kids on days out during school holidays and every few weekends.On the face of it, he was pretty much everything you wanted in a Grandfather.

There was a problem though.A problem which was, to my young eyes, a pretty bloody big problem, thank you very much, even if the adults in the family didn't seem overly bothered by it. The man was a bully. He was a bully to his wife, he was a bully to his own kids and he was a bully to us little ones. He wasn't a big man, physically, but my Grandma was a borderline midget (not really, but she was very small) and he dwarfed her. Most of his own kids had outgrown him but I suppose years of conditioning had left them thinking his behaviour normal so they never stood up to it. As for us kids, well, what could we do?

I once sat in their living room with my parents, my Uncle and his wife who were visiting at the same time and my Aunt. My Aunt was only in her teens, and so still lived at home but she wouldn't have been able to leave had she wanted to due to severe physical and mental disabilities that left her confined to a wheelchair with the mind of a small child and very little use of her hands. (She could feed herself but it would leave a hell of a mess and her beloved crayons never stayed inside the lines)

The adults were sitting around gossiping about whatever it is people sit around talking about for hours at a time (I'm not the most sociable person so I don't know) and I was working with my Aunt on a model kit I'd received as a present. It was lots of bits of card with pictures of roof tiles and shopfronts and brickwork and such that you had to colour in and then they folded together to make a model High Street.

(It may give you a little idea of the level of compassion in my family when I tell you that I received a real bollocking from my parents when we went home for letting my Aunt help with it, because she would obviously just mess it up. Even as a little kid I thought that the fact she had a whale of a time and was dead proud of herself was more important than whether my model looked as good as the one on the box but I couldn't argue the point. Parents know best don't they?)

Anyway, the adults are sitting around, I'm working on the model, and suddenly my Grandfather, kindly old soul that he is, decides that he is not happy with the cup of tea he is drinking and my Grandmother should go and make him a fresh one. Seconds later, because she hasn't jumped to attention quick enough, he is out of his chair, grabbing her by the throat, pinning her to the door and screaming point blank into her face that she is a useless c*nt and if she didn't want 'knocking into next week' she had better hurry up with his tea. Not a single one of the adults intervened. I mean, come on, my father and uncle watched their mother being assaulted and verbally abused and did nothing. Whats worse is that my Aunt barely reacted. Given her mental and emotional condition, how many times must she have witnessed that, or something similar, in order for it not to affect her?

Another incident that immediately springs to mind about him, even after all these years, is when he took me and my sister to the seaside. South Shields, the standard destination for daytrippers in my part of the country. We piled on to the bus, first thing in the morning, each clutching our little plastic money bag full of coins we had collected in the days prior (we didn't get regular pocket money allowances, just when there was a specific reason, like this), all excited about going in the water and building sandcastles. That excitement is the only good memory I have of that day. I'm sure we must have had some fun but all I can recall is the public beating I received for leaving my money on a bench and us having to go back for it. Or the screaming my sister endured when it was discovered that her money bag had torn and she had lost most of her coins. He didn't give her any to replace it, in case you're wondering. He just made her do without.

So yes, he let me read his comics. Not really enough to qualify for 'loved one' is it?

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