Monday, 5 August 2013

Life's all a matter of milestones

Life’s all rites of passage, all milestones.

The horror of the first day at school (and we do that to five-year-olds). The extraordinary pleasure when a woman started, voluntarily, to use my surname instead of the one she was born with. The elation at the birth of a child, tinged with the shock at realising that the younger generation was now someone else
s. The pain of learning of my father’s death, a pain both for an irreparable loss but also for the departure of the figure that stood between me and the grave, leaving me directly exposed to my own mortality.

I negotiated another key moment just a couple of weeks ago, when for the first time I received an e-mail from my granddaughter Aya. It was a moment of great pleasure, so I replied at once. It was only when I’d finished that I realised I’d signed myself ‘Granddad’ completely naturally, without a second thought. I don’t know whether I’d unconsciously resisted being moved back a generation further, from parent to grandparent after the previous transition from child to parent, but in the last eight and a half years I don’t think I’d ever become completely reconciled to my grandfatherly role.

But it quickly became clear that I had now accepted it completely, during our recent visit to Aya and her family. I found myself reacting instinctively when called ‘Granddad’ and, more to the point, no longer thinking that ‘Daddy’ meant me.

More important still, I began to read John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk to her. There are a great many children’s books in English, many of them excellent. There’s no difficulty finding a book about pirates or magic, about smugglers or talking animals, about highwaymen or Arthurian knights. But The Midnight Folk has them all, woven into a story which sweeps you along in its breakneck 

My mother discovered it through her mother, and then she read it to my brother and me. I read it to my sons. Now, I’m reading it to Aya. What’s more, she seems to like it, enough to want me to continue even though I’m once more several hundred miles away. We take advantage of the wonderful technological innovation that goes under the apt name Facetime, so that we can see as well as hear each other while we enjoy this masterpiece of kids’ literature.

A new and powerful bond has been created. Between fellow fans of The Midnight Folk there can be no bad feeling. So as I fully accept, or resign myself, at last my status of grandfather, with all that implies of the wear and tear of life, along comes in compensation, a new tie of affection with my granddaughter.

Can’t be bad.

Thank you, John Masefield. And even more warmly, thank you, Aya.


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

Aw. Makes me wish I had some--grandchildren, that is.

David Beeson said...

I'm certainly beginning to understand the benefits...