A Poem for My Grandad

This is a poem I wrote when I was fifteen, in memory of my grandad – I was a toddler when he passed away from cancer. Today would have been his birthday which is why this one’s for you Grandad – from your little cheeky monkey:

Every winter

when snowdrops appear

they remind me of you

Nan says they were your favourite flower

I wonder if you still like them

even now.

I can remember you

just about,

all those little moments

kept fresh in my mind

which make me feel

as if they happened

only yesterday

snapshots of memories

which are like odd socks

you always think you’ll find the pairs to match them up

but really

you never do.

I never saw you in anything

other than a white shirt and flannel trousers,

your shirt so crisp it looked like it could stand up on its own

your trousers never without that definite crease right down the middle

and you always wore your glasses

big owly specs

hiding most of your face

magnifying your eyes a thousand times

until they were as big as your head.

You were so tall

toweringly so

having to stoop in order to pass through any doorway

just like the giant

in Roald Dahl’s BFG,

at least four times as tall as me

you had to bend down

to pat me on the head

and I needed binoculars

to see your face clearly.

You always called me

your little cheeky monkey

when really it should have been me calling you that,

you had a thing about bananas

sometimes eating five in one day

the next time I saw you

I expected to see you swinging from a tree

scratching under your arms

beating your chest

still in your shirt and trousers

of course.

Nan kept a candle in the shape

of a half-peeled banana

in her little glass cabinet,

it was your favourite joke

to lift it to your mouth

as if you were about to eat it

and I always thought you would. . .

one day you’d forget

in a moment of absent-mindedness

you’d take a big bite out of it

and have bits of wax swirling round your teeth

but you never did,

at the last minute you’d always

look across at me

and wink.

It was a hot summer’s day once

so boiling hot we didn’t know what to do with ourselves

my brothers and me

behaving like three out of control monkeys,

even to this day I don’t know what possessed me

to creep into the kitchen

to take that bottle of lemonade

and shake it and shake it and shake it

until I barely had enough strength in my hands

to unscrew the top

and yet

I did. . .

whooooooooosh

it was like a rocket

that lemonade hit the ceiling

spurted over the walls

covered me in a coat of sickly, sweet liquid

drops even sticking to my eyelashes

Nan came in the room

with you close behind

and you both stared

horrified

and then you said

“Oh

you’ve started the party without us then?”

How I laughed

you laughed

we all laughed.

A month after Christmas

a cold January night

a night which was probably

one of the longest of my life.

I put myself to bed

but I didn’t know why

had I been naughty?

Was that why no one had come

to read me a story?

I cuddled down under the cover

wondering why nothing was the same

where had the routine gone?

I heard Mum and Dad downstairs

a hum of voices

suddenly drowned out

by the ringing of the phone. . .

I slipped out of bed

tiptoed to the landing

and knelt by the bannisters

listening

“He hasn’t…made it? He’s gone?

Well thank you for…

for letting us know.

Goodbye.”

The click of the receiver as final

as the last beat of your heart.

Looking back I was too young to understand

what a funeral was

I knew we were saying goodbye but

I didn’t want to,

I’d said goodbye

the last time I saw you

in your bed, barely breathing

but sleeping

peacefully,

almost a small, steady smile

on your face.

It’s strange

that was the only time I’d ever

felt bigger than you.

Nan cried in church

Mum cried,

Dad cried,

my brothers cried

but

I didn’t cry.

I followed everyone obediently

I sat squashed in a pew,

I had a hymn book in front of me

even though I couldn’t read,

I didn’t open my mouth to sing a single verse

yet in my head

I sang louder

than anyone else did for real.

After the service

we poured out into the courtyard

and the sunlight hurt my eyes

it was so strong,

fiercely burning bright yellow

the same shade as

your beloved bananas. . .

Even now I don’t liken a crescent moon to a banana

for me it’s always

the sun.

I wish I’d asked you

about your life,

about all the things you’d seen

in Africa

Norway,

how much did your accent stand out

your face, your stance

how well did a scouser fit in

when you went to all those different countries?

I really wished I’d asked you

how on earth you knew

my Nan was the one

when you saw her on the same ship as you

sailing across to England

how on earth you dared

to flirt with her

when you knew she was already engaged,

what on earth was going through your head

when you proposed,

how on earth you felt

when she said yes,

how on earth you kept it together

and married each other there and then,

a two week whirlwind romance

which lasted over fifty years

faithful up until the moment

you died.

If only I could hear you tell me that tale now

from your point of view,

yet

I still know what I’d say to you

with a twinkle in my eye

and a smile twitching on my lips

I’d say

“Gramps, back then, well. . .

you must have been well fit.”

I did know you

but not well enough,

if only I’d thought to ask you all these questions

before it was too late

and said all these things which you think can

be left unspoken

just because you don’t quite know when or how to say them

like

I love you Grandad.

I wonder what you’d say

if you could see me now?

Actually that’s one question

I already know the answer to

I can almost hear you saying it now

with a twinkle in your eye

and a smile twitching on your lips,

you’d say to me

“why, my little cheeky monkey,

haven’t you grown up. . .”

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2 Comments

  1. avian101

    I’m sure that you Grandfather wherever he’s now, must be happy for you his little cheeky monkey! Lovely poem Becka! 🙂

    Like

    • I hope he is too H.J, thanks again for the read and comment – I appreciate it! 🙂 ♥

      Like

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