I am unpacking the last of my Christmas shopping. I see that I have bought a box of marzipan fruits for my Nan; the most sugary of the boxed goods of choice of the elderly. Rank with food colouring, bristling with sugar, they are almond paste roughly fashioned in to the shape of out of proportion fruits, the interpretation of each manufacturer as divergent as you could wish for.
I think it would be nice to go to the pub with my Great Uncle, who would rag me horrendously for this purchase whilst regaling me tales of his youth. We would raise a glass to my Aunt, and I could tell him the terrible joke that The Boy told me, which my Great Uncle would duly make dirty and unrepeatable to anyone under the age of 21.
I forget that my Great Uncle has been dead for over 6 years, and my Nan for over half my life. I think about how their relationships with my children would have developed, and what they could learn from each other. I think about how well my son would have got along with my Grandad, and how alike my daughter is to my Great Aunt.
From time to time, I get a whisper of the past. I remember sitting on a bus going through Chingford Mount, two years after my Grandad had died and having the sensation of him being nearby. I could smell his aftershave, could smell the slight smoke of cigarettes, and I smiled and thought of him fondly.
I may see something that would have intrigued my forebears; hear a joke that would have made them laugh; read a news item that I want to talk about with them. Something happens that makes me miss them more, and sometimes I am devoid of feeling to their absence; I know they are not alive, but I cannot feel the earth’s loss of them. It is almost as if they have never been. When this happens, and I remember, I try not to feel guilty. I try to remember that living is the best gift we can give those who loved and cared for us in our infant hood; who nurtured us as if we were their own child. It is hard to forgive myself nonetheless for what I see as the betrayal of their memory.
What is worse, and so much more painful, is that sometimes; sometimes I forget that they have died. I can sit, shaking my head, angry at myself for nothing. Sometimes, it feels like they are right here, whilst at others… Sometimes I forget.
For Ella, who is never forgotten.