Updated: Jul 20, 2020
I had my first isolation sob the other night... for friends and family who have lost people, who are losing parents, for a relationship lost, for everyone really.
The morning after a sense of melancholic calm came over me - I’ve recently moved back in with my parents in the home I grew up in and the familiar sights, sounds and smells are welcome during this strange time.
I felt inspired to try and write something to explain the complex set of emotions I was experiencing - actually, we’re all experiencing in some way... isolated in our homes but collectively experiecing a slowly unfolding tragedy, a collective trauma.
Little did I know that just moments after I’d finished writing, the words I’d just written would take on a whole new meaning.
About 15 minutes after I had typed the last word I heard a wail from downstairs - it was my Mum receiving the phone call we had been dreading.
My Grandad had died at 10:30am that morning in hospital.
He was just a few weeks off his 90th birthday and whilst the shock is still settling in, he had the most wonderful life and he gave all of us such firm foundations in life.
Over the coming days and weeks we’ll have to find new and novel ways to grieve as we’re forced to do so isolated and separated from one another - its something many of us will face over the coming weeks and months.
Reflecting on my sudden change of mood during the time when he was leaving us, leaving this world, I can’t help but feel my body was in tune with that shift happening in the universe.
So the micro-story below is dedicated to my Grandad, Raymond, who leaves behind a brother, 8 children, 17 grandchildren, innumerable great grandchildren and so many happy memories.
Hope Sylvia’s got a lovely cheese pie ready for you Grandad.
A Nice Place To Sit
With a cup of coffee in his hand, he sat, the sunshine through the glass warming his face.
And with the sights and smells and sounds of childhood all around, he thought to himself - this is a nice place to sit.
It wasn’t a grand place to sit.
There wasn’t the romantic sunsets of the Indian sub-continent, or the long lazy vista of an afternoon by a fancy infinity pool.
Nor was it the heart-pounding experience of riding white water in the Canadian Rockies, or the freedom of the open road in the outback of Australia.
Those places were long distant, rose-tinted memories.
This wasn’t those places.
But it was a nice place to sit.
And it wasn’t the intense fleeting feelings of validation you get from playing the fame-game, or the epic feeling of euphoria you get from the rise and rush of the beat with a thousand other bodies in motion.
It wasn’t the drugged-up feeling of falling head over heals in love, or the crushing fall back to the ground when love’s flame has exhausted itself and extinguished.
Nor was it the seismic jolt when bad news hits your senses and the rug gets pulled and the butterflies go wild and grief waves over you like ripples on a pond and your heart plummets so deep you think you’ll never be able to retrieve it again.
It wasn’t that place.
But it was a nice place to sit.
Through the glass the view was simple and comforting - an English country garden, its quarterly cycle as familiar as an old friends laughter.
He’d seen the landscape change over the years with the changing fads and fashions each new decade brings.
Changes made by his Dad’s talented hands, and embellished by his Mum’s creative flair.
It wasn’t the grandiose landscape engineering of the stately home garden, but it was crafted by his very own Capability Browns.
It really was a nice place to sit.
The walls around felt comforting and familiar, and the glass would protect from the dangers of the stormy world outside.
They say bricks and mortar are just a house and not a home, but sometimes its hard to distinguish between the two.
And if these walls could talk (as the old saying goes).
Tales of indoor football smashing the super-chic 1990s glass TV cabinet, ‘redecorating’ walls with pens and their own creative flair and echoes of ‘just you wait until your Dad gets home’ haunting the air.
Fit to bursting at Christmas dinners with more emergency chairs than you could possibly imagine, elbows up to walls, spilled gravy and table cloths set alight by over-zealous Christmas pudding pyromaniacs.
Drunk dancing aunties, boisterous games that left battle scars on both the participants and the building, and the echo of of a Grandma’s slightly sarcastic but not really disapproving tone: ‘they’ll be tears if you’re not careful.’
Melancholic memories: not laugh-out-loud-happy nor uncontrolled-sobbingly-sad.
Nice memories, in a nice place to sit.
It wasn’t an important place to sit.
It wasn’t the hard plastic chair of the examination room, or the smooth cool of the wooden pew at those important rites of life’s passage.
It wasn’t a seat where important decisions were made, or life-changing arguments took place.
It wasn’t the throne of a queen, or the benches of power in Parliament, not even an important seat reserved for a doctor or a judge.
Just an ordinary chair, in an ordinary home, in an ordinary neighbourhood.
But as he felt the comforting sense of it all and sipped his coffee, he thought to himself:
This really is a nice place to sit.