I dreamt about my Grandfather the other night. Watched him working on a door, carefully plaining edges with an old-fashioned hand tool, curls of raw wood falling to the floor. Scent of wood drifting over. His hands were rough from years of being a sailor; the way his white hair curled round the back of his ear, much like the wood curl. I watched as he took his time to make sure this door wouldn’t stick.
That was the man he was. The man I knew before he died and disappeared too soon from my life. He repaired china in his retirement, restoring beauty and breathing life back into things that were broken and would otherwise be thrown away. He gave people back things that they loved and thought they’d lost when they’d broken them. And he gave people time. His time. How amazing is that? What a gift he gave the world, even briefly.
I didn’t see much of him as I was growing up, but when I came back to England for secondary school, I spent more time with him and my granny. I was so little and lost in a country I didn’t know and he tucked me under his wing and carried me with him. He supported and encouraged everything I was, without judgement. I remember visiting him in hospital after he had had his heart attack. All he wanted to do was show me off to the nurses, how proud he was of me, his grand daughter. Not talk about the tubes in him. As a 12/13 year old, all awkward and shy, it was slightly mortifying. But that’s who he was. He loved life, loved people. He’d talk to anyone. Going anywhere with him took ages because he’d stop to chat to strangers. I definitely get my inquisitiveness and wanderlust from him. He was so cheeky, always chatting up women regardless of age. My granny rolling her eyes in the background. He died shortly after I saw him. Not from the heart attack, but from a superbug he picked up in the hospital. I don’t remember much of the funeral, just the church was packed and I stood in line to shake hands and say thank you for coming as people filed out. Only I couldn’t because I was sobbing too much. I remember people looking embarrassed, not knowing what to do.
I learnt so much from him in such a short time and I’m grateful that I had that chance. He wasn’t the easiest of men; he was incredibly strict with my brothers. They definitely saw the sea captain side. But there was always love and support for all his family.
I’ve never dreamt about him so I’m glad he popped in for a visit. The message in the dream? Well I see a door is not just a door. It’s an opening for friendship, life, love. You take time to maintain it so that there’s no barrier if someone wants to come through. Things only last if you take the time to put the effort in. Little touches go a long way to sustain connections but only if you don’t let them deteriorate too far.
There was never a barrier between us, because he’s taken the time to make sure the door worked. I’d always be able to reach him.
I wonder how much else I’d have learnt from him if I’d had the luxury of time. I know he hated tattoos. As a sailor he probably saw some very drunken mistakes. But he was also an artist, so I think he’d appreciate the art that I wear.
I miss him. As I miss my Granny. People are so fleeting. Situations are so fleeting. So make the most of every door you find and put in the maintenance to make sure the good ones endure.