the most honourable thing

With thanks to the incredible Sydney Smith, portraitist of pirates.

With thanks to the incredible Sydney Smith, portraitist of pirates.

My mother is putting my grandmother’s ashes in the ground today, next to my grandfather’s, and it feels self-indulgent to write at length about remembrance.

Bombs and Scottish relatives and brussels sprouts and Berlin and that pub he had to go back to with fewer and fewer of his friends, his best friends in the world, each time the British lady counting and then crying. When it was just him left he couldn't go back. Not by himself.

All I feel like writing today is the truth, which is that I can’t possibly remember in the way of understanding. Not really. I like to think I do but I don’t. I can’t possibly.

The only conceivable thing in my frame of view is the scrawl of a crayon.

He’d get very quiet on Remembrance Day. He would just sit and think. Gram knew to not speak a word. I imagine she brought him lunch, set it on a little table beside him. I imagine she had her own remembrances.

Telegrams and sobbing women and the startle of unexpected doorbells and wrapping butter tarts and buttons and smokes for airmail and how he called her Slim, and then his friends, too, when they wrote to her from German camps, half of it blacked out.

He kept going back.

WforWilliam - 7SqdnRAF.jpg

Perhaps stunned at how he didn’t die as all his friends had died. Luck is heavy after a long time walking. He came home, finally, and painted a house with shingles and a front porch, his wife inside cooking steaks and cloud biscuits with butter. He wore a suit and a tie and a hat and he beamed prosperity but on the inside he buckled sometimes under the weight. Perhaps he was stunned, still.

All I can offer is humility. Not indulgence. I am oblivious. Knowing that above all else is the most honourable thing.