It’d be easy to pick one person in particular here. The obvious choice is to pick an elderly relative who you miss, who died. And yes, my first impulse would be to pick my Grandma. My mum’s mum. When I was a wee lad she pretty much brought me up. My mum went back to work as a teacher, and my dad was out & about trying to grow a small business, so both myself & my sister were brought up by our Gran, certainly through our pre-school years up until we went to secondary school. When we were little she took us to play group, and used to treat us to fingers of fudge from the local shop, or a bar of Caramac, a light brown caramel fudge concoction. She was there for us until the stress of living with us all under the same roof got to her & she moved 3 miles away to Bentley Heath. Even then, I made a point of cycling the hilly route to her bungalow every weekend, and I’d cut her hedges or mow the lawn as needed throughout the summer. She for her part would push cake & tea on me, and when I smoked would crash her fags with me.
The thing is though, when she moved closer, round the corner to Alston Close, I’d go round, but it became a mercenary thing – I was broke & she’d always crash me some fags or something, but she was all out of stories of the old days – they’d been told to death, and as a teenager I was not a great listener. I’d go out of a sense of duty, more than anything. Sometimes it was fun. I made a point of giving her my old cast-off video recorder & I’d hire Voyager VHSes from the video store on Dovehouse Parade. Gran got me into sci-fi. When my dad was being a pig I’d go & sit with her & we’d watch old Star Trek episodes or Doctor Who, so when Voyager was out on video but hadn’t yet made it to broadcast syndication in the UK, naturally I brought them to show my gran. But really, towards the end, it was kind of tedious. I’m sorry – it sounds awful, but to a 20 year old, 80-somethings are pretty boring, when they’ve told you all their tales a dozen times.
When she was gone, I felt horribly guilty thinking that. She’d given so much for us, and I was grateful, honest, just… how awful her life had become, housebound, stuck in that bungalow with only the TV & me & her one surviving friend who came round. She’d got gradually sick over decades, osteoporosis leading to a curved spine, leading to a hiatus hernia, which in turn squeezed against her heart & gave her angina when she ate anything more than a mouthful. Every so often she’d have a serious angina attack. Not a proper heart attack as such, but she said the pain was excruciating. We’d go & visit her in hospital.
She lived long enough to meet my wife, when we were still just dating. I think she died before we married. It’s a long time ago now & I’m not sure of the timing exactly, but I remember thinking, at last her suffering is over. She’d wished for it so often, when the angina struck. We buried her in Robin Hood cemetery in Shirley, in the plot she’d laid her husband in 3 decades earlier. I do miss her occasionally – it’d be nice to introduce her to the kids.
But still around? No. She’d be 100 years old now. Think how decrepit she’d be! She’d probably hate it for the most part.
No, I reckon my gran earned her rest, & it came at the right time for her. She’d done all she’d wanted to & just wanted to go on to the next thing, whatever it was. Gran was a devout Catholic, and she fervently believed in a heaven & hell set-up, and knew with some certainty she was going upstairs. She’d been a daily communicant as a girl, never missed her confession, always said her rosary.
There is someone I would like to bring back, assuming he came back with his full faculties & wasn’t a brain-crazed zombie. One of my old school chums, who I named my son after. He had a fairly turbulent time of things, in his teenage years. F was half Ghanaian & half English. He was a skinny kid, great at distance running, and also pretty handy at judo as it happens. He spoke with a stutter a lot of the time. The teachers used to say his brain was working 10x as fast as his mouth & his mouth just couldn’t keep up with all he wanted to say.
F was one of my clique at school. We were the nerdy kids. He liked chess, and we all liked computers. We’d go round his, a big gaggle of us, to play games on his ZX Spectrum. His parents’ place was huge, or so it seemed to us. They didn’t heat it much in the winter. I remember seeing a big bluebottle fly on the wall there when I was there to play computer games. It was so cold this poor thing could hardly move, and ended up falling right off the wall, unable to carry on.
When we were at college, F fell out with his dad. I suspect it was probably 20% his dad being concerned that he was going to fulfil his potential, and 80% F being a stroppy teen. He moved out into a homeless hostel where some crazy guy downstairs from him flipped out when F over-filled his bath & flooded the downstairs flat. Well, you would, wouldn’t you, if some skinny dude kept flooding your flat.
Only F had a reason why this happened, and it was the same reason his teeth were all chipped. Throughout school, F had been prone to these absences. Not absence from class, but he’d start doing some rhythmic activity absent-mindedly, such as bouncing a ball, and he’d just not be there. You couldn’t get his attention. Well, it turned out that was petit mal epilepsy & later as a teen & 20-something, it became grand mal. As if nautical nonsense was something he wished, he’d drop to the deck & flop like a fish – a tonic-clonic seizure. One time, crossing the Stratford road, he caught that faint odour that meant it was coming on, and had to fling himself across so he wouldn’t get run over. He dove onto a pile of sand & gravel & smashed his teeth on the stones.
It was actually pretty rare that I’d see these seizures. My sister also has epilepsy & I’ve seen her fit more than F did, which was why it was such a surprise when the big one came.
F had finally managed to turn his life around, in his mid-20s. He’d passed his A-levels & was studying at Surrey University, in Kingston. His sister found him. He’d apparently had a seizure, and for whatever reason, he’d had a brain haemorrhage. He was dead, and that was that.
So that’s why I’d wish him back – if F had all his faculties, there was *so much* he could have done, so much he wanted to do. His stories hadn’t been started, hardly. His life was a first few opening chapters, and then a big stretch of exposed spine where all the pages had been ripped out. My gran, sure, she was a lovely woman, but she wouldn’t want to be back. F had missions he wanted to fulfil, so many things, so much potential.