Back when I was at boarding school, we wrote letters on Sundays. Mine always started in the same manner, “Dear Mum, Dad and Youngest Aunt, How are you? I hope you are well. I am very well.” What came after that was likely to be influenced by what I’d been doing – attending basketball matches or other sporting events, going for a walk, trying to keep warm or cool depending on the season – and questions around what might be happening at home. I liked writing letters. I still do. Later on, in the early 1990s, when Mum was long dead, Dad and I tried to resurrect the art of letter-writing. We had something of a two-person crusade going for a while. We weren’t able to keep it up, but it was fun while it lasted. And, as today would have been his 102nd birthday, I thought I might write him a letter anyway.
Dear Dad, Happy birthday. I hope you’re managing to keep warm (I think I’d have to say that; he wasn’t much of a one for the cold and it’s pretty chilly). YoungB will be home next week. It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed but his long absence has been made easier by modern technology. I wish we’d had that when I was overseas and you weren’t because, at that time, letters took a long time and phone calls were hideously expensive and remarkably difficult. We’ll have a family lunch to celebrate his return, though not everyone will be there. There’ll be lots to talk about as well as his being home again. After all, there’s to be a wedding in the family in October and that’s a happy prospect. We’re all excited about it and I’m pleased to be involved in making some of the decorations for it. No, I can’t tell you about them because the details are secret; actually, so secret I don’t know them myself yet :)
There’ll be the Bloody Long Walk to accomplish prior to that, of course, because we’re all training up for it. Your youngest granddaughter, whom you never met, is completing her physiotherapy training and will be able to give us some good advice. She’s been keeping an eye on us from afar, because netball has claimed her when work and study haven’t, and wondering who would be the first to succumb to injury. You know how dodgy my knees are, so I dare say you won’t be surprised to hear that I gave her cause for amusement after last weekend’s walk by requesting advice for some strengthening exercises. Oh, well, somebody had to be first and it doesn’t matter that it was me.
(In pensive vein I might go on to thank him for many things, in no particular order.) Thank you for teaching me to tie a reef knot, to milk a cow, to skirt a fleece, to whistle; for instilling in me the importance of shining my shoes (I used to get compliments for them when I was a student nurse; the credit, I think, is entirely yours), for teaching me how to change a tyre and persisting with teaching me to drive. Thank you for travelling with Youngest Aunt and me through Europe and, on the whole, not being too much of a PITA about it. I hope you were able to say the same. It was a tough gig, but we survived and didn’t we have some tales to tell!
Thank you for coming to our rescue when we lost our little 4WD over the gully, and for enduring the camp bed in the shed when you visited us on our bush block. Thank you for your sense of humour and your knack for storytelling, both of which I see in my son, the younger grandson whom you never met. You would have liked him. He shares your love of word games and he rides a motorbike. He’d have loved your old Norton. You would have had lots of things to talk about. You could have shared your impressions of Italy with him when he returns next week, and laughed, no doubt, about the crazy drivers and the terror of life as a pedestrian in their busy cities. You won’t have that opportunity and neither will he. That’s a pity but it’s life. One generation makes way for the next. And though I don’t see your looks in his apart from his colouring (which is too dark for Dr B to claim credit), his easygoing nature is so like yours that I’m convinced there’s a bit of DNA that can be attributed directly to you. Thank you for that, too.
Thank you for more things than I can think of right now, really. Although you’re no longer here, you’re always part of us. We miss you. Lots of love.
PS (there was almost always a PS): I got some new walking boots the other week because my joggers weren’t up to the rough terrain around the southern part of the BLW; although they’re not Rossis, they’re all right and provide good ankle support. And, wouldn’t you know it, I had to buy some new boots for work, too, because that cheap pair I bought a couple of months ago fell apart! But of course I still haven’t knitted any socks :) XX