Saturday, August 16, 2008

Of things lost, and silly mementos

I open the door to my Granny’s bungalow, having been told I can go and seek out a keepsake before it is cleared ahead of it being rented out. I step inside and feel an impulse to call out “it’s me!” as I always would have done.

I know what I’m looking for. It’s something that belonged to my Granddad though – who passed away when I was fifteen – rather than my Granny: an old brass artillery shell that he used as a doorstop. No-one alive remembers where it came from now – Granddad was an engineer of some repute, so stayed on the British Isles for World War II, so I imagine he picked it up near a battery somewhere in the hills of south Wales – but it was always something I would be drawn to when I visited his old house in Aberdare. I remember being slightly frightened of it. Not because of it’s original intention, but how heavy and hard it was; I would be terrified that I might drop it – crushing my foot, smashing a floorboard, or just being told off for making a loud noise – but nonetheless always would pick it up and turn it round in my hands.

I can’t find it, and begin to fume. There is already a nagging suspicion that my Granny’s cleaner visited her in the nursing home, and is responsible for the disappearance of her not inexpensive watch. I checked the visitor’s book: she happened to sign in the afternoon it went missing, and hadn’t visited before and didn’t again afterwards. Basic detective work means she’s at least worth questioning. My father though forbade me to go round when I asked him what her address is; I dare say he’d rather just not know, which I accepted and probably agree with.

I’m incredulous anyone would steal – of anything – a brass artillery shell though, and I doubt most people would realise what it is on first glance. I search high and low, and eventually uncover it in a bucket behind the kitchen door. I always remembered it as being in the living room in this bungalow, but in hindsight maybe it had been consigned to this location ever since he died. I’m surprised how much smaller and lighter it is – much less heavy than, say, a shot-put, and yet all my memories of it involve me having to heave it from the floor with both hands. I take it with me, ignoring other items of more obvious value or aesthetic worth.

I find myself becoming surrounded by the oddest reminders of people; things which would appear insignificant, pointless or almost ridiculous to anyone else – indeed, maybe to the very people themselves – and yet I couldn’t part with them. It’s funny what can make you feel sentimental, what you will always remember, the things that, on the grand scheme of things, are really quite irrelevant to the nature of the person you want to remember, and yet – for no explainable reason – fill you with a sort of anguish when you think about losing, be they memories or silly mementos.

I’ve just been through simultaneously the best and the hardest week (or fortnight, or month, or longer? It’s hard to see a distinctive beginning now) I’ve known for a long time. I’ve reached the end now though, and am emotionally fatigued. Of the residue, for now the harder side is probably winning.


Shane said...

This post has a very good rhythm.

On matters sentimental / inexplicable: When my grandfather died, I felt it necessary to take possession of his false teeth, so I did - gladly, an opportunistic acquisition of a small plastic container from my grandmother's home, rather than the grim plucking of the gnashers from the old man's mush.

I should have taken the Maigret books, too.

Monica said...

Gorgeous. Has anyone ever told you you should write a novel?

I know what you mean: I have very mixed emotions about huevos rancheros now.

Huw said...

Humble pie time - the watch turned up in the nursing home safe, despite it having supposedly been searched once already. Apologies, cleaner!