Merry eyes, wicked smile, teller of tales. Grandfather mine, I would sit on your knee hear of Susan, the Mule that liked to kick officers and saved you on a mountain pass. How you were called the Prince of Baghdad by your comrades and of meeting real Princes in India. Self taught, you bought me Maths books to read with you taught me poetry squeezed me into your invalid carriage and drove to expensive French restaurants for lunch. Your love of life and learning and food is mine, forever.
This poem appeared here last year, but I want to share it again! It describes our own little Christmas Eve tradition.
Many years ago, I would leave the bulk of the Christmas baking until Christmas Eve, and have an all day marathon with my two little boys. By the time Daddy came home from work, they were happy and above all tired. Not over excited at all, so sleep came easy to them and Father Christmas could drink his Calvados, eat his mince pie and fill those stockings.
The mess is a family joke –when they were young, somehow the house on Christmas Eve was littered with floury handprints…
Alas, last year and this year someone is elsewhere and baby bro (all 6 foot of him) is baking alone……
Waking up with Nanny in her soft double bed the room white and pink with swans and roses Sunday morning and you would bring milky tea Hot in her best rose gold china cup and saucers we would sip, little fingers raised as you left Before we too rose
Later, your Saturday visits to our house bringing a bounty of colourful comics to read And a secret pocket of sweets, for Mum not to see How my brothers and I took you for granted Never noticed the shining love in your eyes
Your hand grasping mine in supplication As they wheeled you, protesting to surgery from which you did not return, your faltering loving heart finally stopping Under the anaesthetists care
I decide to do it free, without a rope or net. First, the old brogues, dusty and cracked; an easy scramble onto his trousers, pushing into the weave, trying to get a grip. By the overhanging shirt I change direction, traverse along his belt to an earth-stained hand. The nails are splintered and give good purchase, the skin of his finger is smooth and thick like warm ice. On his arm I discover the glassy ridge of a scar, place my feet gently in the old stitches and move on. At his still firm shoulder, I rest for a while in the shade, not looking down, for climbing has its dangers, then pull myself up the loose skin of his neck to a smiling mouth to drink among teeth. Refreshed, I cross the screed cheek, to stare into his brown eyes, watch a pupil slowly open and close. Then up over the forehead, the wrinkles well-spaced and easy, to his thick hair (soft and white at this altitude), reaching for the summit, where gasping for breath I can only lie watching clouds and birds circle, feeling his heat, knowing the slow pulse of his good heart.