Thursday, May 16, 2013

What you keep

Look at this.

What you're looking at is a daily reminder of my grandmother. Hard to believe, right? A bit silly. When she died way back in 1989, and we went to Montreal to help clean out her apartment, this happened to be something I picked up simply out of practical need. And for some reason, I've had it ever since. It's been in bedrooms, bathrooms, and five or six different offices and desks in the past almost 24 years. I've had it more than half my life. The original lens cleaner in it is long, long gone, replaced by Windex and then more actual lens cleaner.

It's amazing that this is what her life comes down to, for her grandson. The only other thing of hers I know for sure I have is a letter from the British Ministry of Defense that summarizes her father's service record, which told me just enough that I was able to work out which regiment he was in, and that he died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. That, and the opportunity to acquire Irish citizenship by foreign birth registration, which I did back in 2002. (Which reminds me; I really need to get around to renewing my passport; it lapsed over a year ago now. Had that in the works when Twinkle got sick.)

I really don't have anything else of hers that shows who she was, what she cared about, what she took an interest in. I was just getting to know her as a person, rather than as a grandmother, when she died, and I've always regretted we didn't have a few more years. She was the last of my grandparents. With her, that generation passed in my family.

You'd look at this bottle and just see it as one more incidental nick-knack in the jumble of pens and paperclips here on my desk. You'd never know the bottle is anything special. Without me to provide the context, it's not. It's kind of sobering when you think about it that way. Unless you're someone hugely famous, your life and its meaning is given context by the people who know you and care about you. And after them, we're lost in the pond as the newer, stronger ripples supersede us.

The internet's still a relatively new thing in human society and sometimes I wonder if this blog will long survive me if I just leave it up, and if anyone decades or centuries after I'm gone will ever come across it and take a passing interest in it. It strikes me that that would be rather a deeper personal legacy than my grandparents were able to leave behind, anyway.

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