My grandfather

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My grandfather passed away when I was 14. In a way, it was expected, I started to get prepared for this when I was probably 10-11 years old. Not that he was in a poor health condition or suffering from some kind of cancer. Nothing like that. He was in the beginning of his seventies, not heavily built but strong enough to handle the most physically demanding chores in his home. My father was adopted at the age of 6, so naturally, he was not my biological grandfather. However, there had always been a close bond between us. My grandfather was born in 1922, like most of his contemporaries, he witnessed the brutality of war and had to struggle for life in his early years. My grandmother was 12 years younger than my grandfather, as far as I can remember, she was always the one in charge at home. My grandmother was adopted herself, she was a woman being portrayed as peculiar, not a particular loving mother and wife. She became deaf when she was a child, after being beaten by his adoptive father, though her face was supposed to be the target, her ears suffered. My grandmother was never implicit about her dominant position, witnessing the unfair treatment my grandfather received, I felt sympathy for him at a very early age. I had been his little company, always eager to please him. I visited my grandfather, and of course also my grandmother every Saturday, bringing him the candies or other snacks that I had saved over the week. Holding his arm firmly, we often went to the local grocery in the afternoons. Cigarettes for him, always the cheapest label, and some dried fruits for me as snacks.The conversations were light and pleasant, a faint smile could be traced on his face.

I did make mistakes when I was young, and I made a huge mistake that day. It was a hot summer day, and we went to a toy shop in town. I was just supposed to have a brief look but felt instantly in love with a play kitchen set. It is too expensive, we can get something cheaper, said my grandfather. My stubbornness came to the surface that day and I simply refused to leave. Realising afterwards that it was no way to get it, I left him behind and went back to my home in protest. My grandfather turned up unexpectedly a few hours later, it was almost evening but the sun refused to go down. Passing me the box he held with his hands, he was pouring with sweat. There was the play kitchen set I struggled for. He did not have time to come in as he had to rush home before it was too late. He turned away with that faint smile on his face. It was such a hot day.

My grandfather did not have many interests, or he was probably not encouraged to cultivate his interests. He had a passion for chess, a few people with the same enthusiasm used to come and play with him. But this type of socialisation was certainly not welcomed by my grandmother. Her unfriendly manner was usually enough to push the guests away, and eventually, she cut the chess board in pieces to put an end of it.

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When I was about 12 years old, the local community had been given the task of reconstructing the city, my grandparents, like other residents in the same area, had to move to their temporary home on the other side of the city. The building project was supposed to take 1 year. I visited them a couple of times, accompanied by my mother as I was too young to take the trip alone. It was a remote place and it took a few hours to get there with ferry and bus. Their temporary home was a one-room flat, sparsely furnished, I was told that my grandfather was suffering from dementia just a few months after he moved to this new place. He was constantly talking about moving back to the old flat he had been living for decades. The sorrow he felt over the loss of his home was certainly too much for him to bear, eventually, he made an attempt to find his way back by himself. After hours with bus riding and ferry, what awaited him was a completely unfamiliar scene. His home was no longer there, his mind might have collapsed at that moment, not being able to figure out the way back, he got lost. He was then brought to his temporary home by a police officer quite a few hours after he had disappeared. My grandmother was advised to keep an eye on him at any time, a duty she took seriously. My grandfather was kept inside the last few months of his life.

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I started to get prepared for his passed-away when I was very young, but still old enough to realise that that day would come. I thought if I was well prepared for what was to come I would be more in control of my emotions, that is to say, I would be strong enough to tackle the sorrow at the loss of him, my dearest grandfather. It turned out that sorrow of this sort could hardly be prepared. When the day eventually came, in his funeral, I could barely look at anyone, or anything, the tears did not let me to. Hiding myself in a corner, I was thinking about the life he had lived. It must be a miserable life, my poor grandfather. Now you are in a better place, I hope it is the place that you had always wished to be, and I hope you would realise the dreams you used to have. A faint and silent smile, this is what I remember of him, my grandfather.

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Author: Isabelle

Content writer / editor & Language advisor

4 thoughts on “My grandfather”

  1. it reminds me of my grandfather too. Like yours, my grandfather had to go through adversities such as war, authoritarian government, poor economy, etc in most of his life. When he passed away, I was still young. It was only when I grew older that I start to understand and appreciate the kind of life he lived little by little. Probably I wouldn’t be able to fully understand it because what he went through is far worse what a man is supposed to suffer as a decent human-being.
    I wish he is now in peace and is with his family who he longed for seeing everyday in his life.

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    1. Thanks for your comment on this particular post, Ethan! I appreciate it very much. It’s good to hear that you have some similar experiences and it’s good to hear your thoughts and reflections on it. Most of us live a modern and comfortable life nowadays, and we don’t have to go through what the older generations had to – the stuggles, the pain and the sufferings. But I think we shouldn’t forget the past, the life they lived. This was one of the very first posts I published, it was quite personal, and I wasn’t certain whether it was appropriate for a blog. I did it anyway as I thought it was an important part of my life. I was shaped, at least partly, by my experiences. I love my grandfather, my memory of him hasn’t faded over time. He was a such a kind person, but he lived such a sad life. Thank you again Ethan for sharing your thoughts with me.

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      1. I was a bit surprised to read this post at first. I was expecting to read something about your life in Norway or language study, etc because I got to know about this blog via LEP. But as I continue to read it, I could sense that this is something that you’ve had for a long time.. that you carefully put into words as if you were revealing your most precious toy from childhood.
        I think it’s totally appropriate topic for blogging. At the end of the day, this is a space for you and you’re the one who define the boundary of the space. I also want to thank you for your courage and honesty. It resonated with me in a deep, personal, also intimate way.

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      2. You’ve got a good sense Ethan 😊 You’re right, I’ve had the feelings for a long time, feelings I kept to myself. It feels good that these feelings and thoughts, though rather personal, are understood.
        It’s 08:53 in the morning, and it’s raining in Oslo. Hope the weather is nicer where you live. Wishing you a lovely Sunday! Take care.

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