Wednesday, 11 June 2014
What will survive of us is love
My Gran has died, aged 97. For the past year or so she has shown a stubborn refusal to leave us, in spite of her failing health. When I went to see her in October I thought we both understood that I'd gone to say goodbye, but as I was leaving she said "Come back soon." In February I did go back, and was shocked by the brutality of old age and the long slow process of dying. When I saw her in October I jokingly pointed out that she only had 3 more years to go and she'd make it to a hundred and get a telegram from the Queen. She gave me a look of such despair and exhaustion. If only life had an "off" switch you could flip when you'd had enough of it.
I know she wasn't perfect, that she could be annoying and old-womanish, that her views were old-fashioned, and that she maintained an intense dislike of anything German (don't mention the war!). She was sure that I'd be attacked or murdered while hillwalking on my own, or that I'd fall off a mountain and die. But my adventurous nature is partly down to her; she entertained me as a child with her tales of travelling across London and up to Edinburgh in blackouts and air-raids during the war, to visit my Grandad stationed at Rossyth. Grandparents don't carry the same baggage that your frazzled parents do; they're one step removed, and so the things that would annoy you about your parents are just funny idiosyncracies in your Gran. She was small but so determined, and so generous. I always felt loved by her; as a child and as an adult. She loved me, and that's why the sadness sits in my chest now like a stone. Someone who loved me and looked out for me is gone from the world.
Another marker of time passing; the third of June was my third anniversary of moving to Rum. On my first anniversary I celebrated with fizzy wine down at the shop, but since then the day has passed unremarked. Even after three years I still have a sense of impermanence, as though I could up and leave at any moment, as if I don't really belong here. My relationship with the island has gone from blind infatuation to absolute disillusionment, and has recently levelled out into an uneasy contentment. Uneasy because it wouldn't take much to make me want to chuck it all in and go somewhere less challenging. A thoughtless comment, a person's chronic inability to finish a job, the general lack of collective or personal responsibility for anything.
I've been looking for reasons to stay here, and re-make myself as the resident formerly known as Development Officer, but maybe it's time to start looking at reasons to leave.