Its waaay too hot to sleep, besides my tea was too strong, so I may as well post this now - what I wrote on the plane.
My grandfather died some time ago. He died in his bed and it was my uncle who found his warm body lying mouth-agape. I privately maintain that it was the dog who found him first. No disservice to my Uncle, the dog was just there first. I was there last, anyway – arriving at my grandparent’s house several weeks later. The house had been almost completely dismantled inside. Photographs swept into piles, crockery – dirty and clean – stacked on the street verge, my grandmother pottering around with a garden-hose. I had toured the whole house before running into my mother attacking a fiercely disobedient garden. Seeing her kneeling by the edge of the grass she was taming struck me, she seemed ageless in that moment, the whole scene of my grandfather’s death seemed to slow, and with my grandmother singing an ancient song in the distance, I remember tears welling in my eyes.
My grandfather’s death seemed to bring everyone together for a moment. We all looked at each other differently, as if the colours of the world had changed, as if everyone had gained a sad kindness and was each tentatively attempting to fill the rapidly-widening void hanging over the remains of our two and a half households. Thousands of old tales had been obliterated over the past half-decade as our old Patriarch had withered, it felt as if the disassembly of my grandparents home was not just to help my grandmother move into my mother’s house, but to make sense of what was left of the family.
I remember eating a make-shift lunch on the back garden wall with my brother, uncle and mother, after removing the most of the house’s furniture outside onto its street-front. It was probably the first time these pairs of people had been collected, although it was a fairly uncomfortable experience at the time – I had just unwittingly destroyed a family painting my uncle had long admired, causing the lunch to be carried out in silence – I now realise that it was significant reinforcement of my family’s continuity.
Despite all this, this event, lasting for little under a week, was life-changing for me not because I had been reunited with the entirety of my mother’s family after being separated from them for a decade – it would have arguably been better if it had, but I have always been guilty of an obstinate degree of self-righteousness – but because I discovered a collection of papers and photographs that my grandfather had kept hidden for most of his life. The breadth and seriousness of the meaning of these documents made their resting place ridiculous to me, as they had been stored carelessly within six old enamelled biscuit tins, although one tin had been organised with more care than the rest. When I found them, a space had been cleared around them, objects which had obviously once used to obscure the existence of these tins had been removed and shoved clumsily aside. To this day, it is still difficult for me to conclude which of my mother’s parents accessed these secrets, and when they did so, because no-one in the family has been able to get a single straight story from my grandmother about the tins, and the chance that we might is rapidly worsening. This revelation has never ceased tormenting my grandmother about the virtue and significance of her life. No-one deserves to have their life taken away from them, even while their senility wanes.
The significance of my grandfather’s hidden truths goes beyond my family. About three decades ago now, my country was engaged in a war with another country that existed to our south. It only lasted two years, but it changed the face of our world; Malasrion lost millions of men and women, and our society, culture and state were almost totally refashioned. We (my family) always knew that my grandmother and grandfather had been involved the war – no-one’s relatives of that generation weren’t – but it was impossible to discern how. This wasn’t confusing in the least, the war was so all-consuming bureaucratic records regulating troop deployment became not only useless but a hindrance at times: as a result men and women were usually shipped from one corner of the world to the other to fight without ever being identified beyond the colour of their shirts and helmets. It is widely known that people were promoted en mass, merely because their superiors were dead. At the best of times, people knew each other’s ranks, and where they were. My mother always told me the war was too horrible to mention, anyway. While I do recognise that this argument is is almost as unwelcome as it is trite, its only too obvious how time has only fed the burial of our country’s trauma. It’s very easy for me to accept that my society unwittingly invented ways to hide this blotch on our ancient history. This is how we only suspected my grandfather to be anything but one of the most important actors in the war against the Gremanese.
I’m not sure if this makes a break from the set of tones I intend in Malasrion, as it is very direct and transparently reflective, but I feel it is the solution to making the abstract idea I want to get across more accessible to other people. That said I’m a bit wary of the jump that I’ve made between the persona talking about his immediate experiences of his grandfather’s death and introducing Malasrion in a highly indirect and at times vague manner. This is probably the first commentary I’ve given on what I’ve written, and I’m probably only doing it because I can’t sleep - but I’m so tired!