I feel like I’ve been a bit quiet online this week, so apologies. Sadly my Grandad passed away on Wednesday and, as is often the case when we lose someone close to us, all plans go out the window and we rally together to get through the shock and the sadness.
I had planned on posting a Valentine’s Day recipe yesterday because although we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in our house, it’s an excuse for a food feast.
As it turned out, I spent this Valentine’s Day with my Nan who now finds herself a widow after 68 years. I still can’t get my head around 68 years of marriage, and what it must be like to lose the person you have loved with all your heart for so many years.
My Grandad met my Nan when he was 21. They lived in South Africa and married in 1947, staying in Cape Town for ten years before coming to England. My Grandad grew up in a very poor area of South Africa and he realised that, after many futile and frustrating attempts to better his own life, people of colour would never step out of poverty in South Africa in his lifetime. He and my Nan had three children before they decided to sell every possession they had in order to buy five tickets to board a ship to Southampton, where they started a new life here in the UK.
Personally, I find Valentine’s Day irritating. However, at its core, the point of Valentine’s Day in modern society is to take time to recognise love. I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by multiple examples of lifelong love; my parents have been married 31 years and still hate to be apart from one another, my in-laws have been married 40 years and support each other every day, and my grandparents spent 68 years together building a family filled with love.
My Grandad sang love songs to my Nan every day. Constantly. (Only slightly annoying when you were trying to have a serious conversation with him!) They hugged and kissed and doted on one another every day, laughing with one another every day as well. I’m also pretty sure that they argued with each every day; they would often pick and nag at each other like small children. Many people hate to hear other couples argue, but I love that these two fiery characters saw each others idiocies and weren’t afraid to fight about them. Their arguments were always funny, never hurtful and hard-hitting. They often ended with one person saying something silly and laughing, and they would soon kiss and make up. There was never any doubt about their love; they only had eyes for each other.
I don’t doubt that my grandparents will have been through some terrible times during their marriage. I’m sure there will have been times when their love didn’t seem like enough, or when they questioned their relationship and each other. But I also know that they never left each other’s side; their love was an all-consuming, passionate love that some people will only ever read about.
It is always sad when someone dies, but I feel it’s even sadder when that death separates two people that cannot cope to be apart. If I’m completely honest, it not only saddens me but it scares me. My parents have the same relationship; it is clear they’re not quite right when they’re not together and I fear for the day that one of them is left without the other at their side. And then I think about my relationship, which is the same again, and it frightens me. Death never used to scare me, but when your relationship is with your best friend and you are one of those couples that really live together, how awful must it be to find yourself suddenly alone. Heartbreaking, in the truest sense of the word.
For me, this Valentine’s weekend isn’t about cheap teddies and expensive cards, and it’s not about great meals and indulgent chocolates. It’s about real love that keeps us going, keeps us living, and keeps us supporting those who find themselves without it.
In memory of my loving Grandad, Peter. (1928-2015)