Yesterday, my family gathered for lunch to celebrate my grandfather's birthday. He would have turned 91 had he not passed away almost ten years ago, and a birthday celebration is something we have done for both him and my grandmother (who died about two months later) every year since they left us. I was really close to my grandparents as they took care of me as a child while my mum and dad were at work, and my grandfather's death was my first experience of having someone close to me pass away, and it hit me really hard. I still visit their graves on a regular basis and it breaks my heart to think of them buried in the ground. But anyway, I don't really want to focus on sadness in this post.
My grandparents, Boris and Tamara, were total opposites in some ways - my grandmother was super strict and highly strung (we fought a lot as I grew older), whereas my grandfather was very calm and laid back. She would get so mad at him sometimes, and he would just sit there and chuckle and not buy into it at all, which of course made her crazy! They were known around our suburb for always being together, and they completely doted on me and my brother. I so, so wish that I had been into photography when they were still alive so that I had more images of them now that they are gone. And I wish that they had been around to meet D, as I know they would have adored him. To this day, the weirdest things will trigger floods of memories of them. The other day, I saw a portable grill on sale (!!) and it reminded me of my grandmother and her portable electric stove that she would take outside for cooking certain things.
And then I remember ...
Their cranky cat, who would sit by the back door and try to swipe me with her paw as I went past.
My grandfather driving their big, green Falcon - it didn't have power steering and he would be huffing and puffing whilst trying to turn the damn thing around ... all the Russian sayings he would mutter under his breath in bad traffic or when people were driving like fools.
The doorway in which my grandmother marked my and my brother's heights as we grew.
My grandfather always sweetening his tea with honey - he would sit at the dining table wearing his big, black glasses and peer at the newspaper, the silver teaspoon clinking against the side of the mug as he stirred.
My grandmother's borscht, and how she would make me porridge for breakfast - I would sprinkle brown sugar on top and then swirl it around with a spoon to make little melting sugar trails.
My grandfather's hugs - he was so very huggable, and especially so in winter, as he really felt the cold (maybe that is where I get it from?) and was always dressed in multiple layers to stay warm.
The caramels my grandmother would buy for me - I loved them and managed to track down their name the other day ... korovka (it means "little cow" in Russian, presumably because they were wrapped in yellow and white striped wax paper bearing a picture of little brown cow grazing on some grass).
For some reason I was never allowed into the fridge at my grandparent's place (my grandmother's rule - I don't think my grandfather cared!) but sometimes, when they were both napping, I would sneak around and crack the fridge open, just to see, but I never dared to actually touch anything in there.
They would drive me to my violin lessons every single week, and were so very, very proud of what was probably not very good violin playing. And one day, we became so hopelessly lost trying to find a violin store - it was a disaster, but we got there eventually, all cranky ... they bought me a new violin that day, and even though I haven't played it in years, I can't bring myself to get rid of it, so it sits in a cupboard at home, and every now and then I will open the case and run my fingers over that smooth, golden wood and think of that day.
And when I graduated from university and started working, they would sit on their front porch every evening, just so they could say hello when I got home, and then they would go inside.
I am tearing up as I write this, because sometimes I just miss them so much, still, but I am so very grateful for the memories I have of them. So, happy birthday and lots of love to my grandfather. xox