I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You…

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There comes a time in life when it dawns on you that your time on this earth is not without limits.

Oh sure, I have no immediate plans for departure, but the possibility has crawled its way into my mind—usually at about three o’clock in the morning, a time that’s been dubbed “the hour of the wolf.” It’s a time when defenses are down and disturbing thoughts have a way of emerging from the darkness.

It’s at those times that I start to think of the many things I wanted to tell my granddaughter before I’m gone.

To begin with, I want to tell her about who I am, or was, and explain that I’m not the same person now that I’ve been in the various iterations of my life. The truth is that those versions of me are long gone, and what remains is an amalgam of experiences and lessons learned. Randi doesn’t know about any of those versions of Grandpa.

She knows nothing about the way I grew up aside from the odd anecdote I’ve shared with her—generally tales that involve the sort of foolishness that a largely unsupervised child in the late 1950s and early 1960s would embrace.

I’ve told her about when I was seven and my friend Kenny stole his father’s bike and went careening down Dead Man’s Hill, missed the turn and went flying into the frigid, flooded, Old Man’s Creek.

We never found the bike.

She’s heard about how I met her grandmother, and how we first kissed at the playground one September when we were in high school. And how I knew I was in love.

I’ve told her other stories as well.

I’ve shared stories of her mother’s childhood and some things we did when she was Randi’s age. I’ll confess that a lot of those stories arise when her mother scolds her and says things like “Why would you do that? What were you thinking?”

At those times, without drawing direct comparisons, I might wait awhile and then recount a particularly silly thing her mother did as a child. It seems to help restore some perspective.

But the truth is that what I’ve shared with Randi are no more than a few snapshots in time. Sort of like those movie trailers that give you a rough idea of the film without revealing the entire story.

I realized that she won’t know about the things I’ve learned and how I tried to be a good person for most of my life and how, sometimes, that wasn’t an easy thing to do and I failed miserably.

I know that, in time, Randi will also learn of some of those darker times of my life, times I regret with all my heart. She’ll learn about those times without the context to understand how they happened and without knowing the lessons I learned and how hard it was to redeem myself as life moved on.

It’s why I’ve started writing Randi a letter.

Well, it started as a letter, but I suspect that, by the time it’s done, it may run several volumes.

You see, I want to leave something behind for Randi so that, should she ever be curious, she can read about the Grandpa she knew as a child.

It’s been an interesting exercise for me, because it’s allowed me to sneak in some thoughts about life, the sort of wisdom I always deny having but which I suppose may have collected in some back closet of my soul when I wasn’t paying attention.

In my letter I explain to her that, despite the times that someone is cruel to her, or wounds her heart, or betrays her friendship, people in general are fundamentally still good.

I tell her that a lot of the things we think of as important are meaningless in the end and that many of the things we sometimes scoff at in life—things like honour and virtue—are among the most important.

I tell her that hope and love, real love, can never die unless you allow them to die in your own heart.

I tell her that these are the things she needs to remember and believe in, despite the many times the world might rise up to make her doubt those beliefs.

In the end, if she believes these things, she can make them true in her own life and, when she’s my age, she can recount those same truths to her own grandchildren.

Hmm…that almost sounds wise.

I’m also slipping in a few jokes, because I want her to remember that laughter is important, too, and that, sometimes, Grandpa made her laugh.

Tim Collins
Tim Collins
Tim Collins is a writer and freelance journalist living and working in Victoria.

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