The death of a loved one is always a trial. Physically and emotionally the experience affects us profoundly. However, it is a very necessary step in our living relationship (or lack thereof) with the person. Through death, we come to terms with the deceased and begin to see them in a new light. We somehow understand them better. Given, the experience is not always a happy one. Many lose someone they would otherwise, given the opportunity, happily get rid of. (This is one of the many things which the Chadhiyana series will focus on.) However, in most cases, after death, we come to realise something about the person we hadn’t been cognitive of when they were still alive. And thus, we equally learn something about ourselves.
It was only a few weeks ago that my family and I began going through my grandmother’s things (she was one of the two grandparents I had very recently lost). Though there was much about her I was already quite aware, I never realised just how much of a profound inspiration she had been not only to me, but my tastes, my habits and even my writing and art.
My grandmother was a second generation American, the child of two parents who themselves came from Irish immigrants. As such, she was very much Irish in her habits and way of speaking. There was a wistfulness about her, but also a playfulness and a wonderful imagination. Even though faeries are not indigenous to the United States, I can remember my grandmother looking at a tree and describing to me (as a child) the ones who lived there. She loved a clever turn of phrase, and the Irish are always good for their irony and black sense of humour. She never gave a card for someone’s birthday or a holiday where she didn’t draw a little cartoon and write a bit of poetry to go along with it. She also painted often.
These influences I was always aware of. I loved the way my grandmother spoke, saying all sorts of dated yet wonderful things, and she did it as naturally as she breathed air. However, it was when going through her things that my girlfriend brought to my attention how else she may have affected me.
You see, my grandmother’s house was something of a museum. She wasn’t a hoarder (though, late in life, she began to get untidy), but her house was filled to bursting with all sorts of fantastic things. The term knickknack is one I never hear used anymore, but it was a common word of my vocabulary growing up. From puppets to artwork and prints, to old keys and even a hand-operated coffee grinder (which she never used, but just loved the way it looked), my grandmother collected a wealth (and I do not use the term lightly) of objects for the purpose of their aesthetic quality.
It was in this environment, in part, that I grew up. My grandmother was the grandparent I spent the most of my childhood with, and I was constantly going in and out of her house or going out with her. Thinking back now, the amount of history and Old World sensibilities this woman unwittingly bestowed upon me, I think, have seeped into every part of my life, as well as given me a deep appreciation for art. As my girlfriend remarked, “It’s no wonder [I’m] an artist.”
Again, there were certain things of which I was previously aware. I’ve thought for a long time that my grandmother is the reason I feel more connected to my Irish heritage than any others, especially my Italian heritage which accounts for more than fifty percent of my make-up (after Irish, I’m German and a little bit of Dutch and French–in that order). In fact, my characters, the Figmunds (which I still intend to get back to), were largely “for” my grandmother and were intended to be very “Irish” (there’s even a Figgish word for knickknack!). But I think now it goes beyond all of that.
If it weren’t for my grandmother, I don’t know that I would have been an artist, or at least the artist that I am. My love and appreciation for art, old things and Old World things, I believe now, may very well have come from her influences, and that is something I will always keep with me, long after the hurt of her death has passed.
I’m very grateful for it. Thank you, grandma.