My grandfather was born in Jamaica in 1911.
His life is both ordinary and extraordinary. I have a copy of his family tree and can see that his grandmother was born into slavery. He is a link to the past and through my children, a bold and vibrant link to the future: living history.
I have a short timeline of his life, which I will add to this post at a later date, but this is more about 2011 being a year of achievement. Living to 100 is such an achievement. He has experienced many things and still has a sharp mind (he does the cryptic crossword everyday), a sharp tongue when he needs to, a searingly dry wit and an amazing kindness of spirit and that runs through his core.
The birthday party itself was interesting, like most families there are rifts, tensions, and a complex historical web, but the day was not about that, it was a celebration of a life lived long and lived well. The celebration of a person, who could bring so many people together, with laughter.
His birthday celebration was in the nursing home where he now lives in South London. The care he receives is exemplary, respectful and stimulating. They have a lot of Caribbean elders and marked Black History Month with a party as many of them reminisced about their journey to England – they are the Windrush generation – as they docked in Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol and migrated inwards towards what are known as the inner cities looking for employment.
As a new year is here, I try to consider what it would feel like to look back on 100 years. What would I remember, feel good about, feel sad about? It’s a good exercise and it helps you to focus on what sort of life you might want to live now to create exciting, sharp memories and what your personal legacy would be. A legacy doesn’t need to be wealth, it could be your ability to draw, tell stories, make people laugh, your sensitive nature, your ability to sing, your imagination. The essence of what makes you, you.
It’s been an intense year in many ways, but there is always a highlight. Last year it was that trip to Paris. This year, by a long way, it was that birthday party!
I would like to thank everyone who finds this post for reading. I would like to invite you to read more posts on this blog and leave comments and more ‘Conversation Between Friends!
© Suzy Rigg
Writing every word