Happy 90th Birthday Tha Tha

There is some magic in the air today. Some brightness in the sky, some imagination hidden within the light plumes of cloud that invoke the idea that you have uncapped potential waiting to be released. I’ve always thought that today was a special day, the 19th of January. It is a day that means something, it is a day that holds promise and a day that holds happiness. It makes sense that this day holds meaning, for it is this day, 90 years ago in small farming town that my grandfather, the man I would only ever call Tha Tha, was born. I do not have the language to write of his love, of his gentleness, his sense of humour or of his unfailing ability to make you believe in something, most often yourself, but I shall try today. Because today is a day of magic and promise, a day to fill my heart with love and remembrance.

Sometimes when I have a moment to myself, either reading or immersed in my thoughts with a dog snoring at my feet, I think of a childhood memory. Some strange, often random thought floats by before deciding to settle and nudge me gently. When my sister and I were children my mother had forbidden a sickly looking, artificially coloured orange drink housed in thick plastic that came in an assortment of different shapes, with the car shaped version being the most popular. Now, my mother had a good mind to forbid that ghastly disaster of a drink, it was probably loaded with a series of things that no growing child should be consuming, but naturally my sister and I had decided that we loved it, naming it “Gummy Berry Juice” and hatching elaborate plans to get our hands on some of this potion. It was probably my sister (she tended to use her mind to solve the complexities of childhood while I preferred my fists and teeth) who decided to ask Tha Tha if he would buy us some of the contraband. It was, of course, a plan that would work shockingly well, mostly due to Tha Tha’s sense of mischief and his love for his grandchildren than to any craftiness on our part. We would volunteer to walk with my grandfather to the nearby shop, as we commonly did whenever we spent the weekend with my grandparents, Tha Tha would procure the goods and we’d sip on it on the way back so that once we had returned all that would be left was for Tha Tha to sneakily get rid of the evidence and no one would be any wiser for it. It was a plan that worked beautifully, not only was Tha Tha willing to purchase the illicit goods, but we knew that he would never tell on us, not only because Tha Tha was one of the most trustworthy people we knew but also because he dared not face the wrath of my mother. The memory of walking to the shop with him, agonising over whether I wanted the teddy bear or the car shaped juice and the walk back, finally sipping the acrid orange nothingness and understanding that although I hated the taste of the juice I would most certainly finish all of it and ask for more next weekend, is one that is fresh in my mind. Not only was it a happy memory but it was one that Tha Tha reminded me of when I was a teenager, immediately adding colour to the thoughts that time tried to fade. In thinking of it now, I realise that both of my grandparents did so much more than spend weekends with my sister and I, they also reminded us of who we were as children when we were older. They reminded me of how open and filled with wonder my world was and they reminded me of silliness and of fun and through their recollections I have pieces of my childhood that I would have otherwise forgotten. I have tiny pieces of myself as child gifted to me in my adulthood. They were, and are still in so many ways, a portal to memories of a simpler time and often, they held memories that remind me that I was loved unconditionally and that no matter what I had someone in my corner. Even someone willing to buy me a juice that I would hate but pretend to love, a juice to inspire anger in my mother and mischief in my sister. Tha Tha did something so simple that day, he bought us something we treasured and in doing so an adult crossed over to the world of children, he saw fun in a child’s imagination and he made those children believe that nothing was out of their reach.

I imagine what we must have looked like walking back from the shop, a man in his fifties walks in the cool afternoon shade, greeting neighbours as he passes them by, his two granddaughters on either side of him, holding his hands, happy to be unhappily drinking their “Gummy Berry Juice”. If you had looked at us then, you would have seen us happy, you would have seen that we lived in a world where just the three of us existed. That then, there was no better man we knew than our grandfather, no better person to talk to, to share your dreams and thoughts with, be it about Gummy Berry Juice or about how you could get and extra helping of ice cream. He was the man who made you feel like impossible was a word invented for others, he was the man who always saw the best in you even when you were being a ridiculously terrible teenage brat. He could lift your spirits with his unfailing belief in you, you always wanted to be the person he saw you to be. I imagine that if you had seen us with Tha Tha any day since that you would have still seen that we shared our dreams and thoughts with him, sometimes big thoughts about marriage, love and politics and sometimes small thoughts about starting a vegetable garden. You would have seen that Tha Tha was still the best man we knew,and that we were the best versions of ourselves with him. Because somehow that was what he did, he filled every day with magic and promise and to see it would have filled your heart with love.