The Gift of Reading Aloud: A Love Story

So this one is a little late for Wednesday Appreciation Day… To be honest, I had some deadlines to get out the way when Wednesday rocked up on my door… Pesky paying work!!

Then Thursday, my grandmother had visitors so off my grandfather and I went to the home of a Welsh widower I’d met in the retirement village pub the evening before, for coffee and chocolate cake. (Just to clarify, I’m visiting my grandparents for the week to escape the city. I myself do not live in a retirement village. Yet. )

My grandfather and I then went for a walk to watch the Egyptian Geese swimming and admire the lotus flowers blossoming at the local lake.

After enough consideration, we moved on to the chapel ruins close by and placed some wildflowers in the little blue pots on a brick wall to pay remembrance to the dearly departed.

It didn’t seem like a day for writing. Rather, peace and quiet and reflection.

So Friday, here I am. Belated, but Appreciation Day has arrived no less. Unthwarted if somewhat tardy.

I knew what I would write regardless. My grandfather, who has inspired many things in me, inspired this post days ago. Yet another one with his stamp on it. (And hopefully, once he has read it, his stamp of approval too.)

And this is the thing. This is what I have come to realise during my sabbatical, my retreat, here with them this week. Perhaps my grandfather is who I’ve been writing for all these years. I just didn’t know it yet.

I am not sure if I will ever come out with a book of my own.

I have one, a bookbaby, in the gestation period, still just scribblings in a notebook dedicated to my bookbaby alone.

But who knows? Who can tell? An anvil might fall on my head tomorrow. (Funny that as I write this ‘Let it be’ by the Beatles should be playing in the background.)

When I quit my 9-5, I asked my Magic 8 Ball if I would ever be a successful writer one day; it wasn’t very encouraging. In fact, it was quite emphatic, all possible outcomes considered.

Stars say no.

Oh well, I guess sometimes you just have to dig your heels in a little and hope that someday, somehow or other, perhaps with the force of sheer grit on your side, you will get to prove that mystical piece of plastic wrong. (Ps. Thanks for the Magic 8 Ball, Chris.)

So earlier in the week, I got a flipfile in town, and came home (to my grandparents’, my home-away-from-home) and printed out my favourite blogs for my grandfather, or perhaps let’s say, my less, uh, enraged ones. (I have my moments of ‘righteous anger’, as a friend has pointed out.) But I wanted good ol’ uplifting writing for this flipfile, for this gift to my grandfather before I leave. I’ve tried explaining the concept of a blog to him. I think he kinda gets it. But I know he prefers ink on paper over an e-reader or laptop. No two ways.

Just in case, you know. Just in case. It’s a sort of book, with love from me to him.

And he sat the entire afternoon with this flipfile. With my words. He said it was nice and simply written. (He used to say that about Roald Dahl, whose writing he loved. So I hope that means I’m in good company.)

I realised then (lightbulb moment!) that he is, and perhaps has always been, My Reader.

I think… Or… I feel (as I prefer to say these days) that I’ve been doing it, writing, reading, all of it, all this time, for my papa.. With him at the very core… In my mind, and my heart, and my soul.

I feel this because he was the first person who gave me the gift of reading aloud.

Not that he was the only person who read me bedtime stories. But he was the one who spent hours with me on a Saturday morning in the main town library. We’d read bits and bobs until library bells were ringing for closing, then make a considered decision as to our selection for the day.

Later that evening, he would tuck me into bed, then read to me in a tone – I dunno, you just had to be there I guess – that lulled me to sleep but held me captive all the same. A weird combo, admittedly. We would often get chapters in before I could fight off the Sandman no longer.

To this day, I can think of no calmer thing, of no better thing, than being read to by… or reading to… another.

It is a gift, I tell you.

It is a thing made of magic that never leaves one. Well, it hasn’t left me anyway.

So raise a toast, or better yet, raise your bat (for my grandfather was a cricketer before he was a husband, father and treasured grandfather!), to Johnny Richardson (as he was known by his team back in the day!), to my papa!

No matter where life takes us, I will always write (and read and read aloud…) with you in mind! This I promise, Papa. xx

The End (of my papa’s flipfile… For now!)


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