I stopped by your old house the other day. To me, 67 Elvaston still belongs to you and BG, even though I know some stranger now owns it. I didn't care that it was private property. I wouldn't call it trespassing, exactly; I just poked about the front yard and checked things out a bit. No one has rented it yet.
You would have been 92 today.
Whenever April arrives, I automatically think of you. It saddens me that you never got to meet the two great loves of my life, but in a funny way, they help keep you alive for me.
You see, your great-granddaughter is a car fanatic, just like you were. She enjoys nothing more than lining her toy cars up on the table and playing games with them. They often accompany her while she eats her cereal or picks over her lunch. Every now and then, my husband and her will get down on the living room room and joyfully smash them into each other.
Eve's favourite is the white Morris Minor with the burgundy roof. Michael's fond of the light blue '57 Chevy. He calls it "Smooth Ride" because it glides so effortlessly across the floor. If my daughter's feeling particularly generous, she'll present Morris Minor to me as if it was a great gift.
You used to keep your toy cars lined up on your bookshelf. They shared space with BG's Nancy Regan bio and a well-loved edition of The Thorn Birds. I don't remember us ever playing with them when we visited as kids. They were simply on display, just like your various war medals.
Sometimes I'll notice a dent or a piece missing from one of your classic cars, and I'll cringe, imagining your displeasure at the sight of your cars being beaten up by play. But then I put the thought out of my mind. The fact is, they're being used, and enjoyed.
They're being loved. And through them, so are you. By two people you've never even met.
I remember seeing your red Mustang sitting in my parents' garage after BG died last year, when it officially became an orphan. I knew it wasn't practical to keep it in the family, but I still felt a pang that such a powerful reminder of you would soon be gone.
I can't imagine how my dad felt when he took down all the licence plates you carefully nailed up in your garage. I didn't realize that in the old days, you needed to get a new one every single year.
I remember soon after you died, my sister and I saw the word GRUMPS on a licence plate while driving on the highway. Then we both smelled cigarette smoke late at night, in separate rooms, even though no one around was smoking. We took it as a sign you were still with us. For me, your spirit's about whenever my daughter takes your vintage toy cars out.
I suppose they belong to her now. Or maybe they're just on loan. Either way, they live in a cheap plastic wagon these days. They mingle with Hot Wheels and mini modern automobiles. Sometimes when she goes to bed, I'll take them out and line them up on the fireplace.
I like for her to be surprised when she comes down in the morning, as if they magically drove themselves and are about to race. They're a constant in her life, you see, something she always comes back to no matter what new-fangled toy comes along.
They don't make them like they used to—toy cars or grandfathers. But don't worry, Grumps: we're taking good care of them for you. We're driving them and playing with them all over the house; it's our tribute to you.