The Walking Stick

My Name is Lucy, I live with my Mummy and Daddy and my big brother Jonathon. We have a cat called Tigger and a blue Budgie. Daddy has a big black car and he lets me and my brother help him clean and polish it. We have to wear our ‘Wellies’ so we don’t get too wet Mummy says.
Mummy is very good at cooking and makes lovely sweets. Coconut ice and toffee are my favourites. Sometimes the toffee is very hard and Mummy has to hit it with a little hammer to break off the squares, but it tastes yummy anyway.

We have a very long garden where Daddy grows raspberries and gooseberries and things. My brother and me sometimes hide there and eat the fruit when it’s ripe, but you can get a tummy ache sometimes if you eat too much. There’s a long building on one side of the garden, this is Daddy’s workshop. Daddy makes and mends lots of things, even our toys when they break. He’s very clever. Next to Daddy’s workshop is a chicken house where we have four or five fluffy brown hens. They have nest-boxes with lids and Mummy lets me collect the eggs if I don’t frighten the chickens. I love this as the eggs are all warm and smell of straw; sometimes there’s little feathers stuck to them too. I have to carry them very carefully back to the kitchen. It’s my favourite job.
One day Mummy said Grandad is going to come and stay with us and we must be very good and not rush around making a noise and pestering him.

*******

Sunday 5th
Acacia Grove
UK

Dear Aunt Clara,

Sorry it’s been so long since my last. I’ve been so busy preparing for Dad’s coming to live with us, it’s taken all my time and energy. There’s been so much to arrange and I’ve been quite worried about how the children will react. I know they really love their Grandad but they usually only see him for a visit. Having him here all the time is going to mean a lot of changes for all of us.
Lucy is very excited by the prospect as her Grandad always has lots of stories to tell her and he really enjoys that too. She’s getting on well with her reading and she makes up all sorts of little games with him. She does need more company in the daytime now that Jonathon has started school, even though she plays well on her own. I feel it’s good for her to get to know her Grandad a bit more; It feels rather like me getting to know him again too. I really hope it works out alright.
I must close now as I still have loads to do and he arrives tomorrow.
Hope all well with you folks ‘Over the Pond’

lots of love
Julia xx

*******

Everything’s been in a muddle and a mess getting ready for Grandad and Mummy has been a bit ‘shouty’, so my brother and me have kept out of the way mostly. There’s been a new bed arrived for him and she’s put his favourite chair in the front room by the window so he can sit and read or watch the world go by. I helped and picked some daffodils from the garden and put them in his room for when he arrives tomorrow.

*******

Monday 6th
Grandad has come today and I’m very happy. I love Grandad, he lets me sit on his knee and he tells me stories. I love hearing about Grandad’s animals too. When he was young he was a milkman and he had a horse called Billie to pull the milk-cart. He said Billie was very bad tempered with everyone except Grandad and wouldn’t let anyone else harness him and back him into the shafts. One day Grandad was off work sick and Billie was given to another Dairyman who eventually managed to get the harness on him, but would he back into the shafts? No he definitely would not ! He bucked and reared and kicked free and galloped off down the High Street. He wasn’t found until the evening when he was spotted grazing in the Park and munching on the Mayor’s flowers.

*******

Friday 17th
Cousin Kaye has come round with her mum, aunty Pauline to see Grandad and we all had cake and sandwiches with him in the front room. He looked very happy but Mummy said we should let him have a quiet half hour on his own as he was a bit tired. Mummy and aunty Pauline went and sat in the kitchen talking so Kaye and me went outside to play and see if the chickens had laid any more eggs.
Kaye wondered why Grandad sat in his chair nearly all day and thought it must be boring. I’d asked Mummy that too but she said moving was quite hard for him as he had an artificial leg. I didn’t really know what that was ’til one day I saw Mummy helping him put it on. I saw he only had half of one leg which looked all pink and wrinkly and very odd next to the orangey plastic bits of the funny mechanical leg with a robot foot on.
I told Kaye but neither of us knew what’d happened to his leg. Kaye thought perhaps there’d been something wrong with it and they had to do what farmers did to the lambs tails. She was sure that they put a tight rubber band around their tails and left it on until the tail dropped off. I couldn’t think why they’d do that or how that could happen to Grandad.

*******

One afternoon some weeks later
“Hey-Ho,” said Grandad, “I hear footprints …” as I came in the front room to feed our Budgie Bluey, who’s cage stands on top of a tall dresser in the corner near Grandad’s chair.

“That’s silly” I said, “You can’t hear footprints!”
“Oh but I can ,” he’d said, “You just have to know how.”

He winked at me and laughed… Grandad knows a lot so I wasn’t quite sure, but he’s funny too. I asked him once what pets he had when he was little and he told me he had a snail. He said it was very slow so he took it’s shell off so it could go a bit faster but it just made it more sluggish – Ha ha!
He is clever too though; he’s taught Bluey some words and phrases. Now Bluey can say – ‘Who’s a pretty boy then?’ and ‘Good morning,’ and ‘Sing us a song,’ as well as lots of other things, so he chatters away to anyone who comes in the room.

*******

Sunday 30th
Acacia Grove
UK

Dear Aunt Clara,

Just an update on Dad’s progress. He seems to have settled in very well and of course has plenty of time for the children who love the attention. Lucy is especially pleased to have him around, though she does ask some funny questions sometimes. Yesterday she kept asking about his artificial leg which she seems both fascinated and repelled by. I didn’t know quite what to tell her. I think at four she wouldn’t understand about the war, so I just said he’d had an accident a long time ago and finds getting around quite hard. She seemed fairly OK with that but still looked a bit puzzled..
So things carry on and we are managing quite well. I must say though I am finding it very tiring – he needs quite a lot of attention these days and it’s mostly left to me to do. Pauline helps a bit but she’ll often promise to take him out or to the surgery for his check-up, but somehow ‘something comes up’ and then she can’t do it. I suppose she tries her best, though she’s not very reliable. Nothing changes much does it ?
Anyway, thank you again for the photos, I’ll send some of us next time.

Lots of love,
Julia xx

*******

Grandad Daydreaming
It’s such a shame I had to give up the house, but those steep steps and the basement were just impossible in the end; Specially after that stupid fall. Peter and Julia have been wonderful taking me on and I so love having the children around. I have begun to notice a bit of tension between the girls though and Pauline doesn’t come round so often now she’s got her new job. I hope it’s not going to cause more problems, that’s not any good for anyone. Let’s hope I can keep the peace a bit, and if it gets difficult, I really shall move to that place I found a while back. I don’t want to be the cause of trouble.
At least I managed to be useful the other day; It appears I was having an afternoon nap in my chair and I suppose the door had been left ajar. Which was how a small, silent presence in the shape of Tigger, had wafted in. He must’ve padded in softly, settled behind my chair and fixed his sights on the bird cage above him. It seems Bluey, now well aware of the danger, sounded the alert and began fluttering wildly around his cage scattering seeds and feathers everywhere which startled me awake. The cat, un-nerved by the furore made an ill-judged leap and clung precariously spread-eagled to the bars of the cage. Bluey squawked ‘Look out, Look Out’, and with surprising aplomb it seems, I grabbed my walking stick, neatly hooked Tigger by the neck and swung him down to the ground. The whole kerfuffle brought the entire household running in to witness a disgruntled Tigger slinking off in disgust. Lucy was so proud of her Grandad and she tells everyone about it.

*******

Two years later
Mummy says Grandad is going away to live in a big house with lots of other old people. It’s not fair, I’m sure he doesn’t want to. He wants to stay here with us. Mummy says he’s not very well and will need more looking after than she can do at home. I’m really really sad ’cause I’ll miss him so much. She says we can visit him any time, but it’s not the same.

*******

Friday 13th
Acacia Grove
UK

Dear Aunt Clara,

So sorry to have to be telling you this, but Dad has decided he wants to leave us and take up the place at Woodington Hall which has come free. He’s got it in his head that he’s the cause of all the arguments between Pauline and I. I know we’ve had some ups and downs about all this, but I never wanted him to go. I just wanted a bit more support from her, he’s her dad too after all. She always was a bit selfish though, not that complaining helps the situation. Anyway he’s determined so what else can I do ? I have to admit I’m really quite angry with her now.
I’ve had to break it gently to the children and explained that we can still visit him. I’ll send you the full address when he’s in and perhaps you could write to him there. He’s going at the weekend so I must finish his packing.
I’ll let you know how things are as soon as,

lots of love
Julia x

*******

Saturday 21st
Kaye and me were coming back from the corner shop and Kaye said – “We’re not allowed to play together anymore.” I couldn’t see why not, but she said her mummy said so. She said her mummy’s not speaking to mine any more so that’s why. I didn’t get this at all and I cried and ran home and asked Mummy about it. She just said that’s how things are at the moment and we’ll see what happens. I didn’t know what to do, Kaye’s my best friend, we’re always together. It’s not fair, I hate grown ups, they spoil everything.

*******

Sunday 5th
We went to see Grandad at his new house today. It was very big and had a long gravel drive up to the front door. There was a huge lawn and trees which looked very grand. Inside was rather gloomy though and Grandad’s room was quite small, not nearly as nice as his one at our house. All the furniture was dark brown and there was a small wardrobe, a little table, a bookcase and a bed. At least he still had his favourite chair and a view across the fields from his window.
We only stayed a little while as we couldn’t all talk to him at once and Mummy said we mustn’t tire him out so we couldn’t have a story this time. Daddy took us out to the garden while Mummy spoke to the lady in charge. She was very quiet on the way home and hardly said anything at all when I asked if Grandad could come home again when he’s better.

*******

Sunday 5th
Acacia Grove
UK

Dear Aunt Clara,

We saw Dad today and though he’s settled in quite well he did look very pale and tired and I wonder if he really did want to go. I know when we discussed the new house, he insisted it’d be better for him and he didn’t fancy moving that far away from the others. We’ll be visiting more when it’s all settled, but there’s a lot to do at the moment with the packing and removals to organise as well.
I’m afraid Lucy was very upset when Kaye told her they can’t play together and she and Jonathon have started quarreling a lot nowadays. I’m quite at my wits end and it doesn’t help that Pauline’s being like this too. I’ll let you know how things are after the move and hopefully life will settle down then.

All my love,
Julia xx

*******

Three Months later
Mummy and Daddy have been very busy sorting out the move to the new house so we haven’t been able to visit Grandad for a while. When I asked when we can go and see him, Mummy went very quiet. Then she said we can’t go anymore because Grandad isn’t there. I didn’t know what she meant at first and she gave me a funny look.
“Where is he then?” I said, getting worried, then I thought … Mummy said she was sorry, but he’d died. I couldn’t believe it and why hadn’t she told us, and where had he gone? Why couldn’t I have said goodbye to him? It’s just not fair. Maybe it was like when the hamster died and he went to heaven, but I still think I should’ve known. I don’t know what I would’ve done, but I should have known. I’m so angry I don’t understand grown ups at all.

*******

Sunday 30th
West Hill Place
UK

Dear Aunt Clara,

The move has gone very well but it has been exhausting, specially all coming so soon after Dad’s funeral. There’s still boxes everywhere and the children are quite disorientated I think. Lots of things seem to have gone astray but I’m sure they’ll turn up sooner or later..
It was very hard telling Lucy and Jonathon about Dad. I know I’d put it off as long as I could and it was maybe not the best thing to keep it from them so long. Lucy was really upset and shouted and ranted at me, and Jonathon just walked away and hid in his room. I really don’t know what’s best to do about it. Peter thinks they’ll settle down when it sinks in and they’ll come round, but I’m not so sure. One never gets it right does one?
Pauline is still not speaking much, only the necessary basics at the Funeral, so we go on – not getting on. I don’t see an end to it either as she’s now arguing about Dad’s things too, I really despair.

I’ll let you know how things go and send some pictures of the new house soon,

Love Julia xx

*******

12 years on
We sometimes see aunt Pauline and Kaye at the shops in the town. Mum usually makes some huffy remark about aunt Pauline’s clothes or something and she just turns and goes the other way. If I catch Kaye’s eye I give her a shrug, or make a ‘hopeless’ face. We’re still supposed to ignore each other. I think it’s really stupid, but it’s been going on for years and we’re virtually strangers now. Just because they couldn’t agree about Grandad.
Jonathon’s 21st is coming up in a couple of months and Mum wants ‘a bit of a Do’ with a Marquee and a band and everything. Aunt Emma suggested it’s time to bury the hatchet and Mum should invite them as well as her and cousin Brian; Try to get the family back together again. I’m not sure I can see it happening though. I mean I hardly know Kaye anymore, we’ve not got much in common now.

*******

April 1st
West Hill Place
UK

Dear Aunt Clara,

Just a line to say I decided to take up Emma’s idea and ask Pauline and co to Jonathon’s 21st. It felt a bit awkward at first, but I think it turned out alright. The party went very well, Kaye, Lucy, Jonathon and Brian seemed to get on very happily. Such a shame the cousins were apart so long in the end, it’s all come a bit late I suppose.
I asked Lucy about Kaye, as you know they used to play together a lot, but sadly Lucy hardly tells me anything about what she does these days: Now Jonathon is going off to Uni, things will never be the same again I’m afraid and the house will seem very empty especially when Lucy goes too.

I’ll keep you in touch with Jonathon’s progress whenever I can, and have enclosed some photos of the party.

Trust all well with you,
Lots of love

Julia xx

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