I originally posted this reflection on my old blog, but I’d like to bring it over here to share with my new readers – and re-share with my old ones. I had begun a daily writing challenge, and the prompt for the day was:
“Who’s the most important person in your life — and how would your day-to-day existence be different without them?”
The first person I think of in response to this prompt is Pa. Though no longer a physical part of my life, it would be blatantly dishonest to claim any other figure as more important than this one man.
Pa (or more correctly, “Cuthbert Douglas Southcombe”) is my granddad – the only grandparent I really got to know, and a man who had been living on this earth for so long I took it as truth that he would always be there. For me, growing up as a child in the nineties with fast food, computers, and other first-world goodies, a birth year of 1917 was basically forever ago. As far as I was concerned, Pa was timeless.
From weekly walks to the local library, to the ins and outs of chess, to retold adventures of jungle and desert (though the truth may have been bent on occasion), Pa was the cornerstone of my being. He taught me so much of what I know now, and what I live for, that I cannot even begin to imagine what my day-to-day existence would be without him.
However, this is the challenge put forth today, and so I shall try. Pa had many, many stories to tell – as many elderly folk do – and as I got older, his stories got deeper, darker, and gave me more than a little glimpse into the life of an English-soldier-immigrant, but a real taste of some of the bigger issues. As the harsh realities of his life story dawned on my consciousness, my admiration for Pa grew. He upheld righteousness in the face of adversity (in solitude if necessary), and he did everything with a smile, a wink, and a good sense of humour. On reflection, my motto in life may be: what would Pa do?
Without this influence, this taste of hardship (albeit second-hand), I might have been inclined to take the luxuries of the first-world Western lifestyle for granted – or at least, more so than I do now. For even with his influence, a safe place to sleep at night (or indeed, a place to sleep at all), a half-decent meal, and copious amounts of tea are almost an expectation.
Pa also held a genuine respect for multiculturalism – something we are grappling with even now. Though raised in English colonies (in both Kenya and India), Pa never spoke of anyone as lesser than him – at least based on race or background. The people he spoke of with distaste were those who committed wrongs, did not have respect for others, or did not seem to have common sense. He did, however, talk about some of his friends and family who treated others as lesser than themselves, and it was always with a hint of guilt and shame, as if he was at fault for their errors in judgement.
Throughout my life, I have had a tendency to be quick to judge – often fairly, but based on nothing but first impression and ‘vibe’. Pa taught me to look for the good in people and to respect others and their cultures. Inadvertently, he also taught me not to take on the blame for others’ shortcomings. As humans, we each have our strengths and our limitations: one’s own burden is enough.
Essentially, Pa helped me to become a wholesome being; someone with worth beyond her self-vision, years beyond her age. Though frailty of body and old age eventually took its toll, it is not uncommon for me, especially when making decisions against the grain, to take solace in knowing that Pa would be proud of me.