I think I must have hugged my grandad twice in my entire life.
It was always my grandma, smelling of French perfume, new wool and hairspray, sounding of silver bangles, laughter and poshness, and feeling of squidge and linen, who my sisters and I clamoured to greet. When my grandad died, one of the thoughts running through my head was, oddly enough, ‘why didn’t I hug him more?’
Or maybe I am just making that up. My whole memory of him is blurry.
I can’t remember what I was thinking when I heard of his death, but I remember crying helplessly, then getting up from my soggy bed to crawl to my sister’s room, where she was being read a story by my mum. No tears there. I remember my mum’s tight face and my sister’s indifference. She’d known him even less than I had.
Things I do remember about Stanley Opperman include:
- His laugh. Rare and hearty and loud. Always at something witty. Usually breathless.
- Thin and tall – overwhelming when I was young. An impression of being loomed over is most of what I have.
- Clever. His room was filled with books, beautiful books, films, insects and stuffed birds and a thin bed with an uncomfortable pillow (Despite divorcing shortly after marrying, they stayed together as friends and raised my mother, uncle and aunt. Sleeping in different rooms of course).
- Cooking. My grandad had SKILLZZZ. His caramelised carrot recipe is still referred to as “Stan’s Carrots” in our family.
Weirdly enough, I know him better now he is dead. I’m older and I imagine he would like the person I’ve grown up into (or started to grow up into. Maturity is not upon me yet, oh no).
Things I now know about Stanley Opperman include:
- He was an atheist. The only thing he left me in his will was a plastic folder of papers passionately arguing against religion and God in all its forms.
- He used to be a handsome photographer back in the day. I’ve seen photos. Still tall and skinny of course. But he had talent. Once my mum came down into the studio to find a naked lady balanced on top of a pile of lemons rubbing ice on her nipples. My grandad was in the corner setting up his camera. Neither of them batted an eyelid, of course.
- He used to write as well. My grandma compiled a bunch of his scribblings into a book that she gave out at his funeral. It’s called Thoughts, could have been extremely tacky, but instead helped me know him. Thanks to that, along with mum’s scattered anecdotes, I have a grandad.
It isn’t even near the anniversary of his death or anything. I was just thinking about him. And now you can think about him too.
And yes, the title is from a Killers song.