There are a lot of times when I think to myself that I should write, that I could write, that I ought to write more.
There’s something particularly motivating about Hamilton, an impetus double-whammy. Firstly, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songwriting, all those refrains interwoven in so many combinations, with so many inflections. But also Alexander Hamilton himself, writing day and night like he’s running out of time. Shit, I should write.
Hearing about one of my university coursemates getting published in The Atlantic has an effect too. Another of my coursemates said it best in the comments: “I am so intensely happy for you and also full of hideous envy, well done mate!” My envy isn’t hideous, but it’s certainly there. It strikes me that I can hardly be bitter when I haven’t submitted anything to anywhere. Fuck, I should write. I really should write.
And then there are real-life scenes which seem writeable. On Sunday, I spent the day at my grandma’s with my girlfriend. I was introducing Eden to the wider family, but most specifically to my (very) old, (most) favourite relative. She’s even thinner now, more angular, lips purple and throat croaking. Her American twang wasn’t fazed by 50 years of living in England, but it’s near-defeated by heart failure. But on Sunday she had a good day, and I wanted to show Eden her old college yearbook. Looking through old pictures of herself in various student groups (in the early ’50s, for crying out loud), I watch Grandma’s mind warming up, beyond the immediacy of carers, routines, pills.
She spends most of the day asleep now, Zimmerframing to bed after lunch and reappearing before dinner. Eden and I spend a blissful afternoon lazing in and out of the pool. Yes, Grandma is rich enough to have a pool, has had a pool for most of her adult life, and yet it’s still so unfair that we get to laze while she has to sleep. Eden and I meander down to the village for a 4pm lunch, and when we get back, Grandma is up again with a set of photo frames arranged on the table. She asked her carer to carry them all from her bedroom, just to show us the old photos.
Us, 10 years ago, on top of the Long Mynd ridge of hills. Grandma quite happy to climb mountains at 80. My brother as a schoolchild. My cousin, now a different gender to when the photo was taken. And one of Grandma and my Grandad, surrounded by a brood of thatch-haired baby grandchildren.
“Grandad looks happy, doesn’t he?” I say. He wasn’t always.
“He would be very proud of you all,” says Grandma.
Later, we drive back to our pub B&B across 11 miles of browning hills.
“Are you OK?” asks Eden.
This isn’t the first time I’ve driven away from Grandma’s, having said goodbye, expecting it to be the last time, making sure to catch one last glimpse of her so I’ll remember. But the previous times I’ve felt a bit emotionally numb afterwards. Mainly feeling a faint sense of shame that I spend so little of my daily life thinking about her.
This time, though, I start crying. It’s probably because Eden’s here. Don’t let your girlfriend become your sole emotional outlet, I tell myself, and yet here I am, just like every other boi.
It’s a proper cry, as well — normally I can’t muster more than a minute or two, but I’m crying for the whole 20-minute drive home. And during that drive, the sun sets over the hills behind me, back where Church Stretton lies. The sun literally sets over my grandma, as I drive away from her for maybe the last time.
It’s so writeable, it makes me sick. Sick to the stomach.