A grandfather died the other day. Facebook filled with tributes, stories and the honouring of a man who had been loved and treasured by his adult grandchildren.
I thought of my grandparents. Three dead when I was so young, I have not a single memory. The fourth remembered only as a dour old Scot, blind in one eye from glaucoma, nearly blind in the other from a cataract, and very deaf. I saw him just once a year, if I was lucky, until he died when I was eight.
My parents died nine months apart when my oldest son was seven: he remembers them - just. They were unwell for most of his life, with strokes and cancer. The next two have no memories and the youngest was not even conceived at the times of their deaths.
My children's other grandparents were not involved with, nor even overly interested in grandchildren numbers ten to thirteen - they'd done their grandchildren days long before mine appeared.
So what is a grandparent? I have no experience of being grandparented, nor the examples of my parents or parents-in-law. I don't know how to be a grandparent, except to love my grandchildren, and to miss them. I don't know how to play with them, nor how to talk to them. Mostly I forget that they are children and speak to them as if they were friends.
I hear my Facebook friend's grief and emptiness and my heart aches for her loss.
My heart aches also - for something, for people I never had, but I don't know how to grieve for that, for them.