With my Grandparents about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary I decided to write a ‘This is your life’ book for them but first, I had to go into the loft of their bungalow to find old photos and other memento's and being the best Grandson in the world I had a plan!
“Look Grandad, it’s best I check up there and make sure the insulation is good enough. It’s been bloody old”
“Language” said Gran sternly.
Grandad smiled at me “Just be careful up there, if you were to fall you’re Grandmother would kill me”
Switching the torch on I looked around and started to go through some boxes eventually finding everything needed in one battered old box.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” he shouted up.
“Love one” I replied.
Perfect, I can get the box down from the loft whilst he’s in the kitchen. At that point my foot slipped and I fell towards the opening of the loft, narrowly avoiding falling out.
“I told you it was dangerous,” shouted Gran.
“I’m fine, don’t worry”
Picking myself and the torch up I spotted a stack of letters wedged tightly into one of the beams. Slowly removing them I could see my Grandad’s writing on them but were from an address in France.
France? He hated leaving the town let alone the country. They must have been from the war! I opened the first letter and that’s when I had the shock.
‘My Darling Blackbird,
How I miss you with all my heart and soul. I hope to be with you as soon as I get leave, you are the only thought keeping me alive through the long battles and losses I have faced in the last few weeks….’
I opened another letter and another and another, all were addressed the same ‘My Darling Blackbird’. I was always told that my Grandparents had been together since they were 15 and I’d never heard my Grandad use that term so he must have met someone else during the war. He cheated? Surely not?
“Tea’s up” Grandad shouted.
“On my way” I replied.
As I got down from the loft I saw him kiss my Gran on the head as he left her a cup of tea.
“So” he asked “Is the insulation ok?”
“Erm, yeah it’s fine” I replied.
He handed me the cup.
“Whose Blackbird?” I asked nervously.
My Grandad just stood there looking at the wall.
“I haven’t heard anyone else say that in a long time” he turned to face me and saw the letters in my hand. “Where did you find those?”
“Tucked into one of the beams, where you put them” I replied.
“I had no idea she had kept them” he said.
“You mean these are Gran’s?” I asked.
“Of course” he replied “Who else would I send letters too?”
“Blackbird? You call Gran Blackbird?”
“It’s our little secret, which I suppose I can tell you” he said.
We both look into the front room at Gran.
“Your Great-Grandparents were French, did you know that?”
I shook my head.
“So when I first met your Gran, I though she had the most wonderful name” a tear starts to fall down his cheek “Merle”
Wiping away the tear he continued.
“You see in French, Merle means Blackbird and that’s what I say when we go to bed and when we wake up”
“Does she remember?” I asked.
“Occasionally and when she does she smiles that same smile I fell in love with.”
I hand the letters back to him.
“Why don’t you read these to her now, help her remember?” I say.
My Grandad looks at me and smiles.
“You soft little bugger” he says
“Language!” Shouts Gran.
I watch as my Grandad sits down next to her and starts to read.
Blackbird by Michael Sands (@wokingwriter)