I’ve been forced to swap one cold winter for another.
My Grandfather, who had spent the majority of his life work with his hands in the North of England, passed away a week ago.
Ours is a big family, the De Boers are a Dutch family but not on my Mother’s side. She grew up in the UK, in the port city of Liverpool. My Grandfather, having spent the entirety of his life in his hometown, was a true ‘scouser’, a man that was incredibly proud of his work, family and community.
I’d visited England just once before. My Mom, during a period of acute homesickness, took me to Liverpool for 2 weeks in the Summer Vacation. I remember feeling incredulous that she had simply booked these flights and commandeered two whole weeks of my holiday without even asking me first. Although I’d felt like pushing my point on the ride to the airport, when I saw my Mother’s white knuckles gripping her bag, I decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle and resigned myself to a long flight spent consoling a woman whose only fear had kept her from returning home for over a decade.
I was only fifteen at the time, so my memories have no doubt become a little fogged and faded. There are a few moments that still stick out when I think back to the fortnight we spent staying at my Mother’s old home. The chief of these was my Grandfather’s Porsche. His pride and joy, this was the one and only luxury that the man allowed himself, besides 3 slowly sipped pints down his local every Friday.
Fulfilling a life-long dream, he had bought the car second-hand from Tech-9, a Porsche specialist based in the city.
When we visited, he was already getting on in years, but he was still spry enough to take me for a spin in his 1973 Porsche 911S. I remember seeing the sheer joy in his eyes as he opened up the throttle on the motorway. His happiness wasn’t derived from the speed with which we were hurtling down the M6, though. He was happy because he was driving his first Grandson, who he had never met before, in his dream car. He was happy because he had achieved more than he had ever hoped to and still had another 15 years of good living ahead of him.
That afternoon, back in 2002, was why I had to drop H.G. and Isaac off at a friend’s place and book a flight to Liverpool. The word of his passing had taken a while to get through to me. My satellite dish had been on the fritz for the last week, so I’d been unable to receive any messages; including a frantic voicemail from Mom telling me that she couldn’t bring herself to book the plane tickets back for the funeral. She made the journey by herself in the end without incident, other than nearly breaking a strapping young man’s arm as she clung to him for dear life.
My Grandfather clearly hadn’t forgotten that day driving on the motorway either. When I returned I was handed the keys for the Porsche. It was an odd feeling, returning to that car after so much time had passed. He’d looked after it so well, I was half attempted to keep it, but the logistics of getting it back to Minnesota, let alone the ridiculous notion of driving it, dissuaded me.
The car went back to Tech-9, where the mechanics gave their condolences and told me about the day that he had picked it out.