rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
My paternal grandmother Cecillie had two older brothers, Vincent and Theo, and they grew up together in Toronto.  Cecillie was doing a PhD at Imperial College when she met my grandfather and, as women did then, gave up her PhD to marry him and have children.

Theo had an amazing adventurous life, from the stories my aunt tells me, but I only remember meeting him once. He and his partner Bob were living in California and my parents took four-year-old me and my baby brother Daniel out to see them.  I have two strong memories of that holiday: meeting Snow White in Disneyland, and being taught to eat corn-on-the-cob by Uncle Theo.

Theo died of cancer when I was twelve.  When I was twenty-two, just graduated from Cambridge, I took my grandmother to see Vincent, now living in Washington State with children and grandchildren, and Bob, now living in Toronto.  Cecillie had early-stage Alzheimer's and needed someone to drive, to remind her to take her medicine and make sure she ate regularly. 

We spent a week in Bob's house in Toronto, mostly being tourists and meeting up with some of Cecillie's schoolfriends.  Our schedule and Bob's usually matched over breakfast.  Bob was dying of cancer, and refusing treatment after nursing Theo through it a decade earlier.  I knew this, but we hadn't told Cecillie to save putting her repeatedly through the distress each time she forgot.  The house was full of photograhs of Theo and Bob, their love for each other evident in every one. I spent a lot of time listening to my grandmother and Bob telling "do you remember" stories.

Bob said he was writing a story of Theo's life because it had been so exciting. One of the days we were there I fixed his computer and rescued the latest draft of the book, because that's what family elders ask 22-year-old computer science graduates to do.

I told Bob about being taught how to eat corn-on-the-cob and he told me what he remembered of four-year-old me:

Four-year-old me met Bob for the first time and did nothing but stare at him.  Bob was not very used to children and looked back a bit disconcerted.  Eventually I said "You're really old".  Bob said "Er yes, and one day you will be old too.  Everyone gets old."

I thought for a bit and said "When I'm old, you'll be dead."

Bob thought this was a) hilarious and b) a fine example of deductive reasoning.  I was embarrassed and sad, because we knew he was dying.  I forgot to take a photo of him to remember him by before Cecillie & I left.  He died less than a year later.

I gathered from our stay that his birth family had never approved of his relationship with Theo, but had reconciled with him after Theo's death.  They certainly didn't want to come and meet Cecillie or me.  They never told us when he died - Vincent found an obituary in an internet search when he couldn't get hold of Bob. We don't know what happened to the photos of him and Theo, or the book Bob had been writing. 

Bob was part of our family but it seems his birth family didn't see it that way.

They should have been able to marry.

Date: 2013-02-07 15:44 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh sweetheart, very moving, made me cry - thank you for sharing that.

And yes.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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