WRIT LARGE: Ch 4, Part 2
Louis Vuitton Island
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I speak about my grandmother who had dementia, God rest her soul. She did not remember any of her family members, nor indeed my grandfather, who she believed was a school friend come to take her to the park on their bikes. It seemed that her short-term memory had become non-existent, while her long-term memory remained almost intact.
Bernard shakes his head. “That is a sad illness, agreed, but I did not mean it in that sense. I meant more a fear of waking up one morning and no longer wanting to be me. No longer having that drive to go out and do what I do best. That, for me, would be the worst thing that could happen to me. I would not know what to do with my time.”
I say that it would be the perfect time for him to dive with sharks.
The eldest grandchild nods and says, “You could spend more time playing piano.”
I tell him that I am thinking out loud now and that he must forgive me because it is a very authorly thing to do
The man inclines his head. “I think that is a pastime best left to your grandmother.”
I tell him that I am thinking out loud now and that he must forgive me because it is a very authorly thing to do, but what would he do if he found himself in a situation in which his wealth would not save him.
“A situation such as …?” he asks.
They all watch as I help myself to a cake with snowy white frosting on the top and dark gooey jam in the middle. I bite into it and savour the sweetness of the fruit. I watch the boys as I announce that I was thinking of an apocalypse of some sort.
“A zombie apocalypse!” says the youngest lad. I say that this is an excellent example of a situation in which wealth would mean nothing to any survivors.
Bernard steeples his fingers beneath his chin. “Ah, but a zombie apocalypse will never happen.”
“Hypothetically speaking then,” adds Leann, getting into the spirit of the conversation.
“Hypothetically speaking,” says Bernard, “I would have the means to fund the discovery of an antidote.”
I say this would only be feasible if there were any scientists left alive that he could reach without being eaten alive.
Leann squirms prettily.
The youngest boy fidgets in his seat. “You could build a tower so that no zombies can climb the walls and get in, although you should probably not have your room at the top of the tower in case you get scared.”
We all laugh, including Bernard.
I notice that the children have only picked at the food on their china plates and wonder if they might have preferred to find a McDonald’s. I am certain that, given the option at that age, a Big Mac and fries washed down with an ice-packed cola would have been my lunch of choice. Marie, the boys’ nanny, is another person who has mastered the art of becoming invisible, whilst being in the thick of a situation, and I note the way she slides a chocolate dessert away from the youngest boy’s sandwiches to be enjoyed only once the savoury food has been eaten.
I regale them with a story from my childhood. My grandfather, who was born in England, was evacuated during the Second World War along with his youngest brother – there were fourteen children in total, and my grandfather was one of the youngest. The lady who took them into her home in Somerset, if I remember correctly, did not particularly like my grandfather’s brother and forced him to eat tripe knowing that it made him gag. I notice how Leann swallows and politely turns away at the notion. So, I continue, he used to hide the tripe all over the house and pretend that he had eaten it, which worked until the day she discovered the first of his hiding places behind a velvet curtain in the best parlour.
“I think the moral of Lucas’s story,” says Leann, “is to appreciate the food that we are so lucky to have been given.”
“Eat up,” says Bernard, to the youngest boy. “You heard the story.”
I help myself to another dessert then despite the bite-sized savouries on my plate and advise them that Leann had in fact misinterpreted the moral although her intentions were honourable and no less relevant. I had been trying to get across the notion that if you don’t like a particular kind of food, you don’t like it, and no amount of force-feeding will ever change that.
The youngest boy’s face breaks into a grin. He looks at his grandfather who takes several moments to ponder the food on the boy’s plate before spinning it around so that the dessert is in front of him. The boy doesn’t hesitate and takes a mouthful, strawberry coulis clinging to his top lip. “What does evacuate mean?” he asks.
Bernard explains. “It is when people have to be moved from a building or an area for their own safety. If Lucas’s grandfather lived in London,” – he raises his eyebrows at me, and I nod in response – “then it would have been dangerous for children to remain in their homes during a war.”
I ask the boys if they remember the Pevensey children from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I can tell that they understand instantly.
I love the allusion from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and especially enjoy the connection the kids had at the end. This story is so relatable, because I believe everyone it seems had a family member that has forced kids to eat their whole plate. Definitely reminded me of my childhood.