The picture is of Gladys Keighley and Harold Bradley. It was taken somewhere in England, some time in the 1930’s.
I am drawn to the happiness of youth that shines in their faces. I think they are beautiful.
I knew Gladys and Harold — they would later marry and have a daughter, my mum — but my own memory of them sits uneasily with this picture. My last memory of Grandpa was of a sad old man whose brain had been wrecked by a stroke. Grandma died a few years ago, deaf, blind, and skeletal.
There are happy memories too. Grandpa’s Boxing Day quizzes and my first trip to the cricket ground. Conversations about Wuthering Heights with Grandma in her front room overlooking Worcester Cathedral (Ma was originally from the Yorkshire moors).
Pa was a teacher and Ma a writer. I think that some of my passion for each discipline is my grandparents’ inheritance to me. I can also credit Pa for an early interest in the Old Testament. One of the answers to his quizzes was “Ur of the Chaldees,” a place I forever hear spoken in my head in his grizzly baritone.
But mostly I am sad. I did not know Harold and Gladys. I did not know their life and their love. I did not know the dreams of their youth. I wish I did. To me, Pa and Ma were shells of earlier selves that grew paler as the years went by. My children will experience this of my beloved parents; their children will experience this of me.
I harbour one flickering hope and it is in a resurrection — not into the cosmic One or the indivisible body of God — but of individual souls who will be as they once were, Harold and Gladys, young, happy, vibrant, intelligent, in love.