Our ancestors

Yesterday, we came together to commemorate the one year anniversary of my father-in-law’s passing.

The weather was a bit tricky but somehow we managed to enjoy a relaxing, Covid-19 compliant ‘gathering’ and it was lovely to see all the family. We then went to a local nursery and cut some flowers to put on his grave; he’s buried with his first wife in Totnes.

As I’ve written about elsewhere, Brian, BTP or Captain Chaos, was a larger than life character; he loved to be, not in an egotistical way, the centre of attention and always had a story to tell, although he only really had a handful that he’d talk about — as if you’d never heard them before. They tended to be centred around his life in the Army (as part of his National Service), some of the people he’d met during his days playing rugby (he was also a referee), golf and towards the end of his life Exeter Chiefs. He’s greatly missed by everyone.

As we stood around the grave, what struck me was that his two great-grandchildren will never know him. His eldest, Posie, might just remember a little bit of him but when she’s, say, 50, I wonder what will be left? Likewise, my wife and I? I’m not sure if any of my three children (all girls) will have children of their own but I wonder if I’ll still be alive to see any great-grandchildren born into the world? I’ve my doubts. As for grandchildren, well, I’ll do my best, as I have as a father, to be the best grandfather possible but as I grow in age, I constantly ask myself will I be an ancestor worth claiming? And whilst that question is principally based on my anthropocentric footprint, nevertheless, and this applies equally to Brian, what wisdom, if any, am I likely to pass on to the next generation?

The thing is, more likely by omission than commission, the last 100 years hasn’t, until quite late in the day, seen any great ancestors with the gravitas or presence to tell any of us what is now bloody obvious, namely: we’ve maxed out the Earth and we’re all paying a very high price. As for my generation, I’m quite sure that we’ll be in no fit state to tell others how to live — i.e. with less of everything — but then again, perhaps we can still evince our intention to see a more beautiful world through more earth-nourishing and less ecocidal ways.

Or that’s certainly what I hope for as I grow older.

Anyhow, the question really should be asked, and asked a lot, as ancestors, what sort of legacy are we leaving for the next generation and those that follow thereafter?

Take care.

 — Julian

crook-erin@mailxu.com ortwein_mona@mailxu.com