It has always been my considered opinion that human beings are incapable of either asking the right question or understanding the correct answer until they have reached their fifth decade.
Both my grandmothers died when I was in my thirties, my questions too whom their wisdom and knowledge alone might have brought elucidation remained unspoken and answers that no doubt would have resolved a multitude of pregnant issues surrounding family, social history and the world in general linger instead tantalizingly just out of reach.
The gaping hole in human knowledge and progresion only started to find resolution around the time of the Renaissance. Yes, I do understand that is nigh five hundred years ago, but in comparison to the time we have traversed this planet is but a mere jaunt in the park. This golden age resultant in giant leaps intellectually, scientifically, mechanically and artistically was enabled by the sudden elongation in mankind’s lifespan, foreshadowed by an equal and opposite reduction in pestilence, famine, malnourishment and mayhem. Suddenly we have a population reaching their upper forties, fifties, sixties, even beyond, with the accrued wealth of knowledge, reasoning and understanding.
My maternal grandmother was a formidable woman. Widowed as a result of injuries her husband received in the trenches of the first world war, in her mid-twenties with two young now orphaned children in tow, was propelled into the position of country gentlewomen with all the incumbent responsibilities such a position entails. Educated with no more grandiose design in mind than to be debutante, bride, mother and wife, she instead found herself large estate holder, farmer and landlord, positions demanding qualities widely considered far beyond her mere feminine capabilities. Dorothy Walsh was no disappointment to her late husband, to her children or to the multitude of families and individuals who found themselves by no fault of themselves or their new mistress beholden for employment, housing and welfare. Dolly was a tarter of the first order, a role she crafted as a direct response to her new and totally alien needs. She was also warm, kind, considerate and the one who unfailingly would pick me up from the floor, plant a lingering wet kiss on my forehead and squeeze me quite hard enough to completely empty a tube of toothpaste.
Edwina Welford, my paternal grandmother was a dour Scots woman, unapologetically Presbyterian and nationally jingoistic in outlook, whom was also widowed as a result of the first world war, but rather than through obvious and easily forgivable wounds from the more insidious effects of mental disorder resultant from shell shock, PTSD as medical science now labels the condition. Major Stanley Welford lingered till nineteen twenty-one, at sentient times in the comfort of his own home and gardens, at less conducive times in the walled institutions where his condition required occasional billeting. I can quite honestly say I never recall Edwina being exuberantly happy, certainly she smiled on occasion, usually to do with some antic of the large pack of Welsh springer spaniels that seemed to live in every nook and cranny available in the creaking old house. Edwina was far better prepared for the role of gentlewoman than Dorothy, having a character that found coldness nay stretch and officiousness a comfortable overcoat. If Dolly Walsh was my secret softy, then Edwina Welford was the rock upon which my spirit could so easily have been broken. Both grandmothers were politically ardent Pankhurst girls, liberal in general view, socialist in some perspectives. Dorothy attended the funeral of Victoria, the coronation of Edward and his son George. Edwina for all her patriotic zeal could not bring herself under even extreme circumstances to step inside the doors of Westminster Abbey.
I do so long for those missed conversations . So many questions swirl unanswered and heavy in the ether twixt then and now.