The Happy Choice – Tribute by Elsie Rose Granthier
Grandpa Papa’s Eulogy
One of the most surprising things about growing up is realising that the adults in your life are people. Myself, Megan, Ash, and Nate were lucky enough to know David as our Grandpa – a man who wore linen suits, who was usually surrounded by books, and who showed up in our lives with a mischievous smile and words we didn’t always understand. It’s wonderful to be with people who knew my Grandpa as a teacher, an academic peer, a lifelong friend. I feel I’ve learned more about the other sides of my Grandpa in the last few months than I did in the preceding 24 years.
But that’s not to say that I didn’t know him. I knew a terribly loud sneezer, a lover of theatre and good food, and a genuinely funny man. A man who you could love after only moments in his company – from the staff at his favourite restaurants who would show him right to his usual table, to friends of mine who still speak fondly of rides home from school in his Jaguar.
When my mum home educated me for a year, Grandpa insisted on designing his own part of the curriculum. Once a fortnight, he taught me Ancient Greek and introduced me to philosophy. I learned and took on his love of words and his ability to use them in the most mesmerising ways.
We’d visit the library which sat next to a Chinese takeaway called Happy Choice Takeaway. I remember checking my books out, and Grandpa saying to the librarian in that voice that always made people look up and lean a little closer, You know, I think you should be called the Happy Choice Takeaway! I was ten and so I was obviously mortified. Now, when I remember his joke, I think of his love for books, and the last place I saw him, clustered in between bookshelves that he had happily told me were crowded with books that he had worked on. Grandpa, I promise to carry your love of words with me.
It feels strange to say Rest In Peace, because Grandpa’s mind was never peaceful. Even when seemingly just sitting there, he was thinking, philosophising. I like the idea of him resting, though. So, I think the best thing to say about a lifelong academic and continuing ponderer is: Rest In Papers.
Our Father – by Miriam Grace
Or in Latin Pater-noster.
I wonder how many of you have been on the paternoster in the Arts Tower in Sheffield? And maybe you have travelled on the paternoster with David?
One of the thrills of visiting Dad at work from a young age, was being taken on to the paternoster. If you’re not familiar with it, take the concept of an escalator and apply it to a chain of lifts with no door, in perpetual slow motion that one steps in and out of to get from one floor of the building to another.
Dad taught me to wait till I could step down onto the paternoster floor as it rose to meet my foot. Getting off, he held my hand as we stepped one step up onto floor six (later 11 and then 10).
Only as adults Jeremy and I realised that we shared a separation anxiety dream as children, that of being on the paternoster, Dad stepping off, but experiencing ourselves as missing the crucial moment and being carried higher and further away from him, paralysed with fear as it became too late to jump.
As a teenager this paternoster-frisson remained, though I independently stepped on and off during casual summer jobs such as invoicing for the early publications of JSOT (later Sheffield Academic Press).
Dad always encouraged my writing, even proof reading my Masters dissertation in Psychotherapy. It was then that he advised me that a piece of writing was never finished, it was more appropriate’ he said, to think of abandoning it, giving it up. From then on the verb to submit always contained more than one of its meanings, I was not simply handing work in, I was psychologically detaching.
Megan was recently listening to a clip of Dad speaking about the last words of Job and drew my attention to his rejection of the standard translation, ‘Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’ Dad argues that beside the fact that the whole story is based on Job being an innocent man with no need to repent, the verb ‘to despise’ would have ‘myself’ after it, which is doesn’t. Dad concludes, quote,
“I think that it can’t really be that word, to despise, but another similar sounding word that means something like, melt or submit or give in or quit. I would argue that what Job is saying is that he’s given up his case against God and he just quits.”
I’ve never been good at melting and submitting, mine is an anxious attachment style, but Dad and I processed these psychological ideas individually and together over the last 25 years or so.
Dad was always interested in enquiring, listening and discussing with my professional self, part of me he could easily engage with. Despite his avoidant attachment style, this valuing and appreciation of my thinking encouraged me to continue writing and to continue to ask difficult questions, which I had been practising from a young age. If my clients were surprised that their therapist remarked upon the hippopotamus in response the existential question of human suffering, those who have studied Dad’s work on Job would be less so.
We also spoke about death. In his final days Dad spoke to me of the many books still left in him that would never be written. Professionally, I would call this pre-emptive grief. Sitting by his bed, I shared with him a guided visualisation I had written.
Imagine being in an orchard, and picking apples from a tree. Imagine the sounds, the temperature, the light in the orchard. Imagine reaching out and choosing and picking an apple, the weight of it in your hand, the texture and colour. Imagine placing it in your basket.
At a later point in the narrative,
It is time to leave with your basket of apples to take them back to your storehouse. As you leave you turn and notice there are so many good apples left on the tree, unpicked. Notice how you feel.
As you approach your harvest storehouse you notice something written above the door, what does it say?
It is left up to the individual to read what is there for them. I explained that when I looked I had seen the word genug. Before I had time to reference it, Dad exclaimed, ‘Ich habe genug!’. And we happily discussed our mutual appreciation of a favourite cantata..
The next morning, he told the nurse, with tears. “I’ve accepted that I can leave things unfinished. I’m ready to go.” Days later I discovered in the file he had left marked ‘funeral music’ that Ich Habe Genug’ was there.
What have I learned about melting, submitting through this? How can I face this separation, that we all mark today?
I can still vividly recall the atmosphere, the smell, the silence of the corridors when one exited the paternoster to begin work in the Arts Tower.
What is it like now he has stepped off, and we are left to travel on without him?
I am no longer a child and I no longer feel anxious, knowing I have received and experienced enough to be confident that I can stand and progress safely without holding his hand.
As for Dad, I do not know what he is doing on the floor he got off on, but I like to imagine that he is saying something I heard him say in his sleep one day, when he was dozing in his armchair at home, “That’s good, show me the next page… now what are we doing here?” to some writer, an academic, a novelist, a grandchild.