In a modern comedy, a bachelor left to bring up two children would be half a child himself; they’d have marvelous fun together. Real life isn’t like that.
Granpaul’s approach to life was methodical; he was a chemical engineer, after all. When a driving accident left him with the task of bringing up his sister’s children, he took his new responsibilities seriously. Things were done by the book: luckily, the book was Dr Spock. The idea that you know more than you think you do confused Granpaul, but he soldiered on, trying to let the children unfold their personalities on the book’s instructions. He didn’t buy other books. They were all written by experts, surely, so they’d all say the same thing.
In the picture below, you see my mother and uncle Ted holding on to Granpaul’s hands. The sun is in his eyes, but he was probably born with the serious expression. I’m not sure I ever heard him laugh. Not because he didn’t get the joke, but because he never took time off from the serious business of living. Being accurate was important to him: he would never let us call him Grandad, though over time “Great-uncle Paul” did get shortened. Was he secretly pleased it became nearly Granpa?
It’s really only when people die that you realise how little you knew them. He tried hard to do things right. He never spoke about his feelings. He approved of trees. I think he liked them because they were sturdy and predictable. You can depend on a tree.
On my way home for the funeral, I saw a tree, and suddenly the tears came. I hope that in his own way he understood how much he meant to us all.