We were estranged; not on bad terms, just lost, more or less, to one other. I have since found out that he had had a change of heart and intended to reconcile with the people he had withdrawn from, and it pains me greatly that we couldn't find the opportunity. But it seems pointless to regret what was tolerable to us both for so long. Life is both what we have done and did not do.
He was demonstrably a product of our colonial experiment; his privileged, landowning family exported themselves from Yorkshire to Christchurch in New Zealand and initially prospered, contributing to the infrastructure and direction of that grim little settlement before succumbing to the boredom and proscriptions of victorian parochialism, disposing of both their standing and their fortune in short order. My grandfather wore the brunt of this reversal and lost his mother in childhood, taking solace in his lifelong relationship with other animals and the land.
Our holidays in New Zealand centered around our grandparents and trips to their batch (holiday cottage) in a nearby bay, where my grandfather taught us how to catch fish, set nets, pick paua (abalone), pickle mussels, smoke bees and feed the eels that massed in the creek running through their garden. We lugged milk still hot and smelling of cow home from the local bails and pirated strawberries from under the nets when no one was looking. He loved horses and often contrived their presence, raced greyhounds and let me walk one of these silky, muscular wonders on a visit to a kennel. I credit him with the ease I feel around other animals; he was largely responsible for that exposure and familiarity.
I wonder how much more Nature as a whole and our place in it would seem like a distant, fabled thing if all this had not been demonstrated to me; something that was only for other, luckier people. I am grateful in the extreme to him for that immeasurably valuable foundation, and I regret that we could not find more in common as adults.
To those who feel a genuine foundation to, and peace derived from, disengagement with familial contention, I say you're probably making the right choice, and that romanticizing a bad situation is in no one's interest ultimately. But to those who know their estrangement stems from pride or stupid intransigence, drop all that stuff on the ground and pick up the phone today, even if only to be rejected or dismissed. What does that matter, if we are able to enact a sentiment that is the product of our better natures? Any attempt at conciliation is its own reward, no matter how it ends. Neither of us are, or were, the easiest people on earth to get along with and everyone is entitled to their own Way, which is why I enjoy the lasting fruits of our association more than I regret our eventual variance. I will always have his curly hair, and I'm grateful for that too.
Go safely, Des.