In October 2013 I wrote up a piece originally written by my grandfather Friedrich Wilhelm Schiernecker about his experiences in Nazi occupied Amsterdam. It helped me to understand a man I had never really felt an affinity with. Unfortunately Wim was recently moved into a residential care home because he is unable to look after himself due to his dementia. I found out on Friday that a house clearance team are due to clear his flat out next weekend, hired to remove every trace of his ninety-one years. While I appreciate this is something that needs to be done it still made me incredibly sad.
On Saturday morning I drove over to his flat to collect his typewriter which had kindly been set aside for me by my aunt and uncle. I have written on any number of occasions about the wonders of minimalism, of keeping only those things that serve a purpose or provide enjoyment but once I was in that flat I realised what a shame it would be for someone to not hold onto more of what he had left behind. I thought about my childhood and how I had been naturally drawn to my grandparents, how they provided me with the love and attention I have craved ever since and how it was entirely unconditional. This was a time before I was side-swiped by reality, before I took into account others opinions and just loved without boundaries or prejudice. I realised that I did have a relationship with my grandfather, and while it seemed strained as I entered my teenage years I was incredibly lucky to have him there in the first place. The pressure to have a relationship only became so once I was aware of it. When I lost my grandmother (or Nan as I called her) I was devastated. It was the first time I had experienced such personal tragedy. It was hard. I feel as though I had lost touch with something just by how jaded I have become.
That’s why I didn’t just step out with the Imperial Good Companion 201 portable typewriter but also a watch and desk calendar to help remind me how precious our time truly is, photographs of my grandparents when they were young, thin, in love, happy, to ensure they stay that way in some capacity and my grandfather’s leather suitcase because family is baggage but one I will happily carry.