Grandpa beige and his purple princess
Posy’s grandpa is a grumpy old guy. He’s been that way for a couple of years now. He never seems interested in any of his children, or their children, anymore and the only time he gets anywhere near happy is when he’s down the pub drinking a pint or two or at home with his feet up watching Manchester United on the telly.
Posy and her cousins loved their nanna and they were all very sad when she died so they know why grandpa is so unhappy. He didn’t used to be like this. He used to dance around the room with one, or sometimes two, of them perched on his feet, sing silly songs very loudly and out of tune, and make farty noises with his hand and his arm pit (nanna would hit him with a tea-towel when he did that). Posy is a kind little girl and every week she paints her mum’s sad and lonely dad a picture, more often than not a picture of a princess, as she herself hopes she will grow up to be, most usually dressed in purple, her very favourite colour. When receiving the picture grandpa smiles a little and thanks her for the artwork which he then puts on top of the painting she gave him the week before.
Posy doesn't give up and making an early start on her latest masterpiece, the evening after her and her mum’s latest trip to visit grandpa, Posy hears her dad ask her mum; ‘so how was grandpa beige today then?’
‘Don’t call him that Dave, he’s just sad’, mum whispers a little crossly.
‘I know, I’m sorry. It’s just, it’s just, well, I’m frustrated and upset too that we can’t seem to help him. His life is so small, so boring, so beige, so so beige. Sorry, sorry love.’
Mum nods and wipes a tear from her eye. Dad hugs her and kisses her cheek.
Posy knows what beige means. It’s a colour; kind of a mixture between brown and cream but if he is a colour grandpa seems more like grey to her. It’s not just his hair and his clothes but everything about him that is so much less colourful, less bright than it used to be. His days are all grey and sad, he is all grey and sad; a bit like the sky when it rains.
Determined to help Posy increases her efforts; doubling her weekly output of pictures. Princesses in purple dresses, purples shorts, purple trousers and capes and crowns. Princesses on swings, princesses standing next to castles, princesses riding bikes or playing football (she really hoped grandpa would like that one and she even dressed the players in red just for him), princesses holding flowers or chopping wood.
More sad smiles from grandpa as his pile of pictures gets bigger and bigger.
Then everything changes.
The world gets sick and everyone is told to stay at home to keep themselves and others safe. So Posy and her mum and dad stay home in their house and grandpa stays home in his.
And, the pubs all shut.
And, and, the footballers stop playing football.
Posy is worried and can’t sleep at night thinking about her third best person in the whole world. She can’t even go to visit grandpa now to check that he’s at least OKish which makes her very sad. Mum or dad go every couple of days with some shopping for him which they leave on his doorstep along with the usual gift from Posy. Then standing by his gate they film grandpa on their phone as he picks up the groceries (which usually include a couple of cans of his favourite beer) and the picture and waves to the camera. But he still looks sad, still looks grey, and Posy is sure that he barely glances at her paintings and she imagines the pile by his favourite chair getting so high that it almost touches the ceiling. Posy knows that grandpa has a mobile phone of his own because they bought it him for his last birthday. She also knows that he has never taken it out of the box so phoning him (he never picks up the one on the table in the hall) or texting him is, as mum says, ‘completely out of the question’, which makes her sad all over again.
Once again Posy gets busy. Maybe if she doesn’t grow up to be a princess she might become a famous artist? Her paintings change a little as lockdown continues. The purple princesses turn their hand to baking (dad’s making more pies and scones than ever before), to zoom meetings (mum has several of those every week) and to Tik Tok singing and dancing.
A good reader and writer as well as a great painter Posy decides to write grandpa a letter. She got the idea from a home-schooling lesson with dad. It takes a couple of days to write about all she’s been doing. Posy ends the letter by telling her grandpa how much she loves him and how much she’s been missing him and that she hopes the football will be back soon. She writes his name and address on one of mum’s best envelopes but doesn’t need a stamp because dad takes it round to grandpa’s along with a homemade vanilla sponge, a couple of apples and a bottle of milk. Dad’s name is Patrick so he says he’s the best person to do this particular delivery and Posy makes a ‘Postman Pat’ label to stick on his jacket.
A few days later Posy is playing in the garden when mum comes to the back door and shouts ‘Posy, come in, quick, quick, there’s someone on the phone who wants to Facetime with you’.
Posy is surprised that mum looks so happy and is so giggly. They all enjoy taking to her cousins, her aunties and uncles, and to some of their friends on the phone but they do it most days and right now she’d rather carry on playing with her princess dolls and her cars. But she runs in the house anyway and joins dad (who seems much more excited than he usually is when on the phone) on the sofa.
And there he is.
He’s wearing a lovely green jumper and has combed his hair and he’s smiling, really, really, smiling. But it’s what’s behind him that’s so especially amazing. He’s sitting in the spare room on one of the twin beds and the whole of the wall at the back of him is covered with pictures of princesses. Princesses, mostly dressed in purple, doing all manner of interesting and not so interesting things. And as he moves the phone around the room (it’s all a bit wobbly but then he’s new to all this technology stuff) Posy and her parents gasp as they see that every single wall is full, from floor to ceiling, of her paintings.
They chat for ages. Well actually it’s mostly grandpa that does the talking. ‘Clearly making up for lost time’, dad says, laughing, after they ring off.
‘Well I guess I better go and make some lunch now’, it’s grandpa that eventually ends the call. ‘I’ll call again later shall I?’
This daughter, her husband and their daughter all nod happily.
‘Bye then Emma, bye Patrick, bye-bye my darling Posy; my beautiful, wonderful purple princess.’
With a last smile and a wave he is gone. For now.
Why she gets out her paints of course.