I have a vivid memory of a Sunday dinner in Grandad's house. It was a sad house at that time, I think Gran Mary-Jo had already died. Or maybe I'm confused about that. It's hard to know where sadness came from when you're little. Maybe I was just a melancholy child, as I seem to be a melancholy woman.
Grandad was standing over the stove and there was a shelf above that with an old radio. The radio was on and John Lennon's Imagine came on. And a hush descended. I could tell we were all listening to the song and that it was a moving one. And I listened to the words and felt the force of the song and its singer without knowing who or why or what it was all about. I could sense that it was a hopeful song, though it knew the odds were stacked against it and that the singer knew that too.
But I was confused. Sunday in Ireland also meant mass. And my grandfather, with his polished brogues and brown cardigan, also went to mass every day. The kitchen was hushed like a congregation hushed listening to a hymn. But the words "imagine there's no religion" confused me in that company.
I had never been presented with the idea that religion was something to be wished away. But here were the very people who dug deep into it, revering a song that said just that. I listened and felt conflicted, thinking this can't be right. And I knew there was a lot more to all this and that all of this was intriguing in ways beyond my childish reach. When I hear the song now, I still feel the atmosphere in that kitchen with the pots of potatoes and starch hanging heavy in the air.
And I wish my Grandad had lived until I was older so we could have talked about some of this. Though I don't even know if he was the kind of man who would have wanted to talk or if he would have grown impatient and frustrated with my quizzing.
I suppose the beauty of losing so much so young is that I can imagine it to be whatever I want. So, yes, I imagine my grandfather talking to me about anything I want to talk about, his eyes shining bright when we really got down into it.
I wrote this last Saturday which would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday.