Monday, 25 January 2016

Dear Grandpa

Dear Grandpa,

I’m just writing to check that you received the Fruit Pastels Darryl left for you. Gabby said she thought those would be appreciated, perhaps a little more than another pile of earth – not that those weren’t sweet too, it’s just you can’t eat the earth and we all know how much you love those rainbow chews. Only a couple of days before we said our final goodbye to you, I was sitting watching ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ on the sofa with dad, Grandma pottering around filling her hot water bottle and talking to mum, when I remembered your secret (don’t worry, I won’t tell) stash of Fruit Pastels hidden in the draw of that smart wooden side table by the door. In one draw, old photographs, bits of important looking paper in another, in the third and fourth…sweets: those bulk buy boxes stashed away for a sneaky treat when no one is looking. I knew though…I won’t lie…and I did check with dad…but I may have taken a pack…they weren’t the best. They’d lost their juiciness but the chew was most definitely there, I’m just surprised I got through them without losing a tooth. You were always a card (as my lovely mum, your daughter, would say) and your sweet tooth will never be forgotten.

I hope that you’re behaving and that you’ve found enough things to complain about. It’s been a couple of days so I’m expecting you to have written at least two letters expressing your disappointment in the way things are run, or perhaps a refusal to pay the speeding ticket for leaving us too quickly but they do have a point grandpa, you could have left a little later, gone a little slower, taken more time before you headed off for good. I hope that you’re talking a lot, entertaining people with your stories of all the things that have happened to you over the years. There’s been a lot.

Your upbringing is a story that needs to be written. The family twists and turns, parents, aunts, cousins, brothers, escapes and discovery. A tale of secrets and surprises but one that ended happily. You leave behind such an amazing legacy. Four wonderful, incredibly wacky, and highly entertaining and loveable children, 17 loved, loving and equally mad Grandchildren and three adorable and beautiful Great-Grandchildren with many more to come I’m sure. The family you created and that has grown from its beginning is one that I feel so lucky to be a part of. The closeness that we share is amazing and the memories I have and will continue to make with all of my aunts, my uncle, all of the cousins and, of course, Grandma, are something I will treasure forever. Christmases, family gatherings, Sunday lunches, days at Moulsford, Beenham, Malborough and in London, all of them hilarious fun, not to mention filled with delicious food.

I will keep with me for as long as I live the memory of the last family day out I spent with you; the boat trip. That day that I and the lucky few others who joined, were able to spend doing something you’ve always loved, travelling via your second home - a boat - down the Thames and with such beautiful views, was a really wonderful occasion. You had a final chance to steer us down the river, and ignoring the fact we almost hit a tree, I’m so pleased that you saw in that day.

Seeing you in Hospital the week that you left was the saddest I’ve ever felt. Mum had warned me that it would be a shock but I still didn’t expect you to look so different. The man that I saw was not the man I’d seen even a month or two before when you were still at home, wobbling across the room to your favourite armchair. This man was small, tiny, a skeleton beneath his hospital clothes. Your face was the oldest and thinnest I’d ever seen and I never knew what a difference a set of teeth could make to a face. You said they were too big now, your face had shrunk so much and mum and I struggled to hear a word you said. Eventually removing them was the only option and you instantly aged a decade. You were no longer my nimble old grandpa but a little old man sucking on orange segments and being asked to wiggle your toes. The one thing I can say about that day that made me smile, was witnessing you meet your new great-grandson Mo for the first time. I could see how happy you were as you watched Ted bring him up out of his carrier and towards your bed. You didn’t hold him but seeing him was enough. Half an hour later, we left, I waved goodbye and said I’d see you soon.

You would have loved the tent at your house on Wednesday. Everyone you loved and who loved you was there and the corners were filled with photos of your life from the 1930’s until this year. Some people even looked at photos of young you and said how much you resembled my brother. It’s true. You did. I went to your room with mum. All your clothes are still there and they smell like you. We spent a while there, just looking at and touching the clothes you once wore. You’ll be pleased to hear that Grandma was ok. I took her to the sofa when we got home, she settled down, made her hot water bottle and put on her slippers. People came in and out, friends, relatives, young, old. She came outside and walked around your tent, looking at the pictures, the memories and greeting people. Music played, food was eaten, tea was drunk…the best thing there though? Jimmy’s Iced Coffee. Cartons and cartons of it being picked up and gulped back by everyone. That man, that whole story about you and Jimmy and the video, was one that became a big part of your day. As people drank your drink and watched the video but even more, when I got in the car to go home and saw a post on Facebook. A message from Jimmy on his page, remembering the day he met you, ‘most badass drinker of our stuff to date’. It wasn’t just his message though that made us smile but the number of people who responded. Strangers writing words of kindness to a family they don’t know for a man who’s story will keep being told.

It was a laugh. You were a laugh. It was a celebration. A day to remember a wonderful man.

My Grandpa.   
Love you always,


P.S. Here's the link to Jimmy's video just in case you want to see my Grandpa at his best:

Lovely post dedicated to my wonderful grandpa and a great memory ❤

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