I wrote this post a couple of years ago, after the passing of my wonderful Grandfather. It is a bit of a tribute to him.
I put it on Facebook, but think it would be much better to share this publicly on my blog, so that the world entire can see how wonderful he was.
I wanted to say something about my Grandad.
When he died, it wasn’t just the old man that I mourned, but the little boy he was too. Then the teenager, the young man and the adult. The father he became, the brother and son he was and, of course, the husband and grandfather.
I don’t think, like pretty much every person I’ll ever know, that I won’t ever really know everything about my Grandad. I have my own memories, but I won’t have other people’s. I will never know in an omnipotent way, who he was from every perspective.
In fact, I didn’t even know his full name until my brother quipped at his wake: “he kept his middle name quiet, didn’t he? John Thomas Paul”. Emphasis on the ‘John Thomas’ there. Even in death he managed to make my brother and I smile.
As we toasted his memory at his wake with a Brandy (which, by the way, I detest), we reminisced about him. My brother had very vivid memories of him: on the roof of his bungalow doing some work, moaning about how no-one would care if he fell off whilst my Nan shook her head at his melodrama and smiled. Camping in the back garden with my cousin Paul and sleeping on sun loungers. Over enthusiastically removing a dead frog from a pipe in the pond with such force that it hurtled towards my Grandad at great speed.
What of my own memories though? My Grandad was, like my own wonderful father, an icon to me as a child. He was indefatigable, unstoppable even. It was as though he was an indestructible force like a superhero. I remember him taking the fireplace apart in our old house to release a trapped bird, all the while muttering away to himself. I remember counting frogs in his back garden with him when it rained. I remember watching films with him and my Nan in the roof-space (which he had converted into a very impressive living area) and all the way through, my Grandad would rip the plot to pieces, predicting everything that would happen. At the end of the film, he’d announce: “I could have written that you know”.
I remember him telling unfunny jokes that I laughed at anyway and sitting on his knee in the extension. He’d been to Egypt during his time in the Royal Corp of Signals in the 1950’s and was more than happy to fuel my infinite interest in Ancient Egypt. He bought me insanely expensive books about Ancient Egypt and told me all about what he remembered from when he had been there. It was good to have some common interests with him.
When I was very small, he used his Dictaphone to record me singing, I even remember the song I sang, but I have no idea what it’s called.
I remember being told for the umpteenth time about his time in Abu Dhabi and about all the people who worked with and for him over there. He was very proud of working on such a huge project.
He related to me his experience of World War II being declared. It was one of the best stories he’d tell. To be ten years old in war torn Liverpool was an adventure. A scary one, but still an adventure. He’d told me that he’d been at school and his teacher had told him and the other boys that he had some bad news. Not only had war been declared, but that meant that there was no more school. Apparently, a huge roaring cheer went up and they all ran home.
I remember him telling me of other times in his life – from quitting smoking in his twenties and starting his lifelong hatred of the habit. He told me of seeing my Nan when she was about 12 and telling his brother that she was really pretty and how he was going to marry her one day. He’d smile as he related how he got ribbed indefinitely by his older brothers for that revelation as he was 7 years older than my Nan.
I wish in many ways I had known him better, but, in my own way, I knew him best. I couldn’t tell you his shoe size or his favourite colour, but I know and remember what he meant to me. I have a lifetime of memories to keep me happy.
I don’t recall feeling so grief-stricken about him dying as I did when my Nan died in May 2000. She was 64 and it was a hell of a shock. I was 17 years old at the time and owed that woman everything. She was like a mother to me.
Now the initial fog of shock and grief have faded, I am not as stunned and as devastated as I was when my Nan died in comparison… I think it’s because I’m happy for him to be reunited with her. Her death had blown him apart and it was devastating to see him so desperately heart broken by her passing. Being back with her, I know, would make him extremely happy. I’m happy for him that he is with all his brothers and sisters again. He was always so independent and strong and I’m glad he was still that person when he passed.
I’m glad and proud to have had him in my life and to have been his first granddaughter, named after his wife, Catherine Jane. When people asked me how I was related at his funeral, I always said I was his oldest granddaughter, rather than whose daughter I was. That’s how I’d rather be known. Not as such-and-such’s daughter, but by what I was to him.
I think if I could speak to him one last time, I’d simply tell him I loved him, that I was proud of him and for him to keep my angel babies close.
I will always love my Grandfather and I was utterly blessed to have had him in my life.
Goodnight, God bless you Grandad Jack x