Monday, August 9, 2010

My Grandad

I wrote the text below a year ago. At the time I decided not to post it because it seemed too personal. But I want to post it now. You see, my grandad died a few weeks ago. I read this post at his funeral.


My grandad lives in England. It's where I lived as well until I was 10. My grandad has advanced parkinsons and while he lives in his own flat, he has carers that come in regularly throughout the day to look after him. He's quite frail. Lately he's started sleeping for 2 sometimes 3 days at a time.

But it wasn't always like that. When he was young my grandad worked as a sales apprentice at a mens tailors called Montague Burton in Dover. They only made suits. 35 shillings a piece.

Because of the war, staff were asked to work night shifts protecting the shop from fire (due to fire bombs). My grandad was trained to use water pumps and sand to put out potential fires. During those long nights all the shop workers on fire watch would hang out and play table tennis set up at one of the shops to pass the time.

At the recommendation of one of the other fire watch men that he should get a trade, my grandad volunteered at the government training centre. His first job was in Holborn in a yard behind the nurses home for Great Ormond Hospital. He worked as a vehicle fitter turning lorries into tipping lorries (ordinary trucks into dump trucks). When he contracted oil poisoning he decided to change careers and started taking mechanical engineering courses on the weekend. And so the young shop worker became an engineer.

My grandad met my nanna on the #10 bus. Each day he would see 2 girls on the bus. They were always giggling. One of those giggling girls was my nanna. Eventually she and my grandad were introduced and before long my grandad would only get on the bus if my nanna was on it.

My grandad proposed to my nanna on that bus.

My nanna and grandad had two children. A boy, the eldest, my dad. And a girl, my aunt. They were serious outdoor enthusiasts and would walk and walk until you thought your legs would fall off.

They were blessed with two wonderful grandchildren. :) Me and my brother. Both on the other side of the ocean from them.

My nanna died 14 years ago and every year since then, my Grandad has traveled to Canada to be with us for Christmas.

Until December 2008 when he was deemed too frail to travel.

The telephone is a poor substitute for an in person visit. But it's all we have so I call him when I can.

I called him today.

"Hi Grandad!" I yell when he picks up the phone.

"Rachel!" he says with happiness and surprise after a slight pause.

I do most of the talking because he struggles to find words.

But he still asks me a lot of questions, like how is hubby, the job, the house?

He tells me that he has been doing ok and has been awake for the last 10 days. Meaning he has slept regularly for the last 10 days. No sleeping for multiple days. He's pleased. The long sleeping worries him.

We talk about the garden and he always gives me good advice. This time I told him that I need to dig up some of my raspberries because they are taking over my garden. He told me that I should put them in a tub - then they wouldn't be able to. I told him he was right.

I also told him that I am crocheting a rug out of old t-shirts. He told me that his mother used to do the same thing. He specifically remembered a rug that she had made out of fabric scraps that was in front of her fireplace.

Then he asks me about my plans for the summer and my heart breaks when I tell him that hubby and I are taking the train to PEI. I know he would rather we come to see him. But he doesn't say it. "Isn't that near where the ocean drops?" he says, amazing me with his knowledge of Canadian geography. "Yes" I say. "The Bay of Fundy".

"Of course" he says.

"I love you grandad" I say as I'm hanging up. He doesn't say it back. He never has. But I know that he does.

"Thanks for calling" he says. "Take care".

"You too grandad".


patricew said...

Hi. I stumbled onto your blog today. Interesting coincidence as it was 4 years ago today that I lost my mom. Anyway, lovely post about your grandfather, I am sorry for you loss. I hope you keep writing your blog!

wendyytb said...

So sorry for your loss. I, too,lost my grandpa, but I have such fond memories to hold on to. I hope yours bring you great peace.

Green Grrl said...

hi patricew, thank you for your kind words. :-) Sorry for the loss of your mom. I'm glad you stopped by!

Hey wendyytb! Thank you for your message. You are so right about memories and how they bring peace. I have so many great memories of my grandad. Glad that you also have fond memories of your grandpa. :)

Urban Girl said...

oh so sorry to hear that your grandfather passed away - what a difficult time. Great account of his life - really like the exchange between the two of you at the end. Made me smile. : )

Green Grrl said...

Urban girl, thanks. :) I'm so glad I captured that telephone conversation when it happened. It's one of those things that was so ordinary that I probably would have forgotten the things we said. Now I'm so happy that I have this post to remind me.