What is it about Grandad’s? Is it the unconditional love they have for their grandchildren? Is it their huge hugs when you’re small? Is it the way they spoil you no matter what? Is it the extra pocket money they give you without anyone knowing? Is it their kind hearts and open arms? Is it the tales they tell? What is it? What is it that makes our Grandad’s so special to us?
For me, it’s every one of those things all rolled in to one, and some more too. I have always completely and utterly adored my Grandad. He has always been my most favourite person in the world. From when I was tiny and he was playing with me in the garden, to when he was there at my wedding, crying tears of joy.
I have such fond memories of times we have spent together. I have always adored his company. Even when he is quiet, or completely enthralled in a game of rugby on the TV, I just like being in the same room as him. He has always been very laid back with me, and in my eyes he is perfect in every way. Grandad is a big man, tall and strong, but the best thing about him is how gentle and kind he is. He is a gentleman in the true sense of the word. He is old school through and through, and that’s what makes him extra special to me and to everyone else that knows him.
I had a phone call this evening. A conversation that I will always remember. I will remember the call because I heard the words I knew were coming but just didn’t want to hear! “Grandad saw a photo of you and he didn’t know who you were!” My heart sunk, then broke a little, sunk a little more, and I slumped into my chair. How does he not know me? How does he not remember me? Not even a flicker? Then I felt myself getting cross. Why am I so far away? If I was just a bit closer I could jog his memory myself. Maybe if I pop home and see him, just sit with him, just sit and hold his hand and hope that’s enough to make him recall some memory of me…..
This has to be one of the worst things about being so far from home. No matter how wonderful the adventure may be, there’s nothing that prepares you for the longing to go home when something is pulling at your heart, almost pulling it out of your chest, insisting that you get yourself to the airport before it shatters completely. That sick feeling, knowing that really, there is very little I can do, and even if I was there, what help would I be? Would it make leaving again, even harder?
With Father’s Day around the corner, I am obviously thinking of my father, but I just can’t help but think about Grandad too. It’s so hard to watch your hero grow old, and it’s not just that; it’s so hard to see the sadness in my fathers eyes as he tries to make plans for his father in the winter of his life. No matter what a “good innings” anyone has had, it’s never the right time to lose your memory, or have your body slowly fail on you. And this is my grandad, my invincible grandad who was once as strong as an ox. My Grandad who was once an awesome rugby player. I guess I had never imagined he would become an old man, and maybe need more from us than we can give him. Naively I just imagined he would always be strong, and continue to be the head of our family no matter what.
My Grandad has had such an interesting life, he’s is a bit of a legend in the town he lived. Grandad was a big rugby player, the local policeman and everyone knew him. Not only did everyone know him, they all loved him, and had buckets of respect for him. He worked in the coal mines when he was just a boy. He had so many wonderful stories. I fondly remember him driving us around the villages he used to cycle through on his police bike, telling us his tales. His stories would transport you to a time, well and truly forgotten, and I would hang on his every word. Even as an adult I would ask him time and again to tell me about his life, and he always would. He always had a story to tell. Now, with his memory the way it is, and me being 10,000 miles away from his warm heart, I feel like I should have asked even more questions. As I sit here thinking of him, I wish I had spent more time with him, more time learning about who he was and where he came from. Sadly now, I’m here and he’s there, and all those wishes have become an impossible dream.
Why does this happen? Why in our old age do we lose that short term memory? How do we forget our family members? Why do we forget the everyday things we do on repeat? Why can he remember the guests at his own wedding over 60 years ago, yet he doesn’t remember me or his great grandchildren!? How can I jog his memory when I am so far away!?
I long to be home right now, just to try and remind him of when I introduced him to Poppy, and he cried! Or the time we played mini golf in his kitchen when Poppy was three; she was so delighted to be playing an outdoor game in Grampy’s kitchen. Or when he used to play in the garden with me as a child, and secretly pass me toffees. I want to remind him of all the letters he used to write to me when I was at boarding school. I would eagerly await the mail, and it was always a delight to hear from him. I still treasure his letters, they’re here, with me in Australia. Letters that are over 25 years old, I just can’t bear to part with them. I never will.
When we think about Father’s Day, we all obviously think of our dads and all the wonderful things they do for us, all the things they sacrifice so as we don’t go without. But this year, in this house, I will be thinking about my Grandad. This is the man I need to thank for knowing the love of a father. He is the man that gave me my dad, how can I ever thank him?
So even now, with his failing memory and his terrifyingly blatant honesty, he is still the head of the Thomas’s, and needs to be treated to a special Father’s Day this year.
On Sunday, I will be celebrating my dad and my husband, but most of all I will be celebrating my Grandad, because without him my world just wouldn’t be the same!
* Grandad, I know you’ve loved me as long as I’ve lived, but I have loved you my whole life