I don’t recall talking much about my grandparents here; they don’t often come up in actual conversation either. It’s not that they aren’t important to me, more that I’m so used to having them in my life that I don’t need to mention it; their presence is unremarkable, but essential. They have been a firm constant since the day I was born.
Together for 60 years, married for almost 57, and having lived in the same house since my mum was a little girl, it is impossible to imagine a world without them, or either one without the other.
Being their first grandchild, I’m obviously their favourite, and I have a particularly special bond with my Grandad because I’m the only one of his descendants that dared to be born with his red hair.
The main reason for writing all this now is because I’m scared that one day it might all be memories or, worse still, forgotten entirely. I don’t want that to happen. I want to remember my grandparents in full colour.
My grandad is quiet and really shy. He is the sweetest man I have ever met and someone everyone loves. Even those of you who don’t like people in general, you would like my grandad. Kind, caring, inadvertently hilarious. I want to always remember some of the ways in which he makes us smile and makes us laugh.
I was born shortly after the great storm of 87, taken back to my grandparents’ house where I spent my first year or so. My grandad told me stories of having to change my nappy by candlelight when all the power was out. He kept a book about the storm and gave it to me when I was 18. He drew me a picture too, of a tractor. He likes tractors. These are the things that my grandad believes to be the greatest riches. Tokens that show love. I think he may be right. I have remembered these gifts above the majority of all the others given to me over the last almost 30 years.
I will never forget the way he looked at Miss J, his first great-grandchild, when he came to meet her in the hospital. After seven children and eight grandchildren, he said, “It doesn’t matter how many babies you meet, each one is a miracle,”.
He now has 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; 22 miracles in total.
Not long after James and I got together (possibly a few days after), he went into hospital at Haywards Heath for a major back operation. It was miles away and I didn’t drive so I asked my grandparents to take me. James chatted to them, talked to my grandad about driving and how he had learned to ride a motorbike before he could drive. It transpired that my grandad had learned to drive a tractor before learning to drive. Nothing especially interesting was said but I could tell that my grandparents approved of James and that he liked them and that was all that mattered.
There are so many things I want to remember about my grandad.
I want to remember just how obsessed he is about trains and steam engines and farm machinery. To the extent that when my sister told him she was training to be a teacher, he only picked up on the “train” part and thought she was learning to be a train driver.
I want to remember the time he said, “Oh no, there’s shit on my shoes!” in a park in Arundel because it was the only time I ever heard him swear and it makes me laugh that, of all the things it could have been, it was dog shit that made him so cross.
I want to remember the look on his face at his brother’s funeral years ago when he couldn’t believe that his younger brother was the first to go.
I want to remember how there are apparently only two acceptable gifts for my grandad – talcum powder or toys. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him open anything else.
I want to remember the time he came with Nan to buy my school shoes and grumbled at the price (about £20); “Do I get shares in the shop for that?” were his particular words I think.
I want to remember walking in the door and hearing him playing the piano, and how none of us managed to ever acquire that particular skill.
I want to remember his drawings (same applies about it not having been passed down – he’s a different class, my grandad).
I want to remember the story of how, when my Nan was in hospital with tuberculosis, my grandad cycled for miles after work every day just to see her.
I want to remember how he always wears braces, says duck as a term of endearment, smells of Imperial Leather soap and has a face that is sometimes rough to kiss.
I want to remember how my Nan would leave her house, pop to the supermarket, drive two minutes uo the road to see us, and phone my grandad to check he was ok.
I want to remember how when we went to Brighton Pier with my Nan last September, she wouldn’t stay for dinner, James ran her home and my Grandad was waiting for her in the car, by the bus stop.
I want to remember how happy he is to just be at home with his wife, how he has never wanted to travel or even socialise really. He is just happy being.
None of these things may seem special or interesting but together they form a full picture of my grandad in my head. That’s what I need, and that’s what I want to hold on to forever.
I think the older my grandad has got, the more he has reminded me of a little boy. He is so innocent and sweet and I just want to protect him. He is 81 years old now and if he lived to be 162 it wouldn’t be long enough. If I like you, it is important to me that he likes you, and that you like him. He is my hero and I suppose growing up without a biological father, it was inevitable that he would play such an important role in my life.
Oh, and (as you can probably tell from all these pictures) he loves my children and they adore him.
Love you, Grandad xxx