“I met a lovely lady on a recent cruise, we are just friends though nothing more!” My Grandad added the last part in quickly, he seemed worried that we would be disappointed or possibly angry with him. We were actually very happy for him.
It had been three years since my Grandma had physically left this world, she had not been herself for quite a while before due to Alzheimer’s. My Grandad missed her terribly, we all did. It was the middle of August and my younger sister and I were sat in his living room looking out over the sea talking about his recent adventure on a cruise and his dreams of taking a working man’s cruise to Antarctica in the near future. He seemed so positive and eager to fulfil some of his dreams and take on new challenges. We were staying for the weekend and my other sister was joining us the following day so we had plenty of time to share stories and reminisce.
“I’m sorry if I seem quite tired this evening, I’ve been for a treatment of chemotherapy and it has completely knocked me out.” He said the sentence as if he were telling us he had been suffering with a bit of a cold. Neither of us really knew what to say, it was completely out of the blue. Thankfully he seemed happy to explain.
“I have lung cancer. Been battling it for about 10 years now but have not told anyone in the family until recently. I have had part of my lung removed but I’m still here going strong. If I had my time again, I would never smoke, smoking takes your breath away!” His explanation put us at ease, he was strong and certainly didn’t seem concerned so neither were we. He glanced around the room “I do think I should try and reduce the things I have, I want to move to a smaller place but what to do with some of this stuff? I mean take that ugly looking troll for example, who would want that?”
“I think you should give it to our Dad, it looks just like him.” The words tumbled out of my sister’s mouth without any thought. Family was very important to our Grandad, especially his sons so I worried about his reaction. To my relief he just laughed.
“Yes I guess it does a bit.” He chuckled. We talked some more before settling to bed for an early night.
The weekend was fantastic, we walked along the cliff top close to Old Harry Rocks on the South Coast and visited the bench in the park which had been placed there in memory of our Grandma. We talked a lot about Grandma and the past and also a lot about the future. He showed us the plans he had drawn up for building his new home which looked exciting but equally I was sad that he would think of moving. He had built his cream bungalow that sat on the top of the cliff looking out over the sea himself. So many happy memories were contained within the walls, I wanted to keep them forever.
The weekend seemed to be over so quickly and as we left I promised to ring soon and arrange another visit.
I kept my promise and rang regularly. During one conversation in September he had some brilliant news. He had passed the medical and would be able to go away on his dream cruise adventure to Antarctica at the end of October. This had been a dream of his for many years that he never imagined would come true and finally it was happening. I couldn’t wait to arrange to visit again once he returned and hear about all about it.
The weeks passed and the date for the cruise was getting so much closer. Then my Dad called.
“Your Grandad has been taken ill and is in hospital.” I don’t recall any further information being shared, but my feeling was that he would be OK but I was also upset that he obviously wouldn’t be able to go on the cruise he had been looking forward to. Then a few days later came the bombshell with another phone call from my Dad.
“Your Grandad died this morning.”
“You’re lying, he can’t be. He only just passed a medical allowing him to go away on a working man’s cruise. He can’t be dead!!” I truly believed that he was just being nasty and telling such hurtful lies. But it was all true.
A week after his death we returned to the cream coloured bungalow to celebrate my Grandad’s life. So many of my Grandad’s friends and family arrived to pay their respects and they had listened silently as I read out a poem I had written. I sat quietly for a few minutes in the corner of the living room looking out over the sea and listening to snippets of conversation.
“Typical of him isn’t it,” said one elderly man. “A lovely sunny day and I have to wear a suit, he knows how much I hate wearing suits especially on the warmer days!” The man he was talking to chuckled with him as if it was an old joke between them all.
“Oh he was a lovely man, do you remember…”
I couldn’t listen any more, the tears streamed down my face as I looked out hoping he would still appear on the field by the cliff top. So many people, so many memories. He was gone but not forgotten. My only peace was that he was now reunited with my Grandma, just where he truly wanted to be. However,it would be a story from my Grandad’s past that I would have to retell when I returned to the cream coloured bungalow for one last time a few weeks later.