My granddad died on Friday. He was 85. Both he and my grandma were in hospital very ill. They have been married for 54 years and together for 63. Whenever she was ill, he would get incredibly stressed. When you have been with one person for so long, I guess they become a part of you to such a degree that their well being becomes your well being. The absolute definition of love.
Half a century together, is an entire life time. You become a part of that person, and their relationship then becomes the stability for the family that is created from it. It becomes more than a simple husband and wife relationship, more than just your parents parents. They become an anchor, and a source of timeless memories and inspiration.
In the end he seems to have succumb to worry and stress over how unwell my grandma was. It is as if he died from love.
She is still just as ill. As horrible as it sounds, I hope she goes soon too, because I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to lose someone you have spent at least 54 years waking up next to every morning.
It is easy to say cliched things like “he’s gone to a better place” and “he’s looking down on us now“. It’s easy because it’s a nice little story. But I don’t believe any of it. I prefer to accept that death is the end; that nothing else exists. That way, we focus on the life. And he had a pretty amazing life. By the time he was my age (24), he had seen the World. He had been in the British Navy, and had sailed everywhere. He had medals to show for it. That has to be cause for celebration rather than sombre reflection. I do not tend to get madly upset by death. It shocks me, and I feel the initial hurt, but I prefer to think positively about the life, and the positive impact they had on the direction of my life, and be so grateful for that, rather that get myself upset.
Our grand parents leave such a wonderful legacy. They cannot have known, in their 20s, when they were nervously flirting with each other, that in over half a century, they will have been responsible for creating such a tapestry of new life and memories and influences. The memory of their lives live in everything we say, and everything we do, and that’s remarkable. I often wonder if my granddad realised that, whilst handing me an out of date can of Coke whenever i’d go to visit.
He used to work in a shoe factory, where PC World at Fosse Park stands today. It was an ugly yellow factory and the smell of leather was overwhelming. I was a toddler at that time, and would shoot up and down the aisles on my Thomas the Tank Engine kids car.
What amazes me, is he was born in the 1920s. A time of flat caps. Calvin Cooledge was the US President, born seven years after the end the Civil War. A time before anyone had heard of Elvis, or The Beatles (in fact, The Beatles wouldn’t be born for another 20 years). The Victorian era had been over for just twenty years. In Leicester, horse and cart were still widely used. A time before anyone had really heard the name Adolf Hitler or knew what was to come. The Russian Revolution was in its infancy, and TV had only just been made commercially available. The advances since those days have been immense. The social changes they have lived through, have been indescribable. It is no wonder that neither of my grandparents really understood what a DVD player was.
The photo above is my granddad with my dad, and my uncles, in what must have been around 1961, in Devon. This area of Devon is where I like to get to whenever I have the chance. It has a remarkably calming affect on me. I reflect on the three generations of my family that have spent a lot of their time together on that small stretch of the English coast.
They are there when you are born, and you grow up with them and they are as much a part of life, as breathing. And then they go and die. And suddenly their is a void. It is never filled, but you learn to work with it.
He always said he wanted to be alive just long enough to see Leicester City win the Premiership. This would mean though, and i’m sure he was fully aware of it, he’d have to make it into the history books as the oldest man ever, because that’s not going to happen any time soon. If we do it in my lifetime, I will have a drink for him.
He will be missed.