My grandfather died this morning. That’s the short story. Gramps died and I’m completely broken-hearted and I don’t know what to do with myself. I guess that’s why I’m writing.
The long story …
Well, it’s pretty horrific.
I couldn’t get hold of him. We talk almost every night on the phone. Sometimes there will be 2 or 3 nights in between our calls, but for the most part, it’s every night. This time, it was 3 nights between calls. I called him at 10 pm, like I usually would, and left a message. He usually calls me back as soon as he’s listened to it, but he didn’t. I did recall him saying the heat was making him go to bed earlier because the bedroom was cooler, during one of our earlier phone calls, and I simply assumed he’d done just that: gone to bed early.
The next day, about lunchtime, I realised that I’d not yet heard back from him so I tried to call him again. I rung his house phone a bunch more times, then I tried calling his mobile. It went straight to voicemail. VERY unlike my Gramps.
I hadn’t spoken to my mother in about three years, but she lives 10 minutes down the road from him. I live a 2.5-hour car journey away, or a 3-4 hour multiple-train journey. I had no choice but to bite the bullet.
“Hey, is Gramps okay? You’ve got keys for his place, right? I can’t get hold of him and his mobile is going straight to voicemail.”
And off she went to check.
An hour later, she called me, hysterical. He’d fallen down a flight of 18 stairs, couldn’t get up, and had been laying on the floor for 2-3 days. There was blood everywhere, that’s all she kept saying to me. Bruises, blood everywhere, blood everywhere, blood everywhere. He’s on blood thinners, so Gramps + blood = NEVER a good thing. I think she was in shock. The mental image I have of him on the floor like that has been torturing me ever since she said those words to me, so I can only imagine how it must have been for her, having to go in and find him in that state. And of course, because we’re in the midst of a pandemic, she couldn’t travel with him to the hospital – or even go to the hospital at all.
A couple of hours later, we got an update: punctured lung, cracked/broken ribs, broken shoulder, broken collarbone, head wound, leg lacerations, dehydration …
And then seven hours after that (four hours later than the promised update time + a thousand phone calls later to various departments and extensions), we were told that he had NONE of those injuries. Checked and double-checked. He was doing just fine, he was comfortable and stable and they were going to move him from ‘resus’ to a ward the next day. We went to bed feeling a little lighter and more positive. Not much more, mind, but still, enough to allow us to sleep marginally better than we otherwise would’ve.
When I woke up at about 7:30 am, I had 5 phone calls from my mother, starting from 6 am. I’d forgotten to take my phone off silent the night before, how could I have been so stupid?
“It’s not good news,” she said.
Understatement of the century … he’d passed away. At ten to six in the morning, alone in his hospital bed, after surviving being stranded at the bottom of his stairs for 2-3 days, bleeding out and on blood thinners, literally in his own mess, he finally gave up.
And he deserved so much more. Oh my god, he deserved so much more than that.
I am heartbroken. Truly and utterly heartbroken. He was my Gramps. My Big G. Grampa. Grampoopy. Grampypants. The only man in my life who’s been there from the start and never let me down. He’s my father figure and my friend and a cantankerous old git but I loved him so much. And I am so, so heartbroken. I feel completely overwhelmed with grief. Is that a thing? I feel it, like I’m drowning in it. My heart actually hurts from it. Not in a metaphorical sense, in a real, genuine, my heart is literally painfully smashing into pieces way.
I call him almost every night … now who will I talk shit to?
He’s the person I call in times like this … now who do I call?
Whose handkerchief will I steal when I don’t have a tissue?
Whose home will I run to when I have another crisis/breakup/breakdown?
He’s my safety net. No, he was my safety net. I need to talk about him in the past tense now. I keep having to delete, delete, delete my words and change ‘he is’ to he was’.
Because he’s gone.
I can’t picture a life without him in it. That’s a cliche and a half I know, but they’re cliches for a reason, right? I genuinely can’t see my life without him in it. I’m never going to go rushing to the phone when he calls again. He’s never going to call me again. I’m never going to hear his voice again. Actually, that’s not true. I never delete the messages off my answering machine and I had EIGHT from him going back over the last couple of months. I’ve saved those voicemails, even the ones where he got pissed off with me for not getting to the phone quickly enough, as voice notes on my phone. I’m going to pick the one that makes me cry the hardest and pop it in a Build-a-Bear. A bulldog one. Because he would’ve laughed his fucking head off at that. He kept telling me to make the ringing time longer so the machine wouldn’t kick in so quickly, but I never listened. Half the time I’d miss his call and have to call him right back, but he knew I always would. Just like I knew he always would. But not this time. And not ever again.
And that’s the part I can’t wrap my head around: I’m never going to talk to him ever again. We’re never going to bicker again. Or, rather, he’s never going to piss me off again. He’s never going to wrap his arms around me and give me a big squeeze again, or tell me off for leaving the lights on all night, or grumble at me for not rinsing the spoon after I make tea, or make me a cup of coffee from his newest coffee machine. He bought a lot of coffee machines, bizarrely. He bought a lot of gadgets in general; that’s why we all called him Inspector Gadget.
Doo-do-do-do-do Inspector gadget …
Grief is weird, huh? I’m so desperately sad at the thought of never talking to him again, more so than I can explain to you, but just remembering all those old times puts a teeny smile on my face. Because he really was an incredible man. A formidable man. He terrified me when I was a kid, especially when he put on his loud booming voice. Not that he ever really put on his loud booming voice at me. I was his favourite. I know grandparents aren’t meant to have favourites but my sister had her grandparents (my step-grandparents) and I had mine (my mother’s parents). I stayed with/lived with ‘mine’, but I never stayed with ‘hers’. It seemed natural to me growing up, but I realise now just how dysfunctional that was.
My Nan died about a year and a half ago and fuck me, that made me sad. But this? This is something else. Gramps was like my dad. Maybe that’s why this grief feels so weird? I’m not just mourning my grandparent, I’m mourning my father-figure too.
He taught me how to use a camera even though I never actually managed to pick up the skill. He made me a gadget lover, and gave me a love of watches even though I’m late for everything and always run to my own damn time. He made me appreciate the beauty of an old-school red London bus, and fall in love with Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday, and enjoy Buddy Holly music, and dance to a good vinyl record. He saved me whenever I got lost in London. It didn’t matter where I was, or how lost I was, I could call him up, tell him the landmark or street I could see, and without the help of Google, he’d give me correct instructions on how to get to where I needed to be. He’d never even lived in London so I’ve no clue how he did it every time, but there you go – that was one of his many talents.
He loved buses, Cotton Traders, Guinness, day trips, and a good Whiskey. He hated healthy eating, any kind of exercise, and being argued back to. We argued like cat and dog over the years, like that time I drunkenly told him I was bisexual and he said he thought bisexuality was a “phase”, but we had a crazy bond. An unbreakable bond. Even with all the family fights, me moving around the world, him calling my best friend a cunt TO HIS FACE, and various other differences in opinion, our bond was always there. There’d be a door-slamming storm-off and five minutes later, one of us would be calling the other back with a cup of tea in our hand. It was our version of an apology.
I wish I’d called his mobile the night before. I didn’t because I assumed he’d gone to bed early and didn’t want to wake him up, but if I had, maybe it would’ve gone to voicemail then too, and then I would’ve definitely known something was wrong. He would never let the battery on his mobile phone die. I could’ve got my mother to check on him sooner, 14 hours sooner, maybe he’d still be alive now?
What if I’d called him on night two instead of night three? I’d have realised something was wrong when he didn’t call me back for a full 24 hours, and again, I could’ve got my mother there sooner. I called him almost every single fucking night throughout the pandemic, how could I let this happen to him? How could I let him lay on the floor, in his own mess, bleeding out, for 2-3 days? He didn’t deserve to die that way. He has two daughters and two granddaughters that love him … how could we let this happen to him? Bear and I were planning on moving closer to him so we could care for him more. What’s my plan now? Wait for the post mortem, attend yet another funeral, and then what?
I don’t know what to do, or how to deal with how I’m feeling. I can’t cope with it. I’ve experienced a lot of death – friends, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-uncles, countless other distant family members, but this? I don’t know what this feeling is. It’s too much. I’ve made endless cups of tea, smoked a bunch of cigarettes, smoked a couple of joints, did some knitting, tried to do some work and failed, tapped out a blog post, did a spot of yoga … nothing is working. It’s there, that mental image of him on the floor, and I can’t get rid of it. I think it’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life.
Check in with your parents or grandparents tonight, peeps.
You‘re gonna kick the absolute shit outta yourself if you don’t and something goes wrong.