This time last year I was struggling with the gut punch of the death of my first Grandad to die and honestly its still something that sucker punches me on a regular basis and takes the air from my lungs in a silent gasp of shock and pain (especially at this time of year and even more so in this current situation).
Now, its time to go through the same thing again with my other Grandad W - my Mum's father... its an upsettingly similar experience, he was dying from heart failure, his heart wasn’t strong enough anymore to keep his vital organs functioning the way they should. He slowly powered down and it was a very difficult process for everyone involved. Metaphorically, I'm not sure my heart is as strong anymore either - but unfortunately for both my Grandad's, their problem was literal.
This time last year I wouldn't have imagined writing a blog post for my other Grandad when he died, we didn't have the same relationship, in fact we don't really even know each other that well - but just as my Dad's father (Grandad M) made me the person I am today, so did my Mum's father (Grandad W).
I don't know much about my Grandad W. I know he was an engineer in the army, which I actually only found out recently now that I'm training to become an engineer too (though not the same type of engineer and definitely not in the army). I know that he was a formidable man, in fact when I was younger, I was quite scared of him - he had this bushy black beard and even though he wasn't tall - he seemed huge to me. He was loud, he was opinionated, he didn’t care what other people thought - he was so very different to how I was. He was my first experience of real violence - he got in a fight with my uncle when we stayed at their house, and ended up being thrown through a window. I heard it all from upstairs whilst my little sister (thankfully) slept and it was terrifying, I don't know how old I was, but I was already scared of him (and my uncle) and for a long time, that felt justified.
The softer sides of my Grandad I've only really experienced through other peoples relationships with him and through his gifts - which I actually really treasure(d) - he gave me a giant panda bear teddy that he named Fred who I used to have in my bed and cuddle up with. Fred got thrown out when my parents moved to their bungalow but I do have this wonderful photo of Harry lying on Fred which makes me happy. The other gift I have from him is a beautiful match stick jewelry box which he made himself (I think). I'm a sucker for handmade gifts, though I don't really know if others put the intent that I do into mine - but I liked the idea that maybe he did.
My Grandad W made my mother the woman she is today - she too is formidable because of him - though not violently. In fact my sister and all my aunts - my Mother's sisters - and their daughters too, share that aspect. They're headstrong, they're determined and they don't let anyone get in their way. (Since starting to write this, I’m slowly getting my head around the idea that I might be all those things too - imagine that.) My Grandad encouraged them to know things, how to change a plug for instance (my mother taught me too). He encouraged them to be vocal with their opinions (sorry about that Dad ha) and he supported them in who they became - he was a man who created strong women and for that I am grateful. If my Grandad M was a man of his time, my Grandad W was ahead of it!
In turn, my mother made me the person I am. His influence lingers. She talks of him often and her sadness fuels mine in her current situation. My empathy has no limits when it concerns my parents and sisters feeling - they hurt, I hurt - I'm struggling to figure where her pain ends and my begins. My cousin too who I am close to, has a much closer relationship with my Grandad W - and knowing shes hurting hurts me too. Our families may be separated, yet these ties, they don't really break, even if some wished they would.
Once again, I'm drawn to the comparison of my Grandad's - which when I think about it seems unfair - they were so different. They are so different. Yet they represent these very different sides of me, where I came from and ultimately who I am still becoming - and they will both linger, in different ways.
I don’t really know how to finish this - I’m still not 100% sure how I’m feeling… there is sadness and regret, in the way things turned out even though I couldn’t have changed much. There’s sadness at the loss of someone who meant so much to my family and there’s sadness for the relationship that I guess we never had. I think that mostly though I’ve realised I was genuinely fond of him - in spite of the lack of relationship, in spite of myself I guess haha and definitely in spite of him. I am truly sad to say hes gone.
Rest in peace Grandad - its definitely going to be a lot duller and quieter here without you (even with everyone you’ve left behind ha!) And thank you for my Mum - she is the best and a lot of that is because of you.