Kenny Chesney’s 1995 song ‘Grandpa Told Me So’ has been playing a lot in my car in recent weeks.
What you are about to read is not the sort of topic I normally cover in my blog: I don’t normally post such intimate details of what’s happening within my family. To my mind, it’s private and none of your business.
But today I am making an exception, because the loss of a loved one is something everyone can relate to and I wanted some way of recording what Grandad meant to me.
Although I never specifically explained the reason for doing so on air, the radio show that I dedicated to Grandad on 4th April this year was presented in his memory, following the news that he had passed away earlier that day.
There is one reason that this song is high up on my playlist at the moment – the third verse is particularly poignant:
I promised him I wouldn’t cry when it was his time to leave
That’s the only promise I made him I couldn’t keep
He smiled from his bed and said “We’ll meet again
Somewhere down the road”
And I believed, ’cause Grandpa told me so.
That verse sums up perfectly the final time Dad and I saw him before he left us. He didn’t actually say “We’ll meet again”. He slept the whole time we were there. But we played that well known Vera Lynn song to him.
I bring this topic up now because his funeral took place yesterday in Greenwich in South East London, near where he lived and where Dad’s sisters still live.
It was a day of meeting distantly related members of the family who I have not seen in years; a day of remembering and reminiscing.
It has been 17 years since Grandpa (my grandfather on Mum’s side of the family) died. I was just 6 then and don’t really remember him too well.
This makes Grandad’s passing difficult. I’ve not had the experience of (and not had to deal with) the death of such a close family member since 1999.
It means a certain “chapter” of my family is coming to an end, and I don’t like that.
Having lived a minimum 2 hour drive from him all my life, my memories of Grandad aren’t of the everyday things like being picked up from school, or going to see him every weekend…
My memories are instead of the many Christmasses or New Year’s Eves we spent in Blackheath (Welling in more recent years), or of the times he and Grandma made the trip down to Gloucestershire back when they could drive… or of the night before our annual family holiday, when we’d stay at his house and make our way to Gatwick from there (once or twice in the London cab he used to own: I remember that well too).
I used to go down the corner shop with him some mornings, to get bread, milk, eggs, bacon, and the Sunday paper. That was the basic shopping list: add to and subtract from that as necessary.
I’ve stayed with him quite a lot in the past couple of years: in the Autumn of 2014 when I was on 4 weeks work experience at Radio 2 in Central London, I stayed with Grandma and Grandad and cooked for them every weekend (Fri, Sat and Sun nights) for those 4 weeks. That was just before Grandma went in to the care home.
In the last year, since I got my car, I’ve driven up to London roughtly once a month or so, combining my activities in the Capital with staying at Grandad’s or visiting him in hospital… and using his driveway while I pop in to Central London for some reason or another (I’ll have to find somewhere else to park now, damn it).
It felt very strange staying at Grandad’s bungalow last night, knowing he won’t be coming back. I still half expected to turn round and see him sitting on the sofa. In my head I could hear him saying “Right, I’m going to bed”.
While sad that Grandad is no longer with us, I am pleased that Dad and I had our chance to say goodbye to him. For 3 of the last 4 weekends that he was alive, I saw him.
I am glad that when I broke down in my car back in March I chose to continue my journey in to London and not to return to Gloucestershire with the tow-truck.
My visit to see Grandad at the hospital in Woolwich that weekend – when I showed him all my photos from my recent trip to Freiburg in Germany and told him of my upcoming German radio broadcast – was the last time we were able to have a proper conversation with each other.
Life must move on for the rest of us, but I shall look back fondly on the last 23 and a bit years with Grandad. I’ve got a photo of him with one of his London cabs printed out and sitting on the end of my desk at work now, in prime position next to my calendar.
I’m back in the office tomorrow after 2 days off. Then tomorrow evening we’re all going back to London! My Christmas present to Mum, Dad and Corrie was tickets to see Bryan Adams at the O2 Arena. So we’ll be back in the bungalow for one last time then.
I shall end tonight with this piece of music which, having held it together quite well throughout the funeral yesterday, set me off at the end when the organist played it as the closing piece of music. I could just hear him singing it!
I’m going to bed.