Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Falling Asleep of Grandpa George

No, this is not about Grandpa George Bucket, Grandfather of Charlie Bucket*, but about my Maternal Grandfather who passed away after breakfast (although I think he slept through breakfast to be honest) this morning, 15th March 2013.

Today was also the third anniversary of my father's funeral. And the week of the first year's mind of my friend Jackie's passing. So all-in-all a bit of a sad day you might say.

This morning started all weird. In fact the whole week has been weird emotionally. Last Friday (8th) was the third anniversary of Dad's death, but Sunday 10th was all about mothers being remembered for all the hard work they do for just keeping-it-all-together when the faecal matter hits the air circulating device... and for being - generally - jolly good eggs (and huggers). Mums really are quite ace. especially my Mum.

Anyway, back on point, this morning I woke up with an inkling that something somewhere was not right. But because I am mental I ignored the feeling. On our drive back to Mum's place we saw a funeral cortege waiting to make its way out into the traffic, both Mum and I silently taking stock of the "DAD" floral display in the hearse as we drove by and making our own silent prayers for the dear departed and their family and then, inevitably, pondering our own fathers. After we had passed by the hearse Mum proceeded to tell me the news that her own Dad had been taken into hospital last night after collapsing at the nursing home he was living in. His blood pressure had just crashed through the floor, and he was taken to hospital, still cracking jokes and being his usual crafty self.

It was a little bit later on, whilst I was in seeing my rheumatology consultant that Mum got the news that her father had actually passed away at 0940 this morning. She gave nothing away, and said nothing until after we had eaten lunch. Wise woman. I would not have been able to eat had she told me before.

My brain had already creaked into action as Mum was telling me all the news about Grandpa's collapse and we both knew that the weekend might bring some sad news. Neither of us were quite expecting it to be so soon.

Of course, my mind being the macabre and black (graveyard)-humoured place that it is, did grin inwardly at the thought of Grandpa passing away peacefully after breakfast - one NHS breakfast too far, I thought... Grandpa would have laughed, trust me.

I have so many emotions running through my being, for my Gradfather was a truly unique fellow. Definitely what you would call a "salt-of-the-earth" type (but more "sawlt-ov-the-erf" in 'is Cockney speech), Grandpa was always quick with a bit of lippy wit and unbidden 'advice'. He boxed at the legendary Repton Club in the East End, but didn't like the criminal crews that hung out there. He was, essentially, a thoroughly honest fellow. He worked hard for his family - just as well cos he and Nanny had ten kids!

And this is where my Mum and her nine younger siblings grew up, nice:

Rothschild Buildings, Whitechapel
pic: via googleimages

Despite his protestations to the contrary, he  had the vocabulary of as learned a fellow you ever could find, but he simply chose to punctuate it with the language of the barrack-room and everything was always more than just a 'thing', it was a "fuckin'fing" (one word).

Grandpa and I had a very interesting relationship. As a nipper he scared the crap out of my brother and I when we went to stay with him and Nanny in London, with his punchy humour and the baseball bat he always kept by his bed, and the cane that he would regularly threaten my brother with if he stepped out of line and of course all the swearing... It was deliciously exciting and deeply unnerving. We thoroughly loved him.

Then, a little over a year after my Grandmother, Rose, passed away I got a job in London and went to stay with Grandpa until I found an affordable flat. After ten years, and a minor stroke, Grandpa upped sticks and moved into a care home. During those ten years Grandpa and I talked about just about everything that there is to talk about, we argued, fought, hung out together, watched football world cups and rugby world cups and six nations together (the rugger-watching was at my behest - Grandpa was a big football follower, being a west Ham fan, unsurprisingly - and wasn't too keen on rugby at first), drank beer and played hundreds of Scrabble matches. I even managed to get grandpa to not annihilate the vegetables in the short time of two years... As a help to his eldest Grand-daughter, Grandpa would quite often "stick some grub on" for my return from work in the early days - what I was faced with was unfailingly inedible mush: Brussels sprouts and potatoes and cabbage that had all "been on a low light... since abaht free a-clock, gel". MmmmmmmmMMM, tasty.

After a couple of years Grandpa was quite happy for me to do more of the cooking (yay, blessed al-dente carrots!) and contented himself with winding me up by standing at my elbow and telling me I was doing "that" wrong - about evryfuckinfing...

Despite the incredibly frustrating (almost)daily kitchen-commentary and occasional row about that, Grandpa and I fell out most about only three things: 1) God; 2) Education; and 3) Fester and Septic

1) God: I have seen the prizes my Grandfather got (books and a bible or two) for his attending and singing in the choir at church as a wee'un, but it was WWII what finished off his belief in a God of love. He was posted in Italy towards the end of the war and his battalion happened to discover, and then were tasked with digging up and re-burying, mass-graves of thousands of bodies of children murdered by the Fascist regime of Mussolini and whoever else thought that children were good for so little that they deserved to die. It is sick. It is evil. But it is humans what do these things. I am sickened by what we humans do to one another but trying to explain just exactly why God cannot do some things despite His being omnipotent is not at all easy, or entirely satisfactory, because I can't always see the bigger picture; I can but hope and pray that some mote of the Truth took root deep within.  Grandpa and I would watch all the nature documentaries that we could (all in the days before recordable TV - and neither of us could be arsed with the video recorder) and it was then that God was always brought up - and only ever by Grandpa. He would say at the end, "if YOU want to try to talk to me about any type of a God, well -  it is there - in Nature". Beautiful. So absofrickinlootly true. And I would always reply, Amen, Grandpa!

2) Education: Grandpa was all for education. He was of a generation where most kids left school by the age of 14. Only posh kids in posh schools done exams... He had encyclopaedias, dictionaries and thesauruses in a small bookcase and if you asked him a question he would direct you to the books first. Not because he didn't know the answer, but because - whether he knew or understood it or not - he valued books, book learning and solid research. However we fell out about higher education, education for girls and education for me. My grandfather wondered what the use of educating me was given my "elf issues and disabili'ies" and the fact that I was a girl. Girls grow up, get married and have kids. Right? So the feminist in me raged at what I perceived to be active misogyny. With hindsight - and age - I realize that he was most definitely just a man with the cultural male-brain of an early 20th Century chap.  But he also could not get his head around the idea of studying something for the sheer pleasure - if there was no concrete purpose to some(f'n)thing it was all a waste of time. We agreed to disagree. And then argued about it again and again anyway.

3) Fester and Septic: This argument makes no sense if you have never had friends that make up ridiculous nicknames for one another (in fact it makes no sense. Period.), but in brief, I have a friend who received his monicker, Fester, partly in response to his quip about me being all 'septic' after getting an infection in hospital (and his kids thought it HIGHLY amusing to call me antiseptic (Auntie Septic), and partly because he looks kinda like uncle Fester (tee hee). Got that? Right, so then, back in the fabulous days looong before we all had mobile phones glued to our palms or computers in our homes and our own personal email address (and only had internet access at work), people used to write letters to one another.... well, my friend Fester and I would write with news periodically, but fester would insist upon writing "Septicus" as my name on the envelopes. This greatly irked Grandpa and eventually he started opening my mail and then decided that Fester was a truly vile person and behaved in an absolutely appalling way towards my friend and brother in Christ. I was incensed by the injustice of the opening-of-my-mail situation as well as Grandpa's sense of humour failrure about the nicknames in the first place, but both 'men' refused to back down and I was furious with both of them for being such stupid harrises. Of course, Fester still finds it highly amusing. See, boys never ever ever grow up!

Apart from the three main sticking points, Grandpa and I had a pretty decent friendship and I loved the days when my late Auntie Barbara and I took him out to the Museums or to watch the football; or just the days when we hung out at the weekends and had a few beers and put the world to rights (and had no rowing, just mutual distrust of the "useless mob up westminister"), or when my friends Matron and Boadicea would come, stay and wreak havoc and leave. At the end of every day Grandpa would say, "goodnight gel, see you in the mornin'".

Only this morning, he didn't get up. But at least he did manage to fall asleep last night,  unlike so many nights before.

Night night and God Bless you, Grandpa George.

* if you have no idea who, on God's green Erf, Charlie Bucket is, you will find him lurking in the pages of some Roald Dahl books... (and I will disown you)



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