Last night my Grandad came to see me and it was wonderful. We laughed, we talked, we held hands and he was truly with me. I woke with a smile today, feeling like his arms were around me.
It is nearly a year since we said ‘Goodbye’ and the last thing that I did with my wonderful Grandad was dance. After a perfect yet upsetting week of preparing to say goodbye we visited Grandad for what was to be our final time. His two girls. Kelly and I; the apples of his eye. We played Frank Sinatra and despite his pain, lack of energy and lull of sleep – he danced. He shrugged his shoulders and swaggered in his true John style. After a day of little response and the impending signals that he would soon be leaving us, he waved for Kelly and I to stand up. He took our hands and we danced. He twirled us, he laughed; we laughed. He danced. The soft, dulcet tones of Frank washed over us. In that moment he was very much alive; his eyes glimmered and the memories of our times together made us all happy. Despite having cried every day for a week, that day I left a little more content, yet with the lurching feeling that that was our very last dance. And it was.
Grandad died the next day. Saturday 25th March 2017. I can hardly believe that it has been a year and I still cannot truly believed that he has gone.
I can remember friends losing grandparents when I was at school. I can remember crying even thinking about losing any of mine. And there I was age 37 with all four grandparents. So lucky. Everyone loves their grandparents. As children they spoil you rotten, but the thing that I am most grateful for is that I have got to know them as an adult. My Grandad loved me as much as I loved him. Over the years we spent many special times together, just the two of us. He regularly would visit me at home, usually rocking up at some unearthly hour on a Saturday laughing that I was still in bed. No matter how many times I told him, he never fully grasped that I didn’t get up early at weekends! He was the same with Mum and Kelly. If we didn’t answer our phones he would panic and go into meltdown, ringing around the family. To be met by the same response, “Grandad it’s 10am… she’s probably in bed!” God I wish he would ring me up and wake me up again! (Although these days 7am is a lie in !) We had days out together, walks in the park, trips to the pub and the infamous picnic on top of a tree when we were kids. We loved spending time with him as kids, but as an adult I enjoyed it even more. We talked for hours and I knew lots about him and his life and he knew lots about me. When I used to perform in a singing act, he would come to every gig, He was our regular little ‘groupie’ and I can remember the pride on his face every time he came. He loved whenever we went to the Black Swan with him for Karaoke and I will never forget him singing at my 30th and bringing the house down at the end of my wedding.
Emilie loved him too. The day that I told him I was pregnant, he was so happy and when he found out she was a girl he cried with happiness. I am so happy that she knew him, even if it was for a short time. He would arrive at my house in Wallasey after taking three buses to come and visit me and the baby. He bought her several outfits and they were always age 2 and they looked gigantic. She has only just fit into some of them now! He would also always arrive with a pie and an egg custard… every time without fail. The day that Grandma and Grandad both met Emilie for the first time will be forever edged in my memory. The simultaneous joy and tears and seeing them hold their great granddaughter was so special.
That last week leading up to his death was both heartbreaking and wonderful in equal measure. As a family we spent hours together, rallying and being strong for each other. I was helping to chaperone at the school play when I got the dreaded call. The call to say that we needed to get to the hospital ASAP. I abandoned everything and raced back to Warrington. Grandad was unresponsive and had been for much of the day. As the first relatives to arrive, Kelly and I were taken into the dreaded ‘side room’. You see it on TV and there we were in the little room being told that there was no longer anything that they could do for Grandad and that they were going to stop treatment. How could it be true? Grandad had been such a fighter. Fighting for 12 years he had battled prostrate cancer, but he had been deteriorating now for a long time and the truth was hard to face. We were going to lose him. I was going to lose him.
We didn’t think he would make it through the night. We all sat with him until the very early hours. I was convinced I would never hear him laugh again and that I would not be able to truly say goodbye. Mum and Uncle Steve stayed with him over night and amazingly he made it through the night. Kelly and I took over the next morning and he was still unresponsive. We sat by his bed and chatted and somehow he came back to us. He woke, he smiled and he knew we were there. That day the mircle i’d prayed for came true. I got to talk and laugh and sing with him again. We played Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole to him and he sung and swayed along to the music. He told us he loved us and we knew he knew he’d be leaving us. Grandad has been a karaoke king for years, famous for crooning in his local pub, it was only fitting that he should sing in his final days. The nurses on the ward regularly had a sing song with him and so those last few days were days of joyful sadness.
I have never watched someone die and so it was such a blind journey. Never knowing what to expect. Hoping for the best, but expecting the expected. Willing him to stay whilst willing him to go. Desperately wanting him to fight, yet hating seeing the pain and discomfort that the fight was giving him. He rallied for us and I am convinced that had we not been there, he would have died on the Monday. Instead we gained five extra days with him. In that time we ate jelly and ice cream, sang more songs, chatted and laughed and enjoyed the time together. Somehow being locked in that little bubble was an escape from reality and we were all there together as a family and all we had to think about was our love for Grandad.
One night we were almost evicted for causing a disturbance on the ward. Grandad was becoming a little agitated and was imagining things. As we sat adorning his bedside he was convinced that we were in some sort of army truck that had crashed and we needed to evacuate. We all became embroiled in the drama, acting out his instructions to abandon the vehicle! The next day, again becoming more agitated, Grandad had to be restrained by a male nurse. We were called in very early. Grandad was pumped up and very pleased with himself as he told us that he had been fighting. He gleefully told us that he had fought them off with his bare feet and his eyes lit up as he chuckled to himself saying, “One thing is for sure; it’s bound to be in the papers… as I was fighting in the nude!” and the nurse confirmed he was! With us there, he soon calmed down and he then slept happily knowing that he still ‘had it’.
Later that day, still revelling from his ‘fight’ Grandad almost seemed to fully come back to us. The previous few days he had been very weak, yet here he was regaling us with stories. We listened to him for hours. Mum, Kelly, Adam and myself as he reminisced about his whole life. We all held hands and walked down Memory Lane together as we each recounted our special memories with Grandad. He could remember everything we had done together and I will cherish that day for the rest of my life. He took us through his childhood and youth, through the dance halls of courtship to our days out as Grandkids. Mum and him talked for hours about their pets, houses, holidays and their family with Grandma and Steve.
Sadly, the next day he was much more agitated needing more sedation and so he slowly began to slip away from us again. Yet in true Grandad style he saved time for one last dance with his special girls. My Grandad was renowned for his dancing and everywhere he went he always had a good looking lady ready to dance with him and so it was only fitting that we had one last dance before we said the last goodbye.
I am sure that he is still dancing.