Friday, 6 January 2012

An ode to my hero, my grandfather

This is a post I've tried so many times to write and given up, not because I don't want to write it but finding the words to eloquently describe how I feel is a challenge. The subject is so personal, I'm not used to writing about something that matters to me so much.

My grampa passed away on August 20th, a date I know I will never forget for the rest of my life. I remember stirring from sleep and hearing the phone ring downstairs, it was about 8.30am on a Saturday. Something in my head clicked and I knew that I had to look at my mobile, missed calls from my Mum. I listened to her voice mail message and immediately knew what happened, her voice as she answered her phone confirmed my worst fears.

That moment felt suspended in time, like an out of body experience. My heart felt like it had been smashed to a million pieces, and even now I think it will always miss one piece.

My grampa was and will always be a true love in my life, unconditional. I was extremely fortunate to have a very close relationship with him, he raised me when there was no father figure in my life and I never, ever felt anything was missing.

My family has always been small, my nana, grampa, Mum, Uncle and I were a small unit for as long as I can remember. My grandparents were my extended parents from when I was two years old, they took me on day trips, helped me to read, write, talk and encouraged me to be creative and ambitious.

My grampa in particular was my hero, he was softly spoken, extremely playful and fun and from a young age I knew that he was well liked by everyone he ever met. His kindness is something that still staggers me, he lived his life without hate and prejudice and I only wish that more people in this world had his temperament.

Many of my childhood memories consist of him, me and the neighbour's dog going on 'epic' adventures, it didn't matter where we ended up it was such an experience just getting there. I remember him once having to carry the dog for four miles after one of our adventures when one of his 'alternative routes' went a bit wrong.

In his later years my grampa started to get ill, he suffered a stroke and his behaviour began to change. He was diagnosed with dementia and slowly but surely things began to change, the man I remember being big, strong and capable was weaker and vunerable. His mind was slowly deteriating, he began to forget things, repeat himself and become confused. Seeing this was one of the hardest things I feel I have ever gone through, wishing above all else that you could do anything to stop it but we couldn't, none of us.

My nana and Mum became his carers, and their lives along with his own were dramatically altered. He had other health problems and had a pace maker fitted to help regulate his heart. He was weaker, but in admist the constraints of dementia there would be flashes of his true personality and I cherished those moments.

The week before he died I saw him on the Sunday, by this point he didn't remember who I was - something that was extremely hard to comprehend - but I always went to see him when I could. I took his hands in mine and told him that I loved him and he said it back, the week following I had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I dreaded the day that he could no longer live at home, and knew that time was fast approaching.

The over riding feeling of his death was utter sadness, flashes of anger that his body gave up on him and a feeling of relief, that no longer his mind could be cruel to him - he wasn't a prisoner of an incurable problem any more.

Grief is something that everyone will experience in their lifetime and I urge you to embrace it, don't bottle your emotions up, talk to people, remember the person - good and bad, look at photographs, videos and try above all to celebrate their lives.

There is not a day that goes past where I don't think of him and above the sadness I think back and smile, knowing that he has shaped the person I am today and for that I extremely grateful and proud.

To my Grampa, Morton Hugh Jenkins.