I didn't say anything at the time because I literally couldn't even think about it and there was nothing I could do anyway, but the day before I flew out to Houston, the 26th September, my lovely Grandpa died, age 82 peacefully surrounded by Granny and his five children. He had been poorly for a while and although because he lived in Surrey (I sadly hadn't seen much of him lately) we had a really nice catch up in August while on holiday in Cornwall, if you managed to read my other blog Praa Sands you will see it wasn't an easy trip for me but I'm so glad I went. It was really sweet actually because Archie who normally is bombing about being noisy insisted on sitting very quietly next to Grandpa and rubbed his back the whole time through lunch. Apart from the normal "keep the noise down" I didn't tell Archie that Grandpa was poorly but children are strange, I think they have a sixth sense and like they are brutally honest, they know good people from bad they can tell if someone isn't 100% too. I am really grateful for that day.
For those of you that don't know, me and my brother are in a way adopted, now I don't mean we were left at an orphanage or that we don't know who our birth parents are, we do and we are very close to both sides of our biological family BUT we have two mothers. When our Mam and Dad got divorced in the late 80s unlike most children who normally hold out hope that their parents will get back together, personally I can honestly say for me the thought never crossed my mind once and maybe like Archie as a child my sixth sense knew this was the best situation for all of us. Once the dust settled we were always pestering our Dad if "he had a Girlfriend" for a long time he would say no until one day he said... "Maybe". That very same day (a cold windy Sunday) we met Caroline on Tynemouth Pier, I instantly liked her and knew she was a "nice" lady after she helped to pry a cherry push pop out of my hair that the wind had blown in and then tie it into a ponytail...single Dads are limited on hairstyles. I don't think though any of us expected or knew the unique relationship we would all form and that from that day on she would forever be our future Mother and Guardian.
Now although Caroline had never been married before and lucky for us had never had any children of her own she naturally had her own family and a large one at that. The lines are blurry here on time for me but at some point my Dad and Caroline must have decided it was "serious" between them and it was now time to meet her family in Surrey. So we drove the six hours to meet Granny and Grandpa and stay at their house, at first we called them by their names Josephine and Peter but it didn't feel right I think for any of us and soon they insisted we call them Granny and Grandpa ...Surrey because well you can guess. Now this brings me onto my Grandpa who I also loved the first time I met him, the thing I remember most on that first meeting and the thing I loved about his face were his eyes, he had the sparklest eyes which crinkled at the sides when he smiled and laughed...which he did often in a Santa Claus fashion. Now that I am no longer a child I can appreciate it might not have been easy for him to give his first born and daughter his blessing, to her 6ft 8in Divorcee Fisherman boyfriend and his two children in toe. If it was though we certainly knew nothing of it, he welcomed us with open arms, like it was nothing and that was it we were part of the family.
As an eight year old girl from North Shields coming to their home which has a swimming pool and tennis court it was literally like entering a new world but again straight away we were made to feel at home and would soon be visiting for weeks every Easter, Summer and Christmas, Grandpa would always take a keen interest in what we had been up to. This was one of his amazing quality's, he took genuine interest in everyone he met and somehow always made you feel important or special. I am not alone in this opinion either, I know he loved my Dad and that was massively reciprocated but also the first time he met the husband Chris, a polite hand shake would do for some but when it was time for supper we had to practically tear them apart between in depth talks of Chris' family, work and rugby. One of the things that impressed me most about Grandpa though was he had the most amazing memory I have ever witnessed, not just for facts or details which is probably why he could make you feel special as he remembered everything you told him but also before AA route planner existed he could get you to from Lands end to John o Groats without barley looking at a map!
William Ross Wallace said, “Every man dies - Not every man really lives" but this was of no concern to Grandpa having a loving marriage of 58years to Granny, they have five children, 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren so far. He was intelligent beyond what is natural and had a very successful career being the Chairman of Moran Tea and travelled often to India where the tea was produced, he was also Master of the Merchant Tailors twice and Trustee of all sorts of things. He was also at one point in line to be the Lord Mayor of London but sadly became ill with malaria (contracted on a business trip) and wasn't well enough to take the post. One of my favourite memory's though on my first ever visit to London was to watch him travel in the gold gilded open carriage one year with his robes and cap on, with the Lord Mayor on the annual Parade...I seriously thought and asked Caroline "If he was the King?"...mind for sometime I also thought Granny was secretly the Queen too. Despite his success though he was incredibly down to earth, I remember the day he told me that "He did NOT like my nail varnish because only extremely rich people wore it in India and he didn't like that it was classed as snobby", he is also the only person I know who would rub his hands in glee at being able to rescue and re-use an envelope, he saved every elastic band he ever came across and I once saw him cut about 4inchs of mould off a piece of cheese and eat the "clean" bit. His love of food was also notorious as was my Granny's losing battle to help him eat better, he adored everything but particularly wine, cheese and desserts, and they would have amazing Dinner Party's, he also loved it when we would visit as it was the only time he was able to indulge in another favourite, baked beans! I still laugh about one particular visit when I explained to Grandpa I was learning German at school "Yes Darling?" he said and I told him that Grandpa in German was pronounced "Gross Farter" which he nearly choked at laughing and thought was brilliant. Although thankfully he recovered well from Malaria it would not be his only "encounter" with nature, I remember him once showing me his arm which looked like it had purple roots growing all the way up it, he had in fact managed to swim straight into the very rare and poisonous Portuguese Man of War Jelly Fish on holiday but lived to tell the tail, I also remember a Wasp nest making the big mistake of setting up home on the side of his house, even though it was no real trouble to anyone Grandpa insisted on getting a ladder, climbing 12ft up in the pitch black (apparently they are asleep at night) and spraying the nest....you can guess obviously they were not asleep at all and he got stung several times, then fell off the ladder on his hasty retreat.
As you can see he really was an incredible man who lived an incredible life and I am so sad that I couldn't be at his funeral as I'm sure I would have learnt some more amazing facts about him, these are just my memory's. I am assured though it was a packed epic send off and importantly a party which he would have loved. Doing this little memoir I am struck by two things, the first one is that I am so glad that I knew him and that he "adopted" us, the second is that I really wish I had told him so. I will leave with one of my all time favourite quotes and something that couldn't be more true.
" How lucky am I to have something, that makes saying
goodbye so very hard"
Goodbye Grandpa Surrey.