Friday, April 24, 2009

April Showers

It hasn't rained much this year, except for last weekend when I was out playing golf but as usual April seems to have been a pretty shitty month.

We don't really like April in my family. A lot of family members died in April including three of my four Grandparents. The fourth died the first week in May.

It's been 5 years since my Grandad on my Mum's side died. He was the one I was closest too and, if you believe most of the family, the one I take after most. His death hit me really hard, and still does sometimes. I was shocked by how much I missed him. It's true that you don't realise what you've got till it's gone.

He was in hospital for a few weeks before he died and my brother and I had been there every day, including many over night shifts so it wasn't completely unexpected but it was still a shock. I remember a few days before he died, the day before his 80th birthday, my Gran appeared in my dream. There were times when my Grandad asked where she was during his hospital stay, he'd forgotten that she'd died 11 years earlier. When I asked her what she wanted, she told me she had come for my Grandad. I don't really believe in all that hocus pocus but it was a strange all the same.

The night before he died, I went home, exhausted. I'd been there for almost two days straight and needed some rest. Later that night I got a phone call saying his body had started to shut down and it was only a matter of time. I was torn about whether to go back to the hospital, or wait until morning. Knowing there was nothing I could do, I decided to stay home and I remember lying in bed watching Finding Nemo for the first time through the barrage of tears.

The following morning I called the hospital and he was still hanging on so I left home to make my way there. During the 20 minute journey he finally passed away. I didn't feel guilty for not being there at that exact moment. I was there the last time he was awake and talking and we all got to say our goodbyes. My brother's wife was pregnant at the time due to give birth the following week and my Grandad told us to say hello to the new baby. He went on to list all the family by name and then he went to sleep.

We used to talk on the phone every weekend and discuss the football. He was a City fan, I'm a United fan so we used to tease each other whenever the others team didn't win but it was all good fun. When we first moved to Houston in 1996, before we had the internet, he used to send over the match reports from the newspaper. We'd still talk on the phone too but it touched me that he went to the trouble of sending over the match reports.

When he died, I was a little mischievous with the flowers my brother and I got for the funeral. Being a City fan we thought it appropriate, for this one time only, to get him some blue flowers. I think he would've appreciated that, and he probably would've allowed himself a wry smile when he saw that we'd stuck two red flowers in the middle, one each for me and my brother representing our United allegiance.

I remember the funeral well. It's funny how certain things stick in your mind, like how the smell of Lillis always reminds me of death. I only used to smell them in funeral homes so that's what I associated them with. At the service, someone had suggested that my brother and I do a reading in the church but I knew that I wouldn't be able to hold it together enough in front of everyone so I declined, but my brother went up and did the job. However, when the time for the reading came, the Priest read out both of our names and I got a few awkward glances when I refused to approach the altar. A couple of people mentioned it afterwards and I felt bad. That little misunderstanding just about ruined the whole day for me!

Seriously though, 5 years on, the pain gets easier, but I still find myself talking to him, mostly in my head so he doesn't reply, but he always was a man of few words.

It was around the time he was in hospital that there was a leak in my bathroom and my house flooded. The combination of those events led to me moving to Houston a year later.

My only regret is that he never got to meet my Wife. He used to casually ask me about my love life and when I was thinking about getting married, I remembered his endorsement to settling down. "It's not a bad life", he said in his usual understated manner. I think he would've approved.

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