This has been a pretty shit week. This week of the year usually is, because I’m sat here in England thinking ‘this time x years ago I arrived in California’. I miss California a lot in Septembers, as the weather here really begins to get grey and grim. Sometimes I can taste the CPK barbecue chicken pizza if I think about it.
I think about how easy it was, how I just sat around drinking Frappucinos, renting videos and doing as little work as possible. Most of all, I climbed out the big hole there, because it’s hard (though certainly not impossible) to be awfully sad when the sun is shining and the only thing you have to do is mosey on over to a class that consists solely of watching music videos.
I’ve also come to realise that, as much as I pretend otherwise, I’m not over my granddad. Not remotely so.
I find the nature and stages of grief quite fascinating. I’m no psychologist, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.
When the dude got sick the first time, nearly a year ago now, I remember thinking how fantastically novel it was to have the home to myself. Like a teenager left home alone for a weekend for the first time – sitting in the cool chair, having control of the remote control, having dinner whenever I bloody well felt like it, going to bed whenever I felt like it… you know the drill, you’ve most all of you been there.
Of course, it wasn’t quite like that, because every night after work I went to UCH to see my granddad. I didn’t stay up all that late because I could almost hear him scolding me if it got past one am… I didn’t leave mess everywhere because I never knew precisely when he was coming home… But it was somehow novel just the same.
When he was here after that, it was like before, but with a bit more help and not quite so much fun. When he got ill the second time, the novelty was gone. I suppose I knew, no matter how I argued, that he would not be coming home. I kept everything pretty well clean and tidy just in case, and so that I could be telling the truth when I told him I was keeping it all nice.
Even though I was here alone from the end of February, it didn’t feel like it because I was going to see him at the hospital each night, then every other day or so at the hospice. That went on until the end of April… and then he died. I can still hear the rattle if I think about it, but I try not to.
Then he died, and for weeks, I wasn’t left alone. Seriously man, there was always someone here, and it drove me crazy. There was the hassle of getting the succession, then of decorating, then of moving bits of furniture and stuff. I seem to recall May vaguely, and I remember not having very much rest in June – between the Isle of Wight festival and Glastonbury I had no rest. I don’t think I had a decent sleep until August… just in time to have what I can only describe as a manic episode followed by a crushing low that saw me accidentally accuse my best friends of abandoning me.
Now in September, here I am on my own. I’ve observed that my evenings are very different now. I find myself at a loose end from about six to half seven/eight, because these were the times I always spent with Granddad. Dinnertime, movie/tv, random and very funny conversations. Even when he was very sick, he didn’t go to bed until about eight. Early evenings were ours. These days, I don’t feel right until The Daily Show comes on at half past eight. After that I can always find things to do, but for those first few hours, I seem to just faff. I don’t do anything. I eat whatever passes for dinner, maybe watch some of a DVD… but mostly I don’t seem to actually do anything. I feel like I should be doing something with the time, but I rarely do.
Everything gets messier, too, and I wish it didn’t really, because I did tell him I’d keep everything tidy. There’s no chance of him returning, so I don’t tidy as much or as well as I should. My heart isn’t in it.
He still gets mail, all of it junk. I don’t pick it up off the mat immediately. It stays there for a few days until I finally get bored and pick it up – it’s always for ridiculous health nonsense and goes straight in the recycling. I don’t know why I don’t just dispose of it immediately.
Tonight, it came to something of a head for me. I invoked him as an excuse in the long running God Vs. No God argument, and I don’t take it back – I believe in Heaven and I won’t stop because I need to believe that I’m going to see him again. I’d give up Led Zeppelin tickets to see him again, well and happy and the rest, you know? Even if I read all the science, even if the rational part of my brain truly gave up the concept of a creator/designer/God/Benevolent Old Man/Alanis In Silver… the rest of me couldn’t, not now. Right now, as I sit here, the hope of seeing my granddad grin his cheeky grin at me is what stops me from just curling up in a ball on the floor. I don’t think I told anyone that before, not out loud, like.
Then, I got on the Northern Line home. Why? Because I didn’t want to walk past UCH to get to the station for the other line. It took longer to get there, I had to change and I had a longer walk, but I didn’t want to walk past UCH. Last time, I could practically feel the black cloud stalking me. No, far better that I got the Nothern Line. Of course, the walk from the station to home is absolutely filled with things forgotten or past between me and him, so that was just as bad… but that awful hospital gives me the freakydinks. I can walk past it of a morning to get to work, because I did that journey before, during and after the worst of it… but to walk past the front doors and even get an inkling of the stuffy, heavy air inside that place….. no thanks.
I did say it wasn’t really rational, didn’t I?
My Great-Uncle Fred is picking up my Granddad’s chair tomorrow. It’s an electric recliner that goes up as well, so you don’t have to bend/crouch/strain to get in and out of the chair. I only like it cos I’m lazy, and he really will get excellent use from it. I give it up gladly… except that it’s yet another thing of my Granddad’s to leave here. One day there won’t be anything of him here, except me. After that… he may as well never have been here.
I don’t want to make this place some ridiculous shrine to my Granddad. That’s why I redecorated the big bedroom so differently… but I don’t want to remove all trace.
It took me months, not weeks, months to take his stuff out of the bathroom cabinet. There’s a box in the cupboard of really random things that serve no purpose but were his. I have his telephone list by the phone even though some of the numbers are now out of date and the rest I’ll never need.
When he was ill, he was here at least. When he was in hospital and the hospice, I could at least go and see him. When he was newly-deceased, I was made busy with things. Now I’m just sat here.
Me and my dad have an arrangement joke-wise. I ask him if he’s all right, and he’ll answer for my Granddad: “No, I’m half left.” He’ll ask me how I feel, and I’ll answer for Granddad: “With my hands.” These are not the greatest jokes in the world, but they’ve been handed down through generations of smartarse Worleys. But no one is ever going to scold me again for asking for a ‘bit’ of water when I should ask for a ‘drop’ – water doesn’t come in bits. Nobody is going to shout at me if I’m still on the computer at 3 in the morning – none of that “You should be in bed, Miss Worley” stuff. He always managed to sound firm without being angry, too. Bemused, maybe.
If I’d known this was the cost of getting free reign over the remote control, I’d have stuck with suffering through Poirot and Miss Marple, Columbo and Walker, Texas Ranger a million times.
I can’t stress to you how good my granddad was. I don’t mean to say he was perfect, but this was a good man. He didn’t complain unless forced – even in agony he didn’t. He just tried to make people laugh, you know?
I know everyone loses their grandparents, and I know that’s the way it’s meant to be. But he wasn’t just my granddad, he was my flatmate and my friend, and nobody apparently expected us to get on as well as we did when I moved in. I supposed they assumed I’d be too noisy and too messy, and he’d be too set in his ways. Well, you’d be amazed how tidy I managed to be, and you’d be amazed how flexible he was about mess – as long as it stayed in my room.
Some people thought also that I might feel constricted living with an old man. Well no, it was a privilege and an honour and most of all, a bloody good laugh. It was impossible to feel lonely with him a room or two away, even when he was feeling shite.
It’s not to say I’m constantly unhappy now, nor that I find being here at home intolerable – not at all. But this evening, I found myself not wanting to rush home, and not just because I had cleaning to do. I always have the TV or the CD player on or something, partly because that’s my way, but partly because I don’t think I could stand the silence otherwise. It reminds me of the mornings I’d wake up and listen, quietly terrified, until I heard him coughing or moving around. I woke up very early one morning without realising, and couldn’t hear him. It was just quiet, and I lay very still, wondering if his heart had stopped in the night. That’s not what our destiny turned out to be, but it felt like my heart stopped until I heard him cough. Now, it’s quiet unless I manufacture some noise myself.
I wouldn’t even say I’m lonely, necessarily, but I wish he were here. I would just….. At the moment, the hope of seeing him again, and without age or pain or sorrow tangled up in it, that hope… it’s one of only a few things standing between me and the deep end of the dark ocean.
That, and M*A*S*H, obviously.