The last time we said goodbye, I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know you would die soon, I didn’t really comprehend what death was, all I knew was I was giving my Grandad Pops a hug goodbye before travelling back home in a gruelling three-hour car journey.
That day, I didn’t realise how lucky I was to see you. Looking back, it’s a shame at how unremarkable it was. We arrived after travelling in the car, no doubt me and my older brother bickering to pass the time and occasionally silenced by dad’s angry glare in the rearview mirror. Mum would ask us what we thought was going to be for dinner and we could always guarantee a roast with boiled mint potatoes, peas and an assortment of dishes kept warm in ceramic pots as the plates were heated in the oven (“be careful, they’ll burn you if you touch them”). When we arrived there was always the proverbial kiss from Mama, and a hug from Pops, and even then that hug was short, quick, and efficient. In and out, true to the military days of when you were younger.
The rest of the day was as I always expected. The catch-up on school (“what’s 7 times 5 times 3″ – testing my “mental numeracy” as you would call it), being told how much I had grown, my parents recounting stories of all the times I was the devil incarnate; all the time you simply sat in your chair and listened. Even as the family competed to have themselves heard, shouting down your eardrums because you were a “little” deaf, you were stoic in that chair, listening (or not listening) with the occasional grunt. You weren’t a man of many words, and while I certainly sometimes quaked in my boots from fear of disappointing you, there are memories I’ll treasure fondly.
There’s the time when you tried to win a race on my PSP, playing as Crash Bandicoot in Crash Tag Team Racing, falling epically behind before pausing the game and passing it on to me to win. I remember walking my aunt’s and uncle’s dog with you and feeling the blood circulation to my feet cut off when you tied the shoelaces a bit too tightly. I remember turning for help while trying to solve Sudoku puzzles. Yet the simplest and best memory was always sitting by your feet watching gameshows like Deal or No Deal or even Strictly Come Dancing. It was the only time I ever really watched TV that wasn’t films or children’s cartoons – a legacy Mama still continues you’ll be glad to know, although now it’s Tipping Point, The Chase, and Pointless.
So our relatively simple day came to an end, and as always I gave you a hug goodbye and headed home with the family. There was nothing more than that because as I said, I just didn’t comprehend that this could and would be the last time I said goodbye.
You died of Septicaemia. Mum came in one night and told me you had a month to live… you would actually die a couple of hours later. Any chance of an in-person goodbye was starved from me and so that night I laid in bed and I spoke to you, a bit like I am now. I don’t know whether you can hear, but that doesn’t matter. I never got to say a proper goodbye, but I never thought I needed one because I still talk to you as if you were here right now.