Sam, my Grandad, passed away on Saturday. For the past few months, my family has been going through the raw, uncomfortable process of losing an important person. Grandad was witty, clever and always supportive. His steady presence was accompanied by a love of history, languages, golf and West Bromwich Albion F.C.
I miss – and will continue to miss – his stories. In April 2013, we stayed with relatives in Mumbles, a village at the far end of Swansea Bay that leads to the Gower Peninsula. I’ve written briefly about this place as home before. On this visit, like many previously, we walked around Oystermouth Castle. As my cousins played on a tire swing and Nanny looked across the bay, Grandad and I ventured through the trees. He gestured to the house where he and my great grandparents had lived in the 1950s, enthusiastically describing how he grew from a teen into a cheeky young man with a motorcycle. Before this he had lived in Ethiopia and afterwards he moved to Birmingham. In the early 1980s, his young family moved back to the Gower, where my Mum later met my Dad, an Oceanography student from Kent.
Every so often, during a family dinner or afternoon together, he would retell another story. When I was a toddler, he had the task of driving me back from my grandparents’ house to ours, two villages away. The one requisite of the journey was that I must not fall asleep because it could mess up my routine (I still love a solid sleeping pattern). To prevent an early slumber, Grandad devised a game. He tried to keep me awake by naming all of the pubs we passed on the way and asking me to look out for others. We passed one, then another, then two more in quick succession.
‘Here’s The Lamb. Do you like lambs, Molly?’
When I stopped responding, he assumed I had fallen asleep. As he pulled into our road and stopped the car, prepared to carry a dozing little girl up to bed, he heard a faint voice pipe up.
‘I know a good name for a pub, Grandad. The Roast Potatoes.’
I will remember his laugh as he finished that tale. His ability to make others smile. The times he let my sister and I tie his feet together with skipping ropes while he pretended to nap (and sometimes actually fell asleep). The affectionate way he looked at his wife, our Nanny.
When I saw him last week, settled in a lovely hospice room overlooking a garden, traces of his wonderful traits remained. As I told him about a budgeting spreadsheet I made recently, he said:
‘If you need any help, you know where to find me.’
He was soft and strong, gentle and generous. A confidant, comedian, financial adviser or handyman, depending on who needed what and when.
We will always remember him with love and gratitude.