On the weekend, H’s family lost its patriarch, his paternal grandfather. In a year that has been horribly difficult for H’s extended family for several reasons, this was a cruel blow that came out of the blue.
H’s grandfather, whom I’ll call G here, was a towering fellow, both in stature and personality, but he was also kind, handsome, and a relentless flirt. He flew planes over Europe in World War II and was the pillar of his church and community. He had a booming voice with a deep growling tone and an irresistible laugh, and I feel enormously grateful that I got to know him for a few years. He had a nickname for May Blossom that was so hilariously dumb that it epitomised all dad jokes. If anyone else had called her that name it would have irritated me but from him it made me laugh.
G loved his four kids and their spouses, past and present, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but above all he loved his wife. After sixty-eight years of marriage, when she looked at him it was like he was her new boyfriend. I’ve never seen anything like it. It is my dream for my marriage that when we are in our nineties, H and I will have a love like theirs.
H’s grandparents lived next door to his family when he was growing up, and the back fence was removed to make a huge common back yard through which H and his brother, Bill, could roam freely. G loved to tell the story of the time H came rushing home from school and banged on G’s door. Little H was desperate for the toilet.
‘Why didn’t you just go on the lemon tree?’ G asked him.
H, who had been taught the polite way to refer to such things, replied, ‘Because it’s bowels, G.’ Then, in case G was confused, H added, ‘Bowels means poo.’
G roared with laughter when he told that story the last time we saw him.
I don’t have the words to adequately convey what G’s loss means to the family. Of H’s and my four grandfathers, G was the last to go, and it really is just bowels that he’s gone. He’ll be so greatly missed.