My Grandad was quite a character. He was the happiest person I have ever known, and growing up seeing him every week was a joy. Even into my late teens I went tenpin bowling every week with him and my Nanny Pat (we were a team in a league). Those Tuesday afternoons were a special day, as I would go over there after school, have dinner with them, then head to the bowling alley. Even when I learned to drive, I would drive to their house first for this weekly tradition. I even blew off my friends to spend time with my Grandad and Nanny Pat. It was a highlight of my week.
My Grandad was unique. Ridiculously flirtatious, always smiling, friends with everybody he met. He was also a fixer, a people pleaser, and hated to see anybody he cared about unhappy. These are not things I actively remember about him, but things I have learned later in life. If there was tension in the family, he would make some joke to lighten the mood. He was the patriarch of the family. The glue that held us all together.
When I went to University in 2006, he drove up with me in my car, whilst my Dad followed in his van with all my stuff. When somebody knocked on the door to our student accommodation, he was the one who answered. That is how my now wife met my Grandad before she even met me! Me and my Dad were in the bedroom connecting to the internet, whilst my Grandad was flirting with the 18 year olds at the front door. He invited them in for tea. I didn't have any tea. Or coffee (I didn't, and still don't, drink hot drinks). But he was (partially) the reason I met my wife.
He and Nanny Pat came to my Graduation in 2010. I could tell they were both so proud of me. He was a plumber, she managed the business. They were so proud that their grandson had gone to St Andrews. And they would not have missed celebrating that with me for the world.
He was taken from us too early. In late 2014 he was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately it was relatively short, and he died in April 2015. My wife and I moved to Peru in early 2014, so I did not see him whilst he was ill. I am thankful for that in many ways, as my memories of him are being healthy.
But my Grandad left me with so much more than memories. He was the personification of generosity of spirit, and I like to think that I get that from him. He was a massive extrovert. That I definitely do not get from him. He was always trying to make people happy, and, for better or worse, I follow in those footsteps. I have his hairline.
A little over a year later, Nanny Pat passed as well. Many of my memories of Nanny Pat are intricately linked to Grandad. She was his rock, his guiding beacon. Sure he flirted, but you just had to see how he looked at her to know that she was the only one for him. I am sure she died of heartbreak.
Whilst a less obvious character than Grandad in many ways, she was the one I could talk to about things that were bothering me. She would listen. We could talk for hours. Often whilst waiting for Grandad to return from work before going bowling, we would have our chance to catch up. She was always doing stuff in the background to make sure everything was the way it should be. She wasn't a fixer like Grandad, but her ability to listen made you feel better no matter what.
She could be stubborn too. She stopped talking to her brother for years after a family drama. She would always cook, even though there was the family joke about how Grandad must have no tastebuds (her cooking left most dishes distinctly flavourless).
She was a quiet force to be reckoned with, with a quiet determination to get things done. That is what I get from her. I will get things done, but in a quiet and unassuming way. I don't like to be the centre of attention, but see myself as a vital cog to get things done. Whilst I am not as good as her, I am working on my listening. Being there for the people that matter, just to listen, was her superpower, and I do my best to emulate that.
My feeling is that it is not common for people to have a great-grandmother into adulthood. I did. Nanny Pop (or just Nan) was my great-grandmother. I remember sitting with her in her house having rich tea biscuits with butter. I remember playing buses with her on the stairs. I remember playing Beggar My Neighbour in her sitting room.
I remember her being at my wedding at the age of 91. I remember her face when she first talked to me via Skype when we were in Peru. I remember her face when she met my son, her great-great-grandson.