It was inevitable. But no matter how many times I tell myself that, it’s still a shock that the inevitable has actually happened. Granddad was diagnosed almost 5 years ago with a massive inoperable aneurism in his heart. At the time we all thought that was that and did our best to get down there. He told me at the time not to be so darn silly and to stay put. And I did. And we probably all got complacent. We knew he could go at anytime – a stretch the wrong way was all it was going to take. I remember when I went down some time later just to hang out with Nana and Grandad, I tip-toed around him – afraid that him walking down to the TAB would be enough to be that last straw. He told me off again – he’d learned to live with the fact he had something dicky in his heart and so should the rest of us.
And we did. Almost forgot about it really.
Nana died last month. Then amid the phonecalls to and from Christchurch the weekend of the Earthquake, I got a call that I simply was not prepared for. Granddad passed away in the afternoon of Father’s Day. Somehow I found it comforting to feel that he died of a broken heart – it was an uplifting thing to see Nana and Grandday together in photos after 60+ years still holding hands, bickering, but still enjoying each other’s company. It’s a thing to aspire to. Granddad was a gentleman – somehow there was no way he was going to let a dicky heart leave Nana on her own. And four weeks and 1 day after Nana died, Granddad went too.
Granddad was a tall man. His personality was as big as he was – in that gigantic, quiet yet forceful way of the Southern Man. He loved family – his heritage was something he took great pride in. We all know about the bit of land that is “ours” on Stewart Island and the links back a great way into Ngai Tahu. I took the time after the funeral with Mum, my brother and sister, to go for a trip out to Orepuki. There’s not much out there now, a tiny settlement with not much to show of the various industries that were once thriving. It’s amazing to think that this is where Granddad was shaped. He worked here, lived there (as well as a number of places throughout Christchurch and Southland!). Apparently he was an amazing tennis player in his day and it was simply the lack of funds that prevented him from going further.
One of his great loves was motorcycles and cars. He courted my Nana on his motorbike and even apparently got my great-grandmother on the back of it.
He had a keen, dry sense of humour – one that I related to all to well. Many a time when I was getting a bit too cheeky, I was threatened with being “dropped to the carpet”. In my early twenties, a stroll along the beach near Oamaru with Nana and Granddad was accompanied by the usual banter going back and forth. Having survived all manner of very large medical hiccups, Granddad seemed like most 70-odd year olds – getting a bit frail. Not so frail that he couldn’t still toss me face first into the sand just because I didn’t believe he could!! Surprise doesn’t really cover what I felt!
I said before with Nana passing that I was lucky to have a Nana and Granddad at my age. It’s something that I believe to be the case still. But it’s no longer. It’s the end of a very amazing era. One that has ended all too suddenly and too quickly. Granddad’s funeral was on Nana’s birthday – somehow fitting.
Granddad was a big man, with a big personality. He leaves a very big hole.