I’m struggling with sleep tonight.
My brain seems to be in overdrive, so many things running through it but only one thought that it keeps coming back to, again and again.
I miss my gran.
Mary Hamilton, my dad’s mam, passed away last year. She was the last of my surviving grandparents and was someone I’d grown close to in my late teens and early twenties.
When my parents split up and my dad moved away for a while, my gran and grandad become a focal point for me. Their house was twenty minutes walk from my school so I’d spend quite a bit of time there, especially at weekends. My grandad would work as the doorman of his local good club and would get in around midnight. The three of us would often eat a late supper together before heading to bed.
After he passed away from a heart attack, I found myself sleeping on the sofa of their one bedroom bungalow several nights a week for almost two years. I still can’t tell you why. I think I felt lost. My grandad had become a father figure to me. I felt compelled to try and look after my gran after what she’d gone through.
Most of my friends knew to try to contact me their first. They were always welcomed when visiting or calling, she’d always be asking after them. Visitors were always fed, even if they weren’t particularly hungry, often with an abundance of food. That’s just the way she was.
My gran always encouraged me, always accepted me for who I was and what I wanted to do. I was never told off for getting tattoos or listening to strange music. She bought me my first comics, something she’d regularly do for years. She was strong willed, cantankerous, loving, contrary, kind hearted, protective. She loved her family so much, even when she said she didn’t.
I’ll admit, I didn’t see as much of her as I would like to have over the past few years, something I now constantly regret. Sometimes you just think people are going to just be there forever, no matter what. They can’t grow old, they can’t die. They’ll just keep on going. I used to joke that she’d outlast us all, part of denying that this could be wrong.
She still tried to be as independent as she could be. She lived next door to my dad and I think it was more so she could keep an eye on him rather then the other way round, even though my dad and step mam would cook her meals for her and try to look after her the best they could. She hated having to wear her alarm tag to call for help, hated having to go to the doctors. Still as bull headed and headstrong into her nineties.
Around my birthday last year she’d had a bad fall. It seemed to knock her confidence quite a bit. She became a lot more unsteady on her feet. She also couldn’t shift a water infection that just didn’t seem to want to go away.
In February she was taken to hospital. The water infection had a good hold of her and didn’t want to let go. My dad was there every day, same as my kid sister Susan. We’d all try to go as much as possible to visit. I was normally there three nights a week after work. It became routine, that was just what we did now. The visits became more and more like groundhog day as the days turned into weeks, the weeks turning into months.
Sometimes she was lucid and in great form. We introduced her to Snapchat. We’d do video calls with my nephews and nieces who lived away. Other times were a lot tougher. There was confusion, sadness and anger from her about why she was there. She wanted to fight it as much as she could but eventually it just sapped away her energy and spirit.
I was away in London visiting friends when she passed. We knew it was going to happen. I argued internally with myself about cancelling but i knew she would have so kicked my arse if she knew I was thinking that way. She loved to hear about my trips to places and would love to see photos of what I’d seen and been up to. The day she’d passed I ended up walking around Camden in a bit of a daze. I couldn’t believe it, I found it hard to accept. I found it even harder to forgive myself for not being there. I don’t think I have, and part of me won’t accept that I could ever forgive myself.
My thoughts often drift back to her, but recently, with it being Christmas, I’ve thought about her so much. I’d asked a good friend of mine Andrew, who’s an artist, to offshoot l paint a picture of her for my dad as his Christmas present. He smiled so much when he saw it and was so happy with it. I was pleased and relieved too in equal measure.
The strangest thing though was this, and I know it’s going to sound crazy. Every year she would get me a men’s toiletry set for Christmas. It would be Lynx or Dove or one of the usual many men’s brands of shower gel or deodorant. But this year there was none, I got nothing like that from nobody, which just seemed to magnify it even more. I still keep expecting to see a set, wrapped and labelled with her unmistakable handwriting.
But, I’ll never get another gift like that from her again.
I try to remember her, and it’s always almost laughing. It’s always almost about her warmth. It’s about her saying that she thought that punk rock icon Henry Rollins was “cute”. It’s about her giving me the money to buy both of Guns N Roses “Use Your Illusion” alums. It’s about her being the person I could talk to about things. It’s about the hole she’s left in my life that can never be replaced.
I miss my gran and, tonight, I feel heartbroken.
As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.
The Order Of The Dog.