I didn’t know my granddad very well. He was my Stepfathers dad so I didn’t even meet him until I was 11.
He had white hair and piercing blue eyes. He also had Parkinson’s disease. He had it so bad he could barely talk, and he had no control over his shaking hands. I knew his mind was sharp, you could see it in his eyes. He must have been in his eighties when I first met him. He was a nice man, always dressed well in a shirt and tie. When he left the house he always wore a Trilby hat and walked with a cane. I liked my granddad. He would watch me with a twinkle in his eyes. He liked to see people having fun, you could tell.
Henry was his name.
One night, when I was about fourteen, I was lying awake in bed, when the doorbell rang. I couldn’t hear what was going on, but I could tell it was an emergency. My mum came into my room and said her and my dad (stepfather) had to go up to the hotel my aunty owned. My granddad lived there with my aunty. She took care of him. My mum and dad left in a hurry.
It was springtime I think.
I was in that place half way between being awake and being asleep when I felt like I had company. I opened my eyes and my granddad was sitting on the end of my bed.
“Granddad?” I said.
He put his fingers to his lips and hushed me. His hands weren’t shaking any more and he spoke clearly. How did he get here? The house was empty so I know he didn’t come down with my parents.
He smiled “You like to read. Take my books. Take care of them. Enjoy the surprises”
I am not sure what happened next. I think I fell asleep.
When I got out of bed the next morning my mum and dad were still home. I knew immediately that something had happened. My dad’s eyes were red from lack of sleep.
“My father died last night” he said “He walked to the old quarry along the road, took off his coat and hat, laid them on the ground with his cane, and then he walked into the water and drowned”
I was lost for words.
My granddad was a veteran of the first world war and fought from the trenches in France. He was probably tired of living his live life as a frail old man with Parkinson’s and felt that he was a burdon to his daughter.
I was sad, but I also remembered the visit I had the previous night. The visit from my granddad just after he passed away. I daren’t tell my dad about his visit. He wouldn’t have believed me. I felt honored that a man I hardly knew reached out to me this way. I was very sensetive to the other side, and was often visited by people who had recently passed. My granddad must have know this and I was glad.
A couple of weeks later we went to the house he used to live in before his Parkinson’s got so bad that he couldn’t live alone. This house had stood empty for a couple of years. It was the house in which my Stepfather was raised and he was tearful as we opened the door. He walked around aimlessly, picking things up and looking around what was once his childhood home. It was the first time I had visited this house and I wandered the big empty rooms on my own.
I touched them and heard my granddad’s words.
“You like to read. Take my books. Take care of them. Enjoy the surprises”
I opened these books and lots of little notes and newspaper clippings fell out. Some of them dating back fifty years. I think these were the surprises.
Thanks granddad ! I didn’t know you very well, but I won’t forget you! Maybe it’s because of you that I am a writer.
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