I Still Can't Say Your Name
26.11.2000 - the day my world changed forever. My grandad was my hero, and my best friend. I idolised how nothing fazed him, nothing. He was so relaxed and so calm. My escape from school, I could chat for hours with him and it would never be enough.
He was the first person who realised I was being bullied, he spoke to mum apparently who at the time had read (somehow) my diary and they both knew, he realised I was gay (I think), at least that's what Dad reckons.He encouraged my love of acting, reading, writing, and pretty much anything I enjoyed whether it was cycling or swimming. And us three, my Dad, and Grandad just had the most strangest sense of humour between us; it would drive Mum and Nan mad.
But I wrote this, this weekend; to help combat the void he has left:
I was 14 years old.
Summer was over and we had come back, tanned and golden from our holiday abroad. Every year we went on holiday, we all needed a break. I found it liberating. Didn’t really have any proper friends, friends that would accept my quirks, or at least see through the bullshit facade I would give them about being someone I wasn’t. Would still be there standing after I took a joke too seriously, or when I would deliberately ignore assuming they were going to be cruel just like any other child at school. I had two weeks of just being me and hanging out with kids who didn’t know or care about what I was like at school, kicking sand playing in the sea and just laughing.
Then 2 weeks later I’d be with my best friend and the one guy who understood who could see just how much of a hard time I was having. Those 2 weeks came and went, and I saw you fragile, wrinkles that once lined your face from laughing were thick like the trenches you hid in, in the war. Your coughs no longer rattly but like bombs. Full red face was hollow and gaunt, but our eyes met and we smiled and you were fine, all was fine; I avoided Dad’s looks of fear and Nan’s teary eyes as you were so unsteady on your feet “he will be fine”.
I couldn’t sleep the last night I saw you, something woke me in a cold sweat that I couldn’t shake, I was dozing until I heard the phone pierce the silent dawn. A pool of dread sunk in my stomach and all I heard was rush upstairs and down again and Dad slamming the front door behind him, and the shriek of tarmac as he drove to Nan's.
Mum called me down, and I remember holding the kitchen door frame for support and she told me without looking at me they couldn’t wake him, I said well they can wake up. My three year old self coming the surface again, and when Mum shook her head she took me in her arms as I burst into tears. The pain was loud but then it left…I didn’t want comfort I just wanted … sleep. I felt nothing.
I remember going upstairs and going back to bed, I was told to have a shower and get dressed as we would be seeing Nan soon. But I just wanted to sleep.
Years later I would be told these were the first signs of depression. I remember Mum snapping at me to get a move on, I put it down to laziness and being selfish, but apparently my resources were shutting down too. Hindsight tells me I wasn’t the only family member who had enough.
The rest of the day passed in a blur, but holding Nan as they took you out I will never forget, the curtains were shut, she didn’t want to see you leave like that. I immediately went upstairs and sniffed your pillow. I traced my fingers on your glass of water; you were right here, your bed is still warm you were right here. I hung up your dressing gown, and I could still hear your laugh.
Grandparents are like the centre of the family, the roots of the tree, the core of the unconditional love; they’re magic. But the magic is fading, things won’t be the same now some of the leaves of the tree have fallen.
Grandad, it still hurts to say your name. I wish I could say I was fine, but I'm still me with the old questions. And you're still you.