It’s not often I’ve been able to describe myself as being lucky, but one area I know I have been fortunate is in my family. We’re big and unwieldy, not always all best of friends, but somehow you feel overall we have had luck on our side.
The best example for me is the Grandparents I have had. We lost the last one today. To reach nearly forty and still have any of them is extremely fortunate and Granda Massie finally passed away this morning. In so much pain and suffering in the last hours of his life, it sounds harsh to say but I’m glad he’s not going to suffer anymore.
As a kid I had seven grandparents – Great Granny & Granda McDonald, Great Granny Thom, Granny & Granda Duncan and Granny & Granda Massie. I was spoiled as a youngster to have all these people in my life – we all were. They were all such individual people with their own quirks and characters and Granda Massie was really a great man. Mostly great because he survived living with Granny, but more on that later.
He would do anything for you – if you needed a lift, had an appointment, something picking up, our very own F1 driver would be at the door champing at the bit to get going. God help you if you were getting picked up and weren’t ready at least an hour before he was due to arrive. Or if you were going up to see him and Granny and told them a time he’d be there standing at the window waving to everyone (because he knew them all – or at least knew them because he waved at them) waiting for you to arrive. He also had the canniest knack of getting parked right at the door of wherever you were heading. I’ve never seen such jammyness as he had when it came to finding a space.
The abiding memory of Granda will be having to shout at him if you wanted a conversation. No matter the location he would either have the hearing aids in both ears switched off or the battery would have gone. The fourth or fifth attempt would usually get it but by then half the neighbourhood will have heard you and the momentum of any conversation will have dissipated. When anymore than two or three people were round at his house the off switch was engaged because he couldn’t stand the noise. No wonder with eleven cousins sometimes all there at the same time.
Another memory of him is finding him in town standing on street corners or outside shops. He was waiting for Granny to arrive at a pre-determined location – one which he invariably got wrong (according to Granny anyway) – poor man was never right about anything! She was terrible at telling him off for getting things wrong – especially names where again with all the cousins he would tend to work his way through the names he could remember before finally getting to yours. You never took it as an insult, it was just Granda. Even now with so many of us with our own kids he would still rattle through a list of names to try to find the right one. Our favourite over the last couple of years had been “Jericho” instead of Jessica. Bless him.
It was difficult to see him in that hospital bed over the last few weeks. A fall at home – fixing the bloody windmills! – meant hospital and surgery on a broken hip. We all knew that he was unlikely to leave hospital at that point as his body was failing – he was 93 you know as he continually reminded us, 94 in November! But he wasn’t happy or comfortable and in the end there was a relief that he passed away before he suffered anymore. While it was no shock, it is still a tough thing to hear.
When I was in to see him last week, he spoke of his great adventures in the second world war. The postings, the D-Day landings, the injuries he suffered from and his pride and companionship he had with those men. It’s funny how the mind stops you from remembering who had visited him that afternoon, but he went into such great detail about something that happened 73 years ago as if it were yesterday. I’m not surprised he remembered it so vividly because what he and his generation saw that day as they landed in France would be hard to erase. He was so proud of the medal he received just the other year from the French government to commemorate what they did for the French that day and the days that followed. A proud man whom we were all tremendously proud of.
He was the grandparent I suppose who was the most human of all of them for me, the one I think I got to know the person more than the stereotypical grandparent over thirty nine years. He was honest, caring and a real character.
A cheeky sense of humour, a driving style that would have been at home in the Wacky Races and bottomless pit of generosity will be how I remember him. A man whom I was so proud of and loved immensely. Rest in peace Doug (Granda) Massie, we’ll miss you.