Lucky Man

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The Grandparents at our wedding in 2005. Granda Massie is on the right hand side.

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.

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The story of my life

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After years of thinking about it I’ve started writing it – my story.

It’s a strange thing to do for someone like me; a nobody, but I’m not going to let it stop me. You may find that I will rarely be blogging because of this but I did want to share a few thoughts on looking back into your own past.

Don’t.

It’s not really a good thing to do if I’m honest as you find going right back in your own timeline a bit…wibbly wobbly timey wimey if I’m honest. You start to remember things you had long since moved on from and dumped into storage but it all comes up from some dark recess in the back of your mind a smell, sound or memory that then triggers thoughts you had long since forgotten.

I wanted to write it because i wanted to take what I’d done with this blog and make it a more comprehensive examination of my mental health across my life. Were there issues and baggage in my past or was my childhood idyllic? Neither is true for anyone regardless how much they protest. Initially I have found that it’s the negatives that have floated to the surface and after four thousand words I’ve only covered up to the age of twelve with hardly a chink of light in there.

I’m sure once I go back and start redrafting the writing as a whole piece of work I will be able to be more objective, put more humour in it and dial down the Angela’s Ashes elements. As the great Paul O’Grady always said “We were poor, but we were shoplifters”.

You remember people as well. Faces and names who were hidden away too. Anyone who knows me will tell you I can do faces but names are a real issue. I can teach a kid for a year and still get them confused with one of their classmates. You do wonder how the mind works when it comes to memory – it feels like a giant cupboard packed full of things and as you try to pull one object out the rest start dropping on your head one-by-one. Like going in your loft and realising you have a strange twin brother called Eric.

I don’t have a twin brother called Eric in my loft by the way. That’d be ridiculous. He is in my parents’ loft, it’s bigger.

Eric aside, there are so many things that I have floating around my head now and it’s leaving me slightly disoriented as with newly recovered memories squeezing their way into your timeline things don’t look the way you thought they had. Perceptions of situations change and there is the danger of you becoming an amateur psychologist trying to make sense of things that every kids did, but somehow you doing it marks you out as unique or different. The reality is you were just a kid but with hindsight and diagnoses over the years you start to put two and two together and make seventeen.

I hope the experience of writing it will be cathartic and that I’ll have it even if I never do anything with it, but I think it’s fair to say that in my fortieth year I’ve already lived a rather unusual and challenging life.

One day I might share it, then again it might drive me mad rethinking everything I’ve ever done and be the final nail in my already secure insanity coffin.

JD