My Grandad; Snippets from Charlie

On the 8th April in an assessment unit, I watched as my Grandad slipped away peacefully. His journey over the last few years wasn’t as peaceful; but I am grateful to have been a big part of it. I will never regret any time spent with him. Ever.

It was 6/7 years ago when he was diagnosed with cardiovascular dementia and for at least 3 of those years it was steady away. He was still my grandad. Peter Storr.

Remembering

As a child I spent time with him, alone or with my cousin and brother and I know I can speak for the three of us when I say WE have the best memories with him.

One time we had all spent the night at grandma and grandad’s house. I dont remember there being much trouble overnight although we were young and I’m sure we were a lot to handle as a threesome. My grandad had brought us some silly string. The brightly coloured wet stuff that you sprayed from cans. He gave us all a can at breakfast while my grandma was clearing plates away and we were so excited to use it, but he told us not to spray it till grandma came back in.

As you can imagine, to us, the small ones, this was an absolutely delightful treat. Spraying cold, wet colourful ‘string’ all over the dining room and over each other and our grandparents. The giddy chaos insued, and we lapped up the giggles from all and the ecstatic feeling we all had from being a little naughty.

The mood however, quickly became a little more serious when my grandma realised “the damn stuff won’t come off the ceiling”. And forever, in the house on Bradford Road, East Bierley; on the ceiling, a small fluorescent green and orange squiggle forever stayed. Grandad got the full blame. Adult me secretly hope’s it’s still firmly in place.

Christmas – The cause for Alarm

As a couple they bought us the silliest, sweetest and best gifts. One year they had bought us a very large snowman balloon each. The helium filled ones. They thought it would be great to tie them in the garden ready for our arrival. All was well, we received and loved those balloons all Christmas and we even took them home with us. Probably much to the dismay of our parents – I have a brother which in this case meant 2 giant helium filled balloons in the house.

That winter it was particularly windy/stormy and I’m sure theres a tale about the balloons being tied in the garden too, but of the particulars I’m not 100 percent and I’m not going to make it up.

We went to the pantomime that year. Parents locked all the doors, and fully loaded with sweetie and juice box supplies we were off. Pantomime was amazing, we laughed and yelled “hes behind you” and “oh no it isnt” along with everyone else in the audience. We returned home however, to a frantic few neighbour’s. The house alarm had been bleeping the hell out of the entire street for 2 consecutive hours.

Turns out helium filled balloons set alarms off when you leave a window open in a gail, and leave them in a room with an alarm sensor. Who knew? The neighbour’s certainly did after that experience.

“My Grandpa Can Fix Anything” – peppa pig

Peppa pig made me sob.

The week he was taken into Linfield Mount I saw a particular episode of Peppa Pig. In said episode, Grandpa pig inherits a computer from Mummy pig and proceeds to break it (probably by button bashing- Gramps, I know that feeling) and after a phone call to Peppa, Daddy pig swiftly offers to take back the broken computer. By the time Peppa and her family get to Grandpa and Granny’s house, Grandpa pig has taken the computer to the shed, found a manual and fixed it.

“My Grandpa can fix anything!” Exclaims Peppa aaaannd buckets of tears from yours truly.

I cry because this was him entirely. He was a DIY man, and a bloody good one. With a shed, and a garage no less. If a jobs was worth doing, he’d do it well. If he didn’t know how to do it, he’d learn how and then do it well. My grandad was the living, real life model of Grandpa Pig. And if you know (parents with kids who watched or watching peppa pig on replay will hear me), you just know!

Lasting Heartache

The day we realised he had to go in a home was the day my heart broke for my mum. There was one moment, beautiful in it’s own way but ultra raw and real that will always stay with me.

He was having difficulty going to the bathroom alone. The problem with dementia is that it takes away the ability to make the connections. The connections we use on the hourly without even really thinking about it. The same way we teach a baby or toddler to do something, but in reverse. Between us, mum and I were trying to get my grandad to the toilet.

I refuse to say he in this situation; his dementia riddled brain wouldn’t let him use the connection that when he needed to pee he had to sit on the toilet. We were trying to guide him to sit back on the seat, and to coach him to pull off his undies. We weren’t having much luck as he chuntered a bucket load and took tiny steps in every direction but the actual toilet seat.

My mum, in that moment pleaded with him. The words “Please Daddy” came out of her mouth. I bit my lip so hard as to fight back a surge of emotions.

I’ve clearly known for a long time that my mum is his daughter; but in that very vulnerable moment I saw a little girl pleading with her dad, heart and soul. Wishing and hoping we could manage, just us three at that very moment trying so very hard to defeat this dementia related battle. But we couldn’t win that round.

My heart was torn in two for her. My heart was torn in two for him; and for me as well.

Charlie

He used to call me Charlie, he did for years and years. Even when I decided to use Lotty he never changed his ways. It drove me nuts sometimes, but I cherish it all now. I dremt I heard him say it, I heard him say my name. I will always be his Charlie and that will most certainly remain.

He’d do anything for me if I’d have asked him. And I remember vividly him asking what I wanted for my birthday. I told him that I would like a new top. He did one better and told me he would take me shopping for a whole new outfit. So he bought his little Charlie girl the tiny suede mini skirt (much to the joy of her mother) and a cream lace shirt to go with it. I loved it so much. I felt like a cowgirl in it, and I was so into country and western at that point.

Thank you for making a little girl feel grown up on her Birthday.

We decorated a Christmas cake one year together. Neither of us having ever done or used royal icing before. Needless to say, we did it wrong twice making it super runny which left the pair of us in the queue at the local coop on xmas eve waiting to buy an additional box of royal icing- Twice. We never laughed so much, even though the queue was horribly long both times, and the cake never lived up to grandmas usual it meant we were thick as thieves. Most especially when we had had any alone time. And we turned out to be a bit of a dab hand the next year at the Christmas cake. It’s all about the practice. Right?

That Music Got My Heart Strings

Massive on music, he played guitar and banjo and mouth organ across his life.

I sat with my grandad more time that I can count, and if we ever struggled for conversation I’d pick up a guitar and strum it for him. I cared for him for a week when they still lived in Lincolnshire, and I did this exact thing.

I played for him, playing a piece I learnt years ago called Celebrations and he teared up. I saw tears clouding his steely eyes and I knew he knew things were changing. He was only having the odd bad day then and was still physically fit.

I would love to have thoses days back… but I’ll keep them in my pocket. I will keep them close.

When he was in the home, we visited all the time. On one of the visits while trying to get him to eat something I put in some rock and roll. Bill Hayley and the comets. His fingers started tapping, it was the first sign of him we had seen for a while and we cried happy tears and tried to sing through it to the music. Told him he had to get better so we could rock and roll at my wedding.

My heart was a happy thing when I saw his fingers tap. An ever so tiny ray of misguided hope. Misguided and wrong but one I’ll cherish.

His Wishes

I knew he had wanted it to end for a long time. He hated living confined to one place, he hated not being able to articulate what he wanted to or remember how to do something or what the word was for something. He hated existence as it was for him. “I can’t carry on like this” was a phrase he used in ludic moments.

When he was taken into the home right at the end, I think he had made the decision to stop eating or drinking. He didn’t want this kind of torture to continue. I’m not sure if that was his subconscious or conscious decision, but it was so his choice. He would only eat the tiniest bits for my mum and occasionally me. This we think now was just to please us. Just for his girls, because no one on God’s green earth got him to eat any other bite. Stubborn that man.

When the end came it was sad. It still is. But it makes it easier knowing that he wanted this. He got his way, he did it his way and he gave them hell to the very last. Very much his style.

I was worried to be there, I didn’t know how I would react personally but I am eternally grateful that I could be there with him when he took his last breath. I was happy for him, he could rest easy, and dare I say it relief rolled over me just to know there was no more pain or suffering for the man I loved so dearly. Death was a kindness in this story; a welcomed thing. I hope, if anything happens once we pass (as I am undecided) that my Grandad has the best of it.

To you,

I am proud as punch that you belonged to me. My grandad.

My DIY specialists, cycling, bodybuilding, fishing, fixing, decorating, icing sugar expert; I never verbalised enough the fact that I love you.

Yours forever, Charlie xoxo

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