Deda was Nan’s husband. He wasn’t related to us by blood. My maternal grandfather passed away in 1966. Nan met Deda in the late 70s and they soon married. He was in my Mum and Uncle’s life from their teenage years up until his death, and treated them as though they were his own children. He was a great man who radiated warmth and respect towards people, and received it back (for clarity; Grandpa was nicknamed by my big cousin, Emma, when she was a young child, the sound that came out of her mouth instead of “Grandpa” was “Deda”).
I spent lots of time with Deda as a child, he picked me up from school everyday in his black cab, I helped him in the garden, walked the dogs with him, helped him fix stuff around the house. We used to listen to his jazz records and sing along to Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and The Beach Boys together. We always set the table together and he taught me how to use a camera. He showed me his photography books and the photo albums he’d made of his and Nan’s adventures, telling me about the time they saw Frank Sinatra in Vegas, how all day parking at Disneyland was only fifty cents, and that he got pickpocketed three days in a row in Paris.
He told me about the time they went skydiving – Nan had said in passing that she’d be interested in going skydiving one day and then Deda just so happened to meet someone down the pub who was a skydiving instructor and he signed them up then and there.
When I was three or four, Deda went through a phase of having spicy chicken wings every Friday for dinner. He used to let me sit on his lap and eat chicken wings with him, and I used to laugh as he’d wipe my face with a napkin and then let me wipe his. He used to let us (4 grandchildren) all dunk our dummies in his beer and would make us a lager Shandy to have with dinner from age 12 (the lemonade was ALWAYS flat). He would feed the dogs at the table (even though Nan scolded him for it!) and he’d always offer his chair if there wasn’t anywhere to sit. I can still hear him saying “okay, blue eyes!”.
On Friday, 26th April in 2013, my Mum woke me up by saying “baby I’ve got some bad news, Deda’s passed away”. We rushed over to Nan’s, but every moment of the journey I couldn’t shake the worry that I was going to see his body lying there in the bed. But he wasn’t there.
Nan told us that the night before, as they were watching “Have I Got News for You”, sitting on the sofa with a pint of John Smith’s bitter in his hand, Deda made a funny gurgling sound and slumped over. Nan thought he’d burped and was feeling unwell, so she went over and slapped him round the face (her own words) but he was unresponsive. She failed to rouse him so called 999 and was advised to get him in the recovery position whilst the ambulance was deployed. Deda wasn’t a big man, but Nan was quite little so she asked a neighbour to come and help. They got him in the recovery position, the ambulance arrived and they attempted resuscitation at the scene but it didn’t work. He got rushed to hospital and was pronounced dead. His autopsy concluded he died from an intestinal haemorrhage.
Losing Deda was the first major loss I’d experienced. It was difficult for me to process it. I’d seen him two days before he’d died, we’d told each other jokes and sang along to “The Lady is a Tramp” together. For a long time, I couldn’t comprehend that I wouldn’t ever see him again.
Deda was an extremely funny man. He had a dry sense of humour and a quick wit. There was nothing he wouldn’t help you with and he strived to do his best with every task he undertook. Deda was handy and able to think on his feet. He’d always give you pocket money, a lift to see your friends, and he always had a hankie if you needed it. I loved him so much and I miss him every day.
It’s comforting to know that he lived his last moments at home, watching one of his favourite TV shows, with a pint in his hand, next to his wife.