On Thursday night I got home from work. I work late, so it was after 9.00 pm. I had dinner, faffed around on the internet for a while, as you do. Remembered I owed my neighbour for the housework (I'm rubbish at it and never have time, so for £20 a fortnight she stops the place turning into a slum), so went to the bank, paid her, chatted for a while, went home. It's now 10.30 pm. and I remembered I hadn't checked the answering machine on my landline. There's a message from my Mum asking me to call. I did. I don't normally call my parents that late at night, but this time I did. Not sure why. Maybe it was because my Welsh grandmother had gone into hospital earlier in the week after a fall.
Anyway, I spoke to my Dad. "I've got some sad news, love," he said.
This is what I wrote on my Facebook profile later that night:
‘Simon Bestwick’s beloved grandmother, Dorothy Ann Smith, died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon. I have had to wait for a minute after typing that last sentence, because typing it is the most painful thing I’ve done in a very long time. She was a brave, funny, strong, determined and lovely woman who was widowed in the Second World War and then again a few years later, and who raised my father and his stepbrother on her own.
I loved her dearly, and am devastated to know she isn't there any more. She was 95 years old, and had had a good innings. But right now, that doesn't seem to help. Rest in peace, Nanw.'
(Nanw is Welsh for 'Mum', basically. We always called her that because that was what Dad called her.)
Why was I posting on Facebook? Part of this whole 'wear your heart on your sleeve, wash your laundry in public' culture that we've got nowadays? Hardly. Simple fact was, by the time I thought of actually speaking to anyone, it was half-eleven. My neighbour's lights were off, as were those of another friend across the road (who would later tell me off for not getting him out of bed under the circumstances. ) I rang one of the few friends I know who'd be a) up at that hour and b) wouldn't consider it an imposition. Got his answerphone, left a message. I've got at least one other friend I'd consider calling at that time, but she's just had a baby...
So I was alone in the house, and basically climbing the walls between crying jags. And if you're tut-tutting because you don't think that's manly, or something, then fuck off.
But that's not what this is about.
This blog is about two things really. One, to thank the people who helped me get through that night and the days since. All the people who posted on Facebook or messaged me privately- thank you. A small kindness can mean a great deal at times like that. Thanks to Joel, who rang me at one in the morning, and to Vicky, who rang at two in the morning. Just- thanks, really.
And the other? Because she was my grandmother, and I loved her dearly. We were close, and she was a great lady. She had her faults, of course- in her later years she could be grumpy, and she was always stubborn as a mule. But she was funny, and kind, and full of good stories. And she deserves to be remembered. And because, as Harlan Ellison once put it, 'no-one should be sent down in the dark with too few words.'