Being in Ireland the only way my mother could contact me reliably was WhatsApp. On the 23rd of May it was a simple one line message;
Poppa died this morning.
As simple and as stabbing as knife. Sitting alone in the jumble heap of a hostel room- I did what any adult would. I cried like a child.
Back when my brother and I were young, like really young, we couldn’t say “Grandpapa” so instead we called him Poppa. I think he secretly preferred it. He was an engineer, a military man, a book collector, a train enthusiast, a true scholar, a patient teacher, and a dedicated husband.
When I was a child he was this looming booming all knowing giant. Corduroy trousers and mustard coloured jumpers. When it came to my teen years I visited infrequently, to help with PC matters, and when school and work could allow. Regrettably I didn’t see much of him or Grandma these past few years; I was wrapped up in work or, in hindsight, things that don’t matter.
Of course, grandparents teach us many things, but something that stood out for me was his approach to the unknown; that you could be ignorant of something for as long as you would allow it. For example his work with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
He was diagnosed with age AMD when I was in my early teens. As far as I know he wasn’t medically trained, but that didn’t stop him from diving in. Reading what he could, sometimes literally when his vision was badly affected.
With the help of a like minded nutritionist and doctor Poppa created a regiment that not only staved off, but reduced the effects of AMD. By combining diet and eye exercises Poppa was able to claim back his vision. The pamphlet, and the rest of his research, has helped hundreds of older, and younger, people reclaim their lives and vision.
For me personally, Poppa had encouraged my writing from an early age.
Sending me books on writing, all kinds from novels, short stories to articles. He never let me pigeonhole myself into thinking ‘well, I have dyslexia- there’s no point!’.
He was an avid reader of mine; he enjoyed my first attempt of a novel, even sending me back notes on how to improve it. One day I will sit down and write it properly, and it’ll have his name in the dedication.
The loss of a family member, or friend, hurts. That dull ache in my chest since I found out hasn’t dropped a beat. I have cried for hours over the fact that I can’t remember the sound of his voice. That I’m never going to hear him again. That the notes he left on my manuscripts will be the last advice I get from him.
He’ll never read any of my published work- even though he got me there.
I had planned to write and publish nearly daily whilst I started my new life in Ireland. To get creative, and show what I could do to potential employers.When I had joined my fiance is Cork it was the big adventure. Finally leaving behind where I grew up. Exploring the culture and people. Amazing fodder for my blog!
Instead I was in the fetal position. Crying without shame. Just overcome as it had hit me.
I was alone. In a strange city. In a country I had never been to before. Buses and plane rides away from my family.
When you’re reading this, at least on the day of publication, I’ll be saying my last goodbye. To the man that influenced me, challenged me, and taught me so much.
I’m going to miss you Poppa x