There are two things about my maternal grandfather that stand out for me the most. One is that he was an identical twin, the other is that he was an alcoholic. Sadly, he was not the kind of alcoholic that recoved. He was the kind that died. Both he and his twin died of alcohol related diseases, but not before they completely lost their minds.
I don’t really remember them before they deteriorated. I know from my mother that they were great sportsmen, loved the races and were bombers in WWII. My memories of them involve weekend visits to mental institutions. Those trips invoked a strange combination of fear and fascination in me and my siblings. One of my most vivid memories was my grandfather telling me that I was a pretty girl and that he’d marry me if I wasn’t so fat. I was 16 and weighed 45kgs.
I never felt any kind of love for those men. I only felt sadness and a kind of removed disgust. They both died many years ago. My paternal grandfather died before I was born.
There is one man that I have always thought of as my grandfather. He stepped in and acted as a dad to my mother when her real father left them. I know him as Uncle Gil. He is the man in my childhood memories that would smoke a pipe and tell us stories. He is the man that would hide peppermints under our pillows and take us down to the shed to build things. He is the man that sat at the number 1 table at my wedding.
Uncle Gil has a killer sense of humour and more skill on a lathe than any one person should have. He carries himself with pride but isn’t too proud to tell us he loves us. He knew my grandfather but never judged him.
Now it would seem that it’s Uncle Gil’s time to go. I think he’s ready. I’m not. He’s been sick for a few years now, and his body has wasted away. The spark is still in his eyes, but it’s fading fast, along with his ability to breathe. He doesn’t even have enough energy to tell one of his signature jokes. It breaks my heart.
I know that it’s unfair to wish life on someone that is tired of living, but it’s so hard to imagine my own without him in it.