I’ve had a whirlwind 10 days in which my reviews didn’t go up and the scheduled blogs that did go live weren’t shared across Twitter and other social channels per usual. I wanted to take this opportunity for a brief personal post to explain, and to stand still by someone who has been very important in my life.
On Thursday 2 February 2017 my grandfather passed away. He was 94 years old but that doesn’t make the loss any easier (you don’t want to know how many times in the past weeks I’ve heard ‘well, at least he had a long life’ as if that magically makes it better. FYI that is the worst thing you can say to someone grieving). In nearly a century of life he fought in the Second World War, was sent to the Dutch Indies, worked on ships and in transport in Rotterdam, he married a German woman just after World War 2 and became a father to six children, including two sets of twins just two years apart in age.
My 'opa' was still sound of mind but his body hadn’t been able to keep us with his mental health for many years now and so every time I went to the Netherlands and visited I feared it was the last time I’d see him. This Christmas it turned out to be true. I did speak to him on the phone only hours before he passed away, but it’s not quite the same and the distance from London felt very, very big.
I grew up with just my mother for the first 12 years of my life and my grandparents (her parents) were like a second pair of parents to me - they were that close. I spent at least as much time at their house as I did my own (if not more), with my first school being on their street and we went for our annual summer holidays to Drenthe for several weeks together each year; walking in the woods, making jam, and playing lots of family games.
My childhood is inextricably linked to my grandparents and I rarely have any memories without them in it. To try to come to terms with the fact that these two people who are so very special to me, are no longer there (my grandmother passed away almost 5 years ago to the day) to reminiscent with and make new beautiful memories with really sucks. But then what I am feeling is nothing like the loss for my mother, and I hate that something so horrible leaves me completely powerless to make a meaningful change for her; the person most important to me.
Of course I went to the Netherlands for the funeral and to be there for her (via Paris, where I was for my birthday weekend too - crazy travel schedule? Tick.) but there is nothing I could say or do to make anything better. The loss is still there. For her, for me, and for the countless children, grand children, and great grand children my wonderful opa left behind.
It was weird being back in the Netherlands so soon after I left for my Christmas visit and every day was filled with mixed feelings; joy of spending it with my family, sadness that this now no longer included my granddad. It was tough. I planned to be back in London on Saturday night so I had Sunday to refuel before a ‘normal’ work week would kick off, but my flight got cancelled (thanks a lot British Airways), so I arrived back in London late on Sunday night instead. And I don’t know how I can get back to the every-day routine of work, when life has so fundamentally changed for me.
This post is all over the place, but I wanted to share an explanation for my recent silence as well as try to put into words how important my grandfather was – and always will be – to me. (And clearly failing to do so, maybe I'll be more articulate about how amazing a person he was when some months have passed.)
Thanks opa for everything you’ve shared with us throughout the decades; the special moments as much as the mundane ones as they too have shaped beautiful memories I will carry with me wherever I go.