1977, I was 8 years old, they were on holiday, staying with their son and his family. staying with my uncle, auntie and cousins.
we’d probably seen them a few days before – we saw them regularly. we were all very close.
but something went wrong on this holiday. something that was (it turns out) still burning away all these years later.
“they” are mum’s parents, my “nanny” and “grandpa”.
the thing that went wrong? grandpa had a fatal heart attack…
i don’t know much else. dont know where he was, don’t know where they found him. I have a photo, it’s at the bottom of this post, taken on that holiday. he’s sat outside at my uncle john’s place.
all i can remember now is anguish. tears. sadness. extreme upset.
how upsetting? even my dad cried, and he’s not a man to show emotions like that.
and why am I writing this now? it’s not the anniversary, it’s not even a “milestone” year – this year it’s been 37 years since he passed away so suddenly.
truth is I’m not exactly sure. it came up as a topic of conversation with a good friend recently, and it stirred something. something that had been buried away. something that still needed to be dealt with. i’m getting used to those things happening in recent times…
as i warmed up for my tempo run this morning, i was still thinking about it. thinking about how we all eventually moved on. how we moved towns to be closer to nanny. how over the years, time healed. except it apparently didn’t. i’m not even sure how mum must feel, i imagine she still misses him a lot. misses them both in fact.
grandpa was 57, ex-royal navy. he was a petty officer in the fleet air arm, decorated for bravery in the second world war, and had even served on the world famous “HMS Ark Royal”.
i wanted to follow grandpa’s footsteps. joined the sea cadets, locked onto the idea of joining the royal navy.
except that didn’t happen – i had a hearing loss…
a few years later, i figured that if the navy wasn’t going to happen, then maybe i could follow grandpa’s footsteps by joining the police. that’s what he had done after he came out of the navy.
the hearing loss put paid to that too – though i did spend 12 months as a part time volunteer – a “special constable”.
i didn’t really see it fully at the time – but I think I was drawn to both those paths because of grandpa more than anything else.
as i warmed up this morning, and thought all these things, i cried.
yes, there i was plodding along the streets at 4am, and tears were running down my face. i’m 6 foot 6 tall, i’m male, i’m 45 in just over 6 weeks from now, but i’m not scared to admit it…
not scared to admit the emotional release that came from nowhere. because that’s what it was, release. finally understanding that i missed my grandpa, and had never fully dealt with it. never dealt with a loss that had, in fact been somehow compounded by the failure to follow in his footsteps.
it’s undoubtedly part of some psychological tapestry that has seen my life go in the various directions it has. part of the underlying forces that have brought me to this point in space and time.
and it dawned on me – i’m running the London Marathon for the Heart Foundation. I’m running HBF Run For a Reason for the Heart Foundation. Running from Perth to Brisbane for the Heart Foundation. Hosting a morning tea at work tomorrow to raise money for the Heart Foundation.
Coincidences do not exist in my world. Things happen, people meet, events occur… for a reason. Whether that’s a philosophical viewpoint, or part of some “divine” grand master plan – well, that’s for individuals to decide. For me though, I’ve ended up where I am, right here, right now, with these precise circumstances – as a result of the things that have shaped my life to date.
and though I originally contacted the Heart Foundation because I needed a national charity to pin my banner to, as a “convenience” almost, it seems there was no mistake or accident in this at all. in fact, I’d also contacted Movember, and never really heard anything back from them…
and now this link to my family, to my past, to a key event that helped write the “no more mr fat guy” story – no, this is no “coincidence”.
which is why from now on I can proudly say I’m running for you, Gordon Frank Jefferies. A wonderful grandpa, father, husband, brother and friend. It may be 37 years since we lost you, but on April 13th this year I will be running in the London Marathon for the Heart Foundation, for my family, for you.
Rest in peace. I know you would be proud, and I think perhaps that’s all I ever wanted.
Love you grandpa x