My first memory of my grandpa is sitting on the couch in his surgery having a tiny saucepan lid removed from my nostril. My last memory of him is rubbing Eight Hour Cream into his head where he’d scraped himself during another fall. In between these two are 34 years of memories: a rich patchwork quilt of a rich wonderful life.
Grandpa – or The Doctor, as he is known in the village even though he’s been retired for over 20 years. He of the gentle, cold, deft hands and the wise blue eyes, calming the most nervous of patients. Who else would drive in the middle of the night to see a suicidal patient, accompanied by his twelve year old daughter in a nightie to avoid the patient attempting a seduction? Or would be able to sew up the arm of a man ripped to pieces by a pig and still hand out a Liquorice Allsort from his sweetie-pot at the end?
His quotes are unforgettable. “Where the hell’s the exit?” he growled as he drove round and round the swimming-pool car park. “David!” admonished my gran. Infuriated he demanded, “Well what do you want me to say? Where the heaven’s the exit?”
Sitting in the waiting-room just before Christmas, he scanned the other patients and remarked rather too loudly, “You couldn’t run a beauty contest in here, could you?”
His attempts at being an animal doctor were not as successful as his career in human medicine. He tried to put the cat to sleep with Largactil which sent it quite mad, spinning yowling around the sitting room and shredding the curtains. In hopes of preventing unwanted pregnancies, he gave another cat the contraceptive pill, resulting in one enormous kitten like something out of George’s Marvellous Medicine. He had more success with the euthanasia of an elderly dog, trundling its body solemnly down the garden in a wheelbarrow to bury it. However, as his wife and children watched with tear-filled eyes, he got to the grave, executed a right turn and came back up the path again: the dog had rolled over in the barrow, and miraculously returned to life. But nobody could fault the way in which he sewed up a dog-torn chicken (which he requested my dad’s help with – my parents’ first date!). Pancakes were his speciality – he served up endless quantities to me as I recovered from appendicitis.
Intensely funny, deeply intelligent, kind, loving, honest, and just HIM. He died on his 89th birthday, his heart literally stopping. Through our tears – and there have been plenty, and will be plenty more, I fear – we can’t help but be thankful for that most peaceful of exits, that my gran wasn’t alone when she got the call from the hospital, that we’d all spent a beautifully sunny spring weekend together just seven days ago. It’s mad how ones world can change in a few hours, how a day I have secretly been dreading for at least 30 years has finally happened. How I woke up on Saturday morning not knowing that he’d gone to sleep forever.
I still feel he is here. Perhaps it is too soon to accept it, perhaps the shock is still too great, or perhaps it’s because he is still here, as we all sit watching old cine-films of our family’s life, remember him and love him; he’s here in the stories we share, in the clothes hanging in his wardrobe in which I buried my salt-stained face, in his handkerchief on granny’s pillow.
I am poorer without my grandpa, Dr David Robert Chase, in my life. But one cannot put a value on his presence. Pa, my first grandfather, my first father figure, my first word – Uncle Roy’s been waiting for you. It’s his turn to have you for a while.
God bless you.