On the day my grandad died, I passed my mum at the entrance of the hospital. She was leaving – she’d ‘just popped in’ to see him. She’d told him that his brother was going to be visiting later that afternoon and he got upset, saying he didn’t want to see him. ‘Did he seem alright apart from that?’ I asked. ‘I s’pose so. I don’t really know.’ she replied.
He was dead within the hour.
I vaguely remember telling a nurse to call my mum and get her to come back to the hospital, but this memory is hazy and confusing. I seem to remember my mum having a conversation with the consultant who had turned up – with awful, awful timing – just as my grandad was starting the process of haunting me, to tell us that there was nothing more they could do for him. He’d be a DNR; no further suggestions would be given. Grandad’s dying; why is this man trying to take my attention away? But she was there, right?
I honestly don’t know. She was squeamish around dead things, fathers included, so I think she merely came back to say goodbye and walked in on that instead. And then she left again. That was the last time she saw him. Kind of. She didn’t actually look.
After his soul had evaporated and there was no more noticible grandad-energy left in the room, I was at a loss. Who do I call? I didn’t want to call a friend, not even my best friend, and Ryan was in New York sleeping off the previous night’s show.
So I called my dad. Yeah, that dad. I just needed someone who’d know what to say to me, and I can’t even remember what he said but it was heartfelt because he’s not really bright enough to feign emotions. But I needed someone who wasn’t going to do something like fucking ditch me at the bloody hospital when I’d just witnessed – I’d held his hand and fucking felt it – the old man die.
I have formed a lot of the emotions I was left with into a very intricate but very squashed pretzel that I keep in my internal carotid artery. Every now and then it stops blood getting to my brain properly and I can’t think straight. I need to take better care of my pretzel.
Offering me no support at all was pretty much to be expected of her. However, she managed to sink so low just after his death that even I, with my terrible life choices and squiffy morals, look at her and think: ‘Well, at least I’m not that fucking bad.’
The first thing: The funeral. While I was looking after him, and while he was in hospital, I was in charge of everything. The bank stuff, the bill stuff, etc. My mum even waived her right as next-of-kin/emergency contact so that I would be the one who made decisions at the hospital. Totally unselfishly, I’m sure. I’m certain she wouldn’t have even entertained the idea that it would mean absolving her of all responsibility. I bet she wasn’t eve- okay, you get it.
My grandad wanted to use the same funeral home for himself as the one he’d used for my nan. It would be the same crematorium regardless, but he specifically wanted that one. Instead, my mum’s boyfriend said that we had to use the one his family used when his dad died, and my mum just agreed. I asked why, and was basically told ‘Because I fucking said so.’
So, Mum, if you ever read this – strike one. You went against his final wishes.
The second thing that she did was promise me that she’d help sort through his things. She didn’t do that. She came round and took my nan’s engagement ring and wedding ring. She also found the earrings she’d been ‘promised’, and told me that the cocktail cabinet/radio player/record player thing was hers. Then she left.
I don’t think my grandad wanted her to have any of them, but there was no will so they were, technically, hers. I took some of my grandad’s old army stuff and a few other bits, but I didn’t want the rest of it. I just didn’t see the point. It’s just stuff.
Strike two. Another broken promise, and you’re a selfish bitch.
The third thing to piss me off was along a similar line. I had control of his bank account, and he didn’t have much in there – even when you added in his savings. £2000 tops, maybe? – but my mum really wanted it. It probably was rightfully hers anyway, but even she felt slightly uneasy about taking a dead man’s money from the girl who looked after him. Not that uneasy, though. It bugged her that – if I wanted to – I could go and take it and do what I wanted with it. She’d constantly question where I was going and ask me if I was definitely coming back.
When I went over to see Ryan, my grandad gave me a few hundred pounds to spend but I didn’t end up using it. I went over for comfort and intimacy (and chili dogs) so I didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to go shopping. It sat in my wardrobe in a cup, gradually being dipped into. I had a little bit of my own money. I didn’t give a fuck about the money in the bank. I wanted to see how desperate my mum got; what she would try to do to get the money from me.
First, she asked me to draw out the money – for safekeeping, she explained. She didn’t want the bank or probate or whoever to have it. Fine. I went to the bank and took the whole lot out.
As a brief aside, the women in the bank were heartbroken that he’d died. My grandad was a totally shameless flirt who gave pic’n’mix sweets to cashiers – in the bank, the supermarket, wherever – and he’d remember who liked which sweet and got pissed off with me every time I stole one from him that was meant to be for such-and-such (‘I thought you wanted me to eat more?’ ‘Not the Raspberry Ruffle, I didn’t – that was for Daphne.’) It might sound a bit creepy but he was totally smooth about it, even with me sighing and rolling my eyes behind him. The worst place he did this was in the doctor’s surgery, because getting a prescription required him to give his name, which he did – along with a cheeky grin: ‘Byron. Lord Byron.’
(‘Oh mate. He shagged his sister.’ ‘I’m going to clip you round your ear if you’re not fucking careful.’ – I was totally unappreciated as a wingman.)
Anyway, the money. She said we should split it in half – that was astonishingly generous! However, there was the smell of ‘but’ in the air and then… ‘but I think we should let <my mum’s boyfriend’s boss> look after it for a while.’ Huh. Obviously she didn’t know that I had been having an affair with him, and I was finding this funnier by the second. Why did we need to let him look after the money? I understand the choice of person: a millionaire isn’t likely to steal a couple of grand from some peasants, but I can’t remember why she suggested giving it to him in the first place.
You’d think funeral costs or something, right? But no. My mum cashed in his life insurance AND applied for a benefit grant to cover the cost. She got the money twice over, but only had to pay once.
She just wanted the money away from me. And I didn’t care. I saw it as the perfect excuse to take my budgie and move two counties away. I posted her my front door key, told her I was in a different city entirely, and finally broke ties with her completely.
I called her boyfriend’s boss six months or so after I’d moved away, just to make sure he hadn’t forgotten me. I didn’t ask about the money. If I had, he would have said he still had it and would have given it to me – and I would have never known if it was his money, replacing what he’d given to my mum – possibly by now realising his mistake, or if it was my grandad’s. And I honestly didn’t care.
I took a sky full of memories, an ocean filled with guilt and moral high ground as tall as a big fucking mountain. And I’m downright awful; I’m the opposite of morals. I’m mutiny in eyeliner and over-the-knee boots.
When I was 18, I got into an argument with her over the phone. I can’t remember what it was about. I got pissed off.
‘What colour are my eyes?’
‘You heard. What colour are my fucking eyes, Mum?’
She didn’t know.