When my nan and grandad passed away I always said I’d write a book about them. Maybe I will one day, but they’ve been on my mind and in my dreams so I’m gonna take that as a sign that I should write about them now and not try to dress up their relationship as some kind of storybook. It was already like it was from a storybook with its realness and the foolishness that went on amongst all the love that was there.
My nan and grandad were the reason I chose to not shut myself off completely from the idea that love is real.
Heather worked in a silk factory and John worked down at the fish market in a simple and sleepy village where nothing really happened and everyone was recovering from war. John was engaged and heather was very sociable.
Heather and John knew of each other from the village, because everyone knows everyone. People would literally communicate through one of them homemade tin can walky talky phone things. They had never formerly met though.
One night heather and John were with separate parties and crossed paths on a train to go dancing in the neighbouring town. They apparently had instant chemistry, but not in the usual sense. Not in the sense that they were flirting or had any kind of intention to take the conversation in a certain direction- they just spoke. Conversation was like home. It was just that kind of child-like, effortless, no ulterior motive sparring that kept one another smiling through the train journey and the night out.
Heather and John went their separate ways.
Fate would draw back the two in strange ways over the course of the next few months and every time they saw each other it was like they wanted to stay, but that just wasn’t the way things were done. Every conversation became addictive, not because there was any expectation of where it would go but simply because it was just pleasant to be in. It kept them smiling, it motivated them through the week. It was something to grin about when they got home and had time to reflect on their day.
Eventually, John decided that his engagement wasn’t the best thing for him. The engagement ended and John took some time to himself.
Heather and John went out dancing again one night and as chance would have it they ended up on the same carriage again.
The two began “courting”.
My nan would always laugh about their first dates, my grandad clown was quite a character.
Sometimes when two people are so invested in each other it can become scary. All the fears and underlying difficult to navigate emotions come up and it puts a strain on the relationship. People forget that it’s “us vs problem” as opposed to “me vs you”. People often have a tendency to believe they’re alone despite being coupled, because of past experiences, innate fears, all things like that. Heather and John, for some reason or another, called things off following an argument a few months into their relationship.
6 months later they crossed paths again, my nan was sitting on the wall waiting to go to the toilet pissed out of her head and my grandad walked straight up to her and asked her out again. My nan always said it was typical that he picked that particular moment and that had to be the one time he would see her again after 6 months of being apart. 6 months of no contact and they thought about each other all the time.
The two began courting again and they had a genuinely beautiful relationship, the only one I saw growing up that I actually aspired to. I could give you many funny and over romanticised anecdotes from the side of the relationship that I saw, but it wouldn’t be funny to any of you because it was a silly family thing. At the end of the day it was a fairytale relationship but the joy of it was in the simplicities; like just sitting watching TV together and making jokes, having funny things happen round the house and sharing it with one another, stuff like that. Things that just make beauty in the mundane more obvious.
The reason I was always so captivated by the relationship is because of the way it ended.
My grandad clown got dementia when I was about 7 or 8. He was always a really strong man, a genuinely very strong man that you wouldn’t want to cross; but he was the most gentle soul I have ever met. I had never once seen him angry and I never saw him shout. As the dementia grew he remained gentle, and he remained kind, and he remained funny. He was still John, but he just kept forgetting things. Eventually he could not speak much, or walk much, or do much.
Heather stood strong by John and cared for him til the very end. Heather was stubborn and refused any help that would have either one of them be unhappy, the most help she would accept is my mothers, and homecare.
Heather had a lot of health problems herself though she never really let the family know about them because she was made of steel and all things motherly. John was in hospital once following a really bad fall and lots of health problems that confirmed he was at the very end of his days.
There was something I read once from Abraham Hicks about dementia sufferers. The philosophy is that they are already kind of dying, but they hang on to physical life and fight death because they don’t want to leave their loved ones. I’ve always believed that you choose when to go, but the way my grandparents did it just confirms all my beliefs, to me anyway.
Heather had finalised a bunch of paperwork to ensure that John would be put in a nursing home she picked out for him, after doing a LOT of research and viewing loads of homes. She didn’t want to leave the house they lived in and she didn’t want him to leave either, but he had to.
Heather had finalised all the paperwork. My sister and I went back to my dads after we paid her our weekly visit, we all kissed and said goodbye. Heather and my mum sat and had a big chat and a heart to heart and a hug and a kiss, and they went to bed.
The next morning my mum went in to heathers room to give her a cup of tea, and she had passed away.
Heather had a cough that we thought nothing of which turned out to be a severe heart problem that resulted in her death. We all think she knew she had it and that she was on borrowed time, but she didn’t care to fight it and would rather accept it gracefully. Mum grieved, made all the necessary calls and called the hospital team.
John was in the hospital on a lot of painkillers and with advanced dementia. Mum went to visit to break the news and the nurses told her that they’d never seen him like he was that morning. John knew of nothing but he was hysterically unsettled, trying to get up out of his bed and insisting that heather was there. The nurses and doctors had to up his dosage because of how unsettled he was. This was so out of character because of how gentle and soft and unproblematic he was.
Mum told the nurses what had happened, and then went up to tell John what had happened. John cried, and sighed, and simply said “knew she was here”. They went downstairs and heathers body was in the morgue.
The funeral took place, John didn’t attend. He wasn’t well and he couldn’t have coped. He was at the end of his days and he didn’t speak much of heathers death. He wasn’t awake much. We all visited him lots and showed him all the love we had for him.
There was a lot of legal matters and paperwork mum had to deal with regarding the house and the will. The house would only be in possession of my mum if my grandad lived to a certain date. A month later, the day after the date that it was necessary for my granddad to live to in order for my mum to be in possession of the house, John passed away.
Heather and John married when heather was 18 and John was 20. They died a month apart when heather was 78 and John was 80. They were the most beautiful souls I ever had the pleasure of being around and they are the reason I kept my heart open to the idea that things aren’t all petty arguments and divorces.
That was the story of Heather and John.