For Emma – Vitamin String Quartet
So I’m driving along. Listening to Taylor Swift. On my way to yoga. And I’m crying. Weird day.
In a daze when I got in my car. Turn on the radio. Anything. Just don’t want the silence. Drive on.
My Dad phoned me a few minutes before. Told me my Grandad was dying. My Grandad. Nick Hayes. Grandaddio. The mightiest man I know.
He’s been sick for a while. He’s old now and so is my gran. Both need looking after at home. But their spirits were still high last time I saw them and whenever I phoned for a quick chat. Joking around. Having a laugh. Life slowly winding down.
Took a turn for the worse yesterday morning. Put on morphine which means he didn’t have long left. Not going to get better. Lived some life. But still. I don’t want my grandad to die. He’s my hero.
I hate feeling sad. I know it’s part of life. But still. It’s bullshit. My grandad always makes me feel unreal. Cheers me up. Makes me laugh. Makes everyone feel better. It’s why everyone loved him. Lifts spirits. Never serious. Or angry. Upset. Just a wink and a smile. When he walked in, the room lit up. My grandad’s a legend.
Only realised today my grandad is the reason I like comedy so much. He’s the reason I want to do comedy. The way he makes me feel is how I want to make everyone feel. Not worry about bad or serious stuff. Just laugh at it. Look on the bright side of life. Always.
Used to love going down to my Nana and Grandad’s in Passage where they live, a terrace house overlooking the River Lee. Spend weekends there at times when I was young. Sleep over in my Dad’s old room while my brother Darren slept in one of my uncles’ old rooms. Wake up early and eat a big bowl of Special K and covered with sugar.
If it was sunny out the back my Nana and Grandad would go sit in the garden. Had to climb up a load of narrow steps to get up to the main part. Loved running up to see my grandad sitting there with his eyes closed, soaking up the sun. “Some heat today Marko, some heat.” Some heat Grandaddio, some heat, I’d say trying to copy him with my eyes half closed, one peaking open trying to see if I was doing it right. Even now I look like a grandad when I sit out in the sun. Some heat, Marko, some heat.
My Grandad was always telling us stories. The disco that used to be down the road from where they lived. I’d ask if he met Nana there, he’d just wink. The story about the time he played for Ireland and the team they played from Africa didn’t even have boots. Played in their bare feet. Tough men, Marko, tough men. I’d ask what he did for work, something to do with gas, I never fully understand. Gas man, Grandaddio, gas man.
My favourite story my grandad used to tell was when my aunt lost all his soccer medals. He was a Cork legend growing up. Everyone knew him. Sweet left foot. Won every trophy there was to win.
One day my aunt Jean took all his medals to the beach across the road from where they live. Took all his medals, dug a hole and buried them in the sand. Then she went home, ate dinner and said nothing until my grandad noticed they were missing. Asked if anyone had seen them?
I buried them in the sand, she said.
Where? my grandad asked.
I don’t know, Jean said.
Only young at the time, she completely forgot. My grandad went to the beach to try and find them but no joy. Tide was in. Then it went out. And they were gone. Ha. Always ended the story the same way, laughing,
“Isn’t she a beaut, huh Mark? Lost all my medals, some beaut.”
No resentment. No anger. Just laughing at it because it was funny, so you might as well.
Didn’t hit me at first when my Dad told me my Grandad didn’t have long to live. Didn’t want to feel the sadness. Carried on with my day. Driving west along Sunset. Reminded me of how my grandad loved driving. Loved his car. Kept it pristine. Cleaning it. Upgrading it. Wearing driving gloves. Taking me places whenever I needed it.
Like to the hospital that time I broke my fingers. Found a bloody penknife on the ground behind a radiator in the waiting room at ER. His eyes lit up laughing at me when I showed him. Kept calling me a hard man. Asking how did I always end up finding stuff like that. Telling me jokes on the drive home. Winking when he pretended not to notice my Nana ask him to do an errand “The hearing is getting very bad, Eileen”. Running into the shop to pick up a loaf and some milk. Slipping me a fiver for sweets. Telling everyone “All out bar the cat” when we got home. Never really got what that meant, but I loved when he said it.
So it made me sad yesterday that my Grandad wasn’t in the car with me driving along just one more time. I would’ve loved that. Hear him asking me about the women in LA “They must be something else I’d say” or calling me a hard man for going to yoga. Might’ve called me a plug or a plonker – I never heard him curse – then saying Marko! as I said back Grandad-dio!
I wish my grandad was in the car with me. But he wasn’t. And it made me cry. As a Taylor Swift song was playing on the radio. Some hard man alright. That made me laugh. Some beaut. At least it wasn’t a Justin Bieber song.
I’m going to miss our phone calls home. I’m going to miss hearing him say “Marko! Is that you? Eileen, it’s Mark phoning from LA – OK, thanks for calling.” And then he hangs up. Twenty seconds and done. Some beaut.
I didn’t want my grandad to die. Wish you all could have meet him first. He’d have made you laugh. I miss him already. Laugh on.