The earliest memory I have of you is that one time you made me breakfast. I’m sure you’d prepared this meal for me many times before, and would have continued to do so many times after, but it was that particular round of toast I will always remember.
As a child, I slept over at your house nearly every weekend and, up until the age of about ten, every Friday night would be spent eating chips and fried eggs while I watched late-night comedy I didn’t understand. Then every Saturday morning would involve sleeping in late and waking just in time to catch the final cartoons before boring adult programmes, like horse racing, began.
This particular weekend Nanny was ill. Her nerves you told me – not for the first time either. Being the slow but gentle Granddad you were, you offered to make me breakfast. You asked me if I wanted toast. I must have said yes because you went into the kitchen to prepare it. I think you set the smoke alarm off at least once and I could definitely smell burnt bread.
With eyes glued firmly to the television screen and my mind void of all awareness of time, I soon forgot about breakfast. I can’t recall now what cartoon I was watching but it was probably something like Captain Planet or Sharky and George. Whatever it was, I was hooked. It wasn’t until the end credits starting rolling that you, my slow but gentle Granddad, entered the room with one slice of toast precariously balanced on an avocado-coloured plate which was probably twice as old as me.
You plonked yourself down on the sofa and handed over the food. In front of me sat a slightly charred slice of white toast with a cold, fluffy surface which hid beneath it a type of congealed margarine. Nanny had never made me breakfasts like that before. It was spectacular.
What is it Granddad? I asked, while my eyes tried to make out the mysterious shapes you had created.
It’s a Punch and Judy show, you said.
The smile on my face grew with each explanation of all the different parts. There was the tent with a square cut out at the top to make room for the tiny toast puppets. You had created grooves in the tent by slicing through the bread with a blunt knife, tearing at it rather than forming sharp lines. There was even the back of children’s heads as they watched the show in front of them.
It was the most magical thing I had ever seen.
Everything was so quiet that morning, especially with Nanny still being in bed, and the unfamiliarity of being left alone with you in what felt like such a big house was odd for me. I may not have shown you at the time, always making it obvious that Nanny was my favourite, but that moment, that wonderful breakfast made by you, my slow but gentle Granddad, will always have a special place in my heart and my memories.
Nanny passed away three years before you. It was painful and I still miss her, but I am so privileged to have been allowed to get to know you as an adult. With my own family in tow I have had conversations with you that I never knew I would. We have talked about looking after the pennies and the pounds looking after themselves. We have talked about what each partner needs to bring to a relationship. And we have laughed together when you told me about the time you and your army mates ordered breakfast, ate it, and then did a runner without paying; a whole world away from the slow but gentle Granddad I knew as a child.
Unfortunately this week, it was the final slice of toast for you as stronger forces decided your time was up.
I hope one day I will make toast as sweet as you did for me that morning, for my grandchildren. And I hope wherever you are now you know how special that memory will always be to me. From my child-self, thank you for being a such a kind and loving Granddad. From me now, thank you for being my friend, my mentor, and the best damn memory-maker a granddaughter could ever have asked for.