Portfolio of Hope

Sitting in the garden-
your garden-
on a sunny Sunday morning in May,
a whole 4 months since you passed,
I can see you,
walking stick in hand,
showing me your tomato plants,
your strawberries in the greenhouse-
your ‘tatis in the ground,
planted underneath the patio I’m now sitting on…

I can see me helping you dig them up
(there were always a lot to dig up, too- naturally– you did always eat “2 ‘tatis more than a pig”, as you used to say)…

I can see me waiting in eager anticipation to take them in to show Nanna,
to help wash and peel them for our Sunday dinner
(our Sunday dinner which, if my mum and dad ever turned up late for, which, with my mums timekeeping, happened quite a few times, you’d take yourself off to sit in the armchair* at the back of your greenhouse with the ‘munk on’-

*your armchair which now sits empty– only cobwebs to occupy it)…


I can see you,
’round the back’
showing me your trees-
apple trees,
plum trees,
pear trees-
all of the, literal, ‘fruits of your labour’
strewn all over the floor-
far too many to eat
(although, you were always partial to picking a moldy one for a snack)-
so many
and yet,
someone had been ‘stealing’ them,
you said…

I can hear you in my head,
telling me to
“Go inside and get a bag from Nanna-
you can have them.”

This phrase just about sums you up

(Summed you up- it’s still hard to write about you in the past tense-
it’s hard when someone whose always been there-
I still forget sometimes-
most of the time)…

You’d give away everything you owned if you thought that it would make us happy…
(not your bench, though. You wouldn’t give that away)…

Everyone kept telling you to get rid of that damn bench-
you know the one,
planks of wood loose-
it was all falling apart,
(like your shed).
“You’re going to fall through it one day.”
You couldn’t be told, though-
so stubborn, you were.
No one could tell you what to do,
it had to be on your terms,
like stopping driving-
“No one tells me what to do.”
A hard exterior
which mellowed in your old age.
Your extreme views became more…
People said that it could’ve been the dementia
that made you forget,
like when you said that your “favourites” on Strictly Come Dancing were the two same-sex male dancers.
Had you forgotten what you used to say?
That you would “disown” anyone in your family if they came out as Gay?
Was it the dementia that made you forget?
or did you just…
I like to think that it was for the latter reason,
I like to think that you did change,
so much-
for the better

And so,
sitting in the garden,
I remember that version of Grandad,
as I look around and see memories of him
and, i thank god that I got to know him…

I remember my Grandad who…
always had a story to tell-
sitting in his chair,
telling me about his cycling days,
trips to Italy on his bike with Nanna and the Doncaster Wheelers,
his time in the RAF,
his love of Camp Coffee,
(which, we all teased him for-
camp coffee- yuk!),
reliving memories of years gone by….


I remember my Grandad who…
always made me feel so protected.
Every time I saw a wasp,
or a spider,
and would jump up in panic,
he’d calmly say;
“It won’t hurt you. It’s one of ours.”

Most notably, though, I remember my Grandad who…
always made me feel so loved,
no matter what,
right until the very end,
when he took my hand in his,
trying with every last ounce of strength in his dying body,
to tell me something

(I don’t say “weak” body here because, in true Henry style, even at the end of it all, when he should’ve been letting go, he was still so strong-
so ‘stubborn’-
hanging on
and on
and on)…

Though if it were ” I love you”,
if that’s what you were trying to tell me,
then i just hope you know that I already knew that-
that… I already know that-
I’m just sorry that I didn’t get the chance to say the same to you.

My biggest regret
is this-
all of the things left unsaid-
“I love you,
“I’m proud of you,
All of the memories left unmade.
All of the “taking for granted”-
me listening,
but not really listening,
me there,
but not really there-
I only wish that I’d been more present-
for all the memories that I can’t get back,
for all the mundane things
that you think nothing of at the time,
when you’re gone-
when they’re gone-
you realise that, actually, they’re the most precious moments of all…

Sitting here in your garden this morning,
having just seen a Robin in your apple tree-
(I like to think that it was you-
that robin, Grandad-
a nod to what I’m saying)-
I feel close to you,
close to my childhood,
which you shaped so much.

So, thank you,
for everything.

I love you-
always and forever.


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