If you wouldn’t mind humouring me. One more time. Here we go.
July 2015. The house was packed. The car was packed. We’d even squeezed Fin in the boot. The girls had brought their dance gear. Jack had the car full of boat parts and electronic gizmos. When no one was looking, I filled its last spaces with books. I had to do it stealthily in case Jack saw. ‘Books?!’ he’d say, ‘We already have a boat full of them. Are you trying to sink us?’
He was right of course. I just like books – especially when travelling. In my twelfth year, I’d loaded a suitcase full of Sweet Valley High to Poland for the summer. Loved those Californian twins. Now my books were marine biology, select excellent fiction, children’s dictionaries and colouring books. Ballast for Quest, I reasoned.
It had taken us a long time to get here – five years from idea to fruition. We’d sold a house. Bought a boat. Moved back into the little bungalow at the back of Grandpa’s.
Just one other little thing – we were weighed down with trauma. There was Delph’s cataract operations and her long recovery afterwards – as well as the cerebral palsy. Lulu’s broken elbow a few months earlier and the resulting, awesome shark bite scar that gets bigger, not smaller over time. Then Jack’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The not knowing if he’d be ok. His treatment. His anger at his illness. We just couldn’t get it right.
We started to dream instead. The world consisted of more than just the west coast of Wales, right? Even if wandering over waves was more dangerous than doing the school run. This was our window. We could find a sunnier place.
With this, car packed, we said good-bye to Grandpa. Of course, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d ever see him. Duh. He was fine too – pretty cool about us going. Then we started driving slowly down the road.
It was a mile or so before anyone realised. It was the classic, ‘Have you got the boat keys?’ ‘No, have you got them?’
Thanks for humouring me. It just still makes me laugh. All that packing and we forgot the most important thing. Car turned around, we drove back to the house, picked up the keys and went to check on Grandpa. He was crying in his conservatory. Not so cool after all.
‘Oh Grandpa,’ we started to say.
He growled in his comical way. His shocked, indignant, pretend anger.
Then he said – and these are the last words I ever heard him say – ‘I’m not crying you’re leaving. These are tears of happiness.’
Thanks, dear reader. Take care, Borthie. One more time.