Goodnight Grandad John

The Freeman hospital and the famous checkered blanket

The Freeman hospital and the famous checkered blanket

To most people it just looks like any other blanket that sits on the end of your bed for display, or for those times when it’s not quite cold enough to climb in your actual sheets. I can’t quite find the right word for what it means to me, it’s priceless.

Back in the summer of last year when Grandad John’s new home had become ward 49, he began to kick up a fuss, he was cold and he said the sheets were like sand paper, so we bought him the grey and white checkered blanket from a bedding stall in Newcastle – it’s now part of my bedroom furniture.

He was on the waiting list for a heart transplant you see, so it seemed appropriate to make Grandad as comfortable as possible for the time he was going to spend there in cubicle number five. When I think about it now, over a year later, he was really poorly all along. I didn’t realise it at the time because he was as hilarious as ever with more personality and humour than that of any healthy person, including myself.

If I take a few minutes to look at the blanket, a very distinctive memory comes back to me. It was the best day, the day the doctors told us that he was next – they had a heart for him. It was only in that very moment, for that day I would be quite as happy.

Just a short week later he slipped away – I’m not quite sure what I think of the concept of someone’s body rejecting a new heart, a heart that ticked all of the boxes and was in theory ‘perfect’. It’s a bit unnerving and makes my own heart tremble a little bit.

The blanket is now to me what a working heart would have been to him.

It has remained as soft and full of love, as it was the day we gave it to him. I think I avoid asking my mam to wash it for as long as possible to try and keep the fluffy goodness. Then when the cup of tea stains and chocolatey finger prints become a bit too grotty, I start to feel like I’m doing him a disservice – so I hand it over, reluctantly.

Then I wait. Wait for the washing machine to be done, wait for it to come out of the tumble dryer, and wait for my mam to eventually hand it over. Then when I wrap myself back up in it, it’s like the warmest feeling I’ve ever known. However not like a hug as you would expect, more like a peace of mind and relief that it’s back in its rightful place and I tell myself I’ll be more careful with my cups of tea this time.

When I look at it on the end of my bed, I think about the times when I was small and Grandad John and my Nana Ann would take me on holiday and do all the things that grandparents do best. I think about when he taught me to swim and how I probably took the moments for granted at the time and didn’t realise how important they would be to me now. I think about quite selfish things like how I wish he could’ve seen my teeth without braces or why couldn’t he stay just one more month to see me start to uni. Finally, I think about how for all of these reasons he’ll definitely be glad that I’m keeping hold of the blanket for him (favourite Grandchild rights).

To me it’s the most high end, priceless, valuable piece of fashion there ever has been, and I’ll wrap it round me throughout every season, rain or shine.

Goodnight Grandad John

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