13 years ago

The memory of my grandfathers death occasionally pervades my dreams. I hardly knew him. I knew an old man in a wheelchair after 4 strokes. Not the laughing centre of attention he was. I remember watching people stand at the side of the road looking at the funeral procession. I remember thinking they had no right to stand and stare. I remember only the final music. It still makes me cry. I still wish I had better memories of him.

I know why he appeared in my dream last night. The topic of smoking always brings it back. A broken man, unable to speak, angrily making noises and banging on the table, frustrated at his diminishing abilities. A child sitting across from him, fearing to look up. My grandmother rushing round to help him drink his cup of tea. When I do look up, I catch his eye, he looks pleadingly at me. At the time I never understood what he was trying to communicate. Now I think he was apologising. He knew what had happened to him. He knew he was upsetting and scaring me and I think that broke his heart.

That’s the legacy of smoking I live with.