Youth Justice has a way of growing on you. Bit like a rash you can’t get rid of I suppose. Because of the way I’m wired I hated not being able to do more…save the world mentality I suppose. But most of these kids, the damage was done way before they got to us. And unravelling or un doing that, was going to take time…more than time than what we had with them. The whole place takes on a crisis mentality really…the ambulance at the bottom of the hill. I was looking more at the top of the hill…putting up a god dam fence to stop them from falling off in the first place.
I had spent a long time on the floor with the kids before I started getting sicker. I started loosing weight, slowly at first…then large amounts quickly which I was unable to put back on. So every time I got a flu or a bit sickly, just generally, I’d lose 5-6kgs. I’d get better and was only able to put on 2-3kgs. Any other time this would’ve been freaking awesome…but because I couldn’t hold any food down…virtually everything I did manage to hold down, gave me a horrendous stomach ache and headache, and/or an accompanying allergic reaction. I was sick every other week and started feeling quite weak and generally worn out.
But I kept going. I was still studying. It was my final year and I had assignments for miles and four large exams. I was taking vitamin supplements to make up for what food I couldn’t hold down, and trying to balance out what I could eat.
I got offered a case managers position part way through the year, and I ended up taking it so I actually got a normal type of day, and night and weekends…and I could see more of my girl. She had started college and was finding it hard. For her it was more about the ‘all white’ thing…she had come from a ‘pick the whitey’ school, where everyone was brown. She clashed with most of her teachers who had already deemed her as disrespectful and rude. Except for her Maori language teacher…who got her completely.
I generally felt torn during this time. While I wanted to ‘help’…or fix shit up…and I wanted to earn a living…a decent living…I wanted to succeed…I wanted to smash every stereotype I had ever felt or had ever been placed on me. But I also wanted to be around for my girl, physically…and mentally, so she didn’t end up some hideous statistic. I didn’t want to always be at work, but that job had a way of sticking to you long after you’d left the gates.
My older girl had lost a baby earlier in the year and was pregnant again by mid year. I was looking forward to being a nanny…and petrified as well. In hindsight, it’s a normal reaction. I finally got why my mother was so freaked out when I got pregnant, and I was only 15.
But I was looking forward to our moko really. Me and my partner still had a strenuous relationship…fuck I’m glad those days are over…they were hard, really hard. I still don’t understand why peeps are busting their asses off to get into relationship – gay or straight – relationships are hard fucking work!
But the worst of this year came near the end of it.
My mother was living with my Grandfather, taking care of him. She’d been there since before my Nan died. She gave up her life to watch out for them…
She rang me in the middle of the night…I was in a deep sleep…I was sick…and tired…and I barely heard the phone ringing. She said that Grandad was in hospital and had been there since the previous day…they hadn’t wanted to ring and worry us…but she was uncertain if he was going to be alright…apparently they had resuscitated him the night before.
I booked 2 plane tickets, for me and my girl, and we left the first thing in the morning. My older girl picked s up from the airport…heavily pregnant…she looked beautiful; and tired. She wasn’t sure if Grandad would be alright…that’s what her eyes said…her mouth said he’d be fine.
We got up to the hospital and he looked tired; so did my mother. I didn’t like seeing him in the hospital. He tried to be all chirpy and happy…he was worried about his cat at home by himself. And he said he was tired.
The thing with my Grandparents was they were troopers. They never stopped…not the ragged wretched troop that our world does now. They were the old school…the veterans…who had fought, died, lived and returned…and worked their asses off to make things better for everyone…their families…everyone.
Grandad knew everyone…he had a nick name for everyone…he talked to everyone and wanted to know who they were…where they’d come from…who their family was…
He is a beautiful man…and they really don’t make them like him anymore.
He’d get up at 5am…even in his eighties…he had the same routine as he’d had for years…for as long as I’d known him. He’d feed his cat…or dog…when he had both…he’d have his breakfast…do an hour in the garden…and he had a magnificent garden…the old school garden that could have fed a small nation…
He’d feed the birds with his pre blended crusts…talk to them all. And before he was older…he’d go to work…he was a builder…a concreter…a fixer-upper…he did it all. When I was little I’d go to work with him and my best memories, ever…are hammering nails into bits of wood and watching him do the same. We’d listen to the old transistor radio and he’d hum and I’d sing. We’d have tea and super wine biscuits at morning tea and then get on with hammering…or mixing concrete…I loved the sound and the smell of it in the concrete mixer…I still do. Then we’d go home for lunch and then back to work. After noon tea was the same as morning tea…and sometimes I’d get a lolly.
Fuck I loved him. He was my favourite person in the whole wide world and I didn’t appreciate him enough…but I did. I didn’t love him enough…but that’s just the regret and missing him, talking really.
He was…is…the best man I have ever known. He was my father and grandfather all in one. He is…an amazing man.
I knew he was sick when I saw him. The pedo cunt was there as well…and it’s probably the first time, I wholly did not give a fuck about him…I wasn’t afraid of him…I didn’t really care about the space he took up…
My Grandad was in and out of sleep…and we took turns reading him parts of Psalms…he read the Bible every morning when he woke up, for about half an hour. Now it was our turn to read to him. It was hard seeing a proud hard-working man so tired…he was dying. The nurse was trying to tell us that his heart was failing and that we should say what we needed to now because he would start shutting down. My mother and the cunty pedo had signed a non-resus thingy…the doctors said he was too old…but they didn’t know my Grandad…I wanted to scream at them…
And just as we ordered pizza and were getting comfortable…comfortable denial…he started to get raspy…
My little girl went and got my big girl from the other room and the nurse said that this was the ‘time’.
The pedo cunt and his Mrs had left about a couple of hours beforehand to go and get something from home…he said he didn’t want to watch Grandad die…gutless weak bastard…but you know what…for once in his miserable existence, he did the right thing…
So left surrounding Grandad’s bed…were us…his beautiful women, his great great moko in the belly, and mokos papa. My mother, who was freaking…but she was trying to grasp what was happening…then there was my little girl, she was wailing…and my big girl, and her pregnant belly, sobbing…and me, I wanted to run. I could feel my gutt heaving and the tears streaming hot…I wanted to close my eyes and wake up somewhere else…
And the dissociation of sorts, well it kicked in…I kicked it in. I could see what was happening, and the panic…and the grief…and I could see the only man I had ever truly loved and respected….he didn’t like great out pourings of emotion.
I looked at the girls and whispered ‘hes dying’…’hold his hands’…’tell him he’s a good man’. Then I looked at my mother and sternly but quietly said the same thing…and she almost keeled over but she got it…she stroked Grandad’s head and told him what a great father he is…was…that she loved him.
And I looked at him…right into his eyes…his big blue eyes…and told him I loved him and that he was a good man and had done a wonderful job…a job well done…and we would be alright…
He looked scared…but I watched him…his eyes…as the light faded from them. I heard his breath get shallower and shallower and then stop.
And my heart broke…my gutt lurched…and my heart broke.
We all held him for ages and ages…cried, and held him.
He was our hero…our soldier…our forever…and he was gone.
The end of an era.
We took him home. He hadn’t wanted it that way…but we did…we loved him massively and couldn’t have done it any other way.
They folded the flag from his coffin after the service at the Returned Serviceman Association. We tried to be as dignified as we could…because that was Grandad…he was a dignified man…a soldier…an old school soldier…who respected and loved loyalty and friendship…who was honourable and hard-working and never left a man behind…he was…is…a truly beautiful man.
I had told him I had finished my Criminology degree when he had a lucid moment, just before he died…he told me he was proud of me. His blue eyes shone with pride.
I’m pleased I made him proud. I gave a fuck about what he thought.
And I miss him with every little fibre of my soul.