After so many years you’d think the pain of losing someone so close to my heart would ease. But it never does and I don’t think it ever will.
See my Grandad died on this day over 10 years ago and he was an exceptional figure in my life as a man and father. While growing up with a single parent there was no dad around and I had to learn life lessons from my hardworking granddad when he wasn’t either working, playing golf or watching Arsenal.
You see my love of Arsenal was from him when everyone else was supporting Manchester United, and being different was fine by me. Having a granddad who was from Kentish Town around the corner from Arsenal was enough justification that I needed to claim ownership on that football dream and happily support Ian Wright!
Tom was a hardworking man who after the war worked on the steam trains shovelling coal. Looking at the size of him and his hands you could see why. I actually think they used to save money and he’s use his hands as a shovel! In my early years I can remember being on a milk float as we’d go around the local Nato barracks and then finish and do taxi work for a local chequers company as a hackney cab.
He was always working and I remember Sunday mornings when we would get treated to a McDonalds Big Breakfast tray!
I never really missed not having a dad and there was never an urge to find out exactly what happened to him and why he f*cked off when Reece (my twin) was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. There was never a hole to fill as I had the father figure I needed.
Tom introduced me to golf and was the only person really supporting my desire to become professional as it was a lot of hard work for very little money until you can teach. Bunking off school in 6th Form, he’d cover for me and when I’d stay late for practise I would occasionally get picked up from the club after showing off some new skills or giving him a lesson.
When I made it professionally, I knew how happy he was from his friends and acquaintances rather than from Tom himself. He was a closed man who didn’t open to his emotions. I remember asking him once if he’d ever taken a life in the army and he said yes but it was them or me.
As a coldstream guard
Tom was a beefeater! He’d fought in Egypt and when on night guard duty, despite several warnings not to come closer, the base had been attacked and Tom was on guard. He hadn’t stopped and did his duty in protecting everyone. We never spoke about this again after.
It was very difficult to know how Tom was feeling and despite being a gentle giant I’ve heard some stories of incredible bravery and confidence to protect his family.
But Tom was best known for his time at Haste Hill Golf Club and for being Captain, Senior Captain and honourable member including being the club steward. His name was on the boards for winning competitions and members and visiting public alike always looked for him to say hello or ask how he was doing. You see I was Tom’s grandson, the pro golfer he wasn’t my granddad and I liked it that way. Despite my local fame he still took the limelight because he was the nicest person you’d ever meet.
After a car accident in which he was driven into at high speed on a roundabout, life wasn’t ever the same. Hip and knee replacements put an end to his mobility for a while and he started to look frail. This wasn’t the Tom that I knew and it was scary.
When he was diagnosed with cancer I didn’t believe it was true, I couldn’t deal with it and just ignored it. I didn’t full comprehend the treatment that he went through and never really spoke about it as he beats everything.
After beating the big C a couple of times, there was one night when he was rushed into hospital and I went to spend time with him. We only spoke about me as he wouldn’t let me speak. Even in illness he was thinking about me.
This time it was a range of problems keeping the gently giant down. There was a blood clot on his lung and he had bowel cancer.
Treatment was the same but this time there was Rat Poison blood thinners to help clear the clot. Eventually through their extreme toxicity and the bowel cancer, he passed on when I was out.
I remember the moment of realisation that he would never be there to speak to ever again because while he wasn’t a speaker, he was a great listener.
The day before when Tom had requested to take me to work at the pro shop, we sat and talked for about 45 minutes and it was the closest talk we’d ever have. Discussing things like life and death, talking about how proud he was that I wasn’t another one at the bottom of the pile and telling me that I should pursue my future in golf and work as hard as I want at being the best. It was really emotional and I’ll never forget that moment till the day I die.
There are lots of things that I wish I could have told Tom but there’s so many things that I wish I could have showed him.
My wife and how we met.
Our gorgeous children.
Our house and living in Wigan!
Hw good at golf I became.
How big our garden is! (He would have hated cutting that!)
Our Wedding Day.
How brave and strong Reece has become.
A part of me believes that he’s up there looking down on us as a family. This gets me through these dark days every year. That and the belief that if I could be anywhere near the man he was, I’ll be alright.