My Grandad

Booming laughter, an update on the Everton scores, a knowing ‘I’m bored of this too’ smile during a dull conversation, showing off his latest gadget to prove you can still be an 80-year-old technophile, a rant on how the Hastings Observer had showcased another pier at sunset photo (“It’s so boring!”), an “Alright darling!” when he picked up the phone, waving goodbye from the window, an incredible ability to find the silver lining in any situation, and big warm goodbye hugs.

No one was better at being my Grandad than Gerry Hook. He was my best friend and the person I wanted to tell first when anything good or bad happened. The best part is that I’m not the only one that admired this incredible man, he was loved by so many people.

When I was growing up, I was in constant awe of how revered he was. To me, he knew everyone and was the most popular man in Hastings. He was the Sandwich King and we’d pop into his café on the way to school for our lunch. Watching him interact with the customers, I was impressed by how easily he could strike up a friendly conversation with complete strangers. My Grandad was full of charm and wit. If you had met him, I promise you that he would have had you laughing in the first five minutes of knowing him. And if you did meet him, you’d know that much is true.

He was kind, intuitive, and always knew what to say. Even when it felt like there were no words. There was a time when I thought my own identity would find the limits of his kindness. We walked along Bexhill seafront as I tried to find the courage to tell him. I blurted it out unexpectedly and waited for the ground to swallow me - and my intense shame - up. He hugged me, cried and told me how proud he was. My identity has bloomed since that day in December 2013, and my Grandad’s willingness to learn and adapt has too. He reminded me that I’m still loveable when I needed it most.

He didn’t love anyone as much as he loved and adored my Nan. He made sure he told her everyday that he loved her. Almost sixty years of marriage and they absolutely adored one another. I don’t know why but I’m always reminded how any device he owned, the background was always set to a picture of my Nan. He’d crop out the backdrop, or anyone else in the photo for that matter. If you could change the background to a picture of my Nan, he’d do it. I might not have been able to spend time with him this past year, but knowing he was being looked after and cared for the by the love of his life was comforting.

He was diagnosed with terminal cancer last February — I drove to Hastings and found him propped up in a hospital bed laughing. “I’m not dead yet, show them I’m still here”, he said and he made my sister and I take a selfie with him. He said to us, “as long as I get to live long enough to see the new Everton stadium, I’m happy”.

In that moment, I felt an hourglass turn and time started running out. Only a month later, the whole world would shut down and I couldn’t drive to see him anymore. No one could. He went through two intense rounds of cancer treatment largely on his own. My last year of knowing my Grandad was limited to phone calls, the few times he figured out how to do a video call, and pockets of precious time between lockdowns where we could safely meet in person.

It wasn’t the year that anyone imagined. But we had phone calls, I coached him on how to use Zoom, he met the love of my life Hannah, we celebrated Christmas in September, I emailed him every photo I took, and I always told him how much I loved him. We thought we had more time — at least until the summer — but he took a turn for the worse and months turned into weeks and weeks turned into days.

My Grandad was Gerry Hook. A man that leaves an incredible legacy and a space at the family dinner table that can never be filled. He taught me to be kind to others, to wear my heart on my sleeve and go after whatever it is you want. He loved me unconditionally no matter who I was and I loved him ever so much.

I’m looking forward to the new Everton stadium opening, we’re going to watch a match for him.

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