I have laid in bed for hours going over and over this in my mind, I came to the conclusion that writing it down was probably the best way to sort through the many, many feelings going on right now and I know sharing it with you all, people who probably know our little family better than sadly my own family may help a little. The last few days have seen my world feeling like it has crumbled around me. It all started a week ago with the most vivid dream, I can only call it divine intervention, it was so vivid, so real, I could have reached out and touched the people in it, I woke up in a pool of mascara and washed up eyeliner; something about this dream shook me to my core, enough to ask Mr HH to call our local hospitals at home to see if it was real; whilst he couldn’t find any information that supported my dreams something wasn’t right, I knew it, I put ‘write a letter to Grandad’ on my list, I couldn’t quite find the right words to put onto paper and I kept putting it off; I hadn’t sent him a christmas, birthday or fathers day card, whilst we had been estranged for some years now I had always sent them, I never heard back, but something recently had felt different and I hadn’t sent them. Then a lovely lady left me a comment about watching my videos and where could she buy a tool I had used in the UK, her name was also Stapleton, it’s fairly uncommon to find another so I asked her where she was from, a few messages later and we realized she was married to my Mum’s brother, she was my aunt through marriage, I had only met her once that I could remember at my Grandmothers funeral and she hadn’t realized who I was either until these messages, quite sad, but these things happen and families are complicated things! Well, wednesday night she sends me a lovely email asking whether I minded her following me, given family politics and she would understand if I preferred her not to, I wanted to write a considered response (not my normal style, i’m far to hot headed!), so yesterday morning I typed back explaining I hadn’t seen or heard from anyone in over 6 years and it’s more the merrier here at the Hollow. We started chatting and she shared the very sad news with me that my Grandfather had passed away in October, but no-one had told me, in fact she had only recently found out, it had all been kept a secret. The floodgates opened and my world dissolved. Whilst we had become estranged in recent years, our relationship had fallen victim to listening to gossip and I inherited his stubbornness and well one week, turned into a month, into a year and you get the picture.
I often say what a wonderful place the Hollow is, how supportive you all are of me and each other; I can only imagine that the universe’s higher power, whatever name you will give him, sent my Aunt to YouTube and she happened to find me in her feed, and they conspired to bring us together; the light at the end of this is I hope to be able to have a relationship with a part of my family I only ever heard about despite me growing up a mile away, buying an apartment 5 doors down and dating my uncles high school best friends son for many years! Of course, this news has ought me great sadness, my grief is still very new and very raw. I adored my grandfather, he wasn’t perfect but to me I always held him on a pedestal, growing up we were inseparable and my grandparents were the ones to really bring me up. In fact Hedgehog Hollow was born out of the fondness for hedgehogs he nurtured for nearly two decades, his home, which I will always consider my childhood home had a high wall with holly bushes running all around, it was the perfect habitat for hedgehogs to breed their prickles, sadly every year one or two would fall over the edge of the wall and we couldn’t find their families, so we would get a cardboard box, fill it with bedding and feed them on a diet of cat food and water until they were big enough to go it alone; even when I was 18 or 19 someone threw a hedgehog at the door, so cruel, but we always joked it knocked on the door looking for our help. The name of my little blog was always a nod to him and the happy times we had shared.
I will never understand why my mother chose not to tell her siblings of their fathers passing or any of us grandchildren, I suppose I will never know, but to not give us the closure or such a wonderful man the obituary he deserved feels so wrong to me, I never got around to putting down the words I wanted to send him, but I wanted to have something out there so I feel he will never be forgotten or that he was never not in my thoughts. Eric Stapleton was a man of humble beginnings, born to Emma and George on January 22nd 1928, in Tooting Broadway London. His father left when he was very young, something he would never talk about more than he was an alcoholic and he had left him and his 5 siblings, he was the oldest, born the year sliced bread was invented ( you can imagine the jokes!). I do know he was evacuated in the war to Tolpuddle in Dorset, I don’t remember the name of the lady who took him in but I remember his fondness and love for her, in fact the only photograph of him as a child was here in the village square on the wall, I wish I had a copy of that. however, he ran back to London to be with his mother, a petite fiesta Scottish lady, and his siblings to work in a butchers shop to earn money to provide for them. He instilled in me from a very young age, the importance of family. During the war their street was bombed, the house next door which was home to his uncle and grandfather was destroyed and he once told me how he found parts of their bodies in the rubble, an experience which no doubt never left him. At 15 he signed up to the army, he was sent to Germany where he met my grandmother, the most wonderful love story I will save for another time, they were the epitome of true love; Mr HH and I used to joke as teenagers how we wanted to embody them when we were old, something that we still try to strive for now. They had three children; they spent some time stationed in Borneo and I used to love to hear his stories and look at the things they bought back with them. He told me how he had always dreamed of emigrating to Australia when he left the army, but my Nan said no, so that was the end of that, as he always said the key to 50 years of marriage was ‘yes dear’! They settled in Colchester, Essex and ran a few different business before retiring when I was born; I am the youngest of five grandchildren and I was the only grand-daughter, so I suppose I had a slight advantage.
From as early as I can remember, he was always my world; from catching the mouse in the biscuit tin that had run in the house from the fields just and my mum and nan went to keep fit in their 80’s lycra and shell suits, to him holding my hand on the heater skelter because I was too scared to go alone, peddling me around the pond in castle park on the boats, he never said no despite some of those requests not being ideal for someone of his height and age! He always told the story of his four year old granddaughter walking up to the ticket counter at the zoo asking for one child and one OAP, apparently that’s the moment he felt old! He had a great knee to sit on for bedtime stories, always an ear to listen, nothing was too trivial. he was always there to cheer me one at a ballet recital, the first to teach me a terrible joke (his favorite was “What did the earwig say as he fell of the mantelpiece?” “ear-wig go!”) or the one to teach me the naughty words to the christmas carol for the school concert. He was always my advocate, even when I was in the wrong, he would still fight my corner. He ensured I always had the best he could afford of everything. I know some of his actions were misguided, but he always made me feel loved and valuable. When I was so terribly sick as a child he never blinked before saying he would pay for the surgery I needed privately so I could get better sooner, he helped me with my first house and car, when I knew I needed to leave my ex-husband and come home with Maddi, I know he was so disappointed but he has a ticket in my hand and said come home, it will be ok.
I shall never forget the tears of absolute joy and sadness when he held Maddi in his arms for the first time, happiness at his first great-grandchild; the sadness that my grandmother had passed away when I was pregnant. He loved Maddi so much and I wish he had seen her grow up into such a lovely young lady, he never got to hold Tilly or know when she was born. he was too ill by the time I married Greg to walk me down the aisle, I am glad I asked him, but wished we hadn’t let pride and politics get in the way of me seeing him again. There are so many things I wish I could tell him. I know as I got older I disappointed him, but I hope he knows he instilled a solid work ethic and a love of family that has never wavered. I always worked hard, pushed for the next promotion to make him proud. I hope he is looking down seeing my little hollow and all of you reading this and thinks his girl did good. Even though we didn’t talk I always though of him, the morals and ethics he gave me, and I always put up a good fight. I will never forget how to do changing of the guard with a broody rather than a gun! I will always remember putting on a dance show to his vinyl Bing Crosby and building dens with him; I will always remember how to lay a patio because of the one we did together. most of all I will remember the love and time he gave me, I want to pass this onto my girls and form the same happy memories I have to look back on now. Finally, I want to build our little family, member how important the memories and time is, life is too short for wickedness, we need to share what we have and be happy. Thank you for all that you gave me and taught me. Tomorrow I will play some chess with Maddi and remember you.
I hope you and nanny are dancing round the kitchen again to ‘That’s Amore’, that you are still doing your crosswords and that you are both together again.
I love you Grandad, sleep well.
PS. If you get this far, thank you, it is far longer than I intended, but each and every thought is true, with so many more, maybe over time it will be helpful to write some more down. I don’t have the emotions left to go back and re-read this so please excuse any errors, this man meant a lot to me, having no funeral for closure right now is the hardest things, and knowing that whilst my heart has known for a long time this has happened, my head is only know able to accept those feelings now I know the truth. Each and every one of you who follow my blog mean so much to me and our family. We love seeing your creations and hearing about what you get up to. i promise to be back on saturday with a pretty card tutorial for honey bee. Until then goodnight x