Grandfather had always been a large man. He was well over six feet tall and some say closer to seven feet. I just remember he was too tall for me to see all the way to his face without wrenching my neck right back.
Apparently he was very sporty too, playing rugby and running and wrestling. His muscles were so big some say he could rip a shirt if he flexed them all at once. Perhaps it was his party trick although he never showed me and my sisters. He was always soft and gentle and any muscles were covered up with cardigans knitted by Grandma.
Grandma cooked them rich, tasty meals every day. Grandfather loved roast meat, especially beef, and they had a joint every few days. Grandfather would have most of it with Grandma taking just a few slices of the pinkest meat. He preferred the crunchy outer pieces, so he knew it was dead.
Grandfather also liked to drink. To drink a lot. “I’ve a big frame and I can take a big drink,” Mother said mimicking that booming voice of his. But when he got older he drank as much as ever, sometimes more, and his body didn’t like it. He no longer wrestled or ran or played rugby so his body grew the extra calories into a band around his tummy. In time he had a squishy ball and I remember it got in the way of sitting on knee to watch television.
When he died he needed the biggest coffin seen in twenty years some said. Mother and Grandma were worried it wouldn’t go into the car and that the end would stick out in the crematorium oven and he’d have to be burned in stages. He did neither and they managed to carry him with a minimum of grimacing.
His ashes didn’t fit into a standard urn and the larger ones were very plain. Grandfather would have approved of his final resting place but Grandma said he wasn’t going anywhere so she wanted to look at him in a pretty thing. So Mother found a green vase decorated with chrysanthemums in a charity shop and gave it to Grandma.
It was huge, the biggest I’ve ever seen. Grandma emptied him into it and there was space for a whole extra person in there with him. It sits on the mantelpiece above the fire so she can see it from her favourite seat. It was his when he lived. The vase was so big she had to have the mantelpiece strengthened to take the weight.