We arrived in Devon that Friday night. As soon as we got through the door we knew something was wrong. Granddad, who was the always so stoic, unusually greeted mum with a hug. He didn’t want to let go of mum, but when he did it was to hug me and Lizzy and kiss us both on the heads. Then he give dad a big “man hug” which was really weird. He looked as if he’d been crying for a long time. Though it had only been three months since we saw granddad, he looked tired and really sad.
Grandma was pleased to see us and she made one of her special cakes – it was only a Victoria Sponge but to us it was grandma’s special cake. We all had cake with some tea and then sat around the big table for grandma to tell us what she wanted to tell us. Most of the times we did that, it was happy (like Christmas) but this time was not happy. Grandma said she didn’t want to beat around the bush so she would just say it – she was dying, of a type of cancer that only women can get and it was too late to stop it. I thought then it wasn’t fair that there was a type of cancer that only affected girls and women, because I didn’t want to lose my grandma, mum or sister to something I was immune from only because I was a boy! I assure you my understanding of anatomy is far better now than it was then. Grandma was surprisingly calm, it was as if she had traded personalities with granddad for the night or something. If they did, then she needed it.
We stayed the weekend and promised to visit more often than we had been in recent years. Grandma said there was no need because the Doctor said she would live to see at least one Christmas, two if the treatment went well, but no more than that. We went back in the summer holidays, and half term in October. By then it was obvious grandma didn’t have long left and mum decided we would go to Okehampton to spend Christmas with them. Grandma was very ill at the end of the year, and we did everything we could to make it nice for her. We had lots of presents – more than we’d ever had from grandma and granddad. Grandma lived to see the New Year, but on the 2nd of January she went in to the Hospice but we were back home in Oxford by then. The middle of February, mum got a phone call from grandma’s Doctor who said she had no more than a few days left. She died a week later, I’m glad that mum was down there at the time.
The night before she died though, I saw The Cold Man on the landing again, standing in the same position as before but this time looking at mum and dad’s bedroom door. He didn’t look at me once and after a couple of minutes he stepped forward and was gone.
Granddad organised grandma’s funeral for the next Monday, the first day of our half term so we went on the Friday and stayed all week – dad was allowed more time of work. His company was really good like that. Uncle Mal and Auntie Daisy, and Uncle Lenny and his second wife Soph (not Sophie, just Soph) and our cousins were all there.
The next day we all went for a walk on Dartmoor and that’s where I saw The Cold Man a third time – twice inside of three days.