My grandfather David Thomas had a long life, and packed a lot in. He was one of the youngest lot to fight in World War II, but he didn't like to talk too much about the actual service he'd done. The easiest parts to get him talking about were the people, friends he'd lost, or who he'd stayed in touch with afterwards back into civilian life. He'd ended up in the navy, and on his way to a land base in Sierra Leone servicing torpedo bombers, he'd endured weeks below decks. He knew there wasn't much of a chance that far below if a u-boat struck, but what he remembered was the stink of so many men, without much access to a shower. He got on with it though.
That was his strength, getting on with it. At first when he came back from the war he worked on the buses, where his aircraft engine skills proved handy. When the buses went on strike, he needed to keep supporting his family and switched over to a job at the Post Office. That's one thing I remember, he always had wonderful access to catalogs showing special editions of stamps, and gave me discounted entry to the mail-order "Dinosaur Club" thanks to his connections. He was always keeping his eye out for things like that, little ways to help first his two daughters, then the grandkids like me, and finally the great-grandkids when they arrived.
He was devoted to his wife, my Nan, too, visiting her every day, all day in the hospital for months before she passed away a few years ago. He stayed active right until his end, despite an array of medical problems. It must have helped that he was surrounded by friends and family who loved him. I remember virtual traffic jams of people coming in to see him in his hospital bed, and within a few hours of a new ward the nurses would be new friends. One of the best presents I was ever able to give him was a calendar showing our pet photos, and the exact name, age, ownership, and character of all the animals in the latest one he received was a hot topic of conversation on my last visit to him two weeks ago. He devored a box of chocolates that were another gift, but just a few days later he had a peaceful end, surrounded by family.
He's somebody I admire very much, for many reasons, but his kindness and lifetime of hard work to support his family stand out most of all. I miss him, but the positive impact he had through the way he lived his life will be around for a long time to come.