Cliff was my grandad.
He was charming, funny, controversial at times, maddeningly old-fashioned but entirely committed to his family.
Generous with his time, he and my lovely Nanna Val were always there from school concerts to cherished days out to listening to my tales around the dinner table every Friday night.
Barry born and bred, he and my Nanna moved to Port Talbot in the 1960s where his charm and ability to strike up conversations with anyone made him the perfect fit as a sales rep at a local printing company.
He was just 60 when I came along as his first grandchild. He and my Nanna were the most loving grandparents I could ask for (at 91, my Nanna still is).
Some of my happiest days were spent with them. During the school holidays, I’d wake up from a sleepover at their home to have boiled eggs cooked perfectly runny for soldier-dipping.
We’d then go on outings to town, or perhaps somewhere further afield like Swansea, to do spots of shopping.
I loved searching shelves for pocket money treasures, with both my Nanna and Grandpa instilling me with a good understanding of value for money that I still use to this day.
Grandpa was an expert storyteller. He was vitally proud of his time in the RAF in World War Two and was posted to Burma. He’d regale us with tales from the time, including once finding a monkey in his accommodation.
Friday nights were dinner nights. My Nanna would cook delicious roast dinners with sides of French bread and an array of desserts that would put most restaurants to shame.
And after dinner, the record player would go on and we’d dance to La Bamba, Jive Bunny or ABBA. Grandpa was quite the dancer and spent Saturday nights on the dance floor with my Nanna at the Aberavon Hotel.
As I grew older and became an idealistic teenager with strong, liberal opinions, our relationship changed.
Friday night dinner became a time for debates, where Grandpa and I would thrash out our contradictory opinions over roast potatoes and trifle.
Politics, my future career choice, the news, nothing was out of bounds. I like to think this encouraged my love of a good debate.
As I passed exams and started college and university, he and my Nanna supported me steadfastly along with my mum and dad.
Grandpa was a huge believer in education and was proud to see me go to university and start my career in journalism (although deep down I’m sure he’d have preferred me to make the far more sensible choice of becoming a teacher like my dad).
He was also a proud wedding guest when I got married in 2008.
As Grandpa grew older, he stayed remarkably active and well. At 85, he still drove, socialised with friends and danced every Saturday night with my Nanna. He could still charm a room.
But old age did mean he needed knee operations. He’d put them off before, but by the summer of 2010 the pain was such that there could be no more delays.
A few days before his 86th birthday, he had the operation. On his birthday, we visited him on the ward with gifts and cake and he seemed in good spirits.
But not too long after, he sadly had a devastating stroke, the kind that meant he could no longer speak and lost the use of one side of his body.
At first, we had hope. But then we knew that he would not recover his speech, or his movement.
Every night was spent at the hospital, holding his hand, combing his hair and talking to our Cliff as his sky coloured eyes met ours.
My heart felt like an anvil. I felt as though I had this extra invisible weight with me everywhere I went.
We had a month of this, a month of limbo, a month of watching our Cliff, a man of fierce independence, try to communicate but not being able to.
After this month, a long month that stretched and stretched, I got the call asking us to come in as he was slipping away.
I was fortunate enough to get there to tell him how much I loved him. Because, oh, how I and we loved him.
He died later that night.
My Nanna asked for donations in lieu of flowers to the Stroke Association in his memory and raised around £2,000 in his name.
That’s why a little over eight years later I’ve decided to run my first half marathon – the Cardiff Half Marathon – for the Stroke Association in his memory to help other families affected by strokes.
I’ll be blogging about my training efforts as we get closer to the day – Sunday 7 October 2018.
This one’s for you, Grandpa.