Today we have arranged to meet up at Hugh’s house in Bradford to finish clearing it out. Keith drives me over and we arrive after Kathy and Claire. The house is empty of furniture and is in a sorry state, but we are sorting out the paperwork, ready to hand it over to Hugh’s ex-army friend, Tony, who is the executor of his will. The army have delivered his personal effects from Tidworth today too, mostly clothes. We check the list sent with the boxes and make our own list of the things we have here. Much of it was stored in Kathy’s house as, in the last few months, that was Hugh’s main base.
I stand in the kitchen and look around at the blue units that Hugh had fitted. I recall the Christmas before last when Keith and I spent Boxing Day with Hugh, Debbie and the boys. I remember him, busy in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to the meal, proudly showing off the newly fitted kitchen. Now, thanks to his ungrateful lodger, the units are damaged, the sink is hanging off the wall and the back door has been damaged and can no longer be opened.
Slowly I climb the stairs to the first floor and then on up to the attic, which had once been the boys’ bedroom. At the top of the stairs are the banisters where Hugh ended his life. The brightly painted shelves in the room seem incongruous, empty except for a couple of Lego bricks, left behind when Debbie and the boys moved out. There are remains of an old mobile phone on the floor. I think of Hugh alone that night in this house, filled with memories of the family life he tried to create when he first bought it. He did try, so hard, but I know, from the little he told me, that he was fighting a losing battle.
I am given his certificates, lots of them, going back to his GCSE results. So many experiences packed into his short life.
Later, we meet up with Paul. He bounds up to us, without any shyness or awkwardness, as if it was days, rather than weeks, since we had last been together and we take him for a meal. He chats about school and football and then sets to work on a puzzle sheet and I am amazed at how quick and bright he is. He is Hugh’s future, this little grandson of mine and I am anxious about how his life will turn out. Kathy, Claire and I will see him as often as we can, but we will be limited in how much influence we can have over his life. We can only hope that he will have the strength of character and motivation to make a good life for himself and to make Hugh proud of him.