Thursday, 6 March 2008


I think I made mention of my grandmother some months ago, and how amazingly independent she was as she approached the age of 92. Not so anymore, her health has been failing steadily in recent months. That would already have been the case when I wrote those words (not that I'm going to search through previous posts), but wouldn't have been all that apparent at the time. Things look different, of course, in retrospect.

So whenever my mother rings me unusually early in the morning or late in the evening, I tend to brace myself for what might follow. On one occasion recently, she called around 10pm, which is pretty much unheard of: it turned out she was stuck on a crossword clue.

She rang again the other morning however, shortly after 8am. Her first words were, "don't panic," so I was half expecting something equally trivial as the example just given. It's my mother's birthday very soon though: so she asked me if I could buy a card for my grandmother to write on and give to her. Of course, I said I would do.

I breathed a sigh of relief that it was nothing serious, and then when I thought about the conversation we'd just had - as matter of fact as it was - I just felt sad. However long my grandmother has left, I tell myself, 92 is a great age to have reached. But these little indicators of her ever-diminishing health and ability strike me as incredibly poignant each and every time.


Merkin said...

If I get to ninety two I will breathe a sigh of relief.
I said something similar to Grumpy Aunt at 80 when on holiday.
I had always followed the Herman Hesse views of Harry Haller from Steppenwolf - I will choose my own date and finish of my own volition.
Today, I was at the Hospice for a good few hours and was happy to see my mother lying, unconscious, peaceful and with no pain.
Her family was around her and she was able to chat away to her best pal when lucid.
What more can we want?

anticant said...

Ask not for whom the bell tolls - it tolls for thee.

B said...

Yes. My grandad had a stroke 2.5 years ago and it's horrible to see such a vibrant, energetic, intelligent man reduced like that. I remember him singing war songs round the house when I was a child and it seems like millennia ago when I see him now.

Merkin, it depends on the state you reach 92 in, to me. (YMMV) I'd rather die at 80 or 85 (and I have no intention of doing that if I can help it) if the alternative is being in pain, or - worse - being aware of my cognitive decline. The idea of going loopy (technical term) wouldn't scare me so much if I thought I wouldn't be aware of it. But many people are, and it's an awful thing for them to go through, and for others to see.

Thinking of you and your family, trousers, and yours for that matter merkin.

zola a social thing said...

Unless a person is a teenager coal miner or a military type or simply in the poverty zones of life....... then death has no dominion.
My own time will soon be up but I shall BE until Death.
It is not the older you get that is the measure it is the experience of a life that measures not. Measures not to anything or any power.

All my words do not mean that it is painful at times and I best shut up right now.
Best wishes to all of you

nmj said...

That is such a sweet tale, Trews. I love the fragility and beauty of your mum asking you to buy her own b-day card for your granny to write on. My granny is similar age to yours & has recently gone into a nursing home. She is so deaf in spite of state of the art hearing aid & calls my mum frequently to discuss nothing much. My poor mum just shouts over and over, I can hear you, Can you hear me? and it goes on and on and on. It's like a sitcom. My granny called my uncle at midnight recently to ask what Paul McCartney's second name was. She was wide awake doing a crossword.

Bindi said...

My hubs grandmother, Violet, went at ninety-five. She was self suficient for a long time and used to love planting marigolds. I used to compliment Violet on her garden. Years after she passed away, I learnt that the hubs mother had been the one keeping the garden going for at least five years.

She is remembered now for the beautiful life she lead and not for the way she went out.

Did you know the answer to the crossword clue?

Lady in red said...

whenever I visit my grandfather (who moved into a nursing home at 92 he is now almost 94) he always says he won't be here for long. He has been saying that since my gran died in 1983. He is now at a stage where his hearing is going his eyes are poor and his strength non existent. His mind is still fine but he has to wear incontinence pads and be wheeled around in a wheel chair, he sleeps a lot, more from boredom than anything. It is so sad to see such a proud man reduced to the life he now has. A few weeks ago he asked me to get some cards for the girls he couldn't remember why but he knew he sent cards every year it turned out to be valentines cards.

It is very sad watching the people you respect the most decline before your eyes.

Neon said...

I understand how you feel. I lived with my gran for 3 years when she was going through a bad patch to look after her, which I still do although from the distance of my own place in the next town over. she is going to be 90 in July and I am greatful for every month and year she has. The world will be a weird place without her but for the time being I just make the most of having her around!

trousers said...

merk, what you mentioned about seeing your mother in the hospice was actually of real help to me this weekend: I bore it in mind each time I went to see my grandma, I felt the value of being able to see her and to remember that I could be happy in her company. Thank you.

anticant, I absolutely love those words.

Thank you too b, very kind words. It's not easy to see it happen is it. As regards my Grandma, sometimes she is lost in a fog, and as often as not she is aware that she is getting muddled up/forgetful. On the one hand it's good that she has that kind of insight, on the other it's obviously very frustrating for her.

zola, no need to shut up at all :) Again, I appreciate what you're saying. Thinking about quantity/quality of life, which I think you're referring to at least in part, I'm thankful to say that up until relatively recent years, she's had both in sufficient measure.

nmj, now deafness/hearing aids: that's a whole dimension that I've yet to write about regarding my Grandma. My mother has a quiet voice, my Grandma is as deaf as a post, it causes so much frustration and misunderstanding between them like you wouldn't believe (or perhaps you would!). Thanks too for the kind words.

Hi bindi, very much agreed about remembering the life led. Thanks too for sharing the words about your husband's gran :)
The crossword clue? I can't even remember, so perplexed was I having expected the worst, and then being confronted with 5 across...

Hi lady, that's very sad and very poignant, especially the bit about the cards. I had to smile though that he's been saying he won't be here long for over 20 years, since it makes me think of my Grandad, he used to say the same kind of thing. Thanks to you too for sharing all of that.

neon thanks to you too (sorry everyone if all these thanks are getting repetitious, but I appreciate what each and every one of you has written). I think your attitude is a good one, and it sounds like a good balance too: living close by but having enough distance too, for your own space. Sounds like you were really there for her when she needed it.