Saturday, 7 July 2012

Four score years and sixteen

A week and a day ago I was at a motorway service station, of all places, when I got a call from my mother, who told me in plain and simple terms that my grandmother had died.

I wasn't particularly expecting such news, yet in some ways I've been preparing for it - consciously and otherwise - for some years. She was a stubborn old thing, how she clung on to life and retained some ferocity of spirit which shone through in her last years perhaps because of, rather than despite, the compromises to her independence, her health and her clarity of thought.

I don't feel sad, as such, that she's died. 96 is a fine age and, I think, it's a fine achievement in life for anyone to have lived in their own house and manage most of their affairs (regularly catching the bus to go to the shops several miles away) up until the beginning of their tenth decade.

Sadness and grief, whilst they overlap in significant ways at particular times, aren't entirely the same thing, though. I believe I've been carrying the grief around with me, relatively lightly these last few days, but that it may gain greater potency over time. Perhaps finding an outlet next week at the funeral. I'm not sure how much that grief is about the death of someone whose time had very much come, and how much it relates to those of us remaining in our family. Precious few of us, and my mother having to manage more assaults on her health than I would wish anyone to ever bear.

Still, I think my grandmother has been passing for the last 3 years, at least. I hadn't seen her for a while, but she would no longer recognise me anyway: in her mind she now almost exclusively was situated in a time anywhere between 30 and 50 years before I was born. The unfamiliarity of her surroundings in these last couple of years - though in the village she had always lived - gave her a sense of disorientation on a daily basis.

Yet it's perhaps during one of her frailest times that I have my favourite memory of her. Looking impossibly tiny and lost in a hospital ward late in 2009 after a severe bout of double-pneumonia (the decisive blow to her health that meant she could never return home again), she was yet full of life when she was helped to sit up in her bed, and her only talk was of getting out and going home: the nurse told us that she'd actually been writing notes and passing them to other people on the ward asking if they wanted to plan to escape with her.

At that point, she was 94. I'd consider it an achievement to get anywhere near that age, let alone show such grit and determination.


Zhoen said...

You will miss her, but she will live on in your stories of her.

trousers said...

Indeed. Thanks, Zhoen.

Beth said...

I'm so sorry to read this. Thinking of you and your family x

trousers said...

Thanks Beth - much appreciated. Hope all is well with you.

Anna MR said...

Dear housut, hei. I am sorry to hear of your loss. Am sending you a hug, as it's the only thing one can do, really, in my opinion, specially as offering any practical assistance is not really an option here in blogland.

You write with beauty about this, though, housut. Beauty and the wisdom gained from experience. The differences and similarities of sadness and grief; the love and pride you feel for your grandmother, the obvious spiritedness of her, her character; what we feel for the one who has gone mixed with what we feel for us still left in the world – all of this, if I may borrow a term from you here, resonates. So I thank you for your writing, too. It feels like life and the world are better places for reading people write and describe something that's real, don't you find?

Not to say I oppose the odd bit of nonsense, as you know. Helps carry the weight, no?

I am also really sorry to hear about your mother's health. This is something I have relatively new experience of, too, and the sadness that comes with it. Perhaps we can both try to write about it sometime.

As I said, sending you a hug. Am away for a week from tomorrow…but should you feel like talking about your feelings in the privacy of a blog comment thread of your choosing, don't hesitate to write, okay? Okay.


Carol said...

So sorry to hear about your loss. Even when we know it's coming it is still a bit of a shock.

Your grandmother passing notes to the other people in the hospital made me smile. My Grampa was the head of an escape committee at his care home...they caught him leading four elderly gentlemen out the kitchen window at 3am!

*hugs* hope your doing ok

C x

trousers said...

Ms MR, thank you. Bear with me and I'll write a 'proper' (whatever that is) reply in due course. But, like I say, thank you - very much indeed. x

Carol - that's great to hear about the escape committee! Brilliant stuff. Many thanks to you too, yes I'm doing ok. x

Montag said...

It is March, 2013, and many more have died. I find your ideas quite poignant.

Anna MR said...

I feel encouraged by the fact that, since the honourable Montag has had his comment published only a couple of months ago (and you have comment moderation), you will read my message, too, at some point, and haven't totally disappeared. (You need not publish this, actually, if you don't feel like it?)

But hei, young housut, how farest thou? It is a bit rich coming from me, the Queen of Intermittent Blogging, but I, for one, would like to see you back. You know how it is, I think, with the peculiar world of blog friendships – they are in many ways really rather distant, yet also in many ways, quite central and important. I think part of it may be that we are, in a sense, proving to ourselves that we are not alone, that there exist in the world people we may not have met and may never meet either, but with whom we can feel a connection of sorts. We can know we are not alone, we can know we live in a world peopled with – nice people. Good people. People we could and can get on with well.

So, you know. Whenever you feel like it – do come back, please. I miss your blog person here in blogland, and I'm sure and certain I'm not the only one.

I hope things are alright with you; but if they aren't and life has chucked one of its miseries at you – as it sometimes does – I have packed some empathy and walking-with-you-a-while into the hamper that is this message.