We knew that it was coming…

We knew that it was coming, that my Nan’s life was coming to an end; those that read this blog often will remember my entry about visiting her in hospital a few weeks ago.

Anyway, earlier this week my father pre-warned me that he felt things were coming to a head, progressing rather suddenly and more quickly than we had thought, towards the end.

All efforts were made to offer her comfort and calm in her last days. I am supremely confident of that, and incredibly thankful, both for my parents’ fortitude in bringing their professional experience to bear in this distressing time and for the efforts of the local palliative care home team.

And so it was that my last remaining grandparent, my father’s mother, passed away quietly at home late on Friday night, the tenth of July 2009.

She had lived a long and full life, and I will always cherish the fond memories that I have of spending my early childhood in her care. Her stories about the Manchester Blitz; falling from her bicycle when she rode into an unseen house brick during the blackout, or putting mattresses between the beds of her epileptic patients during air raids as they could not be moved to the cellars with the others… These and a hundred more will always be a part of my oral record, although I may perhaps commit them to ‘paper’ at some point.

She was fiercely proud of her family, supportive and understanding to a fault of my choices despite their often being fraught with risk and/or non-conformity, and I am sure that my brother would say the same. She was no pushover either, never shy to tell me that she liked me better with less weight on my bones, or berating me for my somewhat feckless inability to completely remove tobacco from my life.

I think that what I will remember most fondly is her capacity for tolerance and her sense of fairness. As a woman of her generation and background she could have been understood, perhaps even forgiven, if her outlook had been unable to accept the sweeping social changes that her lifetime saw, but I cannot remember a single time that she exhibited intolerance for anything or anyone in my presence, with perhaps the exception of rudeness and rude people.

Of course she was no saint, and there is often a sense of obligation to ignore the negative after someone dies and suddenly they are canonised and celebrated in the odd vacuum created by love, grief and nostalgia. I too am moved to gloss over her failings, if only in deference to how patient she was of mine – which are numerous enough – but also because while we are learning to live without her it is simpler to be fond in our remembrance. Besides, the ties that bind really do run deeper than anything else.

I am on my way up to Chorley to “circle the wagons”, and spend time with my parents and my brother and his partner. We spend so much of our lives apart at this point that it feels imperative to spend some time together while we are coming to terms with Nan’s passing.

I will be back in the southeast between Tuesday and the funeral – there are things that are under the heading of ‘life goes on’ that need my attention, and that is something that my Nan would have understood and approved of unless I miss my guess…

Dorothy Godby 02/02/1921 to 10/07/2009 – At peace; much loved and much missed.

Time rolls ever on and on…

365 Portraits - #170 ~ Dorothy 'Nan' Godby

So this last weekend was an unexpected trip home, and while it was really marvelous to see Chorley and be in the North West, and it was lovely to see my Mum and Dad, the mere fact that they are in the country might make some of you realise that stuff is not as it should be. The truth is that my last remaining grandparent, my Dad’s Mum, has been taken very ill, and to borrow a metaphor from racing, this will be the last furlong for her.

As such I wanted to go and see her before things got much worse, while she could actually enjoy seeing me, and I could see her again as close to the strong and vital old lady that comes to mind of when I think of her. So it was, with only six days notice that I tried to book rail tickets heading up to Manchester on a Friday and back South on a Sunday to be confronted by a potential bill of nearly two hundred quid, so I flew. Now I know that taking a domestic flight is environmentally naughty (possibly unforgivable for a 35 minute flight), but please note that my first impulse was to travel by train, and I only even considered flying once I’d discovered that it was nearly as cheap as fifty percent of the price, at just a little over a hundred quid. Even despite all of that I am really glad that I flew, because the saved time was like gold in terms of being able to spend as much time as possible with Nan, and also with Mum and Dad and even getting a chance to see my brother and his fiancée before catching my flight home, and at times like these it’s good to have as much time as possible.

My Nan looms large in my life, in particular, as I spent a good deal of my pre-school years in her care during the day. My parents are both doctors, and once her maternity leave was up, my mother had to return to General Practice, as my father was actually in the process of leaving the Royal Navy and reading Medicine and Surgery at Manchester Medical School, and so I spent my days with my Nan, as her husband was also still working. We had many rituals, like walking down the cobbled lane behind their house (known as the bumpy road), singing “Here comes the Galloping Major”, and visiting Bolton’s covered market on the bus. I can remember watching “Chorlton and the Wheelies” and “Jamie and the Magic Torch” in her front room, and later, just before school, starting to play card games with her, a trend that would continue for many years with her and my Grandpa, particularly learning Cribbage. There were the endless plays and replays of Austrian / Bavarian ‘Oompa’ music on the record player, and no end of other activities that we would while away the days doing together, either at her home on Hunger Hill between Bolton and Westhoughton, or at my family home either in Sandyacre Close in Over Hulton, or Brentwood Road in Adlington.

It is hard to explain that I am very sad that she is so ill, that she is dying, and yet I am not disconsolate with grief (as yet). I was expecting her to seem much more ill before I saw her, and though she was clearly in a lot of discomfort, and I suppose quite frightened, once she was distracted enough by our company she was cracking jokes and laying down the law in the way she always has. It seemed as though there was nothing to mourn, at least not quite yet. Clearly there is a sadness that she’s been handed a tough deal, and that she has pain and fear to deal with, and that is horrid for her, but at least good medical care and some compassion will make that as bearable a process as is possible.

There is no clear picture as yet, as to how long this final journey is going to take for her? For my part I would selfishly like her to be around for as long as possible, naturally. Still, in my quieter moments, I hope that it only lasts as long as she can bear; anything more seems as though it would be cruel. I hope that she is healthy enough to see Ed and AnneSo marry in August, it feels as though that would be a good “last hurrah” for her, but I also wonder if that is too much to ask. More than anything at the moment I hope that she is still with us when I next head North, if remaining “on plan”, in July; it would be good to see her again.

There is something rather game-changing about the last of one’s grandparents approaching the end, particularly for people like me who have been lucky enough to have them stick around well into adulthood, and I do find myself considering the order of things a little more at the moment, not in a morbid way, but certainly in a more honest way than I have for a while.

Enough. With any luck the future for my Nan will be filled with family and love and as little pain and trepidation as possible, and hopefully I will get to see her again before the race is run.

Family…

Ed and AnneSo

My brother and his fiancée, who feels more and more like a sister as we get to know one another, when I went out for lunch with them earlier this year. I’ve been counting blessings of late, and they definitely are one each and a whole ‘nother one together.