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.