It's the blind man*

Visited my Gran on Saturday mainly to help my parents put up a new set of blinds in her bedroom, having replaced the kitchen set last week. As usual it turned out to be a bit of a marathon job – having to remove a wooden baton, cut the blinds to size and so on – so it was four hours later when we left. Still it was a good excuse to get a Chinese meal ordered…

My Gran is still doing OK, despite her neck being ‘fixed’ at a 90° angle, limiting her view dramatically but she seems to be coping. This is probably due to the fact that she has home help visitors everyday (apart from the days she tells them “not to bother with me”) but I’m sure her standard of life would be much better if she moved into a retirement home… big step that one though.

Didn’t really talk with her much on Saturday but we did have a nice chat on Thursday evening, letting my Gran ramble on about how she’d been through worse times than this, times when she didn’t think she’d come out the other end, and a “silly wee fall” (which was about 5 years ago by my reckoning) wasn’t going to stop her. She talked about my Grandpa, who she cared for as long as I can remember after he had a series of strokes left him paralysed and about how she once had to call the police as she couldn’t get him out of the bath; my Gran was always stick thin, my Grandpa enjoyed his food and I reckon there was at least 6 stone weight difference between them. I honestly don’t know how she managed.

She talked about how she’s gotten new exercises to help with her balance and how nice the therapist that came to see her was, particularly as she was able to tell her that whilst she may be getting on these days, she’s been making cups of tea for 80 years and didn’t need anyone telling her how to do that (I had no idea tea was the last bastion of the infirm but, from the tone in my Gran’s voice when she re-told that conversation, it’s obviously a key issue). She also mentioned the lovely nurse who changed the bandages on her legs this week, and who gave them a wee rub to help the circulation. Apparently it felt “better than sex”…

She rattled off her list of weekly visitors – carers, home help, dentist, doctor, hairdresser, chiropodist and a few others – and how Chrissy from Frasers (where my Gran has shopped for decades) phoned her to check she didn’t need any more makeup. I found myself both uplifted that she is still able to hold a conversation and in parts find myself downhearted that she’s grabbing onto these things so desperately. It’s more up than down though. What other way is there?

We also chatted about how she felt about moving into sheltered housing, a touchy subject at the best of times.

My Gran’s an independent old soul, fiercely proud and bloody minded if she wants to be, but these last few months she’s aged dramatically and I think she is beginning to realise how much my Mum worries about her. She said that there was no mad dash and that she wasn’t sure she could handle another move at the moment and that she’s getting on fine at home. I think she is more worried about what it would signify than any of the practicalities or the emotions attached to moving away from her home town. In her eyes it’s the last lap, the final residence, no wonder it’s such a hard step to take.

Then she started talking about how happy she was at home, and that sometimes you just have to face up to things, to the realities of your situation.

It’s most odd hearing someone you love so dearly talk about the end of their life. She was quite frank about it and quite happy that she’s had a good life and that everyone has to go at some point… she paused at that point, faltered slightly and you could almost see the fight inside her ignite, the glint of steely stubborn jarring home.

Ohh she’ll be around for a while yet, there’s still a spark of life, and yes I’m aware that I’m projecting my own feelings and wishes into my interpretation of what she said but, in her own words:

“I’m a stubborn old bitch”

That you are Gran, but I still love you.

* You know the joke: “A nun is taking a bath when someone knocks at the door. She asks who it is, and the person says, ‘The blind man.’ So she lets him come into the bathroom. The man enters the room and says, ‘Nice tits. Where do you want me to put the blinds?’ ” Not my favourite nun joke though, I prefer: “Two nuns are taking a bath. One asks, ‘Where’s the soap?’ The other one says, ‘It does, doesn’t it?’ “.

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