Category Archives: love

On the Cards

‘Daisy? Daisy!’

I hadn’t heard my father utter my name in such a long time that I didn’t register at first that it was him calling me. We’d barely spoken those past few days at Grandmas but now his urgent voice came from her bedroom, my response was heightened. I took the flight of steps 3 at a time, after 5 days my legs were now used to the stretch. He was sitting at the right side of Grandma’s bed.

‘Hello there, what’s the latest then, all good?’

I always tried to keep upbeat around her, as one would with a child who is suffering. Dementia is after all like childhood in reverse, so positivity was imperative with as little drama as possible whatever the situation. Calm and decisive was how I’d seen the nurses behave, but with smiles and light voices so I tried to emulate their good practise in my own style. Grandma knew she was dying so being maudlin or over the top with concern was the last thing she needed.

‘Is everything OK? Grandma?’

She was moaning gently, groping at the blankets over her legs, her face awash with a mixture of discomfort and frustration. I leaned in to soothe her and ease the weight of the layers on her tiny frame. Her whisper was pleading.

‘Send him…help…pain….oh darling’

She wept without tears, even they were too much for her.

‘She said her legs hurt. Can you rub her cream in or something?’

He sounded panicked and somewhat helpless, which of course he was. How could he be expected to manage this situation? His mother was like an exotic bird to him; beautiful and protected. It had always been that way. Just because she was frail and nearing the end of her life didn’t make her poise and dignity around men any easier to penetrate. Well, not unless she had a real soft spot for him, and that’s not how it was between them.

I needed to move her body in the bed to prevent sores, but also to alleviate the pains in her right hip, of which the femur we knew to be completely out of it’s joint. I lifted the blanket discreetly, I could see the bone protruding against her delicate translucent skin. Rubbing a topical painkilling gel was the only remedy now in conjunction with a daily intake of paracetamol and a generous dose of love and care.

‘Can we have some privacy please?’

My voice once more came out sounding weak and empty, somehow I always hoping that those around might have a grain of common sense and know instinctively how to behave around a dying woman; I didn’t think I needed to be masterful. But I kept forgetting who I was dealing with. I don’t think the ease sound in please was even out when he responded.

‘I’ll stay here thank you.’

Being my father’s daughter it’s easy for him to trip my wire. Whilst I like to think that I am the next evolutionary step from him we share some traits, and the sharp tongue we can boast connected the three generations in that room. I glanced up and could feel the temper burning through the sorrow in my eyes as I urged in that look an understanding of female dignity for both my Grandmother and me. I knew it wasn’t being received.

‘Please. Please can you leave the room?’

The tension between us was immediatley palpable. One of the regular carers was standing  in the doorway and I felt her awkwardness as he got up, walked around the bed and slid out past her. I knew I’d hurt his feelings but he wasn’t my concern, at least not any more. Neither could I waste time lingering on the guilt, Grandma needed me and it was her time.

After changing the dressing on her leg, repositioning her in the ‘princess and the pea’ bed and chatting for a while I settled Grandma for a rest. The house became quiet again as the activity surrounding care subsided. I crept downstairs to poison myself with another life saving cigarette and liquify my stiff sleepless bones with hot sweet tea. I peered around cautiously expecting another uncomfortable group moment but he had gone.

I wanted to call, tell him I was sorry, such was my old behaviour. Always feel guilty, always blame myself, and always bow down to his dramatic exits, curtailments of phone calls and endless silences. I knew that this time was the last time I could put out the olive branch, but it would have to wait until tomorrow; I really needed to sleep.


Flight of the Concourse…

‘It’s just amazing isn’t it?’

Grandma sat, still regal even in what she’d have called shortly before, a contraption for invalids. I’d chosen a bright blue one; she loved blue, like her eyes. She often told me how Grandpa had called them blue lamps. They were wide with wonderment right now, like a child’s rather than a woman of 93.

I had her parked on the concourse of the train station where we hoped to surprise her son, my uncle Nolan. I had a feeling we wouldn’t meet him, that his train would bring him in after we left, because we had to. It was cold and I didn’t want to keep Grandma out in the February chill. On top of that I had to get her to a hospital appointment. But she was loving being out.

‘So many people Daisy, with so many places to go. It’s amazing. All the colours of their clothes, and how they move. So many of them.’

I listened intently to her childlike observations that struck me as the most beautiful things to notice on that cold grey day. She was mesmerizing in her appreciation of the world just going about it’s business. Having not been anywhere besides the doctors or dentist in years I was thrilled that our secret trip was having such an effect. Gil and my father had always refused to let me take Grandma out, but I wasn’t listening any more. I was glad to be so disobedient.

As I dressed her that morning I worried it would be too much for her. But as we drove through the streets that she once knew so well but hadn’t seen since her fall two decades ago, I witnessed her find a part of herself she thought she’d lost.

We waited a while longer but I was right. Sometimes I hated that; being right. Especially now when it was connected to another feeling, that this would be the last time we’d be out together like this. I reminded her as gently as I could, so as not to break her spirit, that if we didn’t leave we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time. But Grandma was gracious and spectacularly lucid again.

‘We did our best darling; we waited for as long as we could. And that boy of mine Nolan really should have called.’

Grandma’s decline into dementia had driven her to distraction lately. Her memory had been faltering for months, depression was becoming a regular visitor and she’d ramble incoherently, sometimes making herself laugh, and sometimes making herself mad in the same conversation she was having with herself. But for these moments on the concourse Katherine was back.

My own eyes that are the same colour as hers welled up with tears that stung as I fought to keep them from running down my cheeks.

‘Don’t cry darling,’

She’d caught me completely without even looking up. She turned her face up to mine and flashed her gentle teasing smile, eyebrows raised cheekily and those eyes wide once more.

‘And anyway, isn’t it about time you gave me my lamps back?’

Not Dead Yet

As Daisy leaned over the balcony of the great room at the gathering below she felt her insides heave. It felt like the wake had begun already, yet Grandmamma was alive and fighting. She wanted to cry out, her revulsion overpowering, but she knew they would banish her if she dared utter a word of disdain. The brothers and their offspring continued to quaff their liquor and confabulate about their inheritance, or rather Grandmamma’s worldly goods; had they no shame?

She couldn’t quite catch her breath to broadcast her update, not that there was any indication that anyone truly cared. Daisy knew they were aware of her presence, but not so much as a stolen glance upward to where she stood observing; their scornfulness toward her was deafening. She’d urged them to be more involved, to participate in what, despite some of the sadness that is inevitable in the aged decline of a human being, was a time to be cherished, and to learn from. It was only from this now elevated position she could see that they simply didn’t have the capacity, and she might pity them – one day.

‘Grandmamma has asked….that we keep the noise down a little,’

Her voice didn’t always project well when troubled and she knew her tone carried a mixture of agitation and nervousness; it couldn’t be helped. A few sniffs of recognition from the floor below and a peculiar ‘non-look’ from her father. He was deliberately avoiding her and it burned her insides to feel so admonished in his disregard, but she could not bring herself to fall at his feet, not any more.

Daisy was exhausted and beginning to feel the chill of the moonlit hours, but she walked decisively down the stairs leading her into the fray. Her father continued his verbal posturing with an unbroken gusto as she sat opposite him near to the fire. She almost laughed out loud at his behaviour; he was, and she could make no bones about it, flirting with his own niece. Flashing his supercilious grin at an unwitting Adele there was a familiar twinkle in his eye; Daisy knew it all too well and her mother knew it even better. And still he uttered not one word, his lecherous gape fixed firmly on his target so as not to meet his daughter’s incredulous regard.

She remained in the heat for as long as she was able to maintain her demeanour. Who knew how much longer this vigil might last. Smith the family doctor had given Grandmamma only a day or two, and so Father Ryan had visited immediately giving her provision for her journey in the Last Rites. But Daisy had a feeling that her Grandmother was not ready to go; something or someone was making her uneasy. With a renewed sense of determination and some warmth in her bones, Daisy lifted her position to upright and took herself back to where she knew love was.

Such Days Are Rare

Such days are rare. Valuable moments span days providing memories to last a lifetime. Vast swathes of emotional outpourings reverberate between two souls, but rather than decimation there is a unification of understanding; a solidification of solace. I didn’t expect to move from fear through sadness to anger and comfort in such a narrow space of time, the process left me reeling, but once more only for a limited period. Does this signify maturity?

And giving; whether in, up, or simply by itself, is another way of getting what is wanted, nay needed, to feel safe when trust is thin on the ground like a fine frost in November. And yet this seemingly natural exchange feels like the tossing of a fine electrical current in a shallow pool of scalding water when in motion.

Friendship comes in many guises, but the bonds that develop between two entities to form companionship are amongst the most precious, and certainly feel sacred and worth protecting. At all costs?