Monday, 3 December 2012

Bye Granny

About four weeks ago, I was compelled to take my children to see Tiny Granny -my father's mother. It was a Saturday and we went to Holland Park first, and then to her flat, which was very near by. I wrote about her two years ago, when it was her 100th birthday, an amazing age to reach. There was no telegram from the Queen; we think she fudged her age, and had long ago, changed her real birth date, which was in 1910.

She was affectionately known as Tiny Granny, because she was absolutely tiny  - about 4' 10" in her hey day, shorter by the time she died -but the humanist 'celebrant' who presided over her funeral, exaggerated when she said she was 4 foot, that really was a step too far.

On that Saturday, five days before she died, (There she is that day in the photo above) she was thrilled to see us - she was amazing: still astute, mobile with a stick, laughing, living on her own. She talked about the war, when she worked for the American Red Cross. She was exacting about details, like how my father's beloved terrier dog went missing during the war, she believed stolen. She also said that she had to move out of her house, in Amering Sussex, because the army needed it. Her husband went to war, and she moved into a flat in Marble Arch with a girlfriend. My father went to a prep school in the country. She remembers him coming down to London for the day to see the doctor, and when they were at the doctors surgery, it was hit by a bomb. 

She was sad that her last friend alive had dementia and couldn't speak to her any more, she was lonely, and ailing. She couldn't hear too well, she couldn't walk without a stick, or do her own shopping. It was only in the very last few months, that she had let somebody come in to fix her dinner - previously she had lived with my father for most of the week, and on her own, in London, for the rest, but after a recent spat of hospital visits, she had been living in London. For the past six months she had had to move out of her London flat, as the toaster had caught fire, and burnt the kitchen down. She hadn't been aware, it was the porter?concierge who lived in the basement, who had smelt the smoke.

The incident has made me think though: Should we really be constantly striving to prolong life? I'm not sure she enjoyed the last few years very much, and often said she had outlived herself. She spent a lot of time visiting doctors and going to hospital. She couldn't really hear, or read much any more. Each day, towards the end,  was a struggle really. It was also very boring, I imagine and lonely.

I will miss her calling up, and calling me "dear" - no one calls me dear, it's a endearment from another era. She has lived a long life, through both wars and as the celebrant said at the humanist service, won a cup for elocution at school! How quaint.

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