Updated: Nov 1, 2018
Read Grandma Great part one by clicking here.
We made the six-weekly expedition down to Weymouth to visit Grandma Great at the weekend. Just me (Daddy) and Richard.
I say ‘expedition’ as the journey is rather epic, four whole motorways from one end to the other and then a dreadful single-file Dorset countryside road for 30 miles. During the last 30 miles we trundle along at 25 miles per hour behind an old Rover dragging a mucky 1970s caravan behind it like a grubby toilet tissue being dragged behind an old stiletto.
The last 30 miles tests my patience to the extreme. Not usually an angry driver, I’m reduced to a tooting red-faced mess – trying with all my might to use curse words that rhyme with real ones, like “Drat”, “Cluck” and “Cod” (for lack of a better rhyme for cock) but also the occasional Shit-slip that makes my little passenger grin and shiver with excitement.
I take just one boy with me each time we visit Grandma Great nowadays as Grandma’s dementia has worsened; more about that later. The decision to take along one son rather than two allows me to help Grandma around her daily routine, without simultaneously negotiating squabbles and fights between the boys. They squabble a lot, I mean, it’s relentless. I often wonder how it’s possible for two people to irritate one-another continually. Naturally, Grandma encourages the boys to bicker; she doesn’t like to see me intervene.
“They’re just being boys, Jamie”, she’ll say in a calming but patronising tone. I bite my lip – resistance is futile, as they say (somewhere).
While Grandma and I still have a good giggle during our visits, as mentioned her dementia has taken hold. Her forgetfulness used to provide a laugh, a few silly mistakes (I’ve never quite got used to being called Jenny) and the occasional un-PC slur in public – “He’s a big lad, isn’t he?” for instance about a waiter who’s clearly right next to her. But it’s now become something far more worrying. Dementia is insidious; it’s very difficult to witness it slowly take hold in somebody you love and admire.
Luckily, Grandma Great’s long-term memory is still in residence and, much like Grandma herself, a seven year old Richard isn’t afraid to go straight in with candid questions that would probably be rather insensitive for an adult to ask – and this makes Grandma smile and her eyes sparkle like they used to.
During dinner at a quiet upmarket Italian restaurant in Weymouth that evening, when asked what he’d like to find out about Grandma’s childhood during the Second World War, Richard asked in his loud high-pitched voice (adorable), “Grandma, were knickers invented when you were a girl in the war?”. “Grandma still is a girl, babe!” I intervened. Grandma, preoccupied with an upside-down menu looked up and replied with “Well we didn’t have much to go around during the war”, to which Richard and I laughed, both imagining a young Grandma Great sharing a pair of silly bloomers with her family. Grandma then continued with a fascinating and detailed account of the blitz in Weymouth, during which her house was bombed by a German bomber aircraft (luckily nobody was hurt).
Back at home an hour later, Grandma had already forgotten we’d just been out for dinner. To capitalise on her long-term memories, I sent Richard off to the spare bedroom to find Grandma’s old photograph albums.
The three of us sat together on Grandma’s sofa looking carefully at every black and white photograph while Grandma accurately named every person in the album. Turning to the penultimate page of the final photograph album, Richard and I were treated to a wonderful anecdote about a pointy looking woman in a photograph with Grandma and my late Grandpa Fred from the early 1960s. She was apparently a ‘nasty piece of work’, sticking her nose into their affairs.
It was impressive and a heart-warming relief to see her memory and personality click back into action as though nothing was wrong.
I dedicate this blog post to my dad Mark and my Uncle Tim who between them are caring for Grandma Great. Keep up the great work, you’re doing a really amazing job.