Saturday, October 27, 2012


Today I had to go spend much of the day with my granny. Usually one of her nieces comes up to spend the weekend with her but they went to France for a week. Which is really nice, I don't think any of them really get much quality time off from their work and families.

My granny was not feeling good. She had a big scary fall a few weeks ago and spent a couple weeks in hospital. She's significantly weaker and more confused than she was beforehand. As  result she's needing people to stay the night with her now, and pretty much constant company. She's ninety five.

My father's wife's seventy three year old mother has suddenly taken very ill with lymphoma and lung and kidney failure. She's sedated, awaiting a simultaneous dose of chemotherapy and dialysis. Her husband is seventy eight and not up to looking after himself, driving himself to the hospital to see her three times a day - once he fell asleep at the wheel on the way home... what a mess. My father says he feels thirty years older than he is (he's sixty one...or sixty two?). My granny's fall and hospitalisation combined with this straight after has them both in a mess.

 Axl had to take half the day off today, so I could go babysit my granny. My mother in law is seventy six, and has hurt her back, and the kids get bored there these days - six hours is a long day to ask her to do. It's not ideal, though, is it? When I got there, an elderly friend of my grandmother's had brought her her food from the market - the lady shared scones and she and my grandmother had repetitive conversations my granny couldn't quite keep track of, as they sipped their tea with trembling fingers. I felt myself wanting to run in panic all of a sudden. Their old lady tremulous voices and shakes and fears of Halloween had me feeling slightly trapped and hysterical. How unflattering a confession that is. You can't run from age, it's right there with you. Still... I sat there after and read my granny's paper that she's too old and confused to read anymore. Róisín Ingle had a sermon on sharing the load of caring for your elderly parent and what a blessing it is really. I thought of a platitude I'd read the day before, 'It's not the weight of the load that counts, it's how you carry it'. I've no doubt that's true, but it still pisses me off. I suppose because I don't carry my load with much grace or courage, sure, but also because it's pretty condescending, and not much of a comfort to others like me. My father certainly wasn't cheered by the perspective when I shared it with him.

I used to envy him having his mother with him into his sixties. Not anymore, though - I wouldn't wish the confusion and pain of being ancient on my mother, or anyone else's. I think my granny is hanging on due to the medication that is keeping her alive slightly artificially, and because she's scared to die. She doesn't believe in an afterlife, she's scared of not-being, I suppose. Scared to let go. She's lost almost all of her friends, her brother, one of her sons. She's got nothing to look forward to. I can't argue when she talks about all of this, it's fucking true. She knows she's confused, limited, slightly lost in a world that's making less and less sense to her. I wish I could somehow let her know that it's safe to die. But what do I know? Maybe it's not? Still, we humans have been doing it long enough, and staying alive into her nineties is rapidly losing its charm.


Mick said...

Ah Jo, it's a sad state of affairs. My granny doesn't know who I or any of my family members are anymore and thinks that we are trying to poison her*. She's 82. To tell you the truth, I don't really mind that much. She was a bitter ould bitch to begin with. No point feeling sorry for her now.
I know where you're coming from though.
Being an atheist doesn't help matters though. I sometimes envy my friends who are believers. Somehow they have it easier...

*we are, but that's besides the point.

Jo said...

Bahaha, Mick! Aw, it's still hard for the family, though. Yeah, I think you're right about faith, but... well, it's neither here nor there for many of us.

Ms. Moon said...

I know how much you miss your mother but damn, Jo- she'll never have to go through this SHIT. We are living too long these days. And to what good? What good at all?

Jo said...

Yup, that's my thought too.

Compulsive Cook said...

I had a really interesting conversation once with my great-aunt (bedridden and blind in her 80s) and grandmother (working well into her 90s).
The great-aunt said there were no compensations for growing old, but my grandmother was adamant that there were many. Being free of physical desire, no longer expected to be womanly, being off the conveyorbelt of society.
It's not the same for everyone.

Jo said...

It absolutely isn't, it's not like I want to mandate an enforced termination age or anything - my grandmother was creative, active productive well into her eighties while many other people are flagging or ill or aged in their seventies.

Your grandmother was an exceptional woman (though she did complain of old age to me quite vehemently on one occasion!). There are plenty of exceptional people out there. Plenty of lonely, helpless ones too, though.