Monday, July 19, 2004

Her hair was never the same colour twice and she had a snake in her cupboard

Awash with the detritus of a typically modern life, there’s an undercurrent of things that I never get round to doing; paying bills, throwing out old clothes, setting up direct debits, paying people I promised to sponsor, it usually involves money, but the list goes on. It is to my eternal shame and disappointment that one of these things is not seeing or contacting family and friends as much as I’d want.

Grandma Ruffles is particularly neglected. When I wrecked my ankle at Christmas I had to cancel a visit, and when I did it a second time a few weeks ago it got me thinking that six months had passed and I still hadn’t fulfilled the debt. Hop the months slipped by, I simply don’t know.

It’s nothing to do with not caring; it’s just about life taking over. I’m not unique, nor is it an excuse; it’s just the way it goes.

So, I took the opportunity to go over the Grandma Ruffles’ crib last week. She’s getting more frail and hunched, but at least she’s still in her own home. When Grandpa Ruffles died about ten years ago the smart money was that the only practical solution would be for her going to go into a care home. A decade on and with the help of a not inconsiderable number of North African immigrant carers, she’s still in her own place.

The conversation, as always, was rambling and pointless; life experiences filtered by the television leave her world view somewhat narrow. Endless stories told as though they happened yesterday could easily have been fifty years old.

Never the less it was still an enjoyable couple of hours. Perhaps she thinks, like me of her, that it’s a case of out of sight out of mind and the time simply slips away unnoticed.

Or maybe not, her last, entirely fictitious story could tell another tale. Holding an arthritic hand up like a fist she started “Justin, I don’t know if you remember when you were little you were sitting in the back of grandpa’s car with me. We were practicing counting, I would say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and you would continue, 7, 8, 9, 10. Anyway, we got up to eighty and you turned to me and said ‘Grandma, that’s when you’ll be dead’”.

Maybe a little reminder that, at 88, she wasn’t?


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