Early last year my Gran had to go it to an Aged Care facility. I’ve been visiting her as often as I can. She seems well enough, eating well and in fairly good spirits, although she loudly complains about some of the other residents and I’m sure that they can hear her! I’m not sure now how much she remembers, on a few occasions she has referred to my daughter as ‘he’ and I’m not sure if she thinks that she is my son, or if she is just old and getting a little muddled. I know that one time when my cousin visited, she told his children to say hi to him for her even though he was in the room. I know that I have spent a lot of time with her over the years, but I’m starting to worry about the day that she forgets me.
On my recent visit I had to deliver the news on behalf of one of her friends that her friend’s husband had died. The friend didn’t want to tell her on the phone and she was afraid that my Gran wouldn’t hear her. I went and delivered the news to her. She seemed un-phased, either that or it didn’t really register with her. Maybe she didn’t know who I was talking about. Maybe she wasn’t even sure who I was. She made general small talk and called me ‘love’ a lot. All her questions could have been asked of anyone. She didn’t ask about my children by name or anyone else for that matter. Each time I ask if anyone has come to visit and she keeps telling me ‘not a soul’ but I know that my cousins have been visiting.
On my next visit, she seemed happy to see me. One of the staff had told me that she had read her a letter from one of her adopted daughters and that Gran had become emotional. They took her to her room to help her use the bathroom and I could hear her crying from outside the room. They took her back into the communal lounge room and they were asking her where she wanted to sit and she kept telling them that she wanted to “be near the girl with the baby”. I was conflicted, happy that she knew that she should know me, but sad that she didn’t remember my name or that she might not really know who I am anymore.
It got me thinking about the woman that she was and I’m working hard to make these memories the strong ones, not the current ones. I need to call on these moments when it seems like she is starting to no longer be the lady that she was.
We’ve spent a lot of time together over the last 25 or so years, since I moved back to Melbourne to study. Some years a lot of time and some years less, but we always spent time together. When I first came back to study I had no car and she was a much younger lady who drove her own car and was confident to use public transport. We would meet for lunch in the city. We’d eat Chinese food in the food court and talk about life. She’d pop on the tram and have no worry about getting about. I’d go to visit her and just spend time at her place. I remember shopping with her for my wedding shoes, and later taking her to do her christmas shopping when she no longer felt she could face the shops on her own.
She has taught me a lot of things about life. Many of my life lessons have been learned in a Moonee Ponds lounge room, sitting in those floral Jason recliners. I listened to many stories about life and many stories about people. Lessons are not always learnt by the telling of stories, but from seeing how situations have played out. Some for better and some for worse.
Forgive people that hurt you, everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes. Especially your family. If you don’t, you might spend a lot of your life wishing you had them in your life. I’ve put a lot of effort into not letting things that may have hurt me in the past forever judge how I look at people. Once I’m perfect, I’ll expect perfection from others. Until then I will be prepared to start a new chapter with loved ones in my life. Don’t get me wrong if people continue to hurt me, I won’t take that forever, but don’t cut a loved one out of your life because of a misunderstanding or because of some hurt feelings.
She taught me about giving to others and not just giving things to people. Not everyone has lots of material things to give. She’s always given a lot of herself. She always did things with commitment. She fostered two little girls and brought them up in her family and even up until she went into the aged care facility, one of them was calling her almost daily. She was a dedicated volunteer. For about 25 years, she donated her time every Monday during school term and took toys to children that were in the Royal Children’s hospital. For years she gave her time to being the Secretary of her church and then when she stopped doing that she remained an elder and was always visiting the elderly.
Some of my earliest memories of my Gran are going to do ‘meals on wheels’ with her. She was always taking me ballroom dancing with her and Grandfather. I always had a special dress and bag and they always danced with me. She loved my Grandfather forever and, although he died 30 years ago, she always spoke his name with love and told me that there was no one else for her. I remember telling her that if she wanted to share her life with someone else, I would always be supportive of her decision. She told me that there was only one man for her. So romantic. She always spoke of my Grandfather and her father with so much love and told me so many stories of the wonderful men they were.
I remember changing the date on the little day calendar that she had in her kitchen. She’d make butterfly cakes , peanut biscuits and soup. These are the memories that I will hold dear. Now that her memories seem to be fading, these are what I need to keep at the surface and remind myself of.
In January I visited and took both of my kids. My son is old enough now to have been asking how everyone fits into our (very complicated) family, and knows that she is his Poppy’s Mum. She was asking him what he was getting for Christmas and that Santa must be very busy. He was most confused in the first week of January why Santa would be so busy. He humored her so well and when she tried to get out of her wheelchair to show him how her walker worked, he most maturely exclaimed “I don’t need to see how it works” as he knew she shouldn’t get out of her wheelchair.
It makes me sad and happy at the same time, that I have so many memories and that there will be not too many more to be made. I wonder if I will ever hear her say my name again. She tells me that she loves me and I know that it is true. I’m just not sure if she realises that it is me she is telling it to.