Last week things were feeling a little bit stressy, talk of variants and potential rule changes had started to push me to the absolute limit and left me in a foul mood, during that though there was one moment that I’ve been waiting a long time for.
After 18 long months, I finally got to visit my grandma. It was glorious, it was funny and everything I needed.
With Alzheimer’s, you never know what you are going to get. it is a rollercoaster, there are moments where you wonder where the camera crew is and there’s always a great big helping of brutal honesty.
When I arrived on Thursday morning, after a negative covid test and kitted out in PPE, she was in an absolutely foul mood and I mean foul. I thought this isn’t going to be a long visit, she is absolutely not up for this – here’s a snapshot….
ME: “Are you in a bad mood?”
HER: “No, why are you?”
HER: “Well, shut up then”.
I had to laugh. I howled actually, which, did not go down well.
It’s moments like this where I see with alarming clarity where I get my temper from. I could remember every time, I’ve said to someone “shut up then” in the exact same tone with the same withering look on my face.
It soon transpired she was disappointed that it was me visiting and not Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, which is fair let’s be honest, I’d be disappointed too. My explanation that they couldn’t visit because it wasn’t a Holy day seemed to placate her, though the very loud and squeaky door hinge irritated her and me.
She told me off saying “eh” – I hadn’t said “eh” once…
HER: “Where have you picked that habit up from ?”
HER: “I don’t think so”.
And then, just like that, she perked up, like a switch had been flipped.
All it took was a brew that she kept trying to share with me, something that is not within covid regulations. She was soon singing, chatting, and smiling rather than glaring and it was lovely.
The song that really made me laugh was one I remember singing as a child; she’d asked me my name and when I told her without missing a beat, she belted out…
“Oh Sarah you’re funny un,
You’ve got a face like a scally onion,
You’ve a nose like a squashed tomato,
And legs like tree trunks”.
Now, if that doesn’t keep a woman grounded, absolutely nothing will. She’s told me on a regular basis that I have sturdy legs, luckily, I’m not sensitive and it always makes smile.
She looks smaller, she’s absolutely tiny, her hair’s really long and surprisingly thick. She looks well for 88. She’s as funny as ever, granted sometimes she’s unintentionally funny.
My hour with her made me feel lighter, I walked home (with my tree trunk legs) grinning, it had been a relief, a feeling I hadn’t been prepared for. It was an hour of nonsense conversation, rollercoaster moods and a lot of singing, something I’d definitely taken for granted in the past.
I feel very lucky to have got my visit, many, many others have not.
The day before my visit I’d sat and listened to Dominic Cummings give evidence to the select committee. It was stuff we already knew; we knew people were sent untested into care homes; we knew the Government had lied about that. Covid ran wild, thousands died unnecessarily. They were failed.
I’ve heard the multitude of excuses since, “we didn’t much about testing” and “we didn’t know people could be asymptomatic”, that maybe so but what we did know was that covid effected the elderly, they were more likely to be seriously ill with it and develop complications, so the laughable excuses hold no weight. If you’re old in this country then you really don’t matter, you aren’t seen as having any value.
The fact I got to sit in a care home while my grandma told me to shut up was all down to luck.
It was lucky that she was in a home that locked down and stopped visiting long before the country did. It was lucky that no one at the home was in hospital when the pandemic started and sent back untested. It was lucky that the home was full, with no space for new admissions. It was all incredibly lucky and I’ll forever be grateful for that.
I’ll never take them visits for granted again. Those insane conversations about Jesus, Mary and Joseph crack me up. Those withering looks crack me up, repeatedly telling her what time it is and being told I’m wrong – with a certain stubbornness that I possess – cracks me up.
You have to laugh at Alzheimer’s, it’s the only way to deal with it and as I’ve said before there is hilarity in the madness. I’ll look forward to my next visit, I’ll look forward to her being cantankerous, I’ll look forward to whatever mood she’s in because it could so easily have been very different.
Thanks for reading x
P.S What’s a scally onion?
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm