Respect is what we owe; love, what we give.
~ Philip James Bailey
Respect is what we owe; love, what we give.
~ Philip James Bailey
Yesterday I told you that ‘92’ was built the year I was born. Granny, almost the age I am now, moved in a couple of months before I was born. She sold her corner shop that she lived over and worked in, since she married my grandfather in Aug 1909. He told her that he wanted to mark the occasion of their wedding with a gift and asked what she would like?
“I always wanted a shop.” she replied.
Her wish was his command and she happily raised her family and worked in the shop even after my grandfather had died in his sleep in 1942. She was tipped off in 1946 that there were to be major changes in the area, with the loss of many of her customers, so she heeded advice and sold her business.
By the time Mammy got to see number 92 from the outside, never mind the inside, Granny had settled into a routine. Mammy didn’t like it at first sight. Perhaps it was after the snow blinding whiteness of the previous months, the fact it was not the ‘home of her childhood’ that she was used to visiting, and the post wartime rationing that gave the place a dark drab look. That feeling stayed with Mammy for the fourteen years that Granny lived there.
We had no problem with visiting as Granny filled the house with laughter and sunshine. We loved the chance to go and stay with her. We went in pairs. I think Granny suggested it that way in case we got lonely.
Our days were fun filled. We were each asked what we would like for dinner, something that never happened at home. Mammy made one dinner for all of us, take it or leave it. No matter what she made it was tasty, we were hungry, so the plates were cleared in double quick time.
We might be in the middle of lunch when Granny would ask “Will we go to the pictures”? That question was always met with a loud chorus of “Yes, Yes, Yes! So once the dishes were cleared, we all trooped off to the pictures/movies for the afternoon.
One day, whichever brother was with me, tripped over his feet and grazed his knee. Granny Florence Nightingale soon had the patient cleaned up, with a ginormous bandage and a sucky sweet – she knew how to do it! 😉 She soon had us giggling and said that if the leg had not healed by tomorrow she could put the patient on the kitchen table and chop his leg off. Well now! We knew all about having legs off!
Our other granddad had a wooden leg. The fact that he died in 1922, when daddy was eleven, had nothing to do with it. We had heard enough stories from daddy and our uncles to know exactly what to do! Sure the boys had spent many an hour walking round the house with a ruler tied to the back of their knee to practice, in case they ever needed a wooden leg.
Granny told us she had a wooden leg, we were at the table at that time, so there was plenty of surreptitious peeping under the table cloth to check it out. Granny must had enjoyed our face making and voiceless conversations across to each other because she let it go on for quite a few minutes.
Eventually she told us it was not ‘her’ leg, it was a spare wooden leg and it was out in the coal hole. Now the coal hole was not actually a hole. It was a shed in the back yard where she kept the coal. Come on now, if I can have a cupboard under the stairs – in a bungalow, then Granny can have a coal hole, that is not a hole! Right?
So once again, when the dishes were cleared, we were marched out to the back yard. Our footsteps shortened and slowed the closer we got to the coal hole door.
Granny disappeared into the darkness.
We heard a bit of clattering and banging and wood scraping along the floor… then…
Granny appeared with the wooden leg of a table in her hand! It had a claw foot. I do not know whether we were relieved or disappointed, but we stood in mouth open silence for a couple of minutes. Granny laughed heartily and in minutes we were laughing along with her. You know to this day, I can still see Granny standing there in the doorway with that dusty old table leg with the claw foot, and hear her laughing.
Bath time was another high point. Granny made paper boats for floating and sailors hats for us to wear. She wore a hat too. I cannot swear, but I think the same pattern of folded paper was used for the boats and the hats.
The two of us were put in the bath together and we played happily while the dirt soaked off, then she washed our hair, our faces, necks and ears, while we washed down as far as possible, up as far as possible, not forgetting to give possible a scrub! All the while we were led in a chorus of sea shanties.
I remember staying with her on a St. Patrick’s day holiday weekend. We were all dressed and ready to go out, when re remembered we had no shamrock to wear on our coats. When we told her, she had a solution. Granny turned to a plant sitting on a shelf of the Hall stand. It was evergreen and shamrock like, though the leaves were at least ten times the real thing. Quick as a blink, she had broken off a bunch, divided it in two and pinned it on our coat lapels! We were wearing more ‘shamrock’ than any American President ever held in that cut glass bowl!
Slowly things began to change. Little things.
Granny would forget where she left her glasses, she might not remember where she left her purse. She would ask us the same question over and over again.
During school holidays we spent more time with Granny. She was minding us, but we were actually there to mind her.
She might send us to the shop twice for the same message. The dinner might be served without the potatoes, because she forgot to cook them. Our evening mealtime got earlier and earlier.
She soon made tea at 4pm. Every day.
By eight o’clock, we were starving again, growing children had hollow legs, remember. Mammy warned us to check that the gas was turned off after Granny had made the meals.
Granny would leave lights on, not put the guard in front of the fire and a time or two burnt her self on the gas stove.
My uncles and aunt noticed changes too when they visited. So it was decided for her safety that she should not stay living on her own.
She was still lucid and agreed that living alone was no longer the ideal. Of all the families, ours was the one where she felt most comfortable, but she refused to move in with us saying she would not be able to hold off interfering if we children were being chastised, so a residential home a short bus run away from us was selected.
Thus ended her fourteen year stay at number 92.
Granny lived in the home for about seven years, my brothers took it in turns to visit her each school day on their way home. The would check if she needed the evening paper, if so, one of them would go and buy it for her. I would go to see her in the evenings, my school was in a different direction.
In the early days she was able to go out alone and often hopped on a bus to our house. she would stay until after the evening meal and daddy would drive her back. One of us always went with him to take her back to her room, hang up her coat and make sure she was comfortable.
Slowly she deteriorated, her bag would be hidden in case somebody stole it. One day mammy walked across the room to open the window and outside on the window ledge, two floors up, was a bundle of bank notes rolled and tied with a rubber band.
Mammy lifted the bundle in and asked Granny why it was out on the ledge. It was Granny’s pension she had collected it that morning and put it out there for safe keeping. From then on, with the agreement of her siblings, Mammy collected the pension, gave her some pocket money and paid for what ever was needed. One of my uncles already looked after the major finances.
We were on the slippery slope….
Then there was the man.
She would point to the bottom of her bed and tell you about the man there. “He was no trouble. Very quiet. See those children? He is very good to them. He never laid a finger on them!”
She slowly sank away from us. On a good day we could steer her back to happy times and her eyes would light up for a few minutes.
Several times she became ill and we thought it was the end, but she rallied, never quite reaching the same step on the ladder of life.
She finally had a turn, but we had seen this so many times before, the staff were wonderful. Mammy, daddy and I were with her when she died.
That evening, at the dinner table daddy suggested we go en famille to say our goodbyes, so when the meal was over we drove back to the home. We gathered around the bed and daddy let us in prayer. Suddenly one of my younger brothers began to laugh heartily. Daddy stood up to his full height and asked for an explanation. My brother told him that Granny was always playing dead with us, and any minute now she would sit up and say: “Ha Ha. I fooled you all!”
We all began to laugh, Mammy and daddy included. It was how Granny would have wanted us to see her off: With laughter.
That was 12th July 1968.
We still talk about her and recall the laughter.
We loved the bones of her. Back then we never heard of dementia or Alzheimer’s, we just saw her as getting old, frail and her mind closing down. We laughed with her and never at her. We loved her.
RIP Granny (1884 – 1968).