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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Gran, by Fran

This is my Gran. 


She was called Kathleen (her grandmother was Irish) and she died just before Christmas 2017 aged 95. We used this picture for the front of the Order of Service at her funeral. She always looked chipper in pink or baby blue. 

She had three children: two girls and a boy. One girl was my mother, who died aged 31 after years tussling with alcoholism and unwise love choices. Another girl was my aunt, hurried into the graveyard at 60 by an impatient cancer. 

Her son, my uncle, has visited Gran daily for years and years, and I suspect his car still noses towards the road where the care home is by instinct. 

Since moving back from London to the Warwick area, where I was born, I've seen Gran once a week or so. When she was still in her own flat, I'd buy haddock and chips on a Saturday, puffing up the hill from the fish shop to her place. Sometimes we'd watch horse racing on TV or I'd pull out a crossword. Once she'd moved to the care home, my regular duty was to trim and paint her nails. 'Warm Peach or Pearly Pink?' I'd say, holding them both up. In the last year, she's barely been able to see the difference, but she still liked to be given the choice.

I wrote this short poem for her funeral service. It's based on objects with which I will always associate Gran, especially during her last years. The 'basket' mentioned in the poem is one of these that hangs on a walking frame. Hers had a Christmas bow on it, still there from when I bought the basket four winters ago. It made it easy to locate her frame among all the others in the care home, if it strayed. 



Pockets and sleeves

The baby-blue cardigan that matched your eyes
and, if it bore a gravy stain,
the tissue you’d dab the mark with until you’d killed it.

The sachets of Hermesetas you’d collect in your frame basket –
your record was twenty-six -
in case there was a world shortage.

The glasses you put on, took off, put on, took off,
and when you’d taken them off,
the television you were sure no one else could see either.

The startling-red nail varnish you were too shy to say no to
in case you offended the carer
even though you said you felt like a loose woman.

The custard cream, lifted from the saucer,
then dunked slowly, once, twice,
as if in a sacred ceremony of biscuit-worship.

The cardigan’s pockets and sleeves
where you stashed the Mansize Kleenex armoury
with which you fought off your anxieties.

The mysterious unaccompanied popsock in the basket,
tangled amongst combs and brushes
and the half packet of Tuc cheese crackers 
you swore weren’t yours. 






18 comments:

  1. All the little bits and piees that make a life once so full and then reduced to narrow boundaries.

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    1. That is exactly right. A poignant summary.

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  2. Sorry to hear of your loss, Fran. My condolences. Your grandma was just a couple of years older than my Mom, who is also in a care home. Your poem is a lovely tribute to your gran and it resonated with me tremendously.

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    1. Thanks so much. I'm glad you think the poem speaks to your situation too. Thanks for reading x

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  3. That's a lovely poem Fran. I like the basket on the frame idea too. I'll keep it in mind for when I need a frame.

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    1. Thanks, River. And, yes, the basket was so useful, and always full of surprises ;)

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  4. That's lovely Fran. A friend's father collected elastic bands on his walking stick just incase he needed them which I included when saying a few words about him at his funeral.

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    1. It's those little idiosyncrasies that make people so fascinating and memorable. Thanks for your kind comment, BP.

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  5. This is beautiful, Fran, and so moving. My father was in a residential care home for two years and along with other family members, I often visited and whilst there would observe the old ladies there too. One of them kept wanting to offer her biscuit or her napkin to my daughter (then 12 or 13). The old lady was so sweet (literally).Your careful and loving attention to all those small details shows how much your gran meant to you, and what an impact she had on you. Those final years of extreme old age can be challenging and demanding for those who care, and yet it's amazing how you miss it all when the person you love dies.

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    1. I do miss her, you're right. People become part of your routine and then there's a gap. It's funny you should say about the sweet old lady - one of the things carers and nurses always said about my gran is 'Oh, she's such a sweetie'. Thanks for your lovely comment, Sheila. And it got through! Did you do something different?

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    2. I replied as SC Skillman (Google) so that must be the thing to do, instead of quoting my website as Open ID....

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    3. Yay! I know how frustrating you found it!

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  6. I'm sorry, you'll all miss her terribly.

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    1. Thanks, S & S. We will! For one thing, no one else seems to need me to paint their nails! (My husband is singularly uncooperative in this regard.)

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  7. A beautiful, personal tribute, Fran. Written in highly visible love-coloured ink.

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    1. That's a nice way to think of it, Martin :) Thank you.

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  8. I'm sorry for your loss. What a moving poem you wrote. My dad used to collect things at his nursing home, too - I think it came from the mindset of a poor childhood where they threw nothing away. Or maybe it's just a personality trait, because I have it too :) You captured so much in just a few words.

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    1. Thanks so much, Jenny! How kind of you to comment. Yes, I think you're right about the collecting bug - I'm a bit more like that now I'm getting older. Keepsakes ... memories, etc.

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