A bit of a shit start to the week. My sister called my landline yesterday. I know well enough that that’s the international call of distress. So I immediately asked her what was wrong.
I wrote this in December:
There was only a sparse smattering of my family there, but it was good nonetheless. My uncle Brendan was there, and he is my favourite family member due to his endless sarcasm. His daughter, my cousin, who is now not so new yet feels so to me, was practising for the acting career that doubtless awaits her by sprinting around the house and roping us all into playing hide and seek. I spent most of the time skulking in the kitchen with my cousins and siblings, smoking a faaaaaaaaaag and sneaking Kimberly Mikados when no one was looking. My cousins Brendan, Ciaran and Eibhlinn were there as well sipping Tennants and white wine that my granny insisted we have.
My granny is a wonderful woman; if I had a role model it would be her. She’s self deprecating, independent, eccentric and straightforward. When we sat by my dad’s grave she told me that she didn’t believe in god (an admission that Catholic grandmothers are not renowned for…) but still hoped there was a hell so Ian Paisley could burn in it. (She is, unsurprisingly, also a staunch Irish Republican, along with the rest of my family. We have the 1916 Proclamation of an Irish Republic in our house).
She’s eighty three but will probably live forever. My granny fell over washing her feet in the kitchen sink, for reasons unknown to me. The kitchen sink in my granny’s house is strangely a place that makes me smile; with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, I used to delight in standing on the chair doing the dishes. I resent doing my own. I checked out the cupboard in the kitchen that used to house coal and, once, a dead, spindly legged turkey, but this year there was no coal, nor deceased birds.
I was wearing my white coat, made from real Teddy Bear fur, and my granny told me she had a coat upstairs I’d like. She took me into her bedroom and pulled a long, black (fake) fur coat out of her wardrobe and handed it to me. She said my dad had bought it for her twenty years ago. I smelled it, as you do with old things in the hope for that intoxicating fragrance that second hand bookshops are the church of, and it didn’t smell of age, it smelled like perfume. I tried it on, and aside from being long in the arms, it fitted me. I gave her a hug and thanked her. It’s nice to own something that my dad had touched, he feels so far away sometimes. Before I left with it, though, my granny tried it on and it drowned her, which was strange. I still think of her as a tall woman.
She’s been in hospital for a little while due to an overdose of painkillers. No, not intentional; her arm was hurting and she was popping painkillers to asuage the pain. Her liver protested, and there she was. She also had gallstones, and she didn’t know it. How someone doesn’t know they have gallstones is lost upon me. From the frenzied whispers on the grapevine the pain is akin to passing a calcified child.
What she also has is inoperable stomach cancer. So apparently she won’t live forever.
According to my sister Paula (who I want to win the lottery for, though I should probably start playing it), my granny is fine, just pissed off that there was nothing wrong with her before she entered hospital and now there’s a lot of things that are wrong with her.
The doctors are talking to the family on Friday to see what, if anything, can be done. She’s old, though. Granny is old, which should be the most obvious statement ever, but it isn’t.
I’m one of those lucky people who has had grandparents into my twenties, so I know them, as people. They haven’t just been the people who’ve given us sweet money over the years. I was close to my granda Kane, who died last year, and I adore my granny Molloy, we all do, in fact. She’s my dad’s mum. It always bothers me when it’s said that the tragedy of dying, of illness, is its youth. I guess that’s because old people die of natural causes and have lived their lives but it is still a tragedy, still a life coming to an end. My granny’s talked about dying before, and I think she’s okay with it, but I never have been! I just didn’t anticipate an end for her, I thought she’d be here for ages. Hopefully, she still will be. So many of our childhood years in her house. All our Christmasses.
When you know someone, it’s easy to put yourself in their shoes, and if you do that when they’re ill, or might die, it’s unbearable- selfish but unbearable. I know I feel a different way to my granny but I don’t want her to be scared.
At times like this I hate living in London. It’s difficult when these things happen to not have the means (especially in the midst of moving and being fleeced) just to drop everything and go home. I am crossing my fingers that nothing sudden happens anytime soon. I never got the chance to say goodbye to my grandads, didn’t really get the chance to say goodbye to my dad.
(My family have always said that they were grateful that I called the ambulance, because it meant we got to say goodbye. Otherwise, one of us would have found him dead at home. But by the time I got there, he was dying. I thought it would be days, and it was hours. I don’t even know if he knew I was with him).
Then there was Brendan, not a family member but best friend, and of course, he just died and there was the reminiscent act of deciding to call the police. Just-no more.
I might be being premature. She does seem fine at the moment. I just wish I could be there, if even to support my family. I feel helpless over here.
I’m just sad. My granny is a completely wonderful woman that I don’t think any of us are ready to lose.