Living so far away from family my father and I know that we run the risk that bad news is going to sneak up on us. We have been preparing ourselves for the possible death of my grandfather. He is a brave, proud man who fought in WW2, and up until 2011 had lived alone with my grandmother.
Last year his mental and physical health meant that he was admitted to a mental health assessment unit – and then into a residential care home. My grandmother visits when she can, but he is rarely the man he used to be. When I left the UK in January of 2011, I cried when I hugged him good bye, because we both knew it would probably be the last time I would see him, and I was his “little princess”.
So Monday morning when my uncle called, my dad was shocked to hear that my grandmother had died. Dad knew that she had been sick with a cold the week before and my uncle had stayed with her trying to convince her to go to hospital. However my grandmother was a very tough and stubborn woman and she has always had a profound fear of hospitals. She refused absolutely to go until my uncle called the ambulance and forced her. She died less than 24 hours later.
For the past 15 years I have been visiting both sets of grandparents and watching them age. Every year that I go back to the UK has brought new worries about their health and quality of life. My mother’s dad died first, (a knitter and I have all his needles), and in 2010 we were with my mom’s mother when she died. Now my dad’s mother, also a knitter. I still have all the sweaters she knit for the girls; from newborn up to 5 years, in all colours of the rainbow.
It is impossible for me to write in one post about my grandmother’s death; all of the mix of emotions, feelings and thoughts. Because granddad’s mind is now so damaged and confused – it is the end of an era. It is not just who she was but also about all of my grandparents together, and about how we prepare for old age and care for our parents.
My Mom (who is here visiting me) says, “there went a woman in control – Ah that I will have that kind of control to the end.”