Me and my Nan

I didn’t know whether to write this post, as it is not about being an amputee. The blog is about my life, and the people in it, as an amputee so I decided I would go ahead. My Nan passed away at 96 years old, people will inevitably say ‘she’s had a good innings’, ‘she had a good life’ etc. etc. she did but that’s not the whole picture. Here’s some of her story and ours together.

Nan had a tough and unhappy childhood spending much of it in a home with one of her two sisters. Thankfully she met and married my Granddad and life changed for her for the better. They had Colin (my uncle) and my Mum and although Granddad went to war, which was tough on my Nan (as it was for all the wives) we were lucky he came home safe and sound. When I was a wee nipper I use to enjoy meeting my Uncle, Aunty and Cousins round Nan & Granddads on a Friday night and I spent nearly every weekend with them. I used to love Granddads pie, mash and liquor on Saturday and Nan’s roast dinner on Sunday. I pottered in the garden with Nan, in the workshop trying to build something with Granddad, I had many, many great weekends with them. We used to all meet round Uncle Colin’s on Christmas Morning, Nan & Granddad would always be with us for Christmas day and then we were all round Nan & Granddads for Boxing day. Nan and Granddad went on many holidays and cruises together and came on holiday with us. They belonged to clubs, went on trips, had many friends and shared so many great times together and with the family.

Something happened with someone (not Nan or Granddad) that I will never forget and never ever forgive and I gradually stopped staying round there at weekends. Not too long after in January 1988 (I was 15) my Granddad passed away, when he didn’t come round from an Anaesthetic following surgery. I was devastated as I was probably closest to him than any of my Grandparents. At the beginning of June Mum and Dad moved to Bedfordshire while I lived with my Nan till the end of the month to finish my exams, before going up with Mum and Dad. It was OK most of the time but for some reason she started comparing me to my Cousins. They were both academic, I hated school and was a much more practical person than an academic one. A few years later while Nan was staying with me while Mum & Dad were on Holiday we came to blows. My Cousins were both very successful, me not so but I had a good job with Royal Mail and the money was great for what I was doing. One particular day Nan was in compare mode and I have to admit I lost it. I went off on one at her, I didn’t want to upset her but I couldn’t stand it any more. Of course after that there was an atmosphere, I felt bad for upsetting her but it seemed to work as she never compared me to them again. In fact when the dust settled our relationship was probably better than it had been, we even went on Holiday to Spain together one year.

Years go by and Nan came to stay with us nearly every Christmas and Easter and we would go down as often as we could. Inevitably as the years go by it takes its toll on us all and Nans hearing was going, as too was her sight. If you had to think of one stand out thing about Nan it was that she was always reading, always had her nose in a new novel, a total bookworm. Take away reading from Nan and you take away her greatest pleasure and with the loss of her sight that is what happened. She has suffered with Asthma all her life and has had chronic Arthritis for years. She would never moan or complain about it though and if you didn’t know her you wouldn’t know. I say that but if she made you a cup of tea then the shaky cup in hand may give you a small clue. In her last few years though it pained me to watch her eat her dinner when she stayed with us, you could see the pain as she tried to lift her food to her mouth, it was agony for her. Over the last few years we have spoken more about her life than anytime before and I came to know her better than I had ever done. She told me how she struggled with the loss of Granddad, crying herself to sleep every night and praying since the day he died that she would be taken to be with him. Again this was never something you would know, she hid it as she did her pain with that ‘lived through the war British stiff upper lip’ that so many old people have. I found out how hard her young life was, what she did through the war, happy times with Granddad, she hated being alone, loved being with people and her last wish. She would always ask me about the Army Cadets, what I was doing, where I was going on Annual Camp, etc. etc. She seemed so pleased that I was working with young people, had something I enjoyed doing and just kind of proud that I was part of it. She knew it was my dream to join the Forces and I have such an interest in our family military history. I suppose she was happy that at least I had some connection and involvement with the Forces and knew it was such a big part of my life. I also marvelled at all the changes and events she has seen in the world over her long life, especially the last 40-50 with technology developing things at such a rapid pace. Nan seemed to carry on for ever just shrinking and getting smaller, we used to joke that she would never die just fade away like the incredible shrinking woman.

Her final few years must have been hard as she was adamant that she would stay in her bungalow and had carers near the end. With hardly any sight and limited hearing with her hearing aids all she could do was sit in a chair all day and try and watch a some telly in the evenings, especially Deal or no Deal she loved that. How long those days must have been and what did she think about? Every day must have seemed like a lifetime and all you want to do is pass away. I wished there was something we could have done to make her last years better but there wasn’t.  She coped OK with the news of my amputation but it was my knee problems and amputation that meant I couldn’t stay with her to look after her, which I did talk about with mum and Dad.

She had only one wish left in her life and that was to die at home, we couldn’t even grant her that. I used to wish she would pass away in her sleep because I could see that as she was deteriorating further her chances of staying at home where becoming slimmer. Sure enough after the stroke here at Christmas she only managed about a couple of weeks at home before there was no chance of her going back. As much as I know she wanted to die I am sure she was trying to hang on long enough to be able to fulfil her last wish and get back home. 25 years, nearly quarter of her life after she lost Granddad she is finally back with him. I’m not sure if that’s what I believe or not but it was what she believed and that made it better for her. I’m just pleased I got the chance to say goodbye and tell her I loved her.

We are all living longer these days but sometimes you have to ask yourself if that really is a good thing. There are already many debates out there about assisted death, quality of life etc. etc. they will go on for ages with probably no resolve. It made me think and ask questions of my own life and what I would want if I had been Nan, what will life be like if I live to that age? You cant dwell on it though as we never know what is round the corner, what is in store for us and how long we have. We can only make the most of our lives with the abilities we have and enjoy it while we can. Nan had many fantastic years with Granddad, great times with my Uncle and Mum, us Grand Kids and the Great Grandchildren. She would have remembered and cherished those times I’m sure and I hope they gave her comfort in her long days. I will tip my hat to the hard times in her life but will remember all the good ones she had and I had with her. But for all those who think of someone having a long life as simply having a ‘good innings’ or a ‘good life’ then ask yourself of that person is that their full story?


Not my words but so fitting I had to use these two verses

What she suffered she told so few,
She didn’t deserve what she went through,
Tired and weary she made no fuss,
But tried so hard to stay with us.

Free from pain,
Now you’re up above,
Feelings of sadness
And feelings of love.

Rest In Peace Nan xxxxx

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