I used to love coming ‘home’ and would immediately feel young and free from responsibility again, like the weight and pressure of adulthood; the burden of it was lifted, left at the door along with hastily discarded shoes, coats and bags of laundry.
I came north yesterday, along with my three terrors, who all behaved themselves on the long four hour journey. The bags of tangy Haribo helped, as did two toilet stops; the second less than five minutes after the first, thanks to Mabel and her enthusiastic drinking of ALL her water. “Of course I don’t mind stopping again, darling daughter of mine. Of course it’s not a problem, you adorable little bundle of cuteness!” was what I could have said. I didn’t. I think I growled and snarled under my breath and muttered things that should have remained unmuttered.
However, we landed at tea time and to be honest things are not too bad. Ha! I have just re-read that sentence and feel I must qualify it…..not too bad, compared to when I last saw Mum a month or two ago. Compared to last year or the year before, she’s unrecognizable, but we have to take any positives we can and her behaviour, so far anyway, is manageable.
It is so bloody odd though, so surreal and heart-breakingly sad. When I am here, I feel like I am in two realities: The first is of course this new, difficult one, but the second is just under the surface, just hidden from my view but so close I feel I can touch it. When I arrived last night and gave her a cuddle, I could almost hear her and see her excited welcome as me and the kids arrived. I could smell the home cooked bolognese she’d prepared for the children (it’s their favourite) and the lasagne she’d have prepared for us. I’d have felt hugely proud as she devoured the school reports I brought up to show off and she’d have showered the two eldest monsters with cuddles, celebrating their achievements with Granny kisses. As I sat on the sofa with her last night, holding her frail, tiny hand I could almost hear her asking me what I’d like to do whilst I am here, whether we should have a drive in to Edinburgh for a bit of shopping; whether the kids would like to play tennis or golf. As I bathed my two girls, I could just about hear my mum calling up the stairs that she’d be up to help in a moment (she always loved doing the bath and bedtime, even when they were tiny babies). She’d have then dried the girls’ hair and helped them into their clean and warm pyjamas before doing their bedtime stories. Then we’d have a glass of wine and tucked into her amazing lasagne.
None of that happened though, not this trip. Not anymore. It used to though and it is so ingrained in the fabric of this house, in the fabric of our relationship, in the fabric of her role as granny that is is hard not to see all this happen, just out the corner of my eye, in the periphery of my vision; but then when I turn to try to watch it, to join in this other, better, happier version of events – it is gone.
Instead I sit next to this woman, I hold her hand and kiss her forehead. I watch her blank eyes as she struggles to work out who I am and I smile as Archie wraps his long bony arms around her: “Goodnight, Granny,” he says and for a brief moment she smiles and relaxes, enjoying his closeness. I am so dangerously close to tears all the time, but instead of giving in to the sadness I have found it is better to enjoy the images, the sounds and memories just sitting their at the periphery of my vision. They are there all the time and a reminder of how lucky I am.