*****Warning: Mum this may upset you. Don’t read it if you don’t want to.*******
(I know you probably will, so sorry)
If you ask me how old I am my whole being screams 25!!! I’m 25!! I know I’m 44. I’m not stupid. I just don’t feel 44. I look 44 (people are kind and say “you haven’t changed at all” or “you don’t look your age”. They’re kind. But they’re wrong.) and I do behave like a 44 year old. But in my head I am still 25. I don’t know why that is such a magic number or why I chose this age – I’m not actually sure I have actively chosen this age, it just pops into my head every time I am asked, which isn’t often.
On Saturday, we went to see my Nan. I haven’t seen her since May. That’s an awful thing to admit, but I do have reasons. We are busy. We had a slightly different summer and ensuing months than we expected due to the “big break”. It wasn’t possible to get to see her while T was in plaster as she lives 3 floors up in a block of flats with no lift. I could have gone on my own, but it just didn’t happen. I have spoken to her on the phone, but frankly that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After the initial “who is it?” rigmarole (she only has one granddaughter – no-one else other than my brother and male cousins call her Nan – it should be obvious it’s me) I then normally find that I have called at an inopportune moment. She’s 95 (96 in January) but she has a routine. She has carers that come at certain times of day and she performs a little spiritual service by herself each morning. I always seem to ring at the wrong time – nine times out of ten her line is engaged! – and we don’t speak for very long. I’m not complaining or knocking her. Bloody hell, she’s 95, she’s allowed to say or do what she wants (within legal boundaries).
Anyway, we finally managed to get over to see her. Sounds like she lives on the other side of a vast ravine or that we have to traverse some sort of perilous terrain to get there. She lives near Barnet. But life is busy and weekends are busy and things have to be scheduled in. In my head she is about 60. Like I’m 25. The maths don’t add up but it’s never been my strong point. When I saw her, looking 95 and hugged her I just lost it. She looks old; there’s no getting away from it. When she was 60 she looked 40. When she was 80 she looked 60. Now she’s 95 and she looks 95. She felt thin and unsubstantial. She’s always been strong and solid and someone who could overcome anything, and has (and then some). She is still a soldier. She still has her ALL of her very, very sharp wits about her. She’s still very in touch with the real world and she is still very interested in everyone. But she is getting old and frail and she won’t be here forever. And I don’t like it. At all. I don’t want her to be frail because I know she hates it. I don’t want her to have to have carers. She’s always been so independent and I know she hates having to have help. She makes my mum’s life a bit tricksy (that is a word) because she hates having to have my mum do stuff for her, so she takes it out on mum. Mum has to bite her lip, take a deep breath and count to one hundred a lot and because she loves her and she’s her mum she won’t say anything and she doesn’t mind helping her.
It’s a rubbish situation for all concerned. But the alternatives are not really viable. She won’t go into a care home (and frankly none of us want that in our hearts) but it’s A LOT for my mum and aunt to be doing her washing and cleaning and shopping and ALL the other “jobs” that she needs doing (and there’s a long list) every week. She wants to stay in her own home that she has lived in on her own for the last 50 years. And of course she has every right to choose that – until she can’t safely stay there.
I don’t want to be a 44 year old woman with a 95 year old nan and parents who are getting older too. I don’t want to be worried that each time I see my Nan it might be the last. It’s morbid and sad and I’m not grown up enough to handle it. Because I’m only 25.
Growing up is hard.