It wasn’t easy you know. In fact it was quite the opposite. I pretended I didn’t mind, that we were closest if anything happened anyway. But I did. I minded a shit load and it ruined me. When you talked about buying the house next door, I’d thought you were joking. It was after all, hilarious. The idea that I’d have been married six months when my grandmother and her ailing husband move in next door sounds like a pitch to the BBC Comedy director.
What’s happened though, has been far from funny. Did you know that while you all sat in my front room, waiting for the keys that rainy October morning, that I was off work because I lost our baby, not because of a bad back? While you all sat eating your M&S snacks moaning about the weather I was grieving. I didn’t realise now that it was that day that would set the standards for the years to come. That my life would be a free for all. That everyone would come and go as they pleased, forgetting that I’m now a married 30 year old mother, not a child, not a stroppy teenager.
Of course none of us expected him to die so soon after you moved in, did we? None of them took you to see his stone cold body, watched you go to pieces, watched you try to figure out what was left of your life. All they saw was an extra burden. Another thing on the to-do list. Not me. The burden was already there for me. I was the one in the car following the ambulance, the one calling round relatives, the one trying to help him communicate in when his speech went. But, as is so often the case, I was the invisible glue.
The next few months were the hardest, as I heard day in day out from mum how he had left you unable to look after yourself. I knew, I was doing the looking after. I was checking on you, taking you for groceries. Making sure that you weren’t being conned by sales men at the door or that roofer who tried to convince you that you needed a new 10 grand roof. You were so mean sometimes, argumentative and cold.
I felt like you’d chosen me to care for you, to look after you. It wasn’t fair. What about your other grandchildren? Why me? I know why me, because you knew I would. You knew I couldn’t see you struggle. You still do. Do you know we wanted to move? I had estate agents coming to the house in secret to get it valued so that you wouldn’t be upset.
Your sharp tongue rounded off after the first bout of pneumonia. When you came home, I could see that it had knocked you of your feet. I think it was then you realised that you needed my help, I mean really needed someone to do things for you, not just drive you to family functions. After the second, you changed. I saw you as I see you now. Not how you show the rest of the family you are, how you really are. I see the days you can’t get out of bed, the days you can’t hear the phone or find your keys. I see the days that you want to take back some control of your life but struggle to get your shoes on.
I’ve come to accept that this is how our life is now. We’re working on the boundaries, I know it can’t be easy for you either. We could never move now. As much as I feel like I’m living in a fish bowl, I see you with your great grandson and you are like the best of friends. You make each other laugh, you eat secret biscuits together and I know, whether it’s fair or not he’s your favourite.
I worry for him in the future. What happens when he gets out of the car, running over to your front door as is now so often his instinct, and you’re not there? That’s the reality. I cry for him because I know how much he loves you how much. I cry for myself because you bulldozed in and the hole you will leave can never be filled.
So for now I will mop your floors and clean your fridge out. I will check that you haven’t forgotten your appointments and drive you to Aldi. I’ll bring your ‘Little angel’ over so that you see him and so that I know you’re still with us. When the time comes, know that I’ll miss you the most. More than I ever imagined I would.
I love you Nan.
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