Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Senescence (2)

In 2011, I wrote a post called Senescence 
which was about the decline of the quality of my pop's life
in the immediate years after the death of my nan.

This past week I returned home to attend the funeral of my pop after his sudden passing.

This was not my pop that I wrote about 4 years ago.
This was my other grandfather,
the last of 16 siblings,
who died suddenly, just weeks short of his 90th birthday.

In less than the waking hours of a day,
my nan went from living at home with her husband of nearly 70 years
to living alone.

Though there were rarely displays of affection between them,
though they were disagreeable with each other
and progressed through each day with little variation to their basic routine,
it was born of their lives almost completely being spent together.

They had been together for so long
that they were part of the same package.
You didn't get one without the other.
I rarely spoke of them individually.
It was always "nan and pop"

Five days after his death,
all the ornaments in their unit were in their place,
the kettle was as ever ready to boil for a cup of tea
and nan sat in the chair that she sat in every day.

But the table was hidden by floral arrangements and sympathy cards,
 the fridge was stacked with food that had been dropped in by well wishers,
and the chair that always, always, had my pop sitting in when we went to visit was empty.
His room, down the hall, out of sight, was as he left it
but within days his children will take on the task of sorting the material remains of his life.

I have always felt a small part of me change, revert to being a little girl when in the presence of my grandparents,
remembering their significant presence in my childhood.

But things had changed.

My nan was so lost, fragile and grieving.
She looked so dimished at the funeral.
It is true when people say that someone seems to have shrunk over night.

A little girl with flushed cheeks and episodes of overwhelming bewilderment.

Her children and grandchildren were suddenly the responsible adults,
the ones offering solace and comfort, the organisers.

My other pop still lives in his home
but he shouldn't.

In the past few years, his mental deterioration has continued
and the physical decline is taking hold as well.

Old friends no longer visit.

His brother has recently died but no-one told him
and he wouldn't remember if they had.

He still has his cat for company but he forgets her name.
He forgets to let her inside and forgets to feed her.
He forgets to feed himself.

He spent much of my visit sitting and watching me
with the intensity and curiosity of a young child
lacking the knowledge of social politeness.

His manners are forgotten, his ability to remember basic living rituals nearly gone.

But luckily, he has progressed through belligerence and defensiveness
to a more gentle, passive demeanour
and a child-like innocence.

His resolve to stay in his own house can now be negotiated-
thankfully, as it is now a necessity.

Another aged person who I have such fond memories of
but who is nothing like the personality that shared my childhood.

Another one whose child has become his parent.

The next time I visit, I will be thankful that he will be in a home
where there will be the full time care that he needs.

I am hopeful that there will be a new spark of life, of interest in the world because of daily interaction with others

But I left with a heavy heart.

All the memories of my childhood,
of the prime of my nan and pop's life,
that are around the house will be sorted, packed, culled.

He will take very few with him
and that will matter little to him.
 I know that now they have little meaning for him.

They are only material goods but they represent lives that are no longer,
lives that have gone or are fading away.

There is a quote that has always resonated with me.

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many" Anonymous.

But there are so many variables, so much "there but for the grace of God..." 
in our lives, that growing old can be the saddest thing.

1 comment:

Sally said...

Tas this is such a lovely post.

For those "privileged" enough to grow old life is a circle. Bitter sweet like everything else life has to offer. I'm sorry to learn of your Pop's passing. I hope your Nan is managing okay. It must be such a shock to be suddenly left on your own. I hope too that your other grandfather is settling in well to his new home. That too must be so overwhelming. So much raw emotion associated with growing old.