Published: Saturday February 28, 2015.
I’ve had the phone call to tell me when my nan’s funeral is going to be. I know where it is, I know when it’s happening, and I was asked if I wanted to be a pall bearer. I said yes. It’s something I’ve not done before, and although it’s not on my bucket list I hope the opportunity isn’t going to crop up again soon.
I’ve also been asked if I want anything from my nan’s home. I said no, largely on the basis that I’ve spent less than 48 hours there over the past decade and I just don’t know what’s there. The place is a bit of a time warp in some respects, the sofa and furnishings haven’t changed in decades because they were carefully selected and cared for. The property will be sold soon, and is in need of some modernisation, but is tidy nonetheless.
I’m writing this the day before I was due to visit my nan. The previous time I saw her was late 2014, and I had an inkling that would be the last time. I promised her that I would call in spring to schedule another visit, and I made that call in early Februrary. Her voice was a bit croaky from not speaking very much, and we set a date for me to stop by and say hello. She offered a bed for the night, I accepted. A day or so later she was in touch with my dad asking what I might want for breakfast.
That final visit is memorable for a number of reasons. Firstly, my bed for the night was the one she used to share with her husband, my grandpa, until his death a few years ago. The wardrobes still contain his clothes, clean and pressed. Various posessions were neatly boxed up and family photos were dotted around. I know she found his death incredibly hard to deal with. It was about the same time that I realised my marriage was in its final stage. She gave me some advice as we were both coming to terms with was going on in our respective bubbles.
I’m paraphrasing a little, but the gist is that life is not for being unhappy. She was very happy for the time that she’d spent with John, and while not having him around was going to be enormously difficult for her, she was working things out. Making changes after years or decades is not easy to do. In retrospect, she’d decided to make some changes and let other things stay the same: she’d started to sleep in what was the guest room, but left the main bedroom intact as he left it. It wasn’t a sacred place, and she had no problem me sleeping in there, but it was a reminder for the good times they had.
Another thing that happened in that last visit will probably stick in my mind for longer. She cooked me dinner on the day of my arrival: baked beans, fried potato and pork sausages. Her cooking for someone else was a big deal in the grand scheme of things: visitors who stayed for food were rare, and cooking is something that nans do. That said, I’ve been vegetarian for a bunch of years and had to surrepticiously hide six small sausages from view. This happened very gradually over the course of a meal as she was up and down from her seat opposite me, making sure I was appropriately fed and watered.
When you’re 89, you’ve earned the right to do whatever you damn well please.
When you’re me, however, you do what needs doing to not cause a scene.
And that I did.