I am sitting under a tree in Dorset. I’ve just finished a long bicycle from Poole with a big orange bag in my back full of homemade cake, flowers, decorations, the big book, note pads, pens and all sorts.
I needed my time alone. I sat next to my Nan chanting “be rich and happy” in Cantonese to me on repeat over and over, slumped low in her chair. A shadow of her former self who used to be up at 6am preparing lunch, curry.
I used to visit every month as a child and steal all the biscuits from the biscuit tin. We used to run around and walk to the river. But it’s always been a strange place. It’s always been odd. Grandad used to sit upstairs on his computer all the time whilst we watched the Sound of Music or aunts would come in and visit. The place was crowded and me and my two brothers would share the sofa bed in the conservatory to keep Nan company. Mum and dad would sleep on cushions in the lounge to keep Nan happy.
It was last year, 2020, when Grandad died and passed away from cancer. He was totally emaciatedby the end. I said my last words. I didn’t know how close I was to him, and the words I chose were not mine. I was carrying them for the love of his life, “Please don’t go, please stay”.
Life is sometimes dramatic. But enjoy the ride, we don’t control the outcomes or others.
It was at his funeral that Grandads numerous trips to Italy with A children’s charity and the mystery woman that mum spoke about came to light. Grandad had had a kind of son figure in a different family whilst having an affair. There was an unexpected extension of our family at that funeral.
I laughed, I thought it dramatic. As I carried grandads coffin into the chapel, I imagined him smiling down on us. And in that moment the sun suddenly shone into the chapel lighting the whole place up. He had a sense of humour, and now we all saw him. All of him. His faults, his sins, his gift, credit, worth and life. All that time he had remained with his wife out of love and duty. And here he was fully revealing himself to us. I’ll take the humour of the whole situation. Nan in an oversized hat to stop her seeing the other funeral. As the service went on Nan shouted “Is he in the ground yet”. Tears fell down my eyes as I felt the emotion through the air. Like electricity this final moment lit the air with grief and loss.
Emotions can suddenly crop-up. Random scenes of crying are a real life thing.
Earlier in the year, before sobriety, it was over wine when I was chatting to a friend that I started crying profusely. It suddenly made sense. For decades Nan had been left alone in a relationship that had faded. A Chinese woman in the middle of nowhere with no one but her family who’s would occasionally visit. Relishing the company her excitement would be to cook us breakfast lunch and dinner all by 3pm everyday. It was love and every porridge I made, every cup of tea, every kiss, hug, conversation and film was a moment of connection that she relished and celebrated in earnestness.
I see her slumped in that chair today, and it is a sunset. A beautiful moment. But over COVID, over my own using and my own self centred ness her dementia is far worse than I could have thought. And it brings me grief. An anger at myself for living in my own melodrama. A sense of loss, of connection. All she craved was a connection and I live in my world where it is too anxious to make one.
But despite her health. She has a wonderful honesty and wish. Be happy and be wealthy.