Sometimes Just Sometimes When People Say Forever, They Mean It – Part Fifteen

When my shift finished I managed a brief nap and a skyped chat with Ahmed, before rushing out the door to visit my Grandad in the sheltered housing scheme in which he lived. Despite being fairly advanced in years, he was a fiercely independent soul and still managed to potter about in the communal garden which he insisted on tending for the “old folk”. Although, I had pointed out on a number of occasions, that he was in fact, one of the old folk himself these days.

Armed with supplies of Mum’s homemade cakes and jams, I drove out to the small village in which he lived. The beautiful sunshine and the stunning luscious Devon countryside seemed to soothe my discontented heart. The drive there always calmed me and all my troubled thoughts temporarily vanished. As if he knew I was coming, my Grandad was in his kitchen just in the process of making some tea. “Sit yourself down lass, tea’s brewing”.

Whilst he was pottering around in the kitchen, I picked up the well-thumbed family photo albums. The room hadn’t changed much over the years and was still packed full of wall to wall mementos. As I was once again admiring my grandparent’s wedding photographs, my Grandad put the tea and some of my mother’s homemade upside down cake on the table. Nodding at their wedding picture he said “She were a beautiful bride, my Edith”. I agreed she was and I knew that I didn’t have to remind him how lucky he was to have spent sixty perfect years with her before she sadly faded away with Alzheimer’s. “We were happy love, never a bad word between us in all our time together. She were a good wife and a good mum”. I already knew that as my Grandma was one of the kindest and gentlest souls that I had ever met; with a ready smile and a passion for bingo. As a child, she had saved me from many of my mother’s tongue lashings for some childish prank; always there with a bar of chocolate and an Elastoplast for a cut knee. I honestly can’t remember her saying an unkind word about anyone. She was never critical or judgemental in any way and had the most beautiful copperplate handwriting despite having to leave school early to find a job to help provide for her siblings.

My grandparents had married young and their wedding picture in the same silver frame took pride of place on his mantelpiece. I know that he missed her and he told me that he still spoke to her everyday even though she had passed away a few years’ earlier.

It had broken my Grandad’s heart when she had succumbed to Dementia. Their plans of a golden retirement together dashed in one cruel blow. My Grandma’s decline was fairly rapid and despite all the hazards and hardships; my Grandad wouldn’t allow her to be placed into a nursing home insisting instead that he took care of her himself. He always said that he’d made a promise sixty years’ earlier to take care of each other in sickness and in health and he wasn’t going to break that now. Sadly, near the end despite all his protests, there was no alternative for her other than respite care. I knew that my Grandad found this hard as the only time that they had been apart was during the war when he had been away serving his country. Despite his arthritis he would make the long bus journey to the hospice every day and spend several hours sat by her bedside even though she no longer recognised any of us. He would hold her hand and patiently talk to her for hours, just as he had during their lifetime together.

“We had a great life together, love.  We were lucky to have each other and you lot and it was enough for us. We never wanted for anything else”.

I realised how hard it must have been for him tending to her throughout her illness and despite all this I asked him why he hadn’t made the decision to hospitalize her sooner.

He paused for a moment, caressing her picture in his gnarled hands, he said “Because she’s my girl, and she’ll always be my girl”.

Getting up he wandered across to the mantelpiece and picked up a battered old tea caddy, then sitting down beside me he emptied it onto the table. He took a pile of crumpled old twenty pound notes out and straightened them into my hand with his arthritic fingers. Smiling up at me with his watery blue eyes he said “Go find your young man, lass and I hope your life will be filled with as much joy as mine and your Grandma’s.”

But Grandad …”

“Hush lass, it’s what she’d want for you, now say no more, just put it in your pocket.”

As the tears rolled down my face, I realised then that there would be no more compromising for me. My grandparents’ legacy had blessed and touched my life in a thousand million ways and whilst I had lost my way for a while, I was now more certain than ever that I deserved that too, even if I had to cross the Aegean to find it.

And if you’d like to read the rest of the Honeymoon Stories, you’ll find them here & tales about life in a Devon village here

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74 thoughts on “Sometimes Just Sometimes When People Say Forever, They Mean It – Part Fifteen

  1. Oh how heartbreaking for your grandparents. The same thing happened to my grandparents. However my grandfather was the first one to pass away and he didn’t have dementia. He possessed all his mental faculties and a few months before he died in 2006, my grandmother broke her hip after she fell and was placed under 24 hour care. They were living in assisted living at the time (so a nursing home but they had some independence and their own apartment) and he was too frail to go visit her at the 24 hour care by himself. Being apart like that after over 60 years together broke his heart and he died four months later.

    My grandmother died last year right after I went to back to Spain so I had to fly back suddenly for the funeral. She had dementia (not Alzheimer’s, there is a difference) the last few years of her life and slowly forgot who we all were. She kept asking us “Where is Joe?” (my grandfather’s name was Joseph) because she couldn’t remember he had died. It was too difficult to remind her so we made up things like “He is taking a nap” or “He went to the hardware store” (both things which he did a lot in his post-death life). She eventually had her right leg amputated below the knee due to poor circulation in her foot and it was hard because it was her children who had to make the decision for her (she was too far gone to make decisions regarding her health). And she didn’t go down without a fight–she was one of the only residents in the nursing home who had a “wheeling” regimen. She wheeled up and down the hallways constantly in her wheelchair, giving her arms a workout. The ironic part of the whole story is that my grandmother was a nurse when she was younger, and she ended up in the same nursing home where she had previously worked.

    It was hard to watch her deteriorate but I like to think she has been reunited with my grandfather in the afterlife, wherever that may be.


  2. That kind of love is so precious and the one we always hope will be ours, too. My grandfather worked in the Midland (England) coal mines, contracted black lung and died in his 60s. My grandmother followed less than a year later. I don’t believe there was anything wrong with her at the time. She just didn’t want to live without him. Cheers to you for following your dream of happiness.


  3. Such a sweet post. My grandmother had dementia before she passed and it is definitely hard to watch that happen. Sounds like your grandparents had a wonderful life together!


  4. Your Grandad is a special man. That he still feels close to your Grandma even though she’s passed, and lives his life to the full, is a wonderful thing, and even better to have inspired you to do the same 🙂


  5. Got tears in my eyes! You’re right you deserve the best! It’s not easy especially in a foriegn country where the language and way of thinking are so different to what we have been used to, but so worth it. Good luck!


  6. I lost my mother-in-law with dementia a few years ago – it´s a devastating disease.

    Your Grandad is right though, and I´m glad he helped guide you to find your way again 🙂


  7. You had me at, “Sit down, lass,”… (My ancestors are from England, on my father’s side, and I’m a pushover with endearments like “lass.”) Gosh, to hear about great loves like that,… you think, how were they so fortunate? I think it had something to do with the times, going through the war made a huge impression, and when people made a commitment, it meant something. Advertising, and a world economy had not corrupted the average citizen, and they didn’t want more than they needed. This is true of the original American Indians. And finding a person you can go to for inspiration, compassion and a kind word, an appreciative glance, for 50 or 60 years, is such a blessing, and all too rare today, not only because we are so generally unsatisfied with our lot, but, because with all the so-called advances in medicine, we really don’t live that much longer. My grandmother was a gem, too, and was quite content. She didn’t have that great 60 year love, her husband died in his sixties, and she pressed on for almost forty years on her own. She was more independent, but, still a great model of hard work and good cheer. You will make the right decisions, Dallas! – Kaye


    • Oh Kaye I do so hope you’re right! I didn’t realise you had English roots! My Grandad and his family were true Yorkshire through and through but relocated to Devon when my Dad was a young lad. And I think you are right about true contentment missing from our lives; is it because we are occupied with busy lives or do we just expect more?


  8. What a beautiful tribute to their love and committment to each other. They respected each other and to not have sharp words in 60 years meant a lot of forgiveness and self discipline. No one knows the work they put into their marriage. Marriages like this don’t just happen. What a wonderful legacy you have and thanks so much for sharing it with the rest of it. This was beautifuly written.


  9. Great writing! Really great! Before I moved to Turkey I worked in a special home taking care of those who were hit bad by alzheimers and couldn’t live home anymore. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see how the family around was hurting by not beeing remembered one day or getting yelled at the next day! But real love still survives this ❤


  10. By the end of this post I was trying to find a tissue to wipe the tears coming down my eyes! What a wonderful relationship your grandparents had! I have no idea what happens to you or what is going on in your present life, but hope you find the same! I pray that my husband and I are like that and have the same memories of each other like your grandparents!! *tear *tear


  11. 🙂 Your Grandfather was a wise man….
    It was a different time too. Life was hard & yet less complicated. People for the most part worked at making things work….there are lessons to be learned from the ‘old ones.’
    Sherri-Ellen & Nylablue
    (wanting more tuna-tuna; I’ll be back…)


  12. Going through this now with my mother; it’s terribly hard on my dad, even though he wants to do all these things, he has rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration – and in truth she has always taken care of him, not the other way round. Fortunately my sister and her family live close by. I am 1061 miles away.


    • I completely understand; they call dementia the “long goodbye” and that just about sums it up. Its really hard watching those we love struggle my Dad had a stroke last year but in the end they know you love them and you do the best you can for them

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: The True Spirit of Xmas Lies Within Your Heart | Crazy Train To Tinky Town

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